Saturday, October 11, 2008


This is the AWV archive. Aurora Walking Vacation was originally an AOL journal, and was ported over to the service when AOL ended their support for journals/blogs in November of 2008. This archive contains every entry and every comment made between June, 2004, and October 2008.

Because this blog contains many graphics files that were stored on AOL's ftp servers, and was part of a community of blogs on the AOL service, when AOL discontinued support of those products, this archive became a collection of broken links and little red Xs. All of the text entries remain, but many of the links will no longer work, and virtually none of the graphics will display after November 1, 2008. I may attempt to repair some of these entries as time allows, but it will not be a high priority.

From time to time, I may choose an old entry from this archive, and reproduce it on the new Aurora Walking Vacation. This blog, however, will not be active at all. If you find something interesting, and would like to comment, please do not do so here. Please direct all comments and questions to the new Aurora Walking Vacation.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Another one makes the move...

   My Cowboy Poetry blog now happily resides on the Blogger network. This time I did the transfer from the Firefox browser instead of from the AOL client, and it went much more smoothly. The AOL browser has many 'modifications' that makes it behave differently from other Internet browsers, and I suspect it just doesn't mesh up with the transfer process software properly. If you are having difficulty with the transfer of your journal, try doing it from outside the AOL client.
   However, I had the same result with the pictures on this journal as I did on my previous one. Blogger says that the graphics in your journals will be ported over to Google's Picasa service, but that did not happen. More when I figure it out.

More information about going to Blogger

   Karen, of Outpost Mavarin, has posted a more detailed entry about transferring over to blogger. Read it here: Tips For The Great AOL-J Migration. Thanks Karen.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hello Blogger!

   The tool to transfer your AOL blog to is now available. Read the post on Magic Smoke for more details. Those of us attached to AOL USA, Canada, or Mexico received an email updating us about the change, and directing us to the Blogger page where the import process begins. Those who are members of any other AOL service (e.g. AOL UK, or Europe) will not have gotten an email. Never fear, the import process will work for your journals as well (so I have been told). You'll just have to spread the word throughout your communities yourselves.

   I experimented with the import tool by transferring my poetry blog,
(not cowboy poetry), to Blogger this evening. This was my experience.

   I went to the
AolToBlogger page, and began following the directions there. I signed into my Google account. I entered the journal address of my blog in the box provided, and clicked on the "sign into your AOL account" button. That took me to an AOL sign in page, where I entered my screen name and password.

   If you are concerned about the security of your password, don't worry. You are signing into AOL's secureID service, so all Blogger gets is a message back from AOL saying you are who you say you are. They never actually see your login information.

   After that, I was taken back to a page where I was invited to click to begin the transfer process. I clicked, and was taken to a page that said my journal was being transferred, and that it might take a few minutes. I waited for almost fifteen. I never got an error message, nor did I ever get a message telling me the transfer had been successful. I got nothing.
   I gather that the next step should have been my blogger dashboard page, where I could complete the publication process of my new blogspot blog, but that never happened. I closed the page, and manually logged into blogger, where I found that my new blog was there in my dashboard, with a message that said, "click here to complete the import process." So I clicked there. And it completed the process. And now
(not cowboy poetry) lives on blogger.

   The reason I chose to use that blog for the first test was that there were not very many entries in it, so it would be easy to tell how successful the transfer was. As far as I can see, every post, and all of the comments were successfully transferred over. One note of importance. All of the pictures and graphics are still hosted on AOL Hometown, so when that closes at the end of the month, they will all turn into little red Xs. The pictures will have to be moved to a new home, and all the posts will need to be manually edited to redirect the urls to the pictures' new home. That'll be tedious.

   So, I was successful, but with a couple of tiny snags. The process was certainly not completely seamless, and I can see that many who are computer neophytes may have problems. My suggestion is not to wait. Start now. If you have difficulty, you'll have a couple of weeks to get it worked out before the axe falls.

   I'll try to transfer another one of my journals tomorrow, using a slightly different path, and report on how that went. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Not enough time

   Just archived the month of November, 2004. At this rate, I'll be done saving all my old entries by sometime early December. I'm not going to make it, am I?

Best. Quote. Evar.

On the demise of AOL journals...

"I shall miss this blog, but it's just a vessel."
    --Dornbrau, of Dust Bunny Club of North America (new address pending)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And the spit hits the fan...

   AOL today announced they are "sunsetting" several products, including AOL Blogs/Journals. As of October 31, 2008, every AOL Blog will disappear. They claim they will be offering a way of automatically migrating our blogs to another blogging platform, but you know me; I'm skeptical. So, I'll be spending every spare minute over the next few weeks backing up Aurora Walking Vacation to my home computer, so when the migration plan either doesn't materialise, or doesn't work, I won't have lost anything.
   I already have a blog set up for AWV. I've never posted in it, but I created it way back when the banner ads bruhaha erupted. So for all three of you regular readers, never fear, AWV will go on.

   More details as they are available.

edit 2:28 PM: I have been told that International AOL Journals and Blogs users may not be in the loop regarding information about the plan to migrate to another platform. According to my information, a plan is already in place, the new platform will be, and even though we lowly non-Americans will not be kept abreast of developments, the migration system will work for all AOL journals. So, if you are an International AOL user, keep your eyes on the people connection blog for instructions for all US users, and remember that we can use those same instructions for our journals. This in no way mitigates my strong recommendation that we all take pains to back up our blogs long before the end of the month.

Friday, September 26, 2008


   I've been working out.

Picture Will Farrell saying that. No, wait...Picture Colin Farrell saying that. Maybe Colin Firth? Never mind.

   I've been going to the gym. Prime motivations: strengthening the core muscles for golf, and strengthening the muscles that support the knees for curling. Also, the whole not having a heart attack any time soon factors in there.
   Here's the thing, though. Exercise is boring. Seriously! Doing a half an hour on the treadmill (while maintaining an average heart rate of 142-152) isn't that much of a struggle...physically. But by the time I'm going on ten minutes, I'm so excruciatingly bored I'm begging for it to end.

   I noticed that many people at the gym wear iPods (or other mp3 players). "Hey," I thought, "I have an iPod." I decided to try it out. I went out and bought a pair of headphones, and took my iPod with me the next time I worked out. Didn't do anything for me. I mean, there's already music playing at the club. Sure, my iPod has my music on it, but it's still just music. It fades into the background, and my mind wanders. And the place it most commonly wanders to is the thought of how mind numbingly boring exercise is.
   Then, I had one of those oh-so-infrequent brilliant ideas. Podcasts!

   For those of you not in the know,
podcasts are simply Internet "radio shows" that you can download to your iPod (or other mp3 players) and listen to at your convenience. There are hundreds of podcasts on dozens of different topics available for free download on iTunes.
   Me being me, I downloaded several with a skeptical theme, like
Skeptoid with Brian Dunning, Skepticality, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe. Some of them are short and sweet. Brian Dunning's podcasts rarely go for longer than about eleven or twelve minutes. Others are longer, with Skepticality and The Skeptic's Guide both usually ringing in at just over an hour long - which, as it turns out, is almost the perfect length to listen to during a workout.

   You know what? It works. The subject matter is intellectually engaging enough to pass the time, while being light enough to allow partial attention to be paid to other things. Like the soccer moms doing their Dancercise class.
   Yeah, this whole iPod thing is really working out for me.

And 'cause we're talkin' 'bout iPods, here's your Friday random ten:

1) Cheap Day Return - Jethro Tull
2) Carefree Highway - Gordon Lightfoot
3) G Minor Medley - Leahy
4) Mailman - Soundgarden
5) Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby - Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Gillian Welch
6) Rocky Mountain Way - Triumph
7) Atom Tan - The Clash
8) Dreams - Fleetwood Mac
9) The Cool, Cool River - Paul Simon
10) All Canadian Surf Club - The Tragically Hip

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dems may have misjudged GOP strategy

   Left wing mouthpieces all around the blogosphere have been laughing and pointing at the Republicans recently. Actually, they've been laughing and pointing at Republicans for years, but they've been even more outspoken recently over what they perceive as a major strategic blunder by the McCain camp.
   I'm speaking, of course, about the appointment, by John McCain, of Sarah Palin as his running mate. The initial response by the lefties was to call out the McCain strategists as fools for actually believing they could steal votes from the Hillary Crusaders. Because that's what this move immediately made people think - that the GOP was hoping to garner votes from those militant feminists who claimed they'd vote for McCain before they voted for Obama, just because he had the temerity to take away the nomination to which their girl was entitled.
   The idea is, of course, patently ridiculous. Hillary's supporters would no more truly vote Republican in '08 than they would move to Canada if the GOP won in '04. I mean, hundreds of prominent bleeding heart liberal celebrities vowed to leave the country if the Dems lost the previous election, but last time I checked Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon haven't moved their shit into the empty townhouse around the corner from me.

   Anyone who really believed that cadre of screeching feminists would vote Red before they'd vote Black is just plain stupid. And while the GOP rank and file might
benefit from the use of spell check at times, the high uppity-ups of the Republican strategy machine are not stupid. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
   No, the choice of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential nominee was not born of any delusional thinking on the part of the GOP team. It may, however, have been born of general delusional thinking on the part of the largest and most powerful voting block in America over the last decade - the Christian Right.
   You see, the evangelical nutcases that put Bush over the top in '04 just didn't seem to be cosying up to John McCain in quite the same way. Johnny's just too damn... reasonable. And God knows, we can't have that. No, the fear that women in the USA might be allowed to make procreative decisions for themselves once in a while; the fear that court decisions upholding the constitution, like the one in Dover, Pennsylvania might continue to happen; the fear that your children might be taught about the real world in school, instead of some fanatasy world based on a three thousand year old novel; the paralysing fear that the annual town Baby Jesus diorama might have to be taken out of city hall, and displayed somewhere inexplicable - like a church - had taken hold of the bible belt, and McCain's people could feel the wackaloon vote slipping through their fingers.

   Enter the white knight of the Republican party. Sarah Palin, riding to the rescue, Bible in one hand, twelve gauge in the other. She can kill, clean and cook dinner, homeschool her children, quote Scripture, govern an entire state, and look hot for her husband all at the same time. Truly, she is the perfect woman.
   Well, the perfect Republican woman. When she starts telling people that the war in Iraq is a holy crusade, the Democrats start whispering behind their hands and snickering. They shouldn't, though. They should beware. Because a whole lot of pick-up driving, rifle-toting, bible thumping, wife beating American voters just got a whole lot more comfortable with the Republican party in 2008.

   Advantage McCain. Obama? Your move.

Chapter 84

   I had a couple of things I wanted to ask you all about, but right now I can only remember one. Hopefully the other will come to me.

   I'm looking to buy a tenor saxophone for Matthew to play in the high school band. We've rented one each of the last two school years, but for what that will cost over the next four, I figure I can just buy one. I would probably be more interested in a good value for a half decent used one than a cheap new one, but I really have little idea of just what it's going to cost. Is there anyone out there who has any knowledge in the area and can offer some advice?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More breakfast at Casa Little

   After we came home from the gym this morning, I whipped us up an onion, mushroom and zucchini omelette with Beemster cheese (I like Beemster cheese). It went something like this:

Lightly saute thinly sliced onions in a little bit of sesame oil for about five minutes.
Add some chopped fresh garlic. Saute for another minute.
Add sliced mushrooms and chopped zucchini. Salt to taste. (I also added a bit of butter here because the onions had soaked up all the oil.) Continue to saute until mushrooms and zucchini are soft.

Whisk eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into pan.
When eggs are almost cooked through, add veggie mixture, and grated Beemster cheese. Fold egg over veggie and cheese mixture. Cook another one minute per side.

Serve with fresh coffee.

Get kiss on the cheek from wife.


, , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

One year ago today

“When I stand before thee at the day's end, thou shalt see my scars and know that I had my wounds and also my healing.”--Rabindranath Tagore

Last year:



Can't see the scar very well in this shot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cruel, cruel summer

Noooooo! It's too soon. It can't be over yet...can it?


Saturday, August 16, 2008

I don't like Thursdays

   Bob Geldof didn't like Mondays (and who could blame him), but Thursday is the day I hate. On Thursday nights I have to work at the Kwik-E-Mart until the store closes. And then I have to clean, and "face" my department. And then, I start to despise the entire human race.
   When I say, "face," I mean I have to walk up and down every aisle in my section, making sure each and every product is in its proper home, and they are all pulled right to the front of their shelf, or hook, so that the first customer of the day the next morning will be greeted by a store in which every shelf appears full. As I do this, of course, I come across the detrius of humanity.
   First it's the empty coffee cups. There are usually going on half a dozen of them scattered amongst the shelves of garden hoses and octane enhancers. Listen, I don't mind if you need your "
Tim's" fix. We all do from time to time. But seriously, when I take a cup of coffee into the grocery store with me, I save the empty cup until I have an opportunity to throw it into a proper garbage can. I don't just put it down somewhere between the onions and the garlic. Doing that would make me an inconsiderate slob.
   And as if that isn't bad enough, some people actually come in and eat their lunch while they shop. Dude! I have no desire to fish out the half eaten cheeseburger that you stuffed down between the sunblock and the insect repellent. And the left-over "Nachos Supreme" tucked behind the basketballs? That's just wrong, man.
   The next thing I have to deal with is the out of place product. Some slack-eyed soccer Mom picked up a box of wine glasses all hell and gone over in the Housewares department, and round about the bicycle tires aisle she decided she didn't want them after all. She could have just left them with the cashier when she got there, but no. I have to find them after closing, hidden in behind a mountain of Raleigh boxes, and lug them all the way back over to Housewares myself. That's a good fifteen minute walk.
   Then there's the open boxes. The 12 volt tire inflator box has a glossy, full-colour picture of its contents on the front, but that isn't good enough for people. They have to see what it reallylooks like. But, lacking the basic intelligence and dexterity to figure out how to open a cardboard box, they have to rip the freaking thing to pieces, pull out the entire contents, tear the plastic bag to get the product out and crumple up the instruction sheet. Then, when they decide it meets their approval, and they want to buy one, they leave the open box on the shelf, and take a new, unopened one.
   Open boxes, however, can't get my blood boiling half as badly as the empty boxes. Empty, as in: contents stolen. Come on, the two pack of tail light bulbs was only $2.99. But you only needed one, so you ripped open the package, put one in your pocket, and left the other one on the shelf. If you were gonna steal, why didn't you just put the whole freaking package in your pocket? It's not like you were being considerate. I can't sell the half a pack you left behind. Every Thursday night I have to write off at least a dozen items that I've found empty packaging for. And that's on a slow night.
   And don't think it's only the punk kids who are stealing, either. I looked it up. Those tail lights were for a Lexus. Doctors and Lawyers are just as likely to rip something off as anyone else. By the time I get home on Thursday night, you could just take a picture of me and post it in the Wikipedia entry for, "

   Here is the latest edition of the Friday Random Ten list. I've found that I cannot listen to all of the songs on the iPod in one week's worth of driving, so this list will only appear every second to third week from now on.

1) Ain't Nuttin' But Music - D12
2) Strange Thing, Mystifying - Cast, Jesus Christ Superstar
3) Her Majesty - The Beatles
4) Turn Up The Night - Black Sabbath
5) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) - Genesis
6) Never Let Go - Josh Groban
7) Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite! - The Beatles
8) Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love - Van Halen
9) Tina - Flyleaf
10) Concerning Hobbits - Howard Shore/London Philharmonic Orchestra

Tags: , , , ,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Can you say, "inventory management problems?"

   So, I was doing some re-merchandising of the ignition wire sets, and... What, you didn't know the Kwik-E-Mart sold ignition wire sets? Sure we do. They're just down the aisle from the vacuum cleaners, across from the extension ladders, and right around the corner from the Slur-Pee machine.
   So, I'm re-merchandising (that means taking some things off a shelf, and putting other things on the shelf), and I got curious about some of the quantities we had in stock. I decided to look up a few of the wires to see what they were for. The first one I picked up was for a 1989-1992 Mazda RX-7, and that's it. That was the only car it would fit.

   We have seven sets of them.

, ,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


   I'm forcing myself to write this. Every time I open my test journal these days, I close it again unedited. I just don't seem to have the desire, or will, to put my thoughts down here. Part of that, I'm sure, is the fact that I'm busy. The Kwik-E-Mart demands my time from early morning to early evening. Then I come home and make dinner. By the time we've cooked, eaten, cleaned up, and done any daily chores that need doing, I'm too tired to spare any intensity of thought or emotion for the blog.
   Add to that the time I am spending on curling club business (I'm on the board of directors), at the gym (my wife convinced me to join again), walking the dog (he won't walk himself - well, he will, but we want to make sure he comes home again), and doing other daily, mundane things, and I barely have enough energy just to read other people's blogs. Creating my own content seems beyond me right now.
   I have no plans to shut this blog down, but I expect postings to remain infrequent for the foreseeable future. I still have a bunch of stuff percolating in the test journal that I intend to finish. Realistically, though, I can't put a timetable on that. So, for those of you who do visit regularly, I'm sorry for being a boring blogger. If you're looking for something interesting (a little bit goofy, but interesting none-the-less) to read, try doing a search for "crackergate." Let me know what you think about what you find.

   Here are the last two friday random ten lists from my iPod updates.

July 25

1) Amigos Para Siempre (Friends For Life) - Sarah Brightman (with Jose Carreras)
2) It Would Be So Nice - Pink Floyd
3) Road Buddy - Dar Williams
4) A Saucerful Of Secrets - Pink Floyd
5) Didn't Leave Nobody But The Baby - Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch
6) Into Everything - Moist
7) Bus Stop - The Hollies
8) Life Has Just Begun - Spirit
9) Mull Of Kintyre - Ashley MacIsaac
10) You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Bachman-Turner Overdrive

July 11

1) Pump Up The Volume (12" US Version) - Marrs
2) That's How... - D12
3) Who Wears These Shoes - Elton John
4) Nebakanezer - The Black Crowes
5) Dialing For Dharma - FM
6) Not Too Late - Norah Jones
7) Better Place To Be - Harry Chapin
8) Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies
9) Any Way You Want It - Journey
10) Tell Me On A Sunday - Sarah Brightman

Tags: , , ,

Monday, June 30, 2008

Friday random thirty...'n' stuff

MattPose   Here's Matt looking decidedly dapper at his Grade 8 graduation Wednesday night. That's right, next September he'll be in High School. It is to shudder.
   Although I outwardly scoff at sentimentality, I have to admit there were times during the evening when I had to blink a bit, because I had "something in my eye." This group of kids impresses the hell out of me. During the graduation ceremony every single award winner was heartily cheered by the entire group. In fact, during the closing presentation, a slide show of student photographs past and present, every single student's picture was met with delighted squeals and cheers. Not one child could claim they were left out, held in less regard than any other. I predict great things for these students over the next four years, and beyond.
   For more pictures, visit my
Flickr photo set for the event.

**this is a dividing line of text**

   Wish me a Happy Blogaversary. As of yesterday, AWV is four years old. It's still not too late to take advantage of our two-for-one offer.

**this is a dividing line of text**

   Also, Happy Canada Day tomorrow. This July first, Canada will be one hundred and forty-one years old. Sure, that's nothing compared to y'all's two hundred and thirty-two years, but that just makes us younger and hipper.

**this is a dividing line of text**

   Also, also, having been horribly remiss, here are three whole weeks worth of Friday random ten lists for your perusal. Have a great holiday, be it tomorrow, or Friday.

June 13th

1) I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - U2
2) I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues - Elton John
3) Silent Warrior - Enigma
4) Now - Days Of The New
5) Just One Of  Those Things - Branford Marsalis
6) Eagle Will Rise Again - The Alan Parsons Project
7) Arnold Layne - Pink Floyd
8) Children And All That Jazz - Joan Baez
9) A Million Vacations - Max Webster
10) Navy Bean - Tracy Bohnam

June 20th

1) Twelve-Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon) - The Mamas & The Papas
2) Spoon For A Knife - The Jive Kings
3) Thirty-Three - Smashing Pumpkins
4) Good Company - Queen
5) Wild World - Cat Stevens
6) Your Song - Elton John
7) Hello Goodbye - Live On Arrival
8) Dance With The Devil - Breaking Benjamin
9) A Million Vacations - Max Webster
10) Goodbye Cruel World - Pink Floyd

June 27th

1) Why'd You Lie - Colin James
2) Fight - The Tragically Hip
3) Lagavulin - Wide Mouth Mason
4) Lithium - Nirvana
5) Next Contestant - Nickelback
6) Dolly Dagger - Jimi Hendrix
7) Starseed - Our Lady Peace
8) Touch Me - Ian Thomas
9) Supernova - Mike Oldfield
10) Black Sabbath - Ozzy Osbourne

Thursday, June 19, 2008

This morning

Me: "Hurry up, Matthew. If you don't leave the house right now, you're going to be late for school."

Matthew: "Well, I'm going to be late, then, because I'm not going anywhere without straightening my hair."

   Oh, the many joys of raising a fashion conscious teen!

Tags: , ,

Monday, June 9, 2008

Special characters

   In a comment to my previous entry, Bea asked,
"how do you make that little degree symbol, anyway? I can't find it on my keyboard."
   Well, Bea, don't beat yourself up over it. You can't find it because it isn't on your keyboard. The degree symbol (º), and many other similar symbols, like the Yen (¥), Pound (£), and Euro (€) symbols, or the copyright (©), and trademark (™), symbols are special HTML entities. They are available using the html editor built into your journals software. For example, in order to create the degree symbol, switch your edit text box to the html setting, and type "°" (without the quotes). When you switch back to the text view, you will see the degree symbol.
   One of the most useful html entities I have discovered is the 'non-breaking space.' You may or may not have noticed, but the AOL Journals software has a tendency to eat spaces. You'll type something in, click 'save,' and check the result, only to find that the space between two words has disappeared - likethis. You click 'edit,' and insert a space, then click 'save' again. Sometimes that even works, but often, no matter what you do, those two words remain gluedtogether.
   The solution is simple. Switch to html view. Find those two words, and right between them, type " " (without the quotes). This will insert a space between those two words which is, in typeface lingo, non-collapsable. It forces the text editor to leave a space in there no matter what. The only odd thing that sometimes comes up is the fact that the 'non-breaking' part of that space means the text editor will never insert a line break between those two words. So if they occur near the end of a line, using a non-breaking space can result in a non-uniform line length.

   Sound too complicated? Never mess with the html functions of your journals software? Never fear. The most commonly used of the html entities all have keyboard shortcuts which work in most word processing programs and Internet browsers. If you are using Windows™, these shortcuts use the 'ALT' key and the numeric keypad buttons. For example, the degree symbol can be easily inserted as you type by holding down the 'ALT' key, and typing the numbers 167 on the numeric keypad. When you release the 'ALT' key, the degree symbolº will appear. 
   Here is a list of available special ALT characters. Your browser may not support all of them. Have fun experimenting.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Suddenly, Summer

   Summer happened this weekend. Friday the mercury hit 33ºC. For you 'Mericans, that's just about ninety-two degrees Fahrenheit. Only ninety-two, you expostulate. But remember with our 65% relative humidity that feels like about 114ºF. In the shade.
   Still it wouldn't seem quite so bad if it weren't for the fact that Thursday's high was 19.5, or a lowly 67 degrees. I think we need to relabel our months up here. So far this year, we've had January, January, March, March, March, and August.

   Last night the wife and I went down into the city to a little bar - right near our first apartment - to see a band called Headbone Station. One of the band members is an old high school buddy of mine, so we thought we'd check 'em out.
   Except when we got there we found out they weren't playing that night, regardless of what their MySpace page said. So we sat and had a beer and listened to the Pete Martin reggae karaoke experience instead. Man, I'll tell you; there's a real feeling of responsibility in being the only members of an audience. It was like we were in some little cabana at an unpopular resort somewhere in the Caribbean. Pete was playing just for us. We felt guilty leaving after only one beer.
   Well, not that guilty. He wasn't really all that good.

   Now, here are two Friday random ten lists for your perusal...

Friday, June 6th

1) Abacab- Genesis
2) Indian War Whoop - John Hartford
3) Please Love Me Forever - Tommy Edwards
4) The Times They Are A-Changin' - The Byrds
5) Wondering Where The Lions Are - Bruce Cockburn
6) Fast Car - David Usher
7) Every Breath You Take - The Police
8) Obsession (Reprise) - Robert Michaels
9) Betrayed - Avenged Sevenfold
10) The Navy Song - Billy Talent

Friday, May 30th

1) Cocaine - Eric Clapton
2) Kind-Hearted Woman - Colin James
3) Uncle Salty - Aerosmith
4) Spawn Again - Silverchair
5) My Friends - Dar Williams
6) Miracle - Matt Dusk
7) Breakdown - Guns 'N' Roses
8) Nautical Disaster - The Tragically Hip
9) The Fire - Reel Big Fish
10) I Ain't Gonna Be Your Monkey Man - Willie Dixon

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lesbians shack up, depend on cheating males for reproduction...

   Same sex couples in the wild are more common than once thought, reports Yahoo! News, via
Says the report:What happens when there is a shortage of males and a female wants to have a family?

In the case of the Laysan albatross, females shack up with each other for years and take turns raising offspring, research now reveals.
But wait! Where do these offspring come from? Well:
10 of the 16 chicks that belonged to female-female partners were fathered by males that cheated on their female mates.
Evil lesbian chicks luring men away from their wives. Can you imagine?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday random thought

   I really don't spend much time thinking about American politics, but it occurs to me that the Democrats are in for another four years of bitter disappointment. I just don't believe that a majority of Americans will vote for a woman, or a member of a visible minority.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday random ten(s)

   iTunes keeps doing weird shit. I used to have over 5900 songs in the library, but now it's telling me there are only 5875. Somewhere, iTunes has lost some songs, and I don't understand how. One of the ones I was able to pin down as being missing was track 16 of the soundtrack album from the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Tracks one through fifteen are there, as are seventeen through nineteen. Sixteen has disappeared. I know it was there when I originally copied the CD to iTunes. Now it's gone.
   And I mean gone totally. When I manually go looking in the iTunes music folder, the rest of the files are all there, and track 16 is not. Where did it go? Matthew tells me there are entire albums missing. We're going to have to recopy the discs, which is a total time waster. I hope none of the songs Matthew downloaded from the iTunes store are missing, because we haven't backed them up yet.

Stupid iTunes!

   And now, because I was negligent last week, here are two (2) Friday Random Tens.

May 16/2008

1) Lucky (Boomtang Boys Mix) - Bif Naked
2) Whoa - Midnight Oil
3) Legend - Nelly Furtado
4) Guys and Dolls (Reprise) - Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin
5) The Unforgettable Fire - U2
6) More Today Than Yesterday - The Spiral Staircase
7) Jennifer's Body - Hole
8) Peace Train - Cat Stevens
9) Tourniquet (Live) - Evanescence
10) Growing Up - Bruce Springsteen

May 23/2008

1) Coloured Rain - Traffic
2) Crocodile Rock - Elton John
3) Patio Lanterns - Kim Mitchell
4) Hanger 18 - Megadeath
5) Medley: The Munster Cloak/An Poc Ar Buille/Ferney Hill/Little Molly - The Chieftains
6) What's It Take - Robert Palmer
7) Wasted Time (Live) - The Eagles
8) On The Boulevard - Murray McLauchlan
9) Wake Me Up - Norah Jones
10) Love Reign O'er Me - The Who

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

100 movies - the last 10 (plus 1)

   I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "I don't believe it." But yes, it's true. I have finally reached the final edition of the list of "100 movies I really like." I started this thing over eight freaking months ago (if this had been a list of 100 TV shows I really like, I could have said, "eight frakking months ago" there).
   Now, remember that these movies have been listed in completely random order (actually determined by an online random number generator - no, I don't remember which one), so these are not necessarily my ten favourite movies. They are just the last ten left after I named ninety others.

   (Actually, I have only named eighty-nine others, haven't I? I accidentally listed The Fugitive in both
this list, and this one.) So, here are the movies. Comment on my choices as you will.

Alien - Earlier on this list I named the sequel to this film, Aliens. This is an entirely different creature (heh). In fact, this is much more of a Horror/Suspense/Thriller than a science fiction film. Heck, the audience doesn't even get to see the monster until almost the end of the movie. Also, the alien's method of reproduction falls under the category of most creepy sci-fi concept ever.

Big - Tom Hanks wasn't an unknown, by any stretch of the imagination, but Big was the film that lit the fuse on the rocket his career was to become.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day - What better way to deal with a man who can't act than to cast him as a robot? Heck, it worked for Peter Weller. I originally had the first Terminator movie here, but decided I liked the second one better. Hasta La Vista, Baby!

The Pink Panther - No, not the recent one starring Steve Martin. Are you kidding me? I'm sure Martin wakes up every morning, looks in the mirror, and askshimself, "what the hell was I thinking?" Who decided it was a good idea to remake a movie starring one of the funniest human beings who ever lived? And has that person learned their lesson?
   Seriously, there is no one who could ever match the comic genius of Peter Sellers in the role of Inspector Clouseau.

Shrek - This movie was in the can when when Mike Myers decided Shrek should have a Scottish accent. So he went back into the studio and revoiced Shrek's dialogue for the entire film. At some point after that he walked away from the Sprockets project because he didn't want to release a steaming heap of crap that would make money anyway just because he was in it. That's just the way Mike rolls.

Lethal Weapon - In the best tradition of The Odd Couple. Detectives Murtaugh and Riggs are among the best cop partnerships ever filmed. Also, Gary Busey puts his natural born creepiness to good use as Mr. Joshua, the former special forces nut job/bad guy.

A Beautiful Mind - There had to be at least one Oscar winner on this list. Didn't there?

La Femme Nikita - The American Remake of this film, Point Of No Return, was actually pretty good. Credit where due, director John Badham didn't stray too far from the original. The original, a French film directed by Luc Besson, is described by one IMBD user as, "cooler than a fortnight in Antartica wearing a bikini, drinking chilled vodka with ice-packs strapped to your body."

Desperado - Antonio Badaras is almost as pretty as Salma Hayek in this one. This may be the most cinematographically attractive shoot-em-up movie ever made. Your mileage may vary.

First Blood - I can still see Sly pulling a needle and thread through his own skin (shudder). I think Richard Crenna's costume had an actual board sewn into it in this film. Brian Dennehy elevates everything he appears in. OK, maybe not Tommy Boy.

   That's ten. I have now listed every film that appeared on my original list of 100. The only problem is, that original list only named ninety-nine different movies. So I owe you one. That fact is what has held up this last entry of the series for so long. I just didn't want to try and come up with one more movie to add.
   Circumstance to the rescue. We went out to the theater to see Iron Man last night. Let me tell you, it rocked. The decision to cast Robert Downey Jr. was an inspired one, and he pulled off the role with ease. We totally believed his transformation.
   The special effects were top notch, with special mention due the suit effects. It looks totally real. I thought Jeff Bridges overplayed his part a little bit, and I never quite bought Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, but Downey carried every scene he was in, and was able to lift the film past those deficiencies, and the few slow spots in the story. I highly reccomend you see this in the theater, with the Big Screen, and the Big Sound. It's worth the over-inflated tickets and popcorn prices.

   Also worth mention were the previews preceeding the movie. The new Indy was the most notable, and I suspect we'll be back in the theater before the month is out to see it. The Dark Knight looks excellent, although I'm not a huge Batman fan, so this one will wait until it hits DVD. Also pretty funny looking were Kung Fu Panda, and You Don't Mess With The Zohan, Adam Sandler's latest. Although I suspect we saw most of the funny bits of the latter in the trailer.

   Well, there you have it: one hundred movies I really like. Not an entirely comprehensive list, and were I to compile it again, I would not be surprised to see huge differences in the movies selected. At several points during this process, I have smacked myself on the forehead and said, "I could have had a V8!" Or at least remembered another film that should have been here.
   But then again, I have carefully disclaimed any intention to make this list actually representative of anything other than a bunch of movies I really like throughout the whole process. Just in case you're interested, here is the full list, in the order I originally wrote them down, all those months ago:

1:Bull Durham
2:Star Wars
3:Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
4:The Maltese Falcon
5:The African Queen
7:Raiders of the Lost Ark
8:Blade Runner
9:The Rock
12:Back to the Future
13:Moulin Rouge
14:A Knight's Tale
16:The Fugitive
21:The Hunt for Red October
22:The Incredibles
23:The Iron Giant
24:Jurassic Park
25:Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
26:Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
27:The Matrix
28:Monsters Inc.
29:Pink Floyd: The Wall
31:Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
34:The Legend of Bagger Vance
35:This is Spinal Tap
36:Hard Core Logo
37:A Beautiful Mind
38:The Bourne Identity
40:The Transporter
41:The Terminator
42:School of Rock
43:Men in Black
44:The Last Temptation of Christ
45:Ice Age
47:Ocean's Eleven
48:The Green Mile  
49:Agent Cody Banks
50:Titan: AE
51:Die Hard
52:Beverly Hills Cop
53:Cast Away
55:The Lion King 
56:The Nightmare Before Christmas
57:They Live
58:The Wizard of Oz
64:Ferris Bueller's Day Off
65:Saving Private Ryan 
66:Hang 'em High
67:High Plains Drifter
68:The Sixth Sense 
69:Little Miss Sunshine
70:Toy Story
71:Twelve Monkeys
72:Casino Royale
73:Blood Diamond
74:The Road Warrior
75:True Lies
76:Apollo Thirteen
77:Chicken Run  
78:Close Encounters of the Third Kind
79:E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
80:La Femme Nikita
81:Shanghai Noon
82:The Fugitive
83:Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
85:The Pink Panther
86:Rain Man
87:Ruthless People
88:Shakespeare in Love
89:Mrs. Doubtfire
90:True Grit
92:Benny and Joon
93:The Untouchables
94:Soylent Green
96:The Fifth Element
97:First Blood
100:Lethal Weapon

really 100:Iron Man

<< previous ten

Tags: , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

As if millions of elbows cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced

   I was on my way out to take the dog for a walk when my wife stopped me at the door. "You should," she suggested, "take a hat, and a jacket, and maybe an umbrella." She looked up at the rapidly greying clouds scudding across the sky. "I've got a bad feeling about this," she said.
   "Oh, so what," I asked. "You've got The Force, now?"
   "No," she answered. "I've got The Arthritis."

Tags: ,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday (Saturday) random ten...and more

   Here are the first ten songs randomly selected by iTunes to refill my iPod yesterday afternoon.

1) Unknown Soldier - Breaking Benjamin 
2) It's a War In There - Dar Williams
3) In The City - The Eagles
4) Wild Is The Wind - Bon Jovi
5) Please Don't Ask - Genesis
6) The Least Of My Troubles - Paul Nicholas
7) Liars - Ian Thomas
8) Accidents - Alexisonfire
9) Desert Elysium - Ottmar Liebert
10) I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) - Genesis

   Over the past few weeks, as I've been updating my iPod, I've noticed the occasional pairing of songs that seemed somehow...apt. It was brought to mind by the ironic juxtaposition of the first two items in this week's random ten list. It might be, like the above example, a noticeably interesting pairing of song titles, or it might be two songs that seem to go together content wise, or it might be two songs that contrast or clash stylistically - enough so to make me take notice; to say, "heh."
   Not sure what to call the phenomenon. I thought of 'peculiar pairings,' or 'curious couplets,' but if you've got another idea, let's hear it. Anyway, I may point out the occasional serendipitous occurence of this event from time to time. You know, when the things happen to strike me.

   Other peculiar pairings in this week's iPod listing:

You And I, by Queen, followed by Entre Nous, by Rush.

Caroline, by Fleetwood Mac, and Gal Yuh Good, by Shabba Ranks

Just Reality, again by Shabba Ranks, followed by Not Dreaming About You, by Edward Bear

And I got a bit of a chuckle out of the 125th and final song in this week's list: sixteen seconds of Queen's Another One Bites The Dust recorded backwards by Matthew when he was bored and playing around with Audacity a few weeks ago. 

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Day off

   I spent the bulk of today doing some work out in the yard. I installed a solar powered light in the shed, so we can see if we need to get something out of it at night. I also installed some ropelight along the fence bordering our patio, to add ambiance when we are sitting outside during the evening with a glass of wine.
   Of course it all sounds so simple when I say it like that. In reality it was anything but.

   The first thing I did was dismantle our old patio unbrella, which entailed removing the set of lights attached to its spars. I then put up our new patio unbrella, and spent about twenty minutes trying to reattach the light set to it. I managed to stop myself just short of stomping on all the lights, and ripping the umbrella to shreds with my bare hands, and decided to leave that task to my wife, who actually has some, you know, patience.

   I tackled the solar shed light next, which went something like this:

Hold up solar panel to mark position of holes.
Put down solar panel.
Walk into house to get pencil.
Attempt to sharpen pencil by whittling at it with a utility knife.
Watch as a three inch piece of pencil lead slides out and falls on the floor.
Attempt to sharpen other end of same pencil.
Watch as the remaining three inches of lead fall out of pencil leaving me holding a six inch long, wooden straw.
Root around in tool box for another pencil.
Examine new pencil, and wisely decide it is sharp enough.
Walk back out to shed.
Hold up solar panel to mark position of holes.
Put down solar panel.
Walk into house to get level.
Walk back out to shed.
Hold up solar panel to mark position of holes.
Find that level will not fit between the solar panel and the eaves of the shed.
Eyeball it.
Mark position of holes.
Get out cordless drill.
Discover battery is dead.
Put battery on charger.
Find the spare battery is OK.
Take drill out to shed.
Go back inside to get drill bit.
Discover drill bit is too large.
Go back inside to get smaller drill bit.
Drill pilot holes.
Attempt to install screws.
Go back inside to get screw driver...

   Get the picture? I'm only halfway done by this point. Suffice it to say I was successful in turning a simple, fifteen minute job into a two hour, profanity ridden exercise in frustration and futility. But the shed light works now.

   Next chore was the rope light installation. Should have been a piece of cake. I was warmed up. Almost all of my tools were already outside. Hah! Never underestimate the perversity of our world.
   Opening the ropelight package, I discovered that Noma had thoughtfully included everything I needed to perform the installation. OK, almost everything. There were twenty little plastic clips for mounting the rope to the fence. There were twenty little screws for mounting the clips to the fence. As I attached the first clip, I discovered a fatal flaw in the directions. Each clip, it seems, required two screws to hold it up.

   Now, I don't claim to be a math wizard, but it's pretty plain that something here doesn't quite add up.

   There appeared, to me, to be three options. One, I could only use half of the clips, at double the spacing. Picturing saggy ropelighting, I dismissed option one immediately. Two, I could use only one screw per clip. However, that would allow the clips to rotate away from level, resulting in an uneven run of ropelight along the fence. Maybe good enough for me - heck, I would have just draped the stuff over the fence posts and been done with it - but not good enough to impress any guests we might be entertaining (I thought to myself in an attempt to channel my wife's opinion on the situation).
   Accepting with resignation the thrid option, I trudged out to my car, and drove down to Canadian Tire to buy more screws. Arriving back home a half an hour later, I discovered that the screws I had bought were too large, and would not fit through the holes in the clips. Hanging my head, I plodded back down the driveway to the car again.
   Back home, this time with the right sized screws, I was optimistic, and prepared to bang out some pretty damn awesome looking ropelight. Until I discovered that I did not have a screw driver in my tool box that would fit the new screws. It seems they required the use of a Robertson screw driver, size zero. Size zero? What the hell is size zero?
   When Mr. Robertson invented his screwdriver and screws in 1908, he made them in three sizes, #1, #2, and #3, denoted by their green, red and black handles respectively. Virtually every toolbox in Canada has a set of those three tools in it. In fact, most people I know have several "red-handled robertsons" kicking around. But who the hell uses a size zero? I didn't even know what colour that was, until I reluctantly dragged my ass back to Crappy Tire to buy one.

   It's yellow.

   So, it's now almost five-thirty, and I'm trying to juggle getting the ropelight installation finished, preparing dinner, and cajoling Matthew into doing his homework, instead of wasting time watching videos on YouTube. Just as I tighten the last screw, and snap the last length of ropelight into the last little plastic clip, the first raindrops start to fall. This is getting to be an annoying trend.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Here we are now, entertain us

   Matthew and a few of his friends have formed a band. They call themselves Tomorrow's Yesterday, and they played their first 'gig' last night at the annual school Arts Night. Considering they've only been rehearsing for a week, they did pretty well. Hell, they rocked the joint.

   And now here's the Friday Random Ten:

1) The Mummers' Dance - Loreena McKennitt
2) A Journey In The Dark - Howard Shore
3) Journey - FM
4) Animal Zoo - Spirit
5) Sleepless (Intro) - Jacksoul
6) Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
7) Shake It Up And Go - B.B. King
8) Dreamer - Supertramp
9) Roadside - Rise Against
10) My Box In A Box - "Bunny"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday photo shoot

   It's been a while since I have participated in the Monday Photo Shoot. In fact, I haven't done one of these since John Scalzi was hosting it at By The Way. Not that I have any problem with the new host, Outpost Mavarin. On the contrary, Karen has been on my blogroll for quite some time. 
   The photo shoot was always an occasional thing for me, and since my camera got broken participating has been, shall we say, a challenge. But when I saw this week's theme, I knew I had the perfect picture to offer. In fact, I have been looking for an excuse to use this picture here for some time.

   Last summer Matt and my wife visited England and Wales. They took hundreds of pictures. Along the way, Matthew made it a point of taking the occasional photograph "just for Dad." What he meant was he was taking an odd, or out of the ordinary picture; and 'artistic' picture, if you will. He was referring to my wife's complaint that when we were in Italy, I took dozens of pictures of holes in the wall of The Colosseum, or sign posts pointing to Mount Etna, or broken doorways in a mountain village in Sicily. But I didn't take very many pictures of my family at The Colosseum, or at Etna, or in Mandanici. Next time we go on vacation, I was informed, we are taking two cameras.
   So Matt took pictures of big rocks, and close-ups of iron scrollwork, and old signs. And my wife rolled her eyes every time he did. Along the way, he got a shot, entirely by accident, that has become one of my favourite pictures ever. It was a product of the failings of an automatic point and shoot camera in a difficult situation, but the result would I say it...serendipitous, perhaps.

   The theme of
this week's Monday Photo Shoot is "Unreal." The more I look at this picture, the more I think I see in it. Of course, there is a perfectly rational explanation for what happened to produce it, but that isn't any fun, is it?

Wales 272

What do you see in it?

(A larger version is available at my Flickr photostream. Click on the picture to get there. It makes a cool wallpaper.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday random ten

   Offered without comment, because, well...because I got nuthin'.

The One I Got - Johnny Lang
Soma - Smashing Pumpkins
Fly At Night - Chilliwack
Cascada - Jesse Cook
Ain't Gone 'n' Give Up On Love - Stevie Ray Vaughan
Let's Get High - Dr. Dre
Because They're Young - Duane Eddy
Ode - Creed
Fire In The Hole - The Tragically Hip
Blue Eden - Neil Young and Crazy Horse


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Critical Thinking Thursday

   I haven't participated in some time, but I have a post included in the latest edition of The Skeptics' Circle at Andrea's Buzzing About: There's a lot of good stuff to read in the 85th edition of the circle, so buzz on over and check it out.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April is national poetry month and...

   Just a quick mention. We are, right this very moment, smack dab in the middle of the annual National Cowboy Poetry Week. This year CPW runs from April 20 to April 26. Saddlle up!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oye como va

Dear Carlos Santana,

   Hi, how are you today? I'm fine, too, thank you very much. I enjoy your music immensely. Oh, by the way, I illegally downloaded your album today. Not all of them. Just All That I Am.
   See, I already bought the CD at the record store. Paid full price, it wasn't even on sale. But, here's the thing: I can't copy it to iTunes. Seems your record company has employed some kind of copy protection technology that prevents iTunes from being able to properly read the CD.
   Which is a real shame, because, as I already mentioned, I like your music very much. I enjoy listening to it. But now I can't - at least not in the way that I want to. I want to be able to listen to it on my iPod through headphones while I'm riding the bus, or walking the dog. I want to be able to plug my iPod into my car stereo, and listen to your music while I drive to and from work. And the way your album was presented to me, I can't do that.
   Oh, sure, if I put the CD in my computer CD-ROM drive, it will install a proprietary media player on my computer, which will allow me to listen to your album there. But I have absolutely no desire to do that. I don't actually ever listen to music at my computer desk. And besides, if I did want to, the five hundred and seventy six other albums in my music collection are already on iTunes. Why would I want to open a new program just to listen to one other album. It's inconvenient. In fact, it's flat out stupid.
   So what happens? Well, what happens is, I don't listen to your album. I don't spend the time appreciating the fine music you spent all that time, blood, sweat and tears crafting for me. I listen to someone else's heartwrought audio art instead.

   At least, that's the way it was, until today. See, I got to thinking. I paid for this music. And make no mistake, I paid for the music, not the physical delivery system the CD represents. If you want to be all technical about it, I paid for licencing rights to personally, and privately listen to your music whenever and wherever, and as often as I like. And you have not provided me with what I paid for.
   So today, I did about thirty seconds of Googling, and found an uncorrupted, high quality copy of your album on this here Internet thingy, and I downloaded it. And I copied it to iTunes.And I loaded it on my iPod. So now I do have what I paid for, and I can enjoy your music all I want (thank you very much).

   It's kinda ironic ain't it? Your record company employed their little copy protection schemes in an effort to prevent illegal downloading of your music. Instead, they have encouraged it. You might wanna talk to them about that.


Paul Little

   Oh, and here is your Friday Random Ten; the first ten songs randomly assigned to my iPod by iTunes on my latest sync.

1) Chokin' Kind - Joss Stone
2) Isn't It Midnight - Fleetwood Mac
3) Jeb Rand - Bedouin Soundclash
4) Xanadu - Rush
5) Another Brick In The Wall (Part 3) - Pink Floyd
6) If Not Now... - Tracy Chapman
7) Dazed And Confused - Led Zeppelin
8) I'm Sensitive - Jewel
9) Cum On Everybody - Eminem
10) Easier To Run - Linkin Park

edit Sunday 5:00PM: If I had actually read the Wikipedia article to which I linked above, I would have realised that All That I Am was one of the albums Sony/Arista originally tried to release on the sly with Digital Rights Management software hidden in it uncredited. They got busted by the tech crowd, and had to back down on it. They claimed the CDs were defective (nice try), and recalled and re-released them without the DRM. That's what I get for buying the album the first week after it came out.

Tags: , , , ,

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Album cover meme

   This has been languishing in my test journal for months. Originally, because I was having difficulty with uploading new pictures to AOL's ftp space, and then more recently because I've been lazy. Here's what you're s'posed to do:

1) Go to
Wikipedia. Click on the random article link. The title of whatever article you get will be your band name.

2) Go to Click on the random quotes link. Scroll to the bottom of the page. The last four words of the last quotation on the page will be your album title.

3) Go to Click on the interesting photos from the last seven days link. The third photograph on that page will be your album cover.

4) Employ your favourite image editing software.

5) Present to us your album cover.


1) Wikipedia gave me the article,
Naval Intelligence Handbooks.

2) gave me the quotation, "Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world." --Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

3) gave me this photo:

4) ::edit edit edit edit::

5) Here is my album cover:

Album Cover

   Many thanks to Thinklab for the excellent photograph. I hope he doesn't mind my appropriation of it for this meme. Stop by his photostream, why don't you, and check out his other impressive work.

Accordion Guy

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Some skeptical items for your consideration

   I haven't been doing much writing of any substance lately. I've mostly been posting little quickies than don't require any thought. Yes, I haven't forgotten that I owe you one more installment of the 100 movies series. That's coming. Honest!
   But here are a few little things that I've been thinking about lately.


Expelled Exposed 
   You may have heard of the soon to be released movie, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Or, you may not have. Ben Stein (Bueller...Bueller...Bueller...) stars in what the producers are calling a documentary about the suppression of new ideas by the scientific establishment (whatever that is). According to the film's website:
“Expelled” calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed scholars who have been forced out of prestigious academic positions because they proposed Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin’s 150-year-old theories about the origins of life. Instead of entertaining a debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has moved to suppress the ID movement in a “systematic and ruthless” way at odds with America’s founding principles, the film asserts.
   That would be quite an interesting movie to watch, I suspect, if the statement above were actually, you know, true. Unfortunately, like many other things that have come to light about this film, the statement above is a lie. The scientific establishment is quite prepared to debate the merits of the science behind the "theory" of Intelligent Design...if only its proponents would present some. To date they have failed to do so.
   Make no mistake, Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory. It is religious propaganda, and its primary proponent, the Discovery Institute, is not a scientific research facility. It is a political lobbying organisation. Lucky for us, the "scientificestablishment" is quite prepared to back up their position with cold, hard, observable fact. To this end, the website
Expelled: Exposed reveals the facts behind the veil of lies being spread by the producers of this film.


A Case Of Curse Transference?
   One of the areas of our lives that is absolutely permeated by superstition is sports. Ball players take great care not to step on the chalklines as they run off the field. Hockey players will grow a "playoff beard." Basketball players will refuse to wash their socks during a winning streak. And we completely accept these silly things, as if they could possibly have any effect whatsoever on the outcome of a game.
   For the most part, these things are harmless, but the fact that so many people believe in them can lead to problems. Last week, constuction on the new Yankee Stadium in New York was delayed for five hours, at a cost of over $30,000, so workers could jackhammer through two feet of concrete to remove a Boston Red Sox jersey placed there by a former worker. Gino Castignoli, a construction worker and Red Sox fan hid the jersey just before concrete was poured for one of the luxury boxes during his one day of work on the stadium. Representatives of the New York Yankees Baseball Club called it "a very bad, dastardly act." A very bad, dastardly act. Dastardly, like tying Derek Jeter to a set of railroad tracks.
   OK, so you think you've heard everything now, don't you? You're wrong. 
The Yankees organisation is considering legal action. I swear, I'm not making that up. These guys truly believe that the action of burying a Red Sox jersey under the stadium could have materially harmed their ball club. I'm sorry, but that's just plain kooky.


Making a Choice
   Recently, here in Toronto, a devout Sikh man challenged the Ontario law requiring motorcycle riders to wear helmets. He could not wear a helmet, he said, because his religion required him to wear a turban, and prohibited him from covering it in any way. The Ontario Human Rights Commission ruled in favour of Balinder Badesha's challenge to the law, but
a Superior court Justice over-ruled that decision on March 6th of this year. Mr. Badesha plans to appeal the decision.
   I have two questions for Mr. Badesha:
1) Does your religion require you to wear an uncovered turban at all times outside of your home?

2) Does your religion require you to ride a motorcycle?
The answers to these questions are, of course, "yes," and, "no." I don't see a conflict here.
   You see, Mr. Badesha, observing your religion is a choice you have made. Like all choices, once you have made it, you find it impacts upon other choices facing you in your life. Riding a motorcycle is also a choice. There are many alternate forms of transportation of which you may avail yourself. You could drive a car, you could ride a bicycle, you could take a bus, you could walk. If riding said motorcyle conflicts with your religion, well then, you are going to have to choose between them. But choose wisely. As far as I'm concerned, they're both dangerous practices.


But She Was On Oprah, So She Has To Be Right
   Also back in March, former model Jenny McCarthy was in Toronto for the Holistic World Expo, and spouting her load of nonsense about Autism and Vaccines to anyone who would listen. Toronto Sun columnist Michele Mandel wrote what started out to be quite a rational and skeptical
article on the subject, saying:
According to McCarthy, the recent alarming rise in autism -- as high as one in 150 children -- is directly tied to the increasingly heavy childhood vaccination schedule that began in the 1990s...

 The scary thing is that no one in this town's goo-goo-eyed media bothered to challenge her controversial stand...

The scientific evidence, though, is pretty conclusive. The oft-touted link between autism and vaccination has been examined to death and endless studies have concluded there is no connection.
Somewhere along the way, however, Mandel lost the script.
So I was all prepared to completely discount the 35-year-old crusader and her Internet science. But it turns out that part of her message may actually have something to it. McCarthy credits a complete change in diet for helping to "cure" her son of his autism. After removing wheat and casein (found in milk) and adding vitamins and supplements, she noticed a dramatic change in just six months. "I do know I undid the damage that was done by vaccines," she told one local morning show, "and healed the body. You heal the body and you heal the mind and then he was able to function in society."
Mandel appears to accept McCarthy's statement at face value, leaving all semblance of skepticism behind. There are several things Mandel had overlooked in credulously reporting McCarthy's claims on this matter.

   First - and you've heard me say this before - correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Just because two things happen at the same time (or one follows the other) does not necessarily mean they are related. They might be, be it can be hard to know for sure.
   Autism is a condition marked by developmental delay. Note that is delayed development, not arrested development. It can seem like an autistic child is stuck at one level of development forever, then they can suddenly progress dramatically, seemingly overnight. It isentirely possible, indeed likely, that had McCarthy not changed her son's diet, he would still have experienced the same rapid improvement at the same time. Of course, Jenny would have just found something else to credit for the change.
   There are all kinds of alternative autism therapies out there - modified diet, heavy metal chelation, what have you - that people claim are effective. Scientific investigation has, to date, shown that they are not.

   Second, by allowing McCarthy's statement to go unchallenged, Mandel undermines a fact she presented earlier in the piece - that there is no scientific support for the 'vaccine causes autism' claim. She has allowed McCarthy to throw in her contention that she has undone "the damage done by vaccines." Even if there is something to the claim that a modified diet can have an effect on autism, that in no way points to vaccines as a cause. But Mandel allows that idea to slip back into her readers' minds by not applying critical thinking to the whole story.

   The third thing that Mandel completely overlooks is that McCarthy claims to have healed her son. She conveniently leaves out the fact that Evan McCarthy still has autism. It hasn't gone away. He just showed some developmental progress. The fact is, everything McCarthy says is complete, and utter hogwash. Mandel needed to stick to her skeptical guns all the way to the end of her article. By failing to do so, she has failed her readers. She doesn't think so. She ends by saying, "at least this prescription of hers won't cause harm." Michele, I beg to differ. If just one of your readers abandons traditional treatements and therapies in favour of the woo presented by Jenny McCarthy, then there is harm. I've said this before, too.
Alternative therapies that are ineffective, are not harmless.


   There! I feel much better having got all that off my chest. Sorry to harsh your mellow.