Monday, January 31, 2005

Tell me something...

Hey, random blog-reader... tell me something that you're passionate about. It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't matter why you love it, and it doesn't matter if you don't want to attach your name to the comment... I just want to hear about something that gets your blood pumping (be it political cause, hobby, place, person, etc., etc.)

I'll throw in my two cents a bit later, but first I want to hear what the rest of you have to say.

Alone in the Dark

This weekend, I had the unique experience of seeing a film with it's screenwriter. That film was Alone in the Dark, and the screenwriter was Elan Mastai.

It had been years since I'd last seen Elan, back when Jess was still going to Queen's. That my have been the weekend when I decided that this was where I wanted to go to school. Elan, Justin, and some of Jessica's other friends had formed an improv troupe that was playing in a small bar in downtown Kingston. The show was absolutely hilarious. To this day, I'd rank their comedy as some of the best I'd ever seen.

After a few hours on the 401 and an interesting phone call with my mother ("Hi Mom, can't talk... going to see a movie in Toronto... call you tomorrow. Bye.") we found the theatre in question. Oh, Toronto. You don't appreciate how nice it is to have a Burger King in a movie theatre until they close down every single Burger King in Kingston. Oh, Burger King. How I loved to have cabs go through your Drive Thru when I was drunk.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the film was seeing the names of people I'd known for years appear as characters on the screen. "What's the situation, Krashinsky?" "Kill him, Pinkerton." "Barr, get this man medical attention!" "FEEEEENSTRA!" Good times.

On the way to the Elephant and Castle, I had the chance to speak with Elan about what it's like putting a script together. It was a very insightful discussion. I think my favorite part was when he mentioned that originally, there had been no sex scene in the movie, but Christian Slater and Tara Reid were both game for it, so in it went. Ah, Hollywood.

I ran into Justin as well, another guy that I haven't seen in ages. He does comedy shows in Toronto with a group whose name escapes me for the moment. But he, again, is probably one of the funniest writers / comedians I've ever met, and so I will post details for his group the next chance I get. There may be another at-a-whim road trip to see one of his shows. If such is the case, there'll likely be additional passenger room.

Anyways, at around midnight I presented Elan with a celebratory Cuban cigar and we made our way back to Kingston. But all in all, a good time that I hope to repeat one of these days. And inspiration to GW writers everywhere - you too can become a Hollywood screenwriter.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Some questions

Here are some things that I'm curious about.

- Do women really judge potential romantic interests on their shoes? I've heard this one before from some of my female friends, and I'm curious to how wide-spread this is. If so, what kind of shoes are best? And which are worst? Be honest, even if it means that you need to post anonymously. (For the guys: Do you do the same thing?)

- Is it acceptable or expected for someone in a relationship to occasionally "take a dive" at a sport or game that he or she is good at in order to allow their partner to save face? Or is that insulting? What if they beat you in Scrabble 38 times in a row? Isn't that a bit much, no matter how gracious he or she is being about it?

- What would be the worst present that someone could reasonably expect to receive? I'm pretty sure my Dad still holds the record for this from when he gave my mother a digital scale for Christmas.

- What is the one action/traite/behaviour that is an absolute kiss of death for the first date? Yes, this could turn into a GW article very quickly - so it has to be something that you've actually dealt with. And bonus points if it's something really subtle (like Erin's friend, who really really hates gum).

Please feel free to answer all of these or some of these. I'm very curious to see what kind of responses I get.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Finding Balance

I think things are starting to balance out. The boredom that gripped me with it's cold, TV-wielding claw back in December has loosened it's iron grip. The benefit dinner monkey is gradually being subdued; not going without a fight, but with over a month to go, it's steadily being worn down. It's enough to keep me from feeling like I have too much time on my hands. It's a good feeling.

I feel as though I've reached my material plateau - for this stage in life, at least. When I first left university and entered the working world, the novelty of a regular paycheque seemed like it was never going to wear off. But thinking about it the other day, I realized that if I had a couple million sitting around, I probably woulnd't change much. I might get a nice suit. That's about it. But I think I have enough 'stuff' to last me for a long while yet. Though I'm not quite the minimalist I was Back in the Day (I arrived at Queen's with a single hockey bag), some of the tendencies are still there.

It appears as though my summer as a Man of Leisure will be short lived. Rumour has it that there will be work starting in April that will last through to the end of August. Not that I'm complaining - I love my job. But I will still need to take a few weeks out for travel at some point. It's in the blood now, and it's not going away anytime soon. (21 days until Venezuela)

I've been playing some Blood Rayne lately, which is infinitely hilarious. It's kind of like Indiana Jones, if Indiana Jones was a half-human vampiress who wore a lot of skin-tight, low-cut latex. In the words of the game, Blood Rayne is 'half-human, half-vampire, and all woman.' But you get to fight Nazis, so who can complain?

Plans are underway to go to Toronto this weekend for a period of around ten hours. More to follow on that later... but Elan Mastai has invited some of the fine folk from the Bad Craziness mailing list to visit him for a showing of his new movie, Alone in the Dark. If anything was ever worth an improptu road trip, this is it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

A Sad Day

It's gotten to the point where I am starting to hope that President Bush was right about everything. Let there be weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Let the new Iraq be a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. Let the never-ending insurgency be made up of Saddam loyalists and dead-enders. As depressing as it would be to see American force brush governments aside with a single pre-emptive swipe, it would be far less depressing than what's going on now.

To sum up today's news: 36 troops died in Iraq today as a request is being put in for another $80 billion in war funding (despite the fact that little of the reconstruction budget has been spent). Britain is changing their laws to allow for the improsonment of terrorism suspects without trial, contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. Iraqi police are being accused of Saddam-era systematic abuse of prisoners. Oh yes, and the Tamil Tigers are using the aftermath of the tsunami to help recruit child soldiers.

And if you thought that was bad, have a look at the places we don't hear about.

I can understand why a lot of people don't read the news. It's pretty damned depressing. The sad thing is, that unless you look at these issues, form an informed opinion, and take some kind of action, things aren't likely to change.

Seeing change in human rights is a lot like running a marathon with your eyes closed. It can drain a lot of energy, and you don't feel like you're getting anywhere. But it still feels better doing something... anything.

I got a letter back from Peter Milliken in reply to my note of thanks for Canadian support of the tsunami victims. Still just a single letter. It doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but at least it's something. And lots of somethings add up. Just ask the Red Cross, who now has $1.2 billion to spend. All that from kind hearted people with a few dollars to spare.

As cliche as this is, it's true: ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle,' or in it's more common form, 'All that is needed for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.' - Edmund Burke

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Nothing quite so fine as a clean cottage

The cottage is now company-ready again, which is a good feeling. Contrary to my earlier, and wiser, prediction that I would wait a full week before walking out on the ice, I went out on it last night. I was really stunned by how still and beautiful it was, until I got about a hundred meters from the dock, when the "ground" beneath my feet started to creak and moan. I elected to go back inside, lest I tempt fate.

I watched the Royal Tennenbaums last night, and thoroughly enjoyed it. For those of you not acquainted with the work of Wes Anderson (Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) I highly recommend his films. He develops very interesting characters, even though the plots themselves tend to be a little insubstantial. That may be deliberate, I can't really tell. I'm no filmographer.

The U.S. is debating whether they should up the bounty on bin Laden from $25 to $50 million dollars. I'm not sure that's really going to make much of a difference. How many bounty hunters are going to suddenly sit up and think, "What? Now they're offering fifty mill? Well, now that it's real money we're talking about..."? They should at least make it interesting. Toss in a 20 minute horsie ride from Dubya, and maybe you'll get some more takers.

Two Master's applications has become three. I figure, while I'm on a role, might as well keep it going. Granted, I'm not sure what kind of a chance I have getting into the London School of Economics but hey, why not?

Tomorrow is my big day for benefit-dinner-organizing. We'll see how that goes. Still need to get donations and a catering company.

It surprises me to call a catering company to offer them business, and then not get a return call. Yes, I'm offering you the chance to make money. Would you like to take me up on it? Please? Oh yes, I'll speak to your answering machine. Oh wait... you're the business, you're supposed to be making things easier for me. Sorry, I forgot. Click.

Oh, one last thing: wings tonight at the Brass, 6:00 pm. Be there.

Monday, January 24, 2005

On Weekends

Before I begin this post, I'd like to give a shout out to my brother-in-law, Peter Harris, who was interrogated by Chinese police a few days back. Way to put it on the line in the pursuit of freedom of the press, Pete. Can't wait 'til I hear the full story over a glass of brotherly scotch.

Had a good time this weekend, first at Erin's tropical themed party and then later out at the cottage with my girlfriend and Riz. My one regret from the party is that at one point, someone asked me a question which I did not hear and proceeded to completely ignore. I feel the same deep sense of shame that any Canadian would feel when he/she learns that he/she has been inadvertently rude to someone.

For those of you who failed to leave the house during the cold snap, it was pretty cold on Saturday. And snowy. And windy. Mercules is built for this kind of weather, but apparently the cottage was not. Imagine my surprise when we got there that night to find that the pipes had frozed.

Despite our best efforts (ie. hitting the water pump with a wrench, carrying a useless space heater downstairs, etc.) nature eventually came to our rescue, but not before we had filled the counter top with dirty dishes. The bathroom situation wasn't that great, either. We managed to get most of it done before we left, but I'm heading back out that way tonight, so I should be able to finish the clean-up then.

I did, in fact, make a lasagna that turned out to be pretty damned tasty, despite the fact that I had the wrong sized pan and it turned out to be a very, very thin lasagna. We proceeded to watch The Quiet American and eat Jello-no-bake-cheesecake covered in Roger's chocolate.

The lake's more or less frozen over at this point, but I'm waiting another week before I set foot on it. There's an island about 600-750 m from our cottage that I'd love to have a walk around. Apparently it's a great place to go cross country skiing as well. We'll see how next weekend fares.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Global warming. Good or bad? Discuss.

Today is cold. It's one of those days where, if you didn't need to go outside, you most certainly wouldn't. It's the kind of day when part of you, the part deep down inside that's responsible for selfish thoughts, wonders if global warming is necessarily such a bad thing. Sure, some ice caps may melt somewhere in a couple of generations. But that's a problem for future generations. I'm freakin' cold NOW. Now throw some more hairspray on the styrofoam fire.

One down, one to go for grad school applications. Granted, once you write the first one, you more or less just need to make subtle changes to finish the second one. There's just a lot of details to remember. Enclose 3 resumes, single sided. Make sure your transcripts are inside a signed, sealed envelope. Have your references mail the letters directly to the school. Kill a drifter to prove your loyalty. It never seems to end.

I debated taking this afternoon to go around town and organize donations for the benefit dinner, but then the voice mentioned in para 1 suggested that I would rather stay indoors, eat pizza, smoke a cigar, and play Kill Switch on my XBox. It was right, of course. Dammit.

One of the nice things about having a massive, incomplete project looming over your head is that procrastination is once again a viable activity. If you have nothing to do, you're not procrastinating. You're just not doing anything. And that's sad. Procrastinating, on the other hand, is a guilty pleasure of the first order, and has a siren song like few others. Think about it. Watch TV when you should be studying, and you get a bit of a guilty rush. Watch TV when you've got nothing better to do, and you kind of feel like a loser. I do, at least.

I'm looking forward to going to the cottage on Saturday, but I feel a knot of irreparable loss now that the barbeque is out of commission. I started to think about this, and am consindering making lasagna. I haven't made one... well, ever. But I've assisted in their creation before. How hard could it be?

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Schemedy Schemes

Whenever I make a statement about the future, I usually add the caveat "Plan subject to change." Those who've been around me for a while know that this is for a very good reason. There are few things that my brain likes quite so much as hatching a scheme. It does this regularly and, for about a week afterwards, I talk about this scheme incessantly, as though it's a real plan waiting to happen. The scheme is thus purged from my body and disappears, never to be heard of again.

Well, in case you didn't catch them the first time, here they are.

- Buying an acreage, and using it as a mock battlefield where vintage Russian and American tanks can play an oversized version of "paintball." The main staff member would be a gruff but loveable tank mechanic from the Red Army, who would curse at our guests (ie. investment bankers from RBC out on a team-building exercise) in gutteral Russian for their poor tanksmanship. I was going to name it "Tank Ball."

- Opening a bar in Costa Rica. This conceptual bar soon became a strip club. It wasn't long before I added another step: making it a strip club where half the profits would go to a charitable cause. I was going to call it "Lapdances for Justice."

- Other businesses I've wanted to open in Costa Rica include a cigar shop, condo rentals, and a resort where they pimp up your car while you're on vacation, which was inspired by my adventures in underground Nicaraguan-run repair shops.

- Connecting a fog machine to a bubble machine to make fog-filled bubbles. These would be called "fobbles" and be used at ultra-trendy dance clubs.

- Starting a business whereby I buy second-hand clothing and trinkets in Canada, and trade it with Cubans for their handicrafts. Then fly back and sell the stuff back in Canada. This may sound odd, but you can get some pretty elaborate handicrafts for a dollar-store solar calculator or an old ballcap down there. And you should see what a box of Cohibas can go for on e-bay.

- Run whiskey tours of the distilleries in Scotland. Seriously, very few hotels over there actually offer a packaged tour for tourists. I had to walk 3 miles to get to the Lagavulin distillery when I was there in October. Well, I could've taken a cab... but still.

- Start a clothing manufacturer that would make golf shirts with interesting pictures, slogans, etc. in the upper left-hand corner. It would be called This was inspired by the Che Guevera golf shirt I used to have, which received many compliments. Some guy in Costa Rica actually tried to buy it from me while I was wearing it.

- After reading in the Robb Report that there are is a booming millionaire demographic in China, but that they tend to have underdeveloped style (ie. mixing vintage wine with Coke, having plastic surgery like it was some kind of a plastic-person competition, opting for the Holiday Inn over the Four Seasons, etc.) hatching a plan to visit Shanghai and market myself as a style consultant to Chinese millionaires.

I think that was about it. I did actually consider doing all of these ideas at some point or another, but thought better of it before I went ahead full steam. I still have a corporation from when I decided that I wanted to start a software company - all the paperwork involved with that has made me rethink my wacky schemes. But one day... one day.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Shaking off a few Monkeys

I seem to have gotten my wish: the To Do list that was once scraped clear is starting to pile up once again.

On the grad school front, I've managed to confirm that the first batch of reference letters have made their way to Carleton. Thanks go to Dr. Martyn and Dr. Butler for that one. The list of paperwork is dwindling, but there's still a significant amount to gather before the two applications can go out. How people can apply for five or six grad schools in a single year is beyond me. Grad school monkey, you are about to be shaken from my back with great vigor. Have a nice flight.

Oh, but he has company. The monkey that appears to have the grip of steel is the benefit dinner. This was driven home with particular force when I asked around at work to see who was interested in attending a $50 a plate benefit and silent auction for the Canadian Landmine Foundation. Answer: no one.

So far, I still need to organize a caterer, create a guest listen, get items for the auction, organize media coverage, figure out how to take ticket reservations, and get word out about the event. And this needs to be done in a little over a month, during which I'll be out of the country for a week. Good times.

Yes, I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch. Well, I don't expect any sympathy on this one. It's still an optional project that I volunteered myself for, knowing that it would be a good chunk of work. But perhaps this time, the lesson will stick: I should know when to keep my pie hole shut and just enjoy a little peace and quiet now and again.

Does anyone know of a good catering company in the Kingston area?

Friday, January 14, 2005

A quote

With a few spare minutes at work, I was reading a copy of the November / December issue of Foreign Affairs. One of the articles makes an argument for a process called "carbon sequestration" to reduce the level of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuels. To quote:

"The technology is already available. The integrated gasified combined cycle (IGCC) coal-fired power plant crushes coal and mixes it with steam to make a hot combustible fluid called "syngas," stripping out sulfur, mercury, and other toxic pollutants. When syngas is consumed, it released large amounts of electric power, hydrogen, and a stream of carbon dioxide suitable for capture and geologic storage. If the emissions are sequestered, the IGCC becomes a zero-emission plant (ZEP). Coal-power generation has never looked so sexy."

Oh yeah, baby. You know Daddy likes it when you sequester your emissions. Mmmmm.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Meeting of the Blogs

There's a meeting of Kingston bloggers at Brew Pub this Friday at 5:00 pm. For those of you interested in attending, I'm picking up Eve and JTL at EngSoc just before 5:00 and Mercules still has 2 seats free. Comment or e-mail, and I'll reserve a spot just for you. I won't be there long - I'm spending the weekend at the cottage with the girlfriend - but I will be there for at least half an hour and quite possibly until 6:30 pm.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

A shout out

Today, I'm going to give a shout out to General Lazaro Sumbeiywo. This guy played a major role in the historic peace deal in the Sudan, ending a war that's claimed 1.5 million lives over 21 years. He's worked for two years on something that a lot of people said couldn't be done, but he's pulled it through.

Second shout out goes to the National Institute for Medical Research, who've made a discovery that could lead to a cure for HIV/AIDS a few years down the road. Not just a vaccine - a cure. Which, for those of you who are medically inclined, is a pretty unique thing for a viral infection.

Just goes to show you that there's still some good news in this world - it's just buried as a byline somewhere, beneath the latest Olsen twins scandal. Damn. I feel pretty pleased with myself if I manage to make it to work on time in the morning, and these guys are out forging peace and curing epidemics. Pioneers of the future, saviors of humanity - I give you mad props.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A preliminary taste of communism: the line for Tim Horton's at Pearson. Posted by Hello

Here you see a Cuban drug enforcement dog walking down the conveyer belt, looking for coke. When you wait 73 minutes for your bags, that shit's better than cable. Posted by Hello

I have a tradition whereby I take pictures of my lounging feet in various tropical locations. Here they are in Holguin. Posted by Hello

This is me with Miss Costa Rica. We didn't meet during the trip to Cuba, but I really like this photo and it's my blog, so I'll post what I damned well please. Posted by Hello

They had gigantic chess boards in Cuba, that were great fun. Also, you'll see the one photo I have of myself from the trip, in one (of many) loud tropical shirts that I wear on vacation. Posted by Hello

This was our "crue" for the duration of the trip. From left to right - Russ, Maryanne, Lyndsay, and Ryan. Posted by Hello

This is the beach. They say it's ranked number 7 in the world, but I think that's just a rumour started by tourists. I tried to start a rumour that there was treasure buried here, but I don't think it took. Posted by Hello

While we were in Cuba, baseball caps were the hot luxury commodity. Here, Erin shows off her lavish Canadian ways. Posted by Hello

Every time I saw this sign for the tennis courts, I giggled like a little girl. Hee hee hee. Tenis. Posted by Hello

Russ is a role model for what I want to be like in twenty years. By some miracle, the 60 year old topless woman in the background is covered up. Posted by Hello

Here are Ryan and Lyndsay, two of our friends from the trip. The guy in the background kind of looks like Kevin McDonald from the Kids in the Hall. Neat. Posted by Hello

I have an mpeg of this guy rocking out that you need to see to believe. Here he is, serenading Erin with Besame Mucho. He plays the leaf in his mouth like a second instrument. Posted by Hello

They were playing He-Man at the airport when we were leaving. Fan-tastic. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 10, 2005

.... and back.

Got back from Cuba on Saturday, and back in at work today. It was a good trip - weather was nice and, apart from a few quirks, it was a great resort. I probably averaged about four or five cigars a day, so my throat's a little hoarse at the moment. Oh, and I brought back several packs of Cuban coffee if anyone is interested.

Photos will probably go up on Tuesday.

Some of the highlights of the trip:

- The guy at the front desk who kept winking at me whenever we requested a second bed for the room. We had to ask three times. He probably thought I was just going through the motions. I eventually said, "Guy, my girlfriend will not be impressed if I have to share a bed with another girl." That (and the five Euros I slipped into his palm) probably did the trick, and I didn't have to sleep in the bathtub.

- Erin, when asked how to spell her name, spelling it "E-R-N."

- The middle aged women hooting and hollering at the Cuban men in the fashion show. Lady, they're not going to take it off. It's a FASHION show.

- The fourteen-year-olds at the disco, all doing the slow-clap in unison to Usher's "Yeah!"

- Getting hammered at the swim-up pool bar with some farmers from Saskatchewan and another farmer from Scotland on cap-fulls of Cuban moonshine. In the words of Lyndsay: "Great. Now I'll have sunstroke AND moonshine."

- Playing chess on a 15' chess board. Seriously, the pawns were like two feet tall.

- The middle-aged Cuban security guard trying to pick up Erin.

- Making a habit of going behind the bar to serve myself drinks whenever the bartenders were busy. Eventually, I started to serve drinks to tourists. Then started to spin bottles. Then I started getting tips. Then I got kicked out from behind the bar.

Okay, that's it for now. More to follow when I get my camera hooked up.