Monday, February 28, 2005


Okay, after much deliberation I've elected to set aside Easter Weekend as Tremblant Ski Weekend.

Dates: Up 25 March, back 28 March.

Expected Cost (per person):

Lift ticket (2 days skiing): $103.00
Accommodations (Pp, covers 3 nights): $243.75
Gas, food, rum, etc.: $25

Total: $371.75 (give or take rentals, lesson, etc.)

This is all tentative so far. I'd be willing to modify dates (ie. shorten the trip) or switch activities (say from skiing to introductory boarding lessons) depending on what people's plans were. If you're down for it, post a comment or send me an e-mail.

Acts of Charity

Excerpt from an e-mail sent by one of the more senior folk at work:

"By the way, welcome back from your hiatus in Ottawa. We heard that there are girls there who are so poor that they can't afford clothing at all, and you were good enough to donate to their wardrobe."

That is the best allegory for getting lap dances from a stripper that I've ever heard. Ever.

(And no, I did not get lap dances when I was in Ottawa.)

Friday, February 25, 2005


... and I'm back. The week in Venezuela went exceedingly well. I actually managed to get a bit of sun without bursting into flames (damn my pale Nordic skin), and picked up some pretty decent souvenirs. As per usual, I drank a lot of rum and smoked way too many cigars. I'm planning to do a full travel review of the resort and Margarita Island, so I think I'll leave it at that for now. I hope things are going well with everyone, and I'll be posting more a little later in the weekend.

Before I go, I'd like to ask all of you one quick favour. Please, read the message below, post it on your blog, and ask others to do the same. You need but cut-and-paste and you'll have my eternal gratitude.

"Dear Friends:

A number of you have e-mailed me asking what I need here in Kabul. I thank you for your concern, but I actually want, or need, for very little. The weather here is a bit colder than I had expected, we still have snow here.

Kabul itself is about the size of Ottawa, and exhibits the scars of thirty years of warfare. Poverty is everywhere, and orphanages -- one of the by-products of a war -- are filled to capacity, and many of the kids in these institutions don't have a pair of shoes.

If you have kids, or know someone who does, can you send me some used kids footwear -- any size will do, from tots to teens. And while we're at it, socks too!

You can forward these to me and I'll make sure that they end up in the right hands -- or should I say, on they right feet. I can be reached at the address below:

Sgt Topolinsky, D.J.
Engr Sqn
OP ATHENA, Camp Julien
PO Box 5006 Stn Forces

Cheers, and thanks."

It would make my heart glow to get another e-mail saying, "Could you tell people to stop sending me damned shoes? Every orphan in Kabul has three pairs." As for myself, I'm off to the secondhand shops in a day or so to clean them out. If you happen to beat me to the punch, let me know.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Hope everyone's doing well. I'm off to Ottawa today and tomorrow, then I have a Macroeconomics midterm to write on Wednesday evening. Then I'm off to Venezuela for a week. I kind of doubt that I'll be blogging from Venezuela, but I might manage a post while I'm off in Ottawa. Best of reading week to everyone, and I'll be back on the 24th.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Questions Upon Questions

More things I'm curious about, for those of you for a few minutse to kill:

1. ) Is Valentine's Day a good idea? I mean, do you think it's worthwhile to have a day specifically earmarked for being romantic, or should romance be something that should happen of its own accord and without prompting? And should there be some sort of equivalent for singles, other than the unofficial stuff-yourself-with-butter-tarts-and-fall-asleep-on-the-couch tradition? What would it involve?

2.) What is the best temperature for outside weather? Why?

3.) Tell me about a scary/bizarre dream that you had as a child that left an indelible mark on you, but now seems a little silly and foolish. If you can't remember one, tell me about an endearing habit that you had when you were a child that still have today.

4.) Name a TV show that you know is mindless tripe, but that you watch anyways. Explain that strange attraction.

Usual rules (answer some or all, show yourself or post from the shadows) apply.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Weekday Weekend

Work occasionally requires me to come in on weekends. This, normally, would be an issue, but for one little perk - if I work a weekend, I'm given time off during the week to compensate. Typically, I use this time to run the errands that I can't usually get done on a weekend. But every once in a while (ie. now) I find myself with what is essentially a miniature vacation, with which I can do whatever I please.

Until the benefit dinner was postponed, these days had been earmarked for a last-ditch effort to get things in order. Instead, I've stubornly decided that I'll burn the last of my CDs to my iPod. Sounds like a reasonable idea, right? Well, that's what I thought, too. Until my ass fell asleep about two hours ago.

I'm down to the last three CDs, finally. According to the ever-helpful iTunes, I have about 4.2 days of music in my playlist. Yes, that's right. Days. Without taking breaks for sleeping or eating. How I ever managed to accumulate this much music is beyond me. I have to admit, though, that burning it to my hard drive has been a bit of a trip down memory lane. Particularly the angst-filled high school years. I never knew that I owned this much Ozzy Osbourne. And how the hell did a Sarah McLachlan CD find its way in there? Bizarre.

This doesn't include the pile of CDs that enjoyed a short-lived occupation change to frisbee on their way into the 'round file.' This may sound wasteful to you, until you consider that I had spent 5 years reviewing CDs for Golden Words.

Imagine accumulating 5 years worth of the kind of CDs that you'd send to a campus newspaper for free, and you can begin to imagine the way these CDs were dragging down the overall quality of the collection. I doubt I could've pawned them for more than three buttons and an 8-track player. There was a CD by former Spice Girl Melanie C, for heaven's sake.

Even with this ruthless housekeeping, I've still burned CDs that I doubt I'll ever listen to, but am still unwilling / unable to part with. It's not that I have anything against Ron Sexsmith per se, but I doubt I'd consciously choose to listen to his music unless I'd just been told I had inoperable brain tumor and wanted to feel sorry for myself.

Apart from this grueling task, I'm planning to generally spend this "weekend" being as unproductive as possible. recently shipped me a copy of Robert A. Heilein's Starship Troopers, which I imagine I'll cut through by the time this weekend's out. Spending some time in the woods alone with my thoughts and smoking a freshly-packed pipe also sounds pretty appealing.

I am planning to update the "Friends" section in the right-hand margin. If by some reason you're a regular to this blog and I neglect to list you, please let me know. And for those of you who're around regularly and have yet to post a comment, it would be nice to hear from you. This blogging thing is still new to me, so I'd be interested to see who's checking it out, and how they heard of it.

For those of you in the Kingston area, I'm in the process of getting a crew together to get fancied up this Friday and go for a few drinks over at the General Wolfe. We'll probably leave at around 8:30 or so to catch the ferry. If you're up for it, give a shout.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Give and Take

I will place myself among those to acknowledge that the Bush administration has reached a major milestone with the recent elections in Iraq. This is a major blow against those who would have Iraq remain a fundamentalist regime, and it deserves to be treated as such.

There's been a noted absence of commentary on the left regarding this event. I think a lot of people are genuinely shocked that it went as well as it did. I know that I am. But at the same time, I am grateful that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I am pleased with Canada's contribution to the process.

Things are rarely black and white. I do not believe that President Bush is an evil man. I do, however, believe that many of his policies are misguided, and that he has executed them poorly and at great expense to the American people. I hope that he has learned from his mistakes, and that progress in Iraq does not embolden him to strike at Iran. And I hope that Iraq is now on the path towards long-term democracy and stability. But were I an American, I would be pushing for his impeachment. When you look at the intelligence that was presented before the war, the man is either a liar or an incompetent. Neither option bodes well.

My criticisms remain the same. The war was launched for the wrong reason. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, despite what we were told. Although the US has succeeded in installing a popularlly elected government, there were many humanitarian crises around the world that were even more dire than what the Iraqi people faced at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Not enough effort was made to internationalize the conflict, and the war itself has been managed with ham-fisted inefficiency and needless loss of life. War was the first choice, rather than the last resort. And it was far too expensive for the gain that's been realized. The end does not justify the means.

But these complaints do not change the fact that we are seeing positive developments in the region. Just because the war was immoral does not mean that the current deployment of American soldiers in Iraq is unjustified. As much as we may wish that they hadn't gone there in the first place, I doubt any of us would like to see what kind of a security vacuum would form if these forces were to withdraw immediately.

The election itself was impressive, though not without flaws. Voter turnout was substantial, and the security situation was as good as could be expected, given the insurgency. Sunni Muslims did not get the same opportunity to vote as their Shia counterparts, due to a shortage of voting slips and the continued instability. These are major issues that must be addressed for the next election.

The bottom line is that the Iraqi people now have some manner of democratic channel through which they can express their opposition to the actions of the foreign army that now resides upon their soil. This will drastically reduce the legitimacy that resistance fighters previously enjoyed. No longer are they fighting against an occupying force - they are now fighting against a force that is present at the request of their elected government. Iraqi security forces are fighting for their fellow citizens, not for the Americans. The difference may be subtle, but its importance cannot be understated.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Simple Kind of Beauty

This weekend, my girlfriend and I elected to test the ice and go for a walk. The low-pinging laser-beam noise of expanding ice no longer echoed beneath my feet and there were snowmobiles and ice fishing holes dotting the lake, so it seemed pretty safe. So off we went to visit my uncle, who lives on the other side of Buck Lake.

It was a beautiful day. Sunglasses were a necessity, and I spent most of the time with my jacket undone. The walk over to Uncle Rick's side was pleasant enough, but when we crossed the highway, we were in for quite the surprise.

Apparently, it had started with a few small skating ponds. And then some of the closer ponds built paths between them, so that they could go for a visit. By the time we arrived, it was like a highway of skating paths cutting across the lake's surface. Over 4.6 km worth. Around the lake they stretched, from house to house and skating rink to skating rink.

You couldn't stop for two minutes without someone skating by for a visit. It's the sense of community that you just don't get in a city. You could stop to talk to a complete stranger about how nice the weather was, what the skating was lake, what kind of winter we'd been having, etc. and think nothing of it.

We found Uncle Rick and Annie with hockey sticks in hand not a surprise, he played for the Boston Bruins alongside Bobby Orr, back in the day - and their golden retriever with about three hockey pucks in her mouth. Neighbours came and went, and I think I met more people on that one day than I've met during the rest of this year at the cottage. Everyone was a little surprised that we crossed the other side of the lake. Apparently the ice wasn't quite as thick as we'd figured.

I wish I'd taken a picture. The sight of all those paths, criss-crossing across the lake to turn a snow-covered hunk of ice into a social outing... the dogs playing in the snow as their owners played hockey... neighbours catching up and wishing one another well... it was a thing of beauty. And all for the price of an old pair of skates.

I was without a set of my own, but Uncle Rick says he'll dig up a pair for the next time I'm out. I'm looking forward to it.

The Benefit Dinner has officially been moved back. I'm grateful for that. Otherwise, I would've been spending this week running around like an absolute maniac. This way, I can enjoy the trip to Venezuela without worrying about whether or not I had enough napkins, or if the caterer was going to cancel at the last minute.

Still no luck finding a good Venezuelan cigar brand. Looks as though I'm going to have to bring my own. I still have a good number of the Costa Rican cigars kicking around, so that shoulnd't be that much of an issue. Though apparently some of the other people that we're traveling with are also cigar smokers. Knowing me, I'll end up giving away more than I smoke. But perhaps that's a good thing. I sounded like the Godfather when I got back from Cuba.

Jake and I celebrated his newfound singleness yesterday. As is my custom, I took him to the strippers and bought him lapdances to mark the occasion. Once again, Jake, I apologize. She looked a lot younger from across the room.

We left early, as I was supposed to pick Mom up at the airport at midnight. Turns out her flight was delayed, so Jake and I elected to finish off the evening with a good cigar and a glass of crazy-old scotch. All in all, a good night.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


More questions, for those of you who would like to share your opinion:

- At what point does someone go from being the owner of an impressive car to being a complete tool? Is it neon underlighting? Playing shit-awful music at eleventy billion decibels with the windows down in January? Pimping up a '94 Cavalier? Or does any attempt to impress you with a car strike you as idiotic? In that case, does someone impress you with an unimpressive car? "You drive an '88 Mercury Topaz? Damn. That's HARD CORE." I'm curious.

- Is there any fashion trend that drives you absolutely insane? For me, it's those damned fluffy mukluks. Why the hell would you wear a mini-skirt and fuzzy boots? I saw some of the damned things in Cuba of all places. Freakin' fluffluks. Okay, your turn.

- Say you have a favorite band, and you come across someone who's listening to their music but totally doesn't appreciate what they're listening to. "Yeah," they say, "I love these guys... uh... whatever there name is. Their most recent album is fantastic. They really remind me of the Smashing Pumpkins." And they're nothing like the Smashing Pumpkins. Would this bother you? If so, would you tell them off, or just stew about it?

Usual rules - reply to as many or as few as you want, and anonymous posts are fine if it'll help you be honest about things.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For

I went out to the cottage last night to deal with the aftermath of leaking (and possibly burst) pipes in the basement. We're hoping that a small heater in the basement will up the temperature enough to make a difference. On Sunday night, there'd been about a foot of extra water in the bathtub and the toilet, and water pouring from the ceiling in the basement. Thankfully, it seems to have stopped.

While I was out there, I set foot once again on the (somewhat) solid ground of the now-frozen lake. I was nervous at first, as the recent temperature swings have resulted in what appears to be fault-line like cracks in various parts of the ice. Also, for some reason (the science behind this eludes me) the ice was making odd pinging, echoing noises. Kind of like low-pitched laser beams. Nothing like hearing one of those beneath your feet when you're still not sure if the ice will support your weight.

Fortunately, it did. The stars last night were amazing. I've always appreciated what it's like to be able to spend some time out on the lake under a clear sky, but this is the first time I've seen it from atop a frozen lake. It was incredible. So much that you don't see when you're out in the city. I'll have to post a photo or two, next chance I get.

As for the boredom I had been complaining about back in December, it's long gone. Things are hectic. I've asked for an extension for the benefit dinner, seeing as I only have two weeks left before I'm off to Venezuela. I still haven't heard back yet. By this Friday, I should know for sure. I'm either going to be able to breathe a sigh of relief, or things are going to get a little ugly for the remaining thirteen planning days I have left.

It can't be that hard, can it? Two weeks to prepare a hundred-guest benefit dinner that's open to the public, for whom I still have no caterer, advertising, auction items, guests, or guest speaker? Of course not! Ha ha... sigh.

So yeah, let's hope we can put that back to May 1st.

I'm starting to scan for "real jobs" in Ottawa, but my heart isn't exactly in it. I'm looking forward to spending one last summer in Kingston, and then I'll be able to sit down and work at this in earnest. Perhaps I should have had my contract renewed for another year. I suppose I'm just worried about getting comfortable in a position that really doesn't offer much job security.

There are times when I wonder if I'm forcing myself to grow up too fast. I'm 24, and only a year or two from taking on my first real career. Should I wait a little longer before I pile on more responsibility? The "take a year off and travel" argument is convincing, but considering my work is likely to be international in nature, the idea of traveling and getting paid sounds preferable to living out of my backpack for the next ten months.

It's something to think about, at least.