Friday, April 29, 2005

The Fear

I was being capricious when I said I had a job interview. To be precise, I will be writing four separate aptitude tests that will determine whether or not I get the job. Now, for the first time in about six years, I've started to seriously sit down and study for an exam.

Oh, I've studied for exams before, but it was always with the goal of acquiring the minimum mark required to succeed, and no more. Well, this has changed. This is my livelihood that we're talking about here, and I'm taking it very, very seriously.

I have the Fear.

Whether you like it or not, fear is an excellent motivator, and I've been riding it like a rollercoaster, building up momentum for when those tests roll around. SATs. GREs. LSATs. Terminology. Verbiage. I wake up in the morning, and all I can think of is what I need to study next.

It's not that I merely want to do well on this exam. I want to destroy this exam. I will massacre it. I want it to explode into a million pieces of exam-shrapnel, unable to bear the weight of so many brilliant answers. I want it to evolve into pure energy as I write it.

Until May 11th, baby.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


1.) In your opinion, what is the ideal arrangement for your typical heterosexual working couple? Do you believe that the man should have a higher paying job? Should it be about the same? Or should the woman make more? Or does it not matter? Should the person who makes more cover more of the expenses, or should it be split down the middle regardless?

2.) In an ideal world, how far would you be from work? Would you walk to work? Or do you like having work separated from your home life? Is a 10 minute car ride enough, or do you need 15 minutes to decompress? Would you work from home, given the chance? Or do you enjoy the social aspect of a work environment?

3.) Describe a place that has special meaning to you. It could be a walking path, a room in a friend's house, a favorite restaurant, etc., etc...

Anonymous or otherwise, answer some or all.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Before Posted by Hello

After Posted by Hello

Sophia Autumn Grace

I became an uncle on April 23rd, as little Sophia Autumn Grace entered the world. At 1:27 pm, to be precise. I, for one, am profoundly grateful - as is, I'm sure, my sister Jenn's stomach.

It still kind of blows me away that we're self-replicating devices. You'd think that this would have occurred to me before now, but this is really the first baby that's come into my family since I was born, so it's finally something that happens to us and not just other people.

I think it was the way my mother's voice was all choked up when she called that got things to finally sink in. I'm an uncle. An uncle. Uncle Ryan.

I'm going to get that kid into so much trouble.

I can't wait to see her - my niece - this summer.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Contest: The Great Blog Switch-a-Roo

So, I have an idea for a contest.

The idea is that a bunch of us would toss our names into a pot, and we'd each get assigned someone else's name. A few days later, we'll each write a blog post for our assigned person's blog. You can try and match their style exactly, or you can have a bit of fun with it. Poking fun at someone is acceptable, but make sure you don't cross the line.

Here comes the contest part. Participants then guess who wrote which post. If you identify a post's author correctly, you get 2 points. If someone identifies your post, you lose 1 point. If no one identifies your mock-post, you get 5 points.

We can do this for glory or for prizes. I'm open to suggestions.

Who's in?

Friday, April 22, 2005

Travel Review: Islay, Scotland

I've posted a new travel review. You can find it here.

Down time.

Through a bizarre series of misadventures, miscommunications and plain, old-fashioned school work, it just so happened that no one was able to come out to the cottage for the weekend.

I miss you all, but I have enough loner in me to ensure that this is not the end of the world. Already I can see the laundry list of things that should be done and need to be done, but for the time being I'm quite content to laze around and think of all the things I should be doing.

The benefit dinner is spooling back up again, but won't be held until August 6th. Perfect timing, in my books. In retrospect, trying to organize it with only a month and a half to spare was a pretty bad idea. But I have learned my lesson, and will take a little bit more care and dilligence this time around. Caterers and sponsors are the next items on the agenda.

Andrea and I met up with my sister Jess and our grandmother ("Grammy") for lunch at Morrison's this afternoon. That woman is a character. We've long learned that anything she sets her mind to is a done deal. Heaven help you if you want to try and buy that woman lunch - we've given up on the prospect of it now. What's more, it's a rare meal that she doesn't try and offer you some of her food in addition to the meal that she's already bought for you.

It was really good seeing her again. I really don't see her as much as I ought to, considering that we both live in Kingston. But now that work's a bit more relaxed, it'll be the perfect chance to go in and visit with her more often.

I'm having fun looking on and thinking about what kind of a place I'd like to get. It seems like there's a lot of variety out there, and a lot of different features to choose from. The one thing that I really want to insist on, however, is a den.

What can I say? I like the idea of having my own private, quiet work area. I dream of a small library filled with books on foreign policy. I long for a soft leather chair that I can sprawl out on while I smoke a pipe and read the newspaper. And I pine for a hardwood desk that will take a minimum of four people to carry into the room.

I think condo shopping is going to be fun. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I should probably get a job first.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Growing Up

There was a voicemail message on the machine when I got in last night. As it turns out, I have some aptitude tests to write in Ottawa. This being the first positive sign that I've received on the job hunt thus far, I'm pretty happy about it. As for the aptitude tests themselves, I'm not overly concerned. Tests that you can't study for are by far the best kind of tests.

That is, except for the IT knowledge test. So if any of you out there know of any good basic references for IT theory relating to software and hardware, I'd appreciate it if you could post a comment.

It's a funny feeling, rushing headlong towards a career. I'm looking at places in Ottawa, and starting to seriously question whether I should rent a place or buy a condo. I wouldn't go ahead and buy a house, but I'd definitely consider a one bedroom condo. Here's another question: do you pay property taxes on a condo, or is that included in condo fees?

It's hard to imagine. Working a real job. Owning a condo. It'll almost be like I'm an actual adult. Scary.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

On Language

At first glance, language appears to be a method through which we express our thoughts and feelings. But have you ever wondered if our thoughts and feelings, in turn, are shaped by our language?

Let me give you a few examples.

Think about the word you'd use to describe a man of loose sexual morals. Not many options to choose from, are there? Perhaps you came up with "player", but that doesn't really fit, does it? It also implies a dashing, confident figure at the same point. Now think of a word to describe a woman of loose sexual morals. Bet you have no problems there. Slut. Whore. Tart. Prostitute. No wonder that so many of the female variants have been derived from in order to refer to their male counterparts, such as the "man-slut" or "man-whore".

Speaking of gender roles, there's no word to describe an appreciate for male culture as a countrpart to a Feminist. What would you use? "Masculinist"? The closest thing in common usage is Misogynist, but that's not even close to being accurate, considering that it implies a hatred of women. Speaking of which, what's the term to describe someone who hates males? The closes equivalent is "Femi-nazi", which isn't even a real word, and is a more fitting description of someone who endorses a rigid version of Feminism.

Then we get to the modern media. "Terrorism"? Is it any wonder that when we hear this word, we're confronted with the shocking image of someone hell-bent on destroying our way of life to promote their own perverted ideals? The term "terror" is right there in the word. Yet when the Taliban was fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s, they were "freedom fighters".

And what of the "War on Terror"? How is it that you declare war on an emotion, anyways? Is President Bush handing out nightlights and sedatives to prevent Americans from being gripped by fear? And if we were to go strictly on the basis of mental health, shouldn't it be "War on Anxiety" or "War on Depression"? I guess "Anxietists" and "Depressionists" doesn't have the same ring to it. Though when you think about it, "Depressionist" is a reasonably accurate term for someone who's attacking America's means of economic well being.

Finally, it's noteworthy that there's no term in the English language that implies a state of balance in which all of your needs are being met, or a term that describes the complete appreciation of a given situation or event. ("Aprovechar" in Italian, for example.) Nirvana? Not English, and it implies a non-physical reality. "Frugality" is close, but implies stinginess. In contrast, there are many words that describe some kind of move towards or away from progress and growth. Growing. Improving. Getting stronger. Weakening. Declining. Fading.

In 1984, author George Orwell used the imaginary language of Newspeak as a metaphor for how language can shape our thought process. In the book, words were systematically and purposefully deleted in order to make human thought and emotion easier to control. A sunset ceased being "beautiful" and became "double-plus-good". I can't help but think that he was on to something there, but I think it's more complex than that. I think the values and beliefs of society influence our language, and that language in turn influences society.


A Good Day

Today's gone well so far. The exam was a little rougher than I expected it would be, but still wasn't anything to worry about. You lose a lot of the fear when you graduate - and a lot of motivation, unfortunately. But that's okay. I still have an entire summer ahead of me to figure out what's going to make me motivated.

Also, I woke to find an e-mail from the fine people at Bruichladdich, informing me that after much deliberation, they've decided to resume selling whole casks of scotch again. I still have to select my options and have them fill my cask (not to mention waiting ten years for it to mature) but it's still pretty exciting. Between that and the recent order of cigars I receive from Vegas de Santiago, I think my vices will be pretty well employed for the summer.

I'm seriously excited about cottage this weekend. Weather today is a bit bleh, but if we even get a day or two like we had during this week, it's going to be fantastic. Definitely good porch-sitting, beer-drinking weather and maybe even warm enough to put the dock in.

Tonight, I fully intend to eat a very large pizza and play Splinter Cell until I can no longer see straight. Oh, and I will start on French. My "Mastering French" CDs have arrived, and the workbook looks very solid. So if I start speaking horrible, horrible French when next we meet, please humour me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why I Hate Fox

Fox has ruined 24.

For those of you who haven't seen this previously-wonderful television series, the premise was that each episode was shown in "real time" and that an entire season spanned a 24 hour day. The protagonist was a government agent named Jack Bauer who worked for the Los Angeles Counter-Terrorist Unit (CTU). And it was fantastic.

The plot was intricate and well-developed. The performances were solid and dramatic. The special effects were great. It was like watch a movie that was 24 hours long. To this day, it's pretty much the only television that I watch in any given week.

But last episode, it made me seriously angry.

There are times when 24 touches on contentious issues, such as the use of torture to extract information from prisoners. In the last episode, a suspect was captured and being prepped for torture, when a lawyer from "Amnesty Global" arrived and forced the agents to stop. The "Amnesty Global" lawyer was painted as the bad guy, who was stopping the noble CTU agents from saving America from the threat of a rogue nuclear bomb.

Aside from the very, very obvious dig at Amnesty International, a well-respected NGO that works to stop persecution and torture around the world, Fox is clearly pushing the agenda that American agents should be free to use torture whenever and wherever they see fit. Of course, as part of this you're expected to disregard the fact that the situation they describe (mere minutes left to stop a hijacked nuclear bomb from being detonated on American soil) is extremely improbable.

For the record, I acknowledge that there might arise an extreme situation where physical interrogation is necessary to procure vital, timely intelligence. However, there should be a program set up to obtain legal authority to conduct such actions, and they should be subject to government and public scrutiny. It should be only used as a last resort, only in very extreme situations, and done in the most humane way possible. It should not happen because a bunch of part-time Military Police enlisted members are told to 'lean on' some know-nothing prisoners, as we saw in Abu Ghraib.

If this wasn't enough, the new President is essentially a poorly-done caricature of John Kerry. I think the only way they could've painted him as a weaker, more indecisive character would be if they had him begging the terrorists not to hurt him. It was brutal. Oh, and of course he agreed with "Amnesty Global", so he's clearly the enemy of freedom.

This goes much further, and I'm going to stop watching.

Oh, Fox. Why did you have to ruin the one television show that I really enjoy?

Monday, April 18, 2005


This is the point where I realize that it's probably a good thing that I didn't get into grad school.

It's ten past one now. I got to the library at noon, and I still haven't so much as unzipped my backpack. This is the level to which my procrastination has risen.

In psychology, the term is "satisficing". This means that people tend to do the amount of work that will result in the achievement of their goals, but no more. I have already graduated, and am taking a course that is a requirement for a program that I did not get into. At this point, my effort is (largely) geared towards getting any mark that exceeds a 60%. This will be enough to have half of my course covered by the government, through work.

There's a question that I've been asking more and more. What do I want to do with my life? What kind of work do I enjoy? I certainly have options. I could start my own business, write a novel or take one of many other paths. I chose the government path because I feel that I'm good at what I do, and it's meaningful. It may not always be the most exciting job in the world, but the work is satisfying and can be quite interesting.

The downside is that it's a very small field. There are only so many agencies that are looking for people, and once you've applied to all of them and go for a while without hearing anything, it starts get a little bit discouraging.

I really need to learn French.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Spring at the lake. Posted by Hello


Andrea and I have been studying out at the cottage for the past few days. Okay, I lie. She's been studying, and I've been playing Splinter Cell. But I will be studying today. Probably.

The weather here has been beautiful, and I've been trying to make the most of it. I had the manly homeowner experience of pressure washing my deck, and I have to say that it was pretty damned satisfying. I haven't set out in the kayak yet, but likely will once we get another nice, warm day and I don't have to worry about exams.

These are heady times. There are buds on the trees. We're falling asleep to the call of the loon. The dock is begging to be put in the water. Soon spring will be on us full force, and I'll be napping in the sunshine, taking a much needed respite from my hard shift of relaxing that started way back at beer o'clock.

I miss the regular pay of being on contract, but I can't complain about the new hours I have. I'm working 8 to 4, three or four days a week. As a result, I'm out about 40-50% of my normal pay. But it's pretty hard to convince me that this is a sacrifice that isn't worth making, with my last summer of relaxation stretching out before me.

My sister is still exceedingly pregnant, and I am still not an uncle. Considering she just passed her thesis defence, perhaps having a bit of rest before she goes into labour is a good thing.

Okay, back to Splinter Cell. Those Indonesian terrorists aren't going to shoot themselves from the shadows.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Follow Up.

One of the trends that emerged from that last set of questions is that some of you (myself included) aren't overly keen about society's defined 9-to-5-and-beyond routine. That begs another question: what would be the ideal workday? Would you go 10-to-4 and sacrfice 25% of your pay? Or would you cut out Friday, and lose 20%? Or, given the option, would you go for a completely atypical routine?

Thursday, April 14, 2005


1.) If there was one 'skill' that you could instantly acquire (ie. a martial art, physical ability, language you could speak, etc.), what would it be?

2.) How many hours would be in the ideal day? Why?

3.) Describe a smell that brings back fond memories.

4.) Tell me about a small personality quirk of yours that I might find endearing. (I'll start for this one: I occasionally talk in my sleep, and will sometimes act things out. For instance, a few nights back I was apparently dreaming that I was at work when I said, "Sounds good, I'll get right on that." and started to "type" on the pillow next to me.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mundane Details

I managed to make it into work for a half day. Despite my husky (and occasionally cracking) voice, I seem to be doing all right. The solid night's sleep seemed to make a big difference. What's better, I don't have to be in to work until noon tomorrow, either. Sweet.

I've been neglecting A Helpful Suggestion lately. That'll be something to fix over the weekend. There hasn't been a lot going on lately, with the exception of Vatican Wars: A New Pope.

I'm going to see the eye doctor and then buy glasses for the first time in probably close to three or four years. It's long overdue. My glasses look like something they salvaged from the deck of the Titanic.

Also, the ice is finally gone (in large part, at least) from Buck Lake. Not much longer and there'll be leaves on the trees. I saw a loon on the lake this morning. Not long left until it's porch season.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Job Prospects

I'm not going in to work tomorrow. My throat feels as though it's been worked over by large men with pipe wrenches, and I want to get a good night's sleep. Bless whoever invented Neo Citron. In a few hours, I will have another mug of you, and by then I should be doped up enough to pass out.

I've put in job applications to not one, but TWO JOBS in the past 48 hours. My excitement is mildly tempered by the fact that if I get any of these jobs, and they start before September, I'm not sure how likely I will be to take them. I want my summer in Kingston, even if I'm still working a good portion of the time. But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of working for a while, and then using my master's to answer a pressing question about something I've learned at work. I like that idea a lot.

A bunch of us (old/new GW folk) went for wings, and then out for ice cream. It was keen.

I'm not really sure of what to do with myself now that all my vices (ie. cigars, pipe, scotch, etc.) have been rendered moot by my sore throat. Perhaps Neo Citron will be my new vice. I wonder if it's addictive? I'm not sure. Any chemistry folk out there know the answer to that one?

Monday, April 11, 2005


I've started sending in job applications. I have no idea as to how long I can expect to wait before I hear something, but I'm hopeful that something will come of the three applications that I sent in. Today's been relatively productive. I was supposed to go for a medical at work today, but it turns out that they cancelled my appointment, but forgot to mention it to me. How kind of them.

In the end, it wasn't a big deal. I went to campus and started to study for my one (1) exam. It's not for another ten days, but I might as well get a head start, considering that I'll be starting work again tomorrow.

It was my first time back on campus in some time, and I was surprised how many friends and acquaintances that I ran into. As many people disappear from Queen's once their degree is done, almost as many stick around. Kingston is a funny town for that.

Not that I'm particularly worried about Macroeconomics, but I can feel some of the old procrastinating habits creeping back in again. Thankfully, it's nowhere near as bad as it was for Winter 2003, when I was writing the last exams of my degree, yet spent the majority of my time looking at Bulgarian real estate online.

Despite the weather we've been having, there's still ice on the lake. Any day now. Fortunately, my kayak is made of plastic, so I should be able to paddle amongst the iceburgs without risking too much as far as hull integrity is concerned.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


I've seen a lot of MSN names today that say something to the effect that cresting was both wonderful and horrible. That basically sums it up for me. I over-indulged last night, and am paying the price for it today. But the worst of that has past, and I should be able to enjoy the cottage, despite the fact that beer o'clock is going to have to be pushed back to another day.

Congratulations to everyone who got their crest last night - I had a great time, and hope everyone else did as well. Did anyone hear how the various crestees made out? I'm sure there's a few good stories to tell.

My tea is ready. I'm going to go outside and sit in the sun.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Heyyyyyyy Crestees!

Crestees: Meet your doom. Posted by Hello

Tonight is Golden Words' Cresting. What this means is that those deserving folk who have been writing for the paper for many, many, many weeks will get an opportunity to earn their Golden Words crest (which attaches neatly to the Queen's jacket) in exchange for suffering through a brutal / hilarious series of events.

Golden Words parties are always a good time. Good friends, and a lot of free booze. Oh, and there's always a theme. This time the theme is Golf Pros and Tennis Hos. Fantastic. And no, I will not be going as a Tennis Ho, despite the fact that more than a few GW guys are planning to go as such. Sorry. My Golf Pro costume is just too damned good to pass up.

So, what's the bottle with the Incan tribesman, then? Well, I've kept a fairly well stocked bar for a few years now. It makes for good parties, but it's really a pain in the ass to move. The solution? Pour every bottle that had <1 inch of booze into a single bottle full of Costa Rican Guaro (sugar cane moonshine) and save it for cresting night.

In conclusion: Heeeyyyyy Cresteeeees!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

I'll assume you want to hear about everything I'm doing right now.

I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the first time last night, and thought it was excellent. Not sure what category I'd put it in - it's hard to know where the dark comedy ends, and the philosophy begins. But regardless, a very involving movie with a lot of depth to it. It's particularly relevant for those of us who've made our share of mistakes along the way, and are still in the process of recognizing them as valuable learning experiences, rather than boneheaded blunders.

I'll be going in to work for a few hours tonight, so I should get the chance to see what the deal is going to be for my employment (or lack thereof). The fiscal year just began, so it's likely still in a state of chaos. It's not so much the lack of work that I'm worried about, it's just the implication that my old job is being allowed to slide down the tubes that I don't really like. At least if I'm not working, I'm going to totally destroy that first year economics exam I need to write.

I finally managed to get those shoes off to those Afghan orphans, after about a month of procrastination. They probably won't arrive for another month, but at least they're sent. You can get children's shoes at the local Salvation Army for $1 / pair, so it's a pretty good deal.

I'm still in the process of de-cluttering the cottage. One full garbage bag so far, and this is just the stuff that I know I can safely discard without bringing down the wrath of my family. Dinner last night was two steak sandwiches, washed down with a bottle of Guinness. I love the cottage.

Oh, that's right... for those of my student friends (I've mentioned this to Erin so far, but the same goes for the rest of you) who have a few breaks over the exam period, you're welcome to come out to the cottage for a few days to relax and study. Post a comment, or drop me an MSN if this is the case.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I was reading Your Money or Your Life when I came came across one of my favorite passages. I'd like to share it with you:

"There is a story about three stonecutters, each chipping away at a large block. A passerby approaches the first stonecutter and asks, 'Excuse me, what are you doing?' The stonecutter replies rather gruffly, 'Can't you see? I'm chipping away at this big hunk of stone.' Approaching the second craftsman, our curious person asks the same question. This stonecutter looks up with a mixture of pride and resignation and says, 'Why, I'm earning a living to take care of my wife and children.' Moving to the third worker, our questioner asks, 'And what are you doing?' The third stonecutter looks up, his face shining, and says with reverence, 'I'm building a cathedral!'"

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Jay Oh Bee

I had an epiphany today. It happened when I was sprawled out on my porch, beer in one hand, cigar in the other, enjoying the intoxicating feeling of my black golf shirt soaking up the suns rays and producing a faint, warm, radiance in return.

I looked over the almost-spring surroundings of the cottage and thought to myself, "Why am I rushing to get a job? I'm going to be working for the next thirty years of my life, with only a few breaks in between. Who cares if I take a month or two off this summer? Is my life going to grind to a halt if I'm not saving up to buy a house? Why am in so much of a damned hurry?"

Not that this is particularly profound, but I think that this is going to be a good summer.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Time to Reflect

I can still taste it in the back of my throat. It's a kind of warm, slow burn.... the burn of a good scotch. It's a tradition for me to bring a bottle of scotch back from Calgary, and this time is no different. The scotch in question is a 21 year old Glenfiddich - the Havana Reserve, which finishes the aging process in a Cuban rum barrel. Delicious. It - and a Cuaba cigar - are marking my return to Kingston, and marking it in fine style.

My mother's birthday went very well. In the back of her mind, I think she was expecting me to be there. My sister Jess and her husband Peter had flown out the day before, and all of us had flown out for my father's 60th late last year, so it made sense for me to be there. But she certainly didn't expect to see Andrea, nor did she have any idea that we were throwing her a surprise party. She was absolutely thrilled.

My sister is huge. She's 8 1/2 months pregnant with my niece, Sophia. I still can't believe that I'm going to be an uncle. I was so flustered when she told me she was pregnant that all I could think of to say as a reply was, "I'm going to be a relative!" Brilliant. She's just finished defending her master's-level thesis, and now she can relax for the week-or-so that's left before she gives birth.

I've been waiting to hear from work these past few days, but they still haven't any details as to when they'll want me to come in to train my replacement. I imagine it'll happen soon enough, but I have no idea when "soon enough" might be. In the mean time, I'm going to do some reading and enjoy my time out at the cottage. I hope tomorrow is sunny, and that I can spend some time on the porch. I've yet to get the chance, on those few warm days we've had.

It looks as though I may be getting a crew together to go down to Costa Rica for a week of partying and assorted other mayhem. If there are enough of us, we'll be able to rent a villa or a nice condo for a week. If we do that, accommodation will be reasonable.

I think we'd like to go to Tamarindo again, so surfing, jungle zip-lining, and white water rafting will be on the docket. I'd estimate the price at roughly $1300 for the week, and the date to be sometime between mid-late May (ie. either the 14th or the 21st as the departure date).

If you're interested, post a comment. Thus far, myself, Andrea, and assorted friends from out West are thinking of going.