Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I Love Winnipeg Cat, and McNally-Robinson in Trouble

I love the Winnipeg Cat blog.

Call it a guilty pleasure, sort of like sneaking a chocolate bar or bucket of fried chicken while on a strict diet. Many thanks to James of Slurpees and Murder fame for bringing this about!

I generated my first submission a few minutes ago, hope it makes the cut:



This subject has always been a pet peeve of mine...






Also, just got word that McNally-Robinson is fighting bankruptcy and are, in fact, closing their Polo Park store. Truth told, I knew they were headed for trouble when they moved their store from Portage Place to Polo Park (and opening a store in an upscale Toronto mall) while in the middle of a recession, so they've essentially brought it upon themselves.

**

Some people will tell you to "let the market decide". Well, I'm a part of that market, and I decide that I want McNally around. To this end, I'll be heading out to pick up a few books I've been putting off buying, and urge you all to do the same.

Join the Facebook group while you're at it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Secular Happy Annual Gift Day to all o' ya!

We here at C&S would like to take this time (while we're still mostly sober) to wish both all our readers a very Merry Christmas!

We'll be raisin' a glass to you and yours... all the best to you this Holiday Season!

We'll return after New Years!

-Shaun

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Fireplace, Internet version

Want all the fun and excitement of the Holiday Fireplace but can't afford to sit in front of your TV all day?

Never fear, we here at the internet have you covered!

http://www.youtube.com/v/fsD1zoI7NYo

Thank you, YouTube!

(Sorry folks! I've received word that the embedded video was overlapping the right-hand columns of the blog in certain browsers. You're not missing anything important, but in the interest of fair play, I'll simply link to the video instead!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beer-soaked Philosophy and The End of Days

It was pub night tonight, which means another helping of half-baked and not-well-thought-out commentary on the state of the planet.

Me an' Fry were in our usual places at Tavern United (McPhillips) tonight, shooting the shit and keeping each other abreast of the mundane goings-on in our lives. It was relatively uneventful, no plates were thrown at us, I didn't have the urge to hit anyone, and we barely noticed the people in the surrounding booths. Meals were good, the Guinness was cool and plentiful, all-in-all it was a good evening.

We spoke about the usual crap: our lives, our respective families, society, and of course, weaponry. Now, we've been enamoured of clandestine weaponry since we saw our first spy movies as kids, so we tend to keep abreast of such things. Fry spoke at length about a fully automatic machine pistol (that used a Glock mechanism) that folded up into a rectangle the size of a VHS tape... I mentioned that I'd seen such an animal on Youtube a few years ago and so we compared notes. We both agreed that such things, while cool and all that, are thoroughly impractical. In the time it takes to draw the rectangle from your coat/briefcase/undergarments and deploy it, you'd have been shot several times by your adversary who was armed with a simple pistol... the only real value these things have is in their collectability and the effect it has on awestruck rubes. (Ga-hyuck-hyuck-hyuck! Git a load o' that, ma! Wonder if'n they got it in Beta?)

We followed that with a twenty minute discussion on hand-to-hand weapons, cane swords, halberds, and things of that nature, but then one of the waitresses bent over and our trains of thought derailed as we stared at her caboose...

Once the conversation got back on track, it quickly (and inevitably) turned to our respective jobs. Now Fry has been wanting to get out of his work environment for a while now, a fact he shared with one of his other friends over the weekend. His friend has a philosophy that can be summed up as "unless you enter into a job with the sole intention of being the boss, you're a useless, ambitionless piece of shit who should never have been hired (or even born) in the first place." Fry was stunned silent when his friend told this to him, and I could tell it was making him upset as he relayed the conversation to me. Fry's philosophy (like my own) is that "work is merely what I do for money. I'll do what I have to, consistently and to the best of my ability. I leave my outside life at the door when I arrive, and leave my work life at work when I leave." When Fry tried to explain this to his friend, all he got was "I'd never hire you for anything with that attitude, not even my fucking janitor's assistant! You gotta man up and be something and someone!"

Now, you really have to know this particular friend to understand the weight of his words. I've known him for nearly the same amount of time as Fry has, and to be honest I've never liked him... he's nothing more than your garden-variety bully. When Fry relayed the conversation to me, I had visions of this asshole's face turning purple while he yelled at Fry, poking his fingers into my buddy's chest with every word. Apart from pissing me off because he's taken a huge chunk out of my best friend's self-esteem, the friend's statements bothered me on a logical level as well. My blood began to boil yet again.

First off, cocksucker, nobody would never work for a psychotic like you. Judging from your words (and past track record from what I understand), you'd be the Boss from Hell - bullying those under you, power-tripping, constantly yelling, and ruling with an iron fist. You'd never be able to keep people, and one day they'll probably find you murdered in your office if you don't have a heart attack, stroke, or aneurysm first.

Second, wrap your tiny little mind around this, stud: not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Not everyone can run a business. Not everyone can delegate responsibility or has the knowledge to pool their resources effectively. Not everyone can inspire their charges to greatness. Not everyone can display sound judgement while making a split second decision. Not everyone can handle the pressure or even the burden of being at the top. And with your own words in mind, who the Hell wants to be watching over their shoulder constantly for other cocksuckers like you who are all too willing to stick the knife in your back at the first opportunity?

Third, what's wrong with being happy with what you do?

I asked Fry to bring the friend along to our next pub night for a polite conversation, since he wouldn't give me the guy's number or address. I doubt he'll do it... but I digress.

Aaaaaanyway, once I finished my beer-with-a-side-order-of-dystemper-and-chest-pounding-hold-the-mayo , I ordered another beer to calm myself down and we continued along on the subject of ambition:

Fry: So does anyone give you grief like that?

SMW: Yeah, on occasion. Not too often, but it happens.

Fry: How do you deal with it?

SMW: I'm usually matter-of-fact and try to present my view in a realistic manner.

Fry: (mockingly) Uh-huh... Specifics?

SMW: Case in point: One of my coworkers asked me where I saw myself in five years time.

Fry: And you told him "Sitting at a cafe in Luxembourg with a married German woman with whom I'm carrying on a steamy affair." (Fry has heard this story so often he can repeat it verbatim. The rest of you can read it here.)

SMW: Nope. This time I told him I'd probably be sitting at this very desk.

Fry: What?

SMW: Yup. He expressed surprise, and asked why I had so little ambition, so I told him that this is merely what I do for money.

Fry: What'd he say to that?

SMW: Believe it or not, he expressed a bit of disappointment that I was wasting my mind and my potential being a mere inside salesman. I told him that in a small branch like ours, there are only three options for advancement: become an outside salesman (requiring him or his partner to quit or get fired, and near-constant travel within the province), become Branch Manager (requiring the boss to quit, retire, or get fired), or transfer to another branch (requiring an out-of-province move and starting at the bottom).

Fry: What did he say to that?

SMW: Not much. He knows I spent a lot of time travelling for my previous employer and grew to hate it. He also knows I'd never screw the boss over, and that if I'm going to relocate, I'm going to move to Europe. He asked me why I stay here, so I told him it's because I like the job, I like our customers and staff, I know what to expect, and there's always something new to learn. That, and it keeps me out of the sort of trouble I get into when I'm left with too much time on my hands.

Fry: He bit, didn't he?

SMW: I thought he might, but no. He asked me what my life's ambition was, since it's not centered around work.

Fry: Oh, shit.

SMW: Yup. He thought I was of the "wife, 1.5 kids, house in the 'burbs" persuasion. I told him I'm a member of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. (I'm not, incidentally. For a good read, folks, pick up a copy of "The World Without us" by Alan Weisman)

Fry: I never should have lent you that book...

SMW: Heh, no kidding. He asked about the movement, so I gave him the rundown. I told him I felt it produced results far too slowly for my liking, and that I'd like to accelerate the process artificially if I could find some way to do so... say, by 2012.

Fry: What was his reaction?

SMW: He asked me why I'd want to wipe out mankind. I told him that mankind is a corrupt, immoral race and that it was time to put the fear of God back into people. I wouldn't wipe us all out, just 99.9% of us. I figure I'd arrange things so that the remaining .1% were scattered in little pockets in various far-flung places around the globe, such that they wouldn't encounter each other for at least a hundred years. I'd also ensure the survivors knew why mankind was punished, so they would constantly live in fear that it may happen again should they resume their wicked ways. I'd give them a little reminder every so often to keep 'em on their toes, and would continue to do so until I died.

Fry: Interesting.

SMW: Yeah, I don't think he'll bug me again.

Fry: There's just one thing... your idea won't work.

SMW: Huh?

Fry: If it didn't work for God, how the fuck is it going to work for you? How long after the Flood did it take us to revert to our "sinful, amoral ways"?

SMW: Fuck, you got me!

Fry: Yeah. No more beer for you, Shaun.

SMW: Awww...

Fry: And don't quit your day job.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Snnnnnoooooooowwwwwwww! (also cameras and pizza)

Sweet Jabba the Hutt!

It finally snowed last night! Woo-hoo!

Well, I shouldn't say "finally", as we had a bit of a dusting about a month ago... but it melted that same day.

Hopefully it's here to stay. Environment Canada's Magic 8-ball is calling for more snow (or the possibility thereof) until next weekend.



In the middle of my street, facing West.
Wish I'd taken this shot a few hours earlier...

I am eagerly awaiting the onset of Winter (can you tell?). I bought a nice pair of skates (my first pair in nearly twenty-five years) and am chomping at the bit to strap on the blades and head to Kildonan Park (or The Forks).

Might even break out the hockey stick and call the mates over for a pickup game...



Truth told, as excited as I am about the prospect of a good skate, the real reason I posted this was to test my newly-repaired Kodak C300 digital camera. I bought a replacement battery door for the camera on eBay a few weeks ago, hoping it would be an easy fix.

It was.

Not twenty minutes after opening the envelope, my camera was fixed.

Now, I suppose I could have gone out and bought a new camera, or stuck with my decade-old Olympus D460Z, but truth told, I have a soft spot for my ol' Kodak. It was my first digital camera, and has travelled nearly everywhere with me... and I still have a lot of accessories specific to the camera which would be rendered useless should I upgrade to another.

That, and the replacement part cost me $5 USD (and twenty minutes of my life), whereas a new camera woulda set me back at least $100... call me sentimental, call me cheap, call me all of the above. With the money I saved, I went out and bought a Kodak camera bag to hold both the C300 and my Printer Dock Plus, also picked up several photo cartridges and 4x6 photo paper for the unit.

"So who cares about so-called 'real photographs' anymore?" you may ask, "Especially in these days of photo blogs and digital picture frames?"

Well, I've anticipated your question this time. My answer to you is "Old people".

The fact of the matter is, neither of my grandmothers (or other elderly relatives) own a computer. We bought my paternal grandmother a digital picture frame loaded with pictures of the family, and I don't think it ever left the box once she got it home. Both are more inclined to open a photo album rather than a photo browser any day of the week... but I digress.

Personally though, I rather like the idea of the digital picture frame. In fact, I'm looking at picking up a couple for myself - one for my desk at work, one for the end table in my living room, and maybe a pocket-sized one for my keychain (for my Gameboy Camera pictures, LOL).

One thing I'd like to see would be a digital poster... like a digital picture frame, but larger (2ft x 3ft viewable area) in scale. That'd be cool.

I've also thought about turning one or more of my old laptops into a digital frame (basically just the screen, logic board, and CF drive), one that could be updated by WIFI or Bluetooth. There are similar hacks out there, but I gotta do it my way.




Speaking of hacks, here's a goodie - how to turn your conventional oven into a 700° pizza oven!

I have to admit, this one looks tempting... I've been toying with the idea of buying a pizza stone, and this idea is just crazy enough to be interesting.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

I took a little time to remember and to say "Thank You" for allowing me to enjoy the freedom I have today.

Here's a small sampling of pics I shot around 11am today:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=172061&id=657656981&l=b7325af8a7

... and another:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=172067&id=657656981&l=1ebe513a4d

Monday, November 9, 2009

Celebrating die Wende and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

I'd like to say a few words about the twentieth anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, but I've been hitting the Jägermeister a bit hard this evening.

So I'll let Steve Naghavi and his bandmates in And One do the talking for me.




and again... (embedding's disabled on this one)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11mvAcZt05U
Danke schön, Steve...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Blast from the Past (edited 11/02/09)

There's something about shopping malls that seems to suck the life right out of me.

Yesterday was no exception. After buying my brother a belated birthday lunch at Boston Pizza, we headed on over to Garden City Shopping Center so he could hit the EB Games outlet.

The bloody mall was packed (mostly parents dragging their costumed children from store to store looking for candy) and as such, it was a bit difficult to navigate through the mall...

...especially considering that most (if not all) children lack spatial awareness and are, in general, ignorant of the laws of physics. On a number of occasions, we had to stop suddenly to avoid kids who had also stopped suddenly, the kids crouching down at random intervals to look in their goodie bags...

I can't blame the kids for being excited about Hallowe'en though. Hell, I'm sure my brother and I did the same thing when we were little kids, too.

At any rate, the entire experience left me sapped of energy, so I opted to go home and relax. As there were no interesting soccer matches on TV, and with my chosen internet forums being rather dead, I fired up my most recently acquired shortwave radio to see what I could see (hear what I could hear?).

My most recent acquisition is a Hallicrafters Model S-38A broadcast receiver, a 1946-vintage tube radio. I was in the market for a desktop radio so I could hook up a decent antenna, and given my interest in all things retro, decided upon an older tube-based model.

Hallicrafters Model S-38a, 1946 vintage. The Band Spread knob broke off in shipping.



I love the dual "half-moon" dials. The left one is the main "tuning" dial, the right one is the Band Spread dial, or "fine-tuning" dial... which corresponds to the knob that's been broken off...

I sat at my temporary radio desk in my home office, tuning the upper bands back and forth to see what I could pick up. Heard Radio Canada International on a few different frequencies and in a few different languages, even picked up Radio Nacional Amazonia in Brazil, which I'd never heard previously (not even on my more contemporary radios). After a couple of hours, I started becoming bored, so I tuned the radio to a band which is normally deadsville: the 22 to 25-meter band...

When the dial reached 12160 KHz, I could barely make out a couple of male voices. I tried to tune my active antenna and... who should I hear, but Bud Abbott and Lou Costello!

12160KHz is a frequency used by religious/paranoid nutjob broadcaster WWCR, who broadcast a show called "The Golden Age of Radio" every Saturday at 2200UTC. Now, I love old-time radio, so of course I listened to the remainder of the show (a good 45 minutes). Abbott and Costello's routine (originally broadcast in 1951) lasted until 4:30, after which came "The Archie Andrews Show", based on the Archie comics series but sounding more like "Leave It To Beaver meets The Great Gildersleeves"...

I couldn't help feeling a tad disappointed when the show ended... it was fun listening to radio programs originally broadcast when my radio was still relatively new. As though this was how these shows were meant to be heard... played at low fidelity on an old tube radio.

One thing's for sure... I'll be there next week - same time, same channel.

Yesterday being Hallowe'en, I think it would have been cool for them to have played Orson Welles' infamous War of the Worlds broadcast... but I guess we can't have everything.

** If you're a fan of old-time radio, you'd do well to check out Radio 1710 Antioch, who play a wide variety of old-time radio favourites.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Announcing: My Retirement

After nearly sixteen long, eventful (and verbose) years, I have decided to retire my nickname.

No longer will I be known as Conceited Jerk.

It's been a good run, but CJ's best days are behind him now. Add to the fact that there are more people (mostly teenage brats) using the name, I figured it was time to move on.

Sooooo... from here on in, I'm writing this blog under my own (real) name.

Regards,
Shaun M. Wheeler.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pass the Pepto, or Bringing Up the Past

So, my iMac 400dv died last weekend, taking with it twenty gigabytes worth of music. All that time spent ripping my CD collection over the years was for nought, and the backups I'd made are nowhere to be found.

*sigh*

Ah well, back to square one. This time however, when I re-rip my collection, I'm going to encode my tunes into an open format such as OGG Vorbis.

--

Until I set my Linux box back up and start ripping my music again, I'll have to listen to (gasp) actual CDs!

Of course, I haven't owned an honest-to-God CD player in years, so I dug my trusty ol' CDTV out from the depths of the lab and set it up in my living room.

Damn, I've missed this machine! I've forgotten how much better original CDs sound compared to your average digital music file.

While setting the CDTV up, I noticed a number of floppy disks at the bottom of the box... as the CDTV has been in storage for the last, er, decade... naturally I had no idea what was on the disks.

As it turns out, the disks (thirty-six in total) contained nothing but text files of my writing, some dating back to 1992!

I read through a few disks worth of material, and just about pissed myself laughing...

With that in mind, while I'm in the process of ripping my CDs, I'll be going through these text files, converting them from Textcraft format to a more contemporary format, and posting some of the better ones here under the label "Vintage CJ", starting 10/19/09.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Levantine vs. Lunchpail: Round 1

I've been on a Middle Eastern/Levantine/Mediterranean kick lately.

I don't know if it was because of the Ouzo I've been drinking lately or side-effect of all those bloody Donairs I've eaten over the last week, but I've spontaneously developed a taste for Arabic music.

I have the odd Arabic piece in my music collection, but it's not enough. Today, I craved more. So, off to the music store I went. I did what I always do when I'm interested in a hitherto unknown variety of music - looked for a "Various Artists" sampler.

I found what I wanted in The Rough Guide to Arabic Cafe

It's a pretty good sampler (as samplers go), but after listening to it a couple of times this morning, I felt I needed more.

So, off to Into The Music to see what I could find.

Long story short, I spent waaaaaay more money than I intended (which cuts into my Ouzo and Donair funding), but walked out with a few gems: Two albums by Rabih Abou-Khalil (Yara and The Sultan's Picnic), and one entitled "Claude Challe presents Near Eastern Lounge: The R.E.G. Project" which was my favourite of the bunch.

(Also picked up a couple of Skinny Puppy and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult albums, too, but they're largely irrelevant to this story)

Near Eastern Lounge blends traditional Near-Eastern/Levantine music with contemporary electronic music, and the result is absolutely mindblowing. Follow this link for an example.

Suffice it to say, I am absolutely in love with this album - so much so that I listened to it on my patio this evening, while enjoying a nice cigar and cold glass of Ouzo.

Not six songs in, I hear someone open my back gate. I took a peek, and saw that it was one of the knuckle-dragging low-forehead types from one of the moderate-turnover rental houses down and across the back lane.

He lumbers into my yard (uninvited, I might add), looks at me, points to that magic box what makes noise my cd player and grunts "That your radio?"

"Yes," I replied as civilly as I could, "That my radio. What you want?"

He stared at me for a second, not quite realizing that I'm making fun of him. When his train of thought finally boards and leaves the station, he shouts, "Turn that fucking (racial epithet for Pakistani) shit off!"

I looked at him and said calmly, "It's not Pakistani, it's Lebanese."

"Same shit," was the wise response, "Turn that shit off!"

I wondered if this guy took Geography in school. Hell, I wonder if this guy even went to school... but no time for speculation...

"Fuck off," I yelled, "and get the fuck out of my yard!" I've been through similar situations before, and have learned (through the courts, I might add) not to threaten - or resort to - violence, so I chose my words carefully.

He grunted something, then tried to push past me to get at my cd player. I resisted the urge to punch him in the throat or grind my drinking glass into his face - instead, I put my arm out and blocked his passage.

"Listen up, caveman," I said, "If you wanted me to turn it down, you just had to ask. Maybe even use the word 'Please'."

"What the fuck?" he said defensively, "I did ask you!"

"No, you ordered me," I clarified, "and NOBODY orders me around on my own fucking property. Now take a hike before I call the fucking cops."

"For what?!" he screamed.

"Trespassing," I said, "and I could have you charged with attempted theft, and possibly assault for trying to shove me."

He swore a couple of times, made a couple of monosyllabic comments, slammed my gate, and left. I poured myself another glass of Ouzo and picked up where I left off. The two hours that followed were markedly uneventful.

Thus ends the first day of my two-week vacation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

... causing undue stress on the topography of the Province of Manitoba

I've been noticing that I seem to be slowing down lately.

I come home from my usual walkabouts sweaty and out of breath, when ordinarily I wouldn't even break a sweat. A walk to my corner store can wear me out on a bad day. I seem to be feeling the heat more than normal as well...

I noticed yesterday, as I was getting ready for my friend's dad's funeral, that neither my suit jacket nor dress pants fit. "Must have shrunk 'em in the wash..." I thought. Took me a second to remember - I always had these dry-cleaned...

The long-and-short of it is: I'm getting fat.

Three years ago, when I was promoted from Warehouse Manager to Inside Sales, I weighed 180lbs. After three years at a desk job, I'm tipping the scales at 225lbs.

Forty-five fucking pounds in three years.

I mentioned the weight gain to my pal "Miz P" while walking back from a Sandbox outing, and her jaw dropped... and further still when I mentioned my hypertension...

At that point, I told myself I'd "look into" dieting.

Monday, it became less an option and more a necessity. Monday, I found out that the aforementioned friend's dad had been felled by a massive heart attack.

This got me thinking. Many of the men in my family, some of whom were overweight (but not obese per se), have died from some form of heart trouble - heart attacks, strokes, angina, arrythmia, etc, and heart disease and Diabetes run in my dad's family... so I have a rather large incentive to get my weight (and my health) in proper order.

Guess I've finally opened my eyes. Knee-jerk reaction? You bet. But better safe than sorry.

The diet started Monday, the fitness regimen starts tomorrow at the company golf tournament (not taking a cart!).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Summer That Wasn't

So, it's September.

The mornings are getting colder, the coffee's tasting better, and my morning bus is crammed with school kids (Red River College students mostly).

With only three weeks left until Autumn, the question I'm hearing from everyone is "Where did Summer go?"

Summer's gone, kids. Dead and buried. Lament not the untimely passing of the season (in other words, quit your fuckin' whining!).

In addition to the near-constant whining, I'm getting sick of people playing "Armchair Meteorologist". We have an unseasonably cool, wet summer and all of a sudden everyone's a climate change expert. Please.

Let us embrace the coming of Autumn.



Speaking of summer being over, I thought I'd take a bit to reflect on my time away from the blogosphere. All things considered, I had a pretty productive summer despite my financial problems (no mad money = no mad science).

To recap:

Microwave Gun: My fascination with directed-energy weapons (yes, it's supposed to be hyphenated) came to a head when I discovered plans for a cheap microwave gun (aka maser). Of course, these "plans" didn't include any sort of safety precautions for the user, and failed to take into consideration that the gun's target might actually be moving. So, I started tweaking the design (on paper, CSIS, on paper) and came up with a vastly improved design that could be built rather inexpensively (comparatively speaking) using a 10000 watt commercial microwave oven available on eBay.

Unfortunately, my secret weapon was not to be. Funny thing about microwaves... they reflect off of metal. In order to penetrate metal (and further increase the destructive power of my "North End WMD") I'd need to combine the microwave energy with charged particles (say, hydrogen), which is a bit beyond my capabilities at present. So, as it stands, I'd have one heck of an anti-personnel weapon, but it'd be essentially useless against anything else... The project withered on the vine.

Shortwave Radio: I ordered a new radio, a Redsun RP2100, and have been having a blast listening to a number of stations my little Kchibo KK-9803 can't pick up (such as Radio Damascus), or picks up weakly (such as Deutsche Welle). The sound from the RP2100 is phenomenal, and can literally fill a room... and a neighbourhood, much to my neighbours' chagrin. Then again, I imagine they're getting used to such things by now. I can't tell you how many weird looks I get while listening to Radio Havana Cuba or Radio Damascus as I do my yardwork...

I also picked up a couple of add-ons for the RP2100 - a SSB (single side band) decoder, which lets me listen in to Ham traffic (et cetera) , and a DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) adapter, which lets me listen to digital shortwave broadcasts. Fun fun fun. Gotta do something when you have no internet at home. Been taking my smaller SW radio (the aforementioned Kchibo KK-9803) with me a lot (when I'm out for a walk, sitting around at The Forks, etc) too. What can I say, I'm hooked!

Computers: Believe it or not, I took a break from computers in general. Instead, I opted to spend the few nice (and some of the not-so-nice) days we had outdoors, fishing, chasing women, or walking around the park. Of course, I needed something to do on the rainy & miserable days, so I spent a little bit of time resurrecting Cinq, my Sun Ultra 5 workstation that had previously died a death that can only be described as "spectacularily horrible". Removed what was left of the PSU, replaced with one that was salvaged from a (blarg) Windows PC, and threw in a new hard drive. Runs like a champ.

Women: Spent a bit of time chasing women. Caught a couple. Threw 'em back.

Speakeasy: No work was done on the Speakeasy. No money for tools or materials. Work is slated to begin in the spring when I will have money.

Alcohol: Surprisingly, I took a break from my usual experimentations in this regard (and mixed drinks in general). I did try a few new beers, but nothing that'll make it into regular rotation. Ended up sticking with my usual Gulden Draak, Guinness, Erdinger, and/or Paulaner.

Career: Was asked to contribute to no less than three fledgling magazines! Not mentioning names (yet) as nothing's been finalized, but if all goes well, I'll be a published writer again. Not quitting the day job just yet, though...

It's been a busy month-and-a-half. Summer has come and gone, and I'm looking forward to a great Autumn. I'm looking forward to blogging semi-regularily as well.

Incidentally, there may be a surprise coming in the next couple of months... but we'll deal with that when the time comes :)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Best Hack I've Ever Seen

I admit I've never been interested in the "case mod" subculture, but this is easily, without a doubt, the best hardware mod I've ever seen...

http://steampunkworkshop.com/victorian-all-one-pc

Friday, August 14, 2009

Take Action / Speak Out On Copyright

Just received this from the EFF:

--
Last month, the Canadian government launched public consultations on the future
of copyright legislation in the digital age for the first time since 2001. The
government is seeking Canadians' input on why copyright matters, how copyright
laws can be sustainable for the knowledge economy, and what reforms the
government should prioritize. Show your support for balanced copyright laws that
encourage Internet freedom by submitting your comments online before September
13, 2009.

http://www.speakoutoncopyright.ca/copyright-take-action

Despite Canada's public response to the excesses of C-61 over the past few
years, powerful lobbyists for the Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA)
and the Canadian Motion Picture Distributors Association (CMPDA) are demanding
even stronger copyrights and harsher penalties in order to impose their aging
business models on the Internet. They're demanding that the government ban
citizens suspected of file-sharing from the Internet; they're demanding more
threatening penalties for web innovators; and they're seeking levies on private
copying.

Now is the time to participate in this important public debate about the role of
copyright for freedom and innovation. Take action at copyright expert Michal
Geist's "Speak Out on Copyright" website, and show that you care about freedom
online.

Take action at the "Speak Out on Copyright" website:
http://www.speakoutoncopyright.ca/copyright-take-action
--
I don't/shouldn't need to tell you why this is important.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hunger Hits Detroit's Middle Class

While I'm enjoying my time away from the 'sphere, I had to post a link to this article detailing Detroit's growing food crisis.

Hunger hits Detroit's middle class

This was of particular interest to me, as I spent some time working in Detroit (and later Flint, MI) and still have friends there...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gone Fishin'

Sayonara, folks,

I'm spending the rest of the summer away from the computer(s). Life's too short and the weather's too nice to be stuck in the blogosphere.

I'm off to chase women, enjoy the great outdoors, and maybe even work on the Speakeasy if time and/or money permit.

Have a great summer!

** Incidentally, I've made a few changes... points to the first person to spot 'em!

Monday, July 13, 2009

On Spatial Awareness and the Latest Gadgets

I always have mixed emotions about stories like this.

It's not a new story, I've blogged about similar stories before, and I alternately snicker at their carelessness and shake my head and worry about the future of mankind.

Hopefully, they'll get themselves killed in fine Darwinian form before they can reproduce.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Back in Time... Again

I bit the bullet, and I've entered in this year's Retrochallenge again.

For those who are interested, my RC'09 blog will be hosted at my old site.

For those who aren't, stick around. I'll still be updating C&S with my usual drivel throughout the month. I also have a surprise for you come August...

Anyhow, I'm off to enjoy Canada Day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Angel Returns to Heaven

If Michael Jackson's music evokes happier times in my life, then Farrah Fawcett evokes scenes of death by fiery retribution.

"I'll never pick on girls again!", I said wide-eyed.

It was 1984. My mom and I had just finished watching the world premiere of "The Burning Bed" on TV. It definitely left an impression, and permanently changed my attitude toward women. Which is why, I suspect, she let me stay up past my bedtime to watch it.

Good on her.

Its star, Farrah Fawcett, lost her battle with cancer yesterday.

Rest in Peace, Farrah.

See also: Mr. C!

The King is Dead. Long Live the King.

I remember the first time I heard the name Michael Jackson.

"Is he a baseball player?" I asked my friend Martin Ruppel.

It was 1983, and I was more concerned with filling my hockey sticker album and playing my Atari than I was with the music world.

"No, stupid," Martin said, "He's a singer. You know...'Beeeeaaaat iiiiiiitt, beeeeaaaat iiiiiiiitt!'? That guy."

"Oh, him," came my enthusiastic reply.

Martin and I were neighbours. We hung out nearly every day during the summer holidays, which we spent playing board games, riding bikes, swapping hockey stickers & cards, and Atari games, and more importantly, listening to music.

The radio played constantly at Martin's house. With the album Thriller having topped the charts, with many hit singles off that album, it also meant that Michael Jackson played constantly at Martin's house. Of course, in short order we knew all the words to every song...

At my birthday party that year, my dad rented a VCR and the Thriller video. It was a blast... imagine a room full of ten-year olds, hopped up on sugar, clumsily trying to emulate the King of Pop's moves!

In 1983, what kid didn't want to be Michael Jackson? That Christmas saw a lot of sparkly gloves, red leather jackets (covered in vestigial zippers), and instructional videos on how to "moonwalk" appear under the Christmas trees of my friends. There were moonwalking contests at school, both impromptu schoolyard affairs and officially sanctioned contests in the school gym. Kids were warned they weren't allowed to wear their sparkly gloves while school was in session, and any-and-all Walkmans (Walkmen?) would be confiscated until the end of the school year.

"Weird Al" Yankovic's parody "Eat it" came out not long after, which took my elementary school by storm. I remember I was eating lunch at Martin's house when I first heard the song. Martin had just made us some corned beef & mozzarella sandwiches and was bringing them to the living room when the song came on. He grabbed a sandwich and started eating it while singing along with the radio, hopping on the furniture like a ten-year old Tom Cruise. I never laughed so hard in my life.

Twenty-six years on, and I remember it like it were yesterday.




I was listening to my shortwave radio last night. The portable antenna I bought arrived in the mail yesterday, and I was keen to try it out. Wow, what a difference from the antenna I'd made from an alligator clip, fish hook, and speaker wire! Most stations were coming in clear as day, and I was able to pick up (however faintly) stations I'd never heard.

I thought it odd that a Bolivian station would be playing Billie Jean in the middle of the night, but shrugged it off. It's still one of my favourite songs (love that bassline!).

Spinning the dial further, I caught the name "Michael Jackson" in the midst of a Chinese broadcast. Wow, weird coincidence.

I caught snippets of Billie Jean on a couple of more stations, and the full enormity of it hit me when I found Radio New Zealand International. The King of Pop has passed on. Cardiac arrest at age 50, just before his world tour.

I was stunned. Wow, Michael Jackson is dead... it's hard to believe, but it's true.

I'm not sure how I feel. On one hand, his music reminds me of a happier, more innocent period in my life. On the other hand, I remember the person he became later in life. Whether troubled, ill, or perverse, "Wacko Jacko" was too weird for words, and an object of much scorn and derision.

I guess I want to remember him the way he was when I was ten. Michael Jackson's Thriller still evokes memories of happier times of bike rides and best friends, of bad dance moves and worse fashion, and for that, Michael, I say thank you.

Out of respect for the deceased, comments are closed. If you want to make pedophile jokes, do it on your own fucking blog. You know who you are.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Scream, bloody murder!

So, I'm on holidays for the next eight days. I intend to spend that time getting back at nature.

That's right, getting back at nature.

Not having a pile of money at my disposal, I elected to spend my week off work at home, doing my yardwork, playing with the cats, cleaning the house, and barbecuing with my buddies.

Things went well until 5:30am Saturday.

Ethin woke me up at 5:30 in anticipation of his daily 6am feeding. Ugh. I got up, shook the cobwebs loose, walked to the bathroom, stepped in a hairball, put my contacts in, walked to the cupboard, and remembered I was supposed to buy cat food the previous night.

My little gray buddy was getting a tad impatient. Here it was, five minutes before din-dins time, and no food to be had. So, I had to run to Mac's to buy him a tin of the "cheap stuff". Off I went.

As some of you know, I live in West Kildonan. One of the most prominent (and spectacular) features of West K are its trees. Thousands of beautiful green trees, in the parks, in yards, and lining both sides of our streets. Thousands of trees also means thousands of those fuckin' cankerworms hanging down at sidewalk or street level - just enough to cover a pedestrian in webs and crawling worms...

By the time I reached Mac's, I was covered head-to-toe with the fuckin' things. They were in my hair, on (and in) my shirt, everywhere. I vowed to have another shower once I got home...

I grabbed the cat food, a newspaper, and a cup of coffee at Mac's, then psyched myself up for the walk home. I walked along the street instead of the sidewalk to minimize contact with the worms (it didn't help)... and once I reached my street, a whole new problem developed.

Something whizzed past my head.

I heard a loud "caw", then it whizzed past my head again, cawing as it went.

I looked around, and caught sight of a big black shape less than a foot from my head - then I felt it claw my shoulder.

It was the grandaddy of all crows.

This bird was HUGE! And it was out for blood!

My first instinct was to wait for it to attack again, and hit it when it got close... but it quickly dawned on me that the bird was probably trying to protect its nest.

I turned my back on the crow, and calmly (but cautiously) resumed walking the remaining half-block home. It buzzed me a couple more times, but nowhere near as close as it had before... confirming my suspicions about a nest.

I got home (dropping my coffee on the landing's carpet in the process), fed Ethin (who showed his displeasure by pooping on my bedroom carpet while I was out), and headed to the bathroom to grab that second shower (I was covered in cankerworms). The crow's attack left little more than a scratch on my shoulder, but I dabbed a little Polysporin on the wound, just in case. These things kill rats with their claws, y'know!

I thought briefly of suiting up and exacting swift and brutal revenge on the crow, but gave my head a shake and decided that avenging my wounded pride by taking out a mere bird would make me look pretty damned stupid... besides, it was probably protecting its young.

Anyhow, life marches on, and that yardwork ain't gonna do itself (as history has shown).

Out of respect for my neighbours (and certain noise bylaws), I grabbed my push-mower and sickle, so the sound of me doing my yardwork wouldn't wake everyone up. A nice gesture perhaps, but the Heavens have decreed that no good deed shall go unpunished... as I trimmed the tree-like dandelions at the side of my house (some were three feet tall!), I realized a bit too late that the alarm cable running to my garage had become unburied at some point over the winter...

(snip!)

The resulting cacophony woke the whole neighbourhood. Barely 6:30am, and I'm public enemy number one (which, incidentally, normally takes until noon!). After calling the monitoring company (and later explaining to two of Winnipeg's Finest what had transpired), I went back to my yardwork.

The yardwork went smoothly after that. I grabbed the garden hose to give the yard & patio a good rinse, only to have the spraygun self-destruct in my hand (soaking me in the process).

What a day! And it's only 7am at this point!

"That does it!" I yelled, and stormed off into the house to towel off. I made a mental note to head to Canadian Tire around 10am to buy a new spraygun... To kill a bit of time, I flipped on the shortwave radio. I figured it'd be deadsville (as daytime propagation is supposedly limited in this neck of the woods), but was able to pick up a few stations such as Radio Marti, Radio Havana, and China Radio International.

10am rolled around, and I hopped the bus to Garden City Shopping Center. Hit the Salvation Army Thrift store first, nearly got hit a couple of times in the parking lot (women driving while talking on their cellphones), and headed to Canadian Tire.

I swear, the place was absofuckinglutely packed with people - as though all of Winnipeg were there.

"Hmmph," I scoffed out loud, "They must have a sale on!", which got me the usual stares.

Now, I hate crowds with a passion unbridled by reason, so I tried to find the Home & Garden section as quickly as I could (they've remodeled & reorganized). I found what I was after, grabbed it, and made my way to the cashiers' area, hoping to beat the rest of the city there.

En route, I heard someone yell "Hey buddy!". I ignored it, thinking they were calling someone else.

"Hey, Schweini!" called the voice.

"Schweini" is the nickname of Bayern Munich's midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, my favourite footballer, whose jersey I just happened to be wearing at the time... noting that the shout was meant for me, I stopped, turned around, and saw a man running toward me.

"Where did you get that jersey?" he asked.

"FC Bayern's website!" I lied proudly (actually bought it on eBay. I think it's a knock-off.).

"Are you a Bayern fan?" he asked.

"Oh yeah!", I said excitedly, "They're my favourite team!" (They are.)

"Mine too," he added.

Turns out, Jurgen started Winnipeg's Bayern Munich fan club, and they get together Saturday mornings for breakfast, and to watch the Bayern matches. He spoke excitedly of going to Bayern's training ground in Munich, meeting the players (including Schweinsteiger), and asked me if I ever planned to go to Munich. I told him "it's in the works", and he told me that since they're an official fan club, to let him know and they'd make the necessary arrangements to have me visit the training grounds in session! We exchanged numbers, and I'm gonna be joining the fan club.

As you can imagine, having a dream come that much closer to coming true does wonders for one's mood. It almost made me forget about the day's prior events.

Feeling sorta celebratory, I hopped the bus and headed home. The fuckin' crow was waiting for me - buzzed me a couple of times, but not as close as he had before... looking up to jeer at the bird, I noticed he had a gang of followers - a murder of at least six slightly smaller crows, all perched on or near the same tree, at the foot of which lay the body of a large grey squirrel - left as a warning to the rest of us. My suspicions, it seems, were confirmed... they're protecting their nest.

Which put further the kibosh on thoughts of revenge. I did have thoughts of staging a guerilla-theatre version of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, but it'd have to be a one-off, one-time only event.

Another thought crossed my mind with some amusement. Usually, there are several skaters who hang out at this particular streetcorner, who can usually be seen falling on their respective asses while trying out some stunt on their skateboards. I haven't seen them around for a couple of weeks... I wonder if the crows have scared them off? (Good crows!)

I also noticed how quiet it was in the neighbourhood. It's noon by this point, and usually by noon on Saturday, the children a few houses west of me are out playing in the street, with their shrill-voiced mother a short distance away.

Usually, the mother sends the kids out when she's doing her yardwork ("Okay kids, go play in traffic, and I'll call you when it's time to come home!"), but not yesterday. I thought, "Meh, they probably went away for the weekend."

I found out from my neighbour (aka the neighbourhood gossip) that these same crows have been attacking the neighbourhood kids throughout the week, and that Animal Services have been called a couple of times. Until then, the kids have to stay inside, or in their back yard.

Cool, this means I can grab my lounger and sit on my front lawn, drinking a beer and basking in the sun without having to listen to a bunch of screaming kids all day (and believe me, they do scream all day). So I dragged out the barbecue, threw on a few European weiners, grabbed my lounger, an ice-cold sixpack of Paulaner, and my shortwave radio, and basked in the sun until dinner.

And after dinner.

And all day today, until I head over to my parents' place for a Fathers' Day get-together.

Beer, sun, and peace & quiet. Does it get better than this?

Will I ever complain about the crows again? Quoth the raven, "Nevermore"*.

God bless you, murder of crows! Stay as long as you want!

*(CJ's note: Yes, as a matter of fact, I was waiting to use that line.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Musical Interlude

I'm in the middle of writing an excessively long diatribe about a certain social issue, to be posted tomorrow or Friday.

In the meantime, have a listen to the newly crowned Official Theme Song of C&S.



It was a tough decision, but Ganymed won in the end. The runner up is:






C&S would also like to take a moment to observe the 547th anniversary of The Night Attack. Vlad always had balls...





Friday, June 12, 2009

What's the Frequency, CJ? Part 2

So, my el-cheapo AM/FM/SW portable radio (a Kchibo KK-9803) arrived from Hong Kong last night. In terms of entertainment value, it's paid for itself at least a couple times over.

My expectations weren't that high, performance-wise. I was expecting decent AM/FM reception and SW reception that was mediocre at best. I figured, at best, I'd pick up the usual assortment of Christian stations, and maybe a few Spanish-language broadcasts from the west coast of the US.

Well, I DID receive both. I tuned into one of the clearer Spanish stations and heard the name "Morales" a lot. "OK," I thought, "This is probably a news program from California or nearby Mexico, and they're probably referring to Evo Morales, president of Bolivia".

I was half right. I listened to the station for about fifteen minutes - the program was indeed referring to President Evo Morales, but the show was being broadcast live from La Paz, Bolivia. Cool! But my Spanish ain't that good, so I spun the dial a bit more.

In the hour that followed, I picked up a few more Spanish-language stations of indeterminate origin, a number of Christian broadcasts, a faint signal in a language that sounded like Russian, a time station, a faint American newscast, and then came the payoff.

At 9:15pm, at 11665MHz came the following:

"pzsszszszzzzttt...(feminine laughter)...arigatou gozaimashita!"

A Japanese broadcast. "Alright!" I screamed, "This is what I was after!"

And it's true. When I decided to dive into the world of shortwave, I was mainly interested in picking up Japanese radio stations, in order to further my knowledge of the language. Finding NHK Radio was probably the most exciting thing to happen to me in days! However, I wasn't expecting to find one quite so quickly.

So I listened for an hour or so, then decided to turn in for the night. Finding NHK Radio was a rather exciting experience... but like I said, I hadn't expected to find my Holy Grail so quickly. I couldn't help feeling a bit empty (as success normally does), as though I'd "shot my load" rather early in the act.

I thought about it a bit more over my morning coffee. I guess the saving grace will be the element of chance inherent in the nature of shortwave communications itself - the fact that, owing to various circumstances, the station might not be there tonight. Case in point: I brought my radio with me this morning, and on the way to the bus stop, NHK wasn't there. Nothin' but static... I picked up a Chinese-language broadcast on an adjacent band though - a broadcast that wasn't there twelve hours previous!

Long distance communications (especially those not intended for your geographical location) are affected by all manner of things, such as weather conditions, time of day, atmospheric (ionospheric) conditions, sunspots, even conditions in space... meaning that circumstances can and will conspire against me and my little radio.

Which is alright in my book. The element of chance is what will keep me interested in SWLing.

Speaking of interesting, my prime targets right now are foreign newscasts. It's cool listening to things almost as they happen - and not have to be glued to a computer screen. I've been trying to pick up the Voice of Iran so I can follow their election, but haven't had much success... so far. Building an antenna would help (as would brushing up on Farsi), but I'm not that ambitious yet. I want to explore this radio's capabilities before going apeshit on add-ons.

I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting weekend, involving several foreign language dictionaries, and even more coffee...




Monday, June 8, 2009

Panhandlers and Jerks, or Set'em Up and Knock 'em Down!

So I'm walking along Graham Avenue the other afternoon, and as I reached the bus stop at Darwin's Corner, I'm stopped by one of the usual suspects who asked me if I could spare some change.

Now, I've been coming downtown virtually every day since I was eleven years old (that's just over twenty-five years, for those of you playing along at home) and as such have learned how to deal with the drunks and panhandlers one encounters while downtown. To me, they're a part of the flora and/or fauna (dependant on whether or not they're conscious), part of the experience if you will, and virtually unavoidable.

I admit that in the past, I've been less than polite with some of them (downright rude on occasion) and can be rather abrupt when I'm in a foul mood, but over the last ten years or so I've tried to be as civil as I can be, which (Lord help me) can be a rather onerous task when dealing with some of the more aggressive panhandlers.

Over the course of this civility, I've gotten to know a couple of the "usual suspects" who seem to haunt my haunts, and am on a first name basis (or rather nickname basis) with a couple more. The neat part of this is that they'll occasionally come up to me just to chat, with no talk of a "donation" at all. The downside is becoming friendly with certain individuals, only to see them passed out drunk (or high) in a back lane, bus shelter, or planter the next day.

So, as I'm walking toward my bus stop the other afternoon, my "buddy" "Steve" sees me, calls out "CJ!" and trots over.

"Hey bro!" he says to me, "can you help me out with some change? I'm trying to get to Kildonan Place."

"Yeah, I think I have some," I say, reaching into my pocket, "I have a twonie you're welcome to..."

"Awww, thanks bro!" he smiled, "That's another one I owe you!", then ran up Graham towards Vaughan, completely oblivious to the fact the Kildonan Place bus was waiting directly beside him... which amused me to no end.

I laughed and shook my head. Good ol' "Steve".

Witnessing the whole scene was the only other individual at the stop with us - a dour looking guy in (probably) his early fifties.

"Why did you give him money?" he demanded of me, "It just encourages them, and he's probably buying drugs right now!"

Now, my first instinct was to belt him one in the face and scream, "Don't you ever fucking question me again!", but ultimately decided it'd be more fun to talk down to him.

"I don't usually give them money," I explained, "but he caught me in a good mood."

"Humph. Really?" he scoffed.

"It's absolutely true." I said.

"I normally just tell them to fuck off," he sneered, "and to get a job!"

This guy's really pissing me off, and I want to hit him, but I switch tactics and try my best "Live and Let Live" act.

"And you know, mate?", I said, "I used to think the same way. There were times I'd get bugged for money twice by the same guy - on the same block within a couple of minutes! My record was getting asked for change nine times in three blocks!" - (which is true, by the way)

"Fuuuuuck!" came his witty response.

"Exactly," I added, humouring him, "It used to annoy the shit outta me."

"And it doesn't now?" he asked suspiciously.

"Not really," I answered nonchalantly

"Oh, bullshit," he again scoffed.

"Seriously, mate", I said seriously.

"Well what changed?" he inquired skeptically.

"I remembered an old saying, 'Never judge a man 'til you've walked a mile in his moccasins.'" I replied.

"Yeah uh-huh," came another brilliant remark.

"I'm serious," I calmly explained, "It's only due to the choices I've made in life that I'm where I am now, and not stuck begging for change on a streetcorner."

"Hmm," he said.

"If things had gone horribly wrong," I continued calmly, "that could easily have been me. So I try to look at things from that perspective. I mean, how would I feel about having to ask someone for a handout, to eat my dinners at a mission or soup kitchen, or worse yet, a dumpster? To rely on the ever-dwindling generosity of strangers in these cynical times, just to buy something to eat, or to feed an addiction that's ruined my life?"

His features softened a little.

I continued, "We often forget there's a very human, very personal cost to this sort of abject poverty. I mean, I'm a proud man, and I'd have to be at rock bottom to even consider begging for change. Do you have any idea how long it would take me to work up the nerve to ask a complete stranger for change that first time? Knowing that that first person may very well be an ignorant, judgemental cocksucker at a time when my self-esteem is already very low?"

He seemed to understand, his face showing a bit of humanity.

"I never thought of it like that..." he said softly.

"Well, it's a sad reality," I explained, "but over time, they develop a sort-of sixth sense about who's cool and who's the ignorant, judgemental cocksucker!"

"Heh," he laughed, "Do you think..?"

"Absolutely!" I said, flashing an evil grin, "Case in point: There are two people standing at this bus stop. Which one of us did he ask?"

It took him a couple of seconds to catch on. When he did, the look on his face was priceless.

Some days, it's all too easy - like shooting fish in a barrel.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What's the frequency, CJ?

(CJ's note: I have to apologize for the lack of real "flow" in this post - I have a migraine coming on, so I've taken a few T3s and am getting a bit loopy. Good thing it's a slow day here at work!)

I have a(nother) new hobby. I've dived headfirst into the world of DXing - essentially trying to find distant stations on my radio.

I've toyed with the idea for a few years now, initially when I discovered my favourite radio show was available over shortwave in addition to the internet. I opted to listen via live stream or podcast instead, and enjoyed it immensely. Of course, that option is no longer available to me, now that I no longer have an internet connection at home (unless I wait for my neighbours to go away for the weekend, so I can use their WIFI connection surreptitiously... heh heh heh!).

Not long ago, my good buddy Jim revealed that he's been DXing the AM band for thirty years. I filed his post away in the back of my mind, and put it to good use this weekend.

For the last couple of months, I've been trolling the second-hand and thrift stores for a used shortwave radio and, while I haven't had any luck, this weekend I found an odd AM/FM radio can also tune the aviation, public, and weather bands... all for $3.99! So, I took a chance, took the radio home, extended the antennae, plugged it in and... static-y voices. I was tuned into a Catholic talk radio channel originating in North Dakota. It was nearing the top of the hour, so I waited a couple of minutes for the station identification. It was 1370 KWTL in Grand Forks. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper and noted the frequency, call sign, and city, then slowly started turning the dial...

I did this for a couple of hours (the reception on this radio is nothing short of phenomenal!), and ended up falling asleep to AM 1500 (KSTP) in St. Paul, MN, who were replaying older broadcasts (circa 1995) of a talk show whose name escapes me.

I'm hooked.

I've been DXing whenever I have a spare bit of time, and have been solidly entertained. In the absence of (ethical) internet access, I gotta do something to stay informed. Despite being a music buff, I find myself listening to a lot of talk radio. Weird.

Knowing me as well as I do, though, I'll be as bored of the American perspective as I am of the Canadian perspective (concerning current world issues) in short order. Thus, I purchased an inexpensive shortwave receiver from one of my reliably dodgy Hong Kong contacts (for $15 shipped) so I can hear things from an international perspective... in a limited capacity, until I can afford a more powerful receiver... and antenna... and amplifier... and so on...



Now, I wouldn't dive headfirst into hitherto unknown territory without doing my own due diligence.

I've been reading a couple of blogs related to shortwave listening (SWLing), as well as a couple of print magazines dedicated to the activity. I've learned a few very basic concepts, and have a pretty good idea of what I'm getting myself into, and perhaps most importantly how much I can expect to spend.

A decent shortwave receiver (new) will likely set me back a couple hundred bucks, while an antenna won't likely set me back much, as I can probably bastardize something myself with minimal financial outlay. However, at a time when money is tight (most of my incoming funds are earmarked for a certain project), I suspect I'll be making do with the el cheapo unit I bought from Hong Kong for at least another year. No biggie, as I'm not sure how serious I want to take SWLing.

I certainly have no intention of becoming an amateur radio hobbyist (HAM radio), I'm solely interested in different cultures, and "the foreign perspective" concerning today's world. I'm sick of TV and the internet (and bored with computers in general), so I figured "Why not take a step back in time, and do what your average hobbyist/geek did in the days before personal computers?"

Besides, it'll give me something to do when I'm not writing, chasing women, drinking, and/or working on the Speakeasy...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Yeaaaahhh! Barcelona Win the Champions League Finals!

Yes!

Barça have done it! They've beaten Manchester United's 25-game unbeaten streak, and have taken the silverware in the Champions League title!

Of course, the live video stream cut out while I was watching the game (thanks to our company's lousy server), so I was forced to follow the game by reading the live ticker and chatbox on the UEFA site... in between customers' calls, of course.

Just catching the video replay of Lionel Messi's 70th minute goal, wow! Will post a link once the phones stop ringing...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On being traitorous, or Go Barça!

I'm betraying my English ancestry.

For tomorrow's Champions League final, I'm cheering for Barcelona, and not Manchester United.

Don't get me wrong, I love Man U, or more appropriately, their history. Sir Bobby Charlton, George Best, Ryan Giggs, Owen Hargreaves, even Wayne Rooney are some of my favourite footballers. So, why cheer for Barça, then?

Simple.

It's for the simple fact that I absolutely loathe Cristiano Ronaldo with every fibre of my being.

That, and I actually follow Barcelona. Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry are two of my favourite footballers as well (honourable mentions going to Xavi, Carles Puyol and Samuel Eto'o).

So, long story short, Go Barça!

(Of course, I'd be cheering on Bayern Munich if Barça hadn't dismantled them in the semi-finals...)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Volkswagens Cruise Home

C&S would like to extend our hearty congratulations to Vfl Wolfsburg, who are Bundesliga champions of the 2008-09 season!

Your handy dismantling of Werder Bremen was something to hear!

I caught snippets of the match, flipping back and forth from the match between Stuttgart (2006-07 champs) and my FC Bayern (2007-08 champs), who have "secured" their second place finish. Not the first place finish I'd hoped for, but that's the way the ball bounces... so to speak.

I also caught a few snippets of the match between Energie Cottbus and Bayer Leverkusen, which was interesting as well. FC Energie (for whom I've been secretly rooting in their relegation struggle) trounced the "Aspirins" 3-0, but it looks like they're going down to the 2.Liga next season. Well fought, boys, well fought.

Well, that's another Fußball season over. Time to focus on MLS, yardwork, and the Speakeasy. I'm gonna finish my Weißbier, head out for some breakfast, then weed my patio.

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pins and Needles Time...

I won't be able to sleep tonight.

Bundesliga finals are tomorrow, and my Bayern boys are still mired in second place - and depending on tomorrow's outcome, will either be in first place or, well, I'd rather not think about that.

Either way, when all is said and done, I still have yardwork to do tomorrow. Whether or not I'm in a good mood while doing it is entirely up to Heyncke's squad...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fußball, Weißbier, und Ich

Been busy with life outside of the 'sphere.

And by life, I mean Bundesliga soccer.

There are just two games left in the 2008-09 season, and my boys at Bayern München are battling it out with four other squads for the top spot! Gonna be a tough fight (the Wolfsburg juggernaut seems unstoppable) but I know my boys'll win it all. I'm also rooting for Energie Cottbus in their epic struggle to avoid relegation to the Zweite Liga.

Speaking of 2.Liga, I'm pulling for Hansa Rostock in their struggle to avoid relegation to the 3.Liga. Here's hoping they can keep the ship from sinking.

As for the 3.Liga, I'm not paying close attention, as my "other" favourite team, Eintracht Braunschweig, are mired in the middle of the table...

I'm gonna be on the edge of my seat for the next week. I'll be stocking up on Erdinger Weißbier (aus Bayern!) and tuning in to the live audio feeds, whether by piggybacked wifi connection or shortwave radio, which a friend of mine assures me is "very remotely possible".

Nothing's impossible. We're hackers. We'll make it work.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Introducing... CJ's Speakeasy!

By popular request, I've started a new blog to document the progress of my latest caper - the four-season gazebo.

I've dubbed the project "CJ's Speakeasy", and the whole affair is documented here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I had to say it...

Soooooo....

According to the CBC, the new-fangled tube dykes that were supposed to be the big stars of this flood are failing.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

Inflatable will never beat the real thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Emergency Unpreparedness

Just left this comment on Mr. Christian's latest post:

Mr. C,

Lately, I'm convinced that a seeming majority of folks in this province are indeed under-intelligenced.

At work, we've been inundated, deluged even, with calls from people who are in a mad panic for water suction and discharge hoses - and who get mad when we tell them we're sold out (a season's worth sold out in four hours, to better prepared people) and won't be getting any in for a couple of days.

When asked why they waited so long to buy if they're in such dire straits, most said "Because we didn't know the flood would be that bad, and didn't want to spend the money if we didn't need to!"

Dolts.

I will take back the comment that "the seeming majority of folks in this province are indeed under-intelligenced". It was said out of frustration, the sheer amount of people showing up at my counter today who are this unprepared for a flood that's been in the news for the last several months is nothing short of astounding.

Painting everyone with the same brush however does a great disservice to those truly affected by the flood (as well as the vast majority of folks had the sense to plan ahead), and for that I apologize.

Apart from that, I'll be expanding upon the "Emergency Unpreparedness" situation as the day progresses... we're busier than Hell here today... I've only been trying to eat my lunch for the past 2-1/2 hours ;)


EDIT 04/15/09:

It's now Wednesday, a day later. I've had a bit of time to reflect on yesterday's workday.

It was hectic, frantic even, but the situation wasn't unique to our shop. Over the course of the day, I had the opportunity to "talk shop" with some of our regular customers (and competitors - the hose & fitting business in Winnipeg can only be described as "incestuous"), and they all said the same thing:

"People have to plan better"


The vast majority of our customers are agricultural dealers, construction firms, equipment rental shops, Princess Autos, and mechanical/service centers, with a few big farms and a number of Hutterite colonies thrown in for good measure. These customers, our "bread and butter", are not the problem. Most have been in the business for years and have seen the trends, seen the cycles, and know when to have stock (and how much stock to carry).

But all the planning in the world will not save you from the average consumer.

Yes, this is Winnipeg, aka Wholesale City, where "it's always better, cheaper, and faster at the place up the street".

We share a good rapport with a number of our competitors, as we're all in the same general vicinity. Each of us will send the others our "cast-offs" whenever we're out of stock on an item (or if the customer is after something we don't carry), and we're all familiar with each other's product lines (and thus each others' pricing).

Of course, this fact seems to escape most of our casual customers, some of whom will try to chisel us on the price of our products. I can't count the number of times someone will say "Really? Your competitor up the street is selling the same hose for twenty bucks cheaper!", which typically results in a call to the competitor who typically says "Yeah, they said you had it twenty bucks cheaper!", and we share a good laugh. What synchronicity!

It'd be especially fun to do this on speakerphone, with the customer standing there... more fun if we initiated a conference call to several competitors... but that's conducive to repeat business.

But our incestuous price-fixing collusion is a story for another time (There Is No Cabal!). Where was I? Oh yeah, the flood...







(to be continued throughout the day)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

... and to think I only fell in once!

I took my pet camera for a walk today.

The original plan was to start at The Forks, and follow the river north to L'Esplanade Riel, The Waterfront, Juba Park, the Pumping Station + Alexander Docks, the Disraeli bridge, the Redwood Bridge, then walk along Scotia to Kildonan Park, then head over to Chief Peguis Trail.

Instead, I hung around The Forks, St. Boniface, L'Esplanade Riel, The Waterfront, and Stephen Juba Park. Took about 600 pics in all. I would have taken more, but I filled both of my camera's memory cards... (My ancient Olympus D-460Z uses 128Mb Smartmedia cards).

I ended up hopping the bus home, dumped both memory cards to my Linux box, then walked on over to Kildonan Park, via Scotia. Took a little detour to Louis Greenburgh Plaza and treated myself to a little history lesson, which you'll see in a later posting. I walked through Kildonan park for a couple of hours (snapping more pics and filling yet another card), completely forgetting I wanted to head over to Chief Peguis Trail...

I'll be busy this week as I finish my originally planned route, then sorting through the pics. I'm thinking of either starting a Flickr page, or resurrecting my old webpage to house the pics. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it...

Here are a few samples of the pics I snapped today. Once again, I will remind my readers and casual browsers to read the copyright notice at the bottom of the page before trying to use any of these pics. This means you, CBC, CTV, and the rest of you thieving media jackals! ;)


What the...? Isn't that the Canoe Rental shack? Hmmm, so much for renting a canoe today...


Ich kein Englisch (oder Französiche) spreche...


This was as far as I could go, at least without hip-waders..


See the green bridge on the right? Ordinarily, the canoe shack is on the other side of it.


Get used to this face. You'll be seeing a lot more of it in the future. (Although I'll be a great deal more presentable...)

I urge all my readers to contact Premier Doer and demand an end to Parking Lot Medicine NOW!

Please use ramp? Okaaayyy, but...


... the ramp ain't much better.

They'll be adding "No Swimming" to this sign in short order, methinks.


A small part of this afternoon's work. There were a lot of people out and about today, taking advantage of the warmer temperatures.. at least until it started to rain.





Me being me:

While walking along the footbridge at the Forks, a woman stopped to watch me take a few pictures.

Woman: Are you from The Sun?

Me: Originally, yes. However, we found it was far too hot there to live comfortably, so we moved here to Earth. It's much nicer here.

Woman (flabbergasted): Wha...?

Me: Just kidding. No, I'm not from The Winnipeg Sun.

Woman: Oh, I thought you were a reporter.

Me: Worse. I'm a blogger.

Woman: Oh, I... see... (walks off)

Some people have no sense of humour.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Sunny Saturday With the Sandboxers

Warning to those with a slow connection: Graphic intensity ahead. Go grab a coffee whilst the pictures load.

Sal's sur L'Esplanade is open again! Woohoo!

A few of us from the Winnipeg Sandbox decided to get together for breakfast this morning, and what better place than Sal's on the Bridge? I'm a huge Sal's fan (and not dead yet!), so of course this idea appealed to me.

I've also been meaning to head to The Forks, in order to snap a few pictures of the river, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. Had I been more awake, I probably would have worn my nigh-invincible winter boots instead of my dress shoes, but Hell, I gotta learn to swim eventually anyway...

The meetup was great. Got to see some of the Sandbox regulars/fellow bloggers again (and met one member for the first time), we had our usual fascinating conversations, and even got to watch Fargo float on by as we ate! (Not my joke!)

I didn't come home empty-handed, either. My pal DeanK gave me an old Panasonic tape recorder, an IBM Thinkpad 380D, and a nice ring of sausage from Metro Meats. Rather nice of him, I must admit. Hopefully I can return his generosity with a few beers, once I finish converting my garage to a four-season gazebo.



By special request, I'm posting a few of the snapshots I took this morning. As I said before, if you're on a slow connection, you may want to put the coffee pot on while they load... Oh, and if you're thinking of using my pictures for whatever reason, I'll remind you to read the Copyright Notice at the bottom of this page. You especially, CBC and CTV!








Under the bridge downtown, I gave my life awaaaayyy: Wearing dress shoes with little to no grip, this is about as close to the river as I intended to get.






Hmmm, guess taking the stairs is out...

Mistimed this one by a few minutes. I wanted to catch the sun when it was just over the church...

I wasn't sure how this one would turn out. I waded through ankle-deep snow on a steep incline, holding onto a tree (so I didn't fall into the drink) with one hand, and trying to take the shot with the other.

So, there you have it! Just a small sampling of the fifty-or-so shots I took before the meet-up. One of these years, I'll have to start a new site for my pics. Maybe once I've improved my technique...



In other news, I'm quite excited about the prospect of having another laptop. I've been without one (apart from my Model 100) since my beloved Nadia died, and I haven't been around my usual haunts much because of it.

My "new" IBM Thinkpad 380D. Vital statistics and functional state unknown. Power adapter and new battery currently en route from reputable supplier :)

Wedged in the PCMCIA slot was a Xircom RealNet 10/100 Ethernet + 56K modem card. My first ever Type-III PCMCIA card. Nice to have, but not sure how much use it'll see because...

... I imagine these two amigos (my Orinoco WIFI card, and CF card reader) will be occupying the PCMCIA slots most of the time.


So, once I have a better idea of the machine's functional state, I can plan its future. Will likely turn it into a dual-boot system, running Debian Linux and OS/2 Warp 4, but I'll cross that bridge later.




On a final note, this week the Winnipeg Sandbox saw the addition of a few new features, my personal favourite being the "Sandbox Cred" feature. It works in much the same way as the old "Thank You" point system that we enjoyed on New Winnipeg in its previous incarnation, the only difference is that a "thumbs down" will decrease your "cred" by a point.

So far, I'm the only member with a negative Sandbox Cred!


I was at "zero" cred, and wondered aloud if it were possible to have a negative cred rating, so I asked someone to give me a "thumbs down" so we could find out. Pavolo obliged without much arm-twisting, and now we know it's possible to go into a negative.

At any rate, I gotta get going. I'm gonna be late for a lunch date...