Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Coming Soon

Just a quick note to all who've been emailing me:

Yes, I'm still mad, but I will be back in February sometime.

I'm spending my time off working on a few new additions to C&S, first of which will be my revamped "SLP Heaven" project, followed by a satirical work entitled "The West Kildonan Liberation Organization".

I may even post a few pics of my upcoming trip to Mexico.


Monday, January 12, 2009

This Is Goodbye For Now

I'm getting fucking sick of people leaving me nasty emails, hiding behind the relative anonymity of the internet like the spineless fucking cowards they are.

I'm taking a fucking break until February.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened At Dinner Today...

Ever end up wearing someone else's dinner while dining out? That's precisely what happened to my friend and I while eating at Tavern United on McPhillips tonight.

Today was a lousy day from the get-go. The bus was running behind schedule, which in turn made me late for work by about five minutes. Then, two of the guys called in - one to say he was sick, the other to say he had a flat tire and would be a few minutes late ("a few minutes" turned out to be two hours), leaving us terribly short-staffed.

Then the phones started going nuts. Yes, it seems like everyone in the province is back from Christmas holidays, and decided they needed hose right then and there. No worries, we're used to the volume and pace, and were able to accommodate nearly all of our customers. However, no sooner were we caught up when the company network went down...

Being the most computer-savvy guy at our branch (See? My mad science pays off!), it usually falls to me to solve any computer related issues. After nearly eight years on the job, I'm well acquainted with this particular scenario. I got the guys to turn all the computers off (it's easier than walking them through reconnecting to the network), ran to our electrical room, power-cycled the router and switch, and fired up my computer.

No go.

Tried it again, waiting a couple of minutes longer between powering the router off and powering it back on. Still no go.

I called our branch in Saskatoon to see if they were down as well. Usually, if one branch is down, we're all down. Not this time, though. Saskatoon was up... so I called our head office in BC, they were up, too. I explained our predicament, so our beloved IT person checked with our provider, who in turn told us they showed no problems (it's a managed service) and that we "should be up and running". I double-checked everything, tried telnetting into the router (via the management/maintenance port) from my "unofficial, non-sanctioned management console", reported my findings, and checked my system again - still no go.

With our provider, our IT person, and myself stumped, our IT person said "CJ, try replacing the cable from the router to the switch.'

Damned if it didn't work.

We were all so busy looking for a big problem that we ignored the little one. The cable was working intermittently, enough to register a proper connection on the router and switch, but not enough to sustain a connection under load.

It's days like these I'm glad I got kicked out of Red River College's CAP* course. I couldn't fathom doing this for a living.

With the network down for several hours, both my boss and inside sales cohort were running their respective asses off, doing physical stock checks, handwriting orders, and answering phones. I tried to help out where I could between power-cycles, and somehow we managed to keep up.

Suffice it to say, when 5 o'clock rolled around, we were all happy to get the Hell out of there.


When I left the building, my buddy Fry was waiting, as we'd made arrangements to grab dinner and a drink after work. "Great idea," I thought, "I could use a Guinness or ten right about now".

We arrived at Tavern United on McPhillips (our usual spot) around 5:30, and quickly grabbed a seat and ordered drinks. The first Guinness went down a little too quickly, so I ordered another when our server came to take our dinner order.

While Fry and I were talking, we became aware that not all was well at the booth behind us. The couple behind me were having some sort of disagreement, and it was apparent the argument was heating up. I put it out of my mind once our food (and my Guinness) arrived. Fry and I were wrapped up in our conversation, taking the odd drink or bite while the other was speaking. I took a swig of my Guinness and no sooner did I put the glass on the table when we heard a man's voice yell, "WELL, FUCK YOU!".

Something whizzed past my head and my glass suddenly shattered - showering me with Irish Stout and glass fragments - while Fry threw his arms up as if to shield himself from something. About a second later, I said, "What the Hell...?" and in reply came a sheepish, defeated "I'm sorry" from the guy in the booth behind me.

The guy in the booth behind us had thrown his plate at his female dining companion, which missed her and landed on our table, shattering his plate, my nearly full pint glass, my dinner plate, and covering both Fry and I in beer, pop, and our respective dinners. The guy's untouched chicken wrap ended up in my lap.

I picked up my broken pint glass and put it at the end of our table - our code for "REFILL, PLEASE!". When our server came over with my refill, she noticed the mess. "What happened?" she asked me, "Did you spill your drink?"

Before I could say anything, Fry deadpanned, "No, the gentleman in the next booth decided to throw his plate."

"He threw his plate at me", came a barely audible voice from the next booth. You could hear she was close to breaking into tears.

Our server moved us to a different (drier) booth and told us they'd make us two new dinners, on the house. She then walked over to the booth behind us and, noting the lady was starting to cry, said "Come with me" and led her away while the bartender led the guy away. I took my first look at our inadvertent assailant and noted that both he and his lady friend were around my age, maybe a couple of years younger... in other words, old enough to know better.

I don't know what happened to the happy couple after that. The staff went out of their way to apologize to us, and Fry told them they weren't the ones who should be apologizing (Well, he did offer that sheepish, defeated "I'm sorry"...).

Fry and I spent the next hour-and-a-half soaked nearly to the skin in our booth, shooting the shit and replaying the events of the evening. We talked about how much we've changed in the last few years. A decade ago (my "lost years") , I would have "put the boots" to the guy, and Fry at the very least would have gathered up the mess and dumped it on the guy's head. Thankfully, age and court-mandated anger management courses have mellowed us a lot, and the guy got little more than a dirty look from us as we were moved to a new booth.

Cooler heads prevail, y'know.

I looked at Fry and said, "Fry, there's one thing I regret not doing after that... unpleasantness."

"What's that?" he asked.

I replied, "I wish I'd grabbed the chicken wrap from my lap and..."

"Thrown it at him?" Fry asked, "Shoved it down his throat?"

"Nah," I said, "I wish I'd had the presence of mind to grab the chicken wrap from my lap, happily exclaim 'What the...? Hey! Chicken! Oh Boy!', then taken a bite outta the wrap."

A shocked look crossed Fry's face.

"No more beer for you, CJ," he said.


Our server brought us our bill (they charged us for my three Guinness and Fry's pop) and we grabbed our coats to leave. A large chunk of broken glass fell from my inner coat and hit the floor - a souvenir of the earlier events. It was then I noticed the nice, warm wool jacket I wear under my leather coat was soaked through with Guinness... which wouldn't exactly keep me warm in the cold air outside. So I threw my leather coat on and carried the wool one under my arm.

I went to pay the tab, and our server, noting that I was still wet, asked "Are you going to be okay outside in that?"

I smiled and said I'd be fine.

"Are you sure?" she asked, wide-eyed, "It's pretty cold out there".

"Don't worry", I assured her, "This isn't the first time I've left a pub cold and drenched in beer".

Sometimes, ya gotta laugh.

*CAP course = Computer Analyst/Programmer.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On Irony

A friend and I were just chatting on ICQ a few minutes ago, and she asked me if I'd made any New Years' Resolutions this year. I told her I hadn't yet, and hadn't really planned to do so. When she asked why, I told her that I didn't really feel like changing anything, and that life is going well enough so, as the saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".

Of course, I was lying through my (virtual) teeth. I'd made one vow: a vow of Minimalism.

The concept of Minimalism (or rather our interpretation of it) was the basis for our former hacking collective, The Thugs. My cohorts and I were always trying to wring maximum performance out of older computer hardware, software, hell, even vehicles, using a variety of tricks, hacks, and the odd sacrifice to the computer gods. Our motto became "Doing More with Less", at first because we couldn't (as poor students) afford newer computer hardware, then because we wouldn't accept planned obsolescence or the Consumerist idea of "Better Living Through Constant Upgrading" ... a sentiment that was becoming more and more prevalent as more "normal" people were buying computers for some manufactured need.

Of course, over time our older hardware would start to fail. We were kept in near-constant supply of replacement parts (or even whole systems) whenever one of our friends on the upgrade treadmill upgraded ("Here, CJ, take this useless piece of junk, it's already a year old!"), allowing us to continue doing more with less - and with the addition of more systems it gave us "more less", more or less...

So, back on track... I gave it some thought for a few weeks, and decided to take our motto to heart once again, to "do more with less" and once again embrace our interpretation of Minimalism. As such, I've been eliminating a lot of things from my life over the last little while, for various reasons.

One of the first things to go were my Shaw digital cable and high-speed internet service - I wasn't watching much TV apart from soccer and Newsworld, and the internet was proving to be too much of a distraction (damned Wikipedia). The money it was costing me every month could be put to better use, say, toward my planned trip to Europe next year, and the time saved has freed me up for more important things (some of which will appear here on C & S once summer hits). A side "benefit" - I also drink less beer when I'm not watching soccer...

The next change was more recent - after reading one of my recent posts, one of my readers asked if I were willing to donate a few older computers to the computer lab they were setting up. Of course, having more computers than my house has power outlets, I agreed - provided they come pick them up as I have no running vehicle. Managed to get rid of a cluster of about twenty-or-so Linux PCs (complete with monitors and keyboards), a few VT-100 terminals, and my last few PC laptops, which freed up a lot of room in the lab. It will also cut down dramatically the amounts of time, attention, and money spent on projects of questionable intent and/or value, freeing me up for more worthwhile projects. I also found out the lab has a floor!

The third change will be to cut down on my spending, especially concerning impulse purchases and ill-conceived/ill-needed projects. I've been blowing a lot of money on eBay and the used market for things I could (or probably should) live without. Again, the money saved can go towards my trip, or to other more worthwhile projects.

Lastly, I'm putting my time savings to good use. I've enjoyed blogging more in the past couple months, I've been able to collaborate on a couple of different projects with some new friends, reconnected with some old ones, been cooking a lot more, and have even dragged out the drafting table (and an old AutoCAD setup) so I can start designing my next few projects: new kitchen cabinets, entertainment system, and a wet bar!

"What the Hell does this have to do with irony?" you may ask.

Well, hold your damned horses, I was getting to that. Jeez!

The whole experience has been interesting so far. It has required a few major shake-ups in my routine, as well as a lot of willpower to keep from falling back into the old ways. It feels weird not having a TV or video game console in my living room, but I only moved them out of there a week ago. The internet seems painstakingly slow on a 56K modem connection after years of having a cable modem, and it's weird going to grab cookies from the cupboard, then remembering I bought apples instead. These feelings will pass once I develop a new, more productive routine. It'll be tough, but it'll be worth it.

Living Minimal can take Maximal effort.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Walking in a Winter Wonderland, and Jennifer Aniston Naked.

Been a busy day today...

I got up at 6:30 to feed the cats and to give Ethin his insulin.. and made the decision to stay up. Looking outside, I saw that we had a little dusting of snow and thought "Hey! This would make for a great sunrise pic!". So I got dressed, grabbed my camera, and sat on the couch to wait the hour or so until sunrise.

And woke up at 10:00.

Needing a coffee in the worst way (and not having any in the house), I threw on my coat, grabbed the nearest available laptop, and hopped the bus downtown - destination: The Fyxx on Broadway.

While standing at the bus stop, I marvelled at the scene before me... it was still snowing, covering the world in a beautiful white fluffy blanket. Noting that my bus was parked with its flashers on some blocks away, I seized the opportunity to take a few pictures of the neighbourhood covered by that same beautiful white blanket of snow.

Of course, "beautiful white blanket" will eventually give way to nastier epithets tomorrow while I'm trying to clean off my sidewalk... but I digress.

One meandering bus ride and short walk later, I arrive at The Fyxx, grab a seat, order a coffee, and fire up my laptop (Amelie, my Powerbook 1400c) for a little bloggin'. Powered her up, made sure my wifi connection was set, opened my email app and - *pop* - Amelie powered off.

Lesson for the day: Make sure laptop battery is charged before leaving house on MoBlogging excursion.


I finished my coffee and made my way to CityPlace, at which point I decided to head home to drop off my laptop. I wanted to do a little shopping, and there was no point lugging comatose Amelie around. Luckily for me, my bus was just pulling up to CityPlace when I got there... back to West Kildonan I go!

An hour and several buses later, I was walking into Polo Park - destination: McNally-Robinson (I truly miss their Portage Place location, which would have eliminated this trip altogether if they hadn't moved!). I'm a month behind on my magazines, so I grabbed the latest issues of World Soccer, Metropolis, Adbusters, and GQ.

Yes, GQ... the bible for all young middle-class wannabe-fashionistas. I started reading GQ back around the turn-of-the-Millenium for some help in the wardrobe department. Back then, my wardrobe consisted mainly of blue jeans and plain white (or plain black) t-shirts, great for casual dining at the mall food court or fast food chain, but a rather poor choice for a "nice" restaurant with the girlfriend (or, at that time, someone else's girlfriend). Using GQ as a guideline and with a little advice from that same girl, I managed to build up a respectable wardrobe...

That was years ago, though. Nowadays, I'm told I look like I just stepped out of a Film Noir detective movie - with my two day growth, long coat, scuffed dress shoes, and slacks & shirt that smell faintly of whiskey and look like they'd been slept in. All I need is a fedora to complete the look!

But anyway, back to the story... where was I? Oh yeah, GQ.

I headed over to Second Cup on Darwin's Corner for another coffee and a mid-afternoon snack. Grabbed a table and opened my copy of GQ. It was that issue of GQ with "everybody's favourite Friend"... with the nude pics of Jennifer Aniston. My expectations were low, and frankly I wasn't disappointed. When the various gossip columns and sites* started talking about the photo spread a month ago, I knew it was all hype. I mean, this is GQ, not Hustler, Club, or even Playboy, for Christ's sake! There would be little to no real "nudity", just a few airbrushed cheesecake shots and a small article informing us readers that, despite having just turned 40, Jennifer Aniston still looks great** and is dealing with the media circus surrounding herself, Brad Pitt, and Angelina Jolie.

After reading the article "The Man's Guide to Getting Productive", I glanced at the alleged photo spread. Just as I thought... three pics in all: Two that look like her old Calvin Klein underwear ads, and a pic of her wearing nought but a strategically placed necktie... that same pic that all the media outlets/blogs/websites were showing as an insider's "sneak preview" about a month ago. Ain't marketing hype great? The article (yes, I do read it for the articles) was also exactly as I'd figured.

Much Ado About Nothing

After finishing the article, I put GQ back into my shopping bag and pulled out my World Soccer mag. But despite soccer being one of my three passions in life (next to alcohol and writing), I couldn't put the whole GQ/Aniston thing out of my head. It bothered me, and I couldn't think why...

Am I embarrassed to admit I fell victim to marketing hype and a chance to see a Hollywood star nude (or semi-nude)? Well no, because I was going to buy the magazine anyway, regardless. Was it was because the article and pictures failed to live up to the hype? Again, no - I didn't have grand expectations to begin with (besides which, Courteney Cox was my favourite Friend). Was it because the hype was being used to draw regular readers' attention away from the fact that each issue of GQ is progressively thinner than the last yet the price remains the same? Partly. My problem, if you want to call it that, was with the hype itself, another product of the self-referential celebrity worshipping culture that abounds.

It's an old story. I stopped taking TV seriously back in the late 80's/ early 90's when shows like A Current Affair, Hard Copy, and Entertainment Tonight were all the rage (the previous generation would say the same about tabloid rags like The National Enquirer, et al). Two events stand out as being the proverbial straws that broke the camel's back in my case:

The Cheers Murders: Either A Current Affair or Hard Copy (I can't remember, the two shows were aired back-to-back) did a show about a double murder they dubbed the Cheers Murders. Some guy who was an extra on Cheers committed a double murder. He appeared for little more than a millisecond in one episode of the show, where he was seated at a table at the far back of the bar. He probably had little to no interaction with the main cast, and was little more than a passing thought to the production crew. Yet, somehow, that millisecond of onscreen time was more than enough for the bottom-feeding papparazzi to link him to the show. We were treated to an episode of Current Affair/Hard Copy staff interviewing the cast and crew of Cheers to garner their feelings on the murder, and to tell what they remember about their time with the offender... which obviously wasn't much. "Who? Don't remember him, but damn, what a shame that two people lost their lives... a real tragedy. Now excuse me. Places! Ready, Ted? Rhea? George? All set, John? 3... 2...1... action!"

Teri Weigel's burgeoning porn career:
Again, an A Current Affair/Hard Copy "exclusive". Teri Weigel, a former (1986?) Playboy Playmate, landed guest appearances on a couple of episodes of the hit FOX show, Married... With Children. Sometime thereafter, she embarked on a career in adult films. We're talkin' hardcore porn here, not those comparitively mild Playboy videos! Of course, because of her appearances in a mainstream, prime-time sitcom, the news was simply scandalous, at least to the good folks at A Current Affair/Hard Copy. They interviewed Teri Weigel who said the cast of "Married.." were all very supportive of her decision. Cast and crew of "Married...", however, were unavailable for comment. Who? Really? Hardcore porn, you say? Maybe if I saw a video, I may recognise her, uh, face. Now excuse me. Places! Ready, Ed? David? Katey? All set, Christina? 3... 2... 1.. action!

These, and other stories like them, had me wondering "Why the Hell is this news? Who the fuck cares?" and above all, "Why do people like, let alone watch or read, this crap?". But apparently, people seem to like the stuff. They eat it up, smile, and come back for more. When I realized that TV (and mass media in general) was becoming more and more tailored for people like this, I followed the old adage "Don't like it, don't watch it", and started seeking out alternative forms of media.

This was around the time when affordable public access to the Internet thus World Wide Web was first available, which was great... for the first few years, anyway. But that's a rant for later. It's after 9pm, I'm getting hungry, and could use a martini or two.

* If you're wondering why I read gossip/tabloid sites after doing nothing but bitching about them, wonder no further. I don't read them. My email account, an old Netscape webmail account that I've had since the 90s, is now handled by AOL/Time-Warner, who bombard their associated sites with this crap so that it can't be missed. I suppose I could switch webmail providers but they're all pretty much the same, and I'd have far too much stuff to move over to a new account.

** Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about Jennifer Aniston or the GQ article per se. She does indeed look good, and I think it's absolutely great she can hold her own in an increasingly youth-obsessed industry. I'm hoping this finally kills the widespread belief that women over a certain age are no longer viable in leading roles in Hollywood.

*** This post has been an inadvertent exercise in irony. On one hand, I'm praising alternative media while bitching about tabloids and mass media, on the other hand I'm talking about Playboy, GQ, and engaging in gossip. Irony is a wonderful thing. That said, how many of the free-thinkers among you visited this blog because you read the words "Jennifer Aniston Naked" on someone else's blogroll? Suckers! :P

Friday, January 2, 2009

Highlights of 2008

Like some of my compatriots, I feel somewhat compelled to write up the obligatory year-end wrap-up post. So here it is:

The Whole Year Rocked!

I'm not going to distill it further. I had an absolute blast in 2008, from January 1st to December 31st, and am looking forward to having an even better year in 2009!