Monday, December 31, 2012

The Perpetual Self-Improvement Game (Part One)

As I write this, the New Year will be upon us in roughly thirteen hours.

It's hard to believe 2012 is almost over, it went by so fast...  Hell, the last five years have just flown by, which, as I advance in age, is forcing me to slow down a bit and savour every moment.  Not that I think death is just around the corner (I'm 40 in February), but the realization that I am now a middle-aged man with a family, and no longer a young, angry, sociopathic workaholic, has led me to make some changes in my life.

The flood we suffered near the end of November was the tipping point.  As I stated in my last post, I took it as a sign that I needed to make a few lifestyle changes.  Unfortunately, it wasn't the first sign.  I'm still playing Tetris with my life, and despite now playing it on the "Easy" level, I'm still trying to fit things into an increasingly larger pile within the narrow confines of my (our) schedule.  The cleanup made me realize how horribly out-of-shape I am... and if I'm that tired and stiff after mopping the floor and moving a little furniture, how the Hell am I going to handle the demands of parenthood?!

At the rate I'm going, I'm not.  So changes were in order.

The first thing I looked at was my diet, which can charitably be described as horrible.  Thus I resolved to eat better.  Heart disease and Diabetes run rampant in my dad's family, but we've all managed to avoid the rampage so far...however I am directly in their paths.  Time to step off the road and back onto the sidewalk, so to speak.  I'm slowly adding healthier food into my diet, and hope to be rid of my beer gut by the end of the year.

Speaking of which, my beer gut is a bit... pronounced.  Back in June of 2011, I weighed 210lbs.  I had daily walks to the corner store, to bus stops, Hell - I walked pretty much everywhere.  It was pretty good exercise!  In July of that same year, Jillian and I bought a car, afterwhich we drove everywhere.  No more hiking to the bus stop every morning, no more side-trips to the corner store for coffee, the exercise came to an end. As a result, I started packing on the pounds... I am now tipping the scales at 230lbs.  Not fat per se, but enough extra bulk to slow me down and make tying my shoelaces a bit more difficult than it should be.

Not being the gym membership type, my old exercise regimen being ineffective, and not having the money (or room) for home exercise equipment, I've decided to get in shape the old fashioned way - manual labour.  I've started our home renovations (after years of talking about it) and have been eschewing power tools in favour of manual ones... hammers, sanders, screwdrivers, saws, hand-drills, and chisels, all non-powered.  Combined with the mopping, sweeping, dusting, and cleaning I'll need to do, I expect the pounds to melt right off.

(to be continued...)

Join me tomorrow as I list my New Year's Resolutions.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

News You Can't Use! A few behind-the-scenes updates

Things at C&S and the palatial Mattrèssor Manor are rarely at a standstill, and this past month has been especially eventful.

None of these events really warrant posts of their own, but are newsworthy [to whom?] nonetheless.

The big news, for those of you not following me on Twitter or Facebook, is that Jillian and I are expecting our first child.  As of today, she's eight weeks pregnant, and we're both ecstatic!  We've had a couple of scares so far (Jill's doctor has her on bedrest for the time being), and are hoping and praying for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

Second, I haven't had a haircut since April.  I have really thick, fast growing hair, which isn't a bad thing at my age (almost 40).  However, it's getting unmanageable and looks rather unprofessional.  Rather than get it cut, I'm thinking of growing it until St. Patrick's Day, or July when our child is born... then donating it for wigs for cancer patients.  My hair is a rather uncommon shade of red, and I'd like to be able to help any fellow redheads out!

(or anyone else, for that matter)

Third, I'm starting yet another blog, bringing my total, active or otherwise, to ten.  This one is centered on my recent conversion to the Catholic faith, and will house my reflections on a newly religious life.  I'm keeping it separate from my other works out of respect for opposing views, as religion (especially Catholicism) is a touchy, polarizing subject.  This way, you're only exposed to articles centering on religion if you're actively looking for them.

Religion is a subject that inspires heated debates among believers and non-believers alike, and I've been on both sides of the issue.  While there are plenty of avenues online for these debates, I don't want C&S to turn into one of them.

Fourth, I'm no longer working on my book or podcast.  I've never found/made the time to work on them, and have summarily lost interest.  As I am now facing the much more rewarding/damning challenge of parenthood, I'd rather give that my full attention.

Fifth, I've gone analog.  Y'all know I prefer actual terrestrial radio (AM/FM/Shortwave/Longwave) to internet or streaming radio, and keep a pen-and-paper and/or typewritten journal in addition to my blogs.  Well, I've gone one step further into anachrony, and have given up on my smartphones and PDAs for personal information management purposes.

Yes, I stepped back to the early 90s (when I entered the workforce full time) and bought myself an upmarket Day-timer on eBay for a fraction of the original price.  I got tired of constantly having to charge and sync my devices, and more tired of having to upgrade to a newer model once the one I had was no longer supported. I'm sure my paper planner will outlast the next few iterations of smartphone/tablets...

While searching for current calendar/planner pages for the thing, I discovered the DIY Planner site, wherein one can find templates for the various types of planners and daytimers... they even have a program that'll allow you to edit the calendar and daily planner templates for the years after 2007.

An added bonus is the (perception of) increased security of my personal data - if anyone wants my info, they'll have to swipe it the old fashioned way, via physical confrontation.  Which I don't recommend, as I'm told I fight dirty.

Lastly, I've updated the Conceit and Sociopathy FAQ for the first time in four years.

That's it for now.  I'll see you again on Monday, when I post the results of the poll from the previous post (and from Twitter and Facebook).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pollaxed! or "People without kids won't understand"

Good day, C&S faithful!

I'm currently gathering data for an upcoming post on living car-free.  While I have plenty of data on single people (or childless couples) in regards to car-free living, I have none on people with children (whether single or couples) who are living carfree.

Rather than stand outside public places and querying random passersby as to their family situation and modes of transportation, I've put up a poll on the righthand side of this page.  You may need to scroll to the right to see it, depending on the size of your screen.

If you're a parent, please answer according to your situation.

Also, please refrain from commenting.  There will be plenty of opportunity for comment once the data has been gathered and resulting article written.

Friday, November 16, 2012

(Web) Traffic Calming Circles

I've been poring over my traffic logs, and I've noticed a marked increase in search engine hits.

I'd like to say it's all due to my wit and excellent writing skills, but I'd be lying (on a few counts).

No, most of my traffic comes courtesy of Google, and 99 percent of it is focused on a single post (with over 1300 views) mentioning a certain British porn actress whom I will not name.  If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you'll know this actress as the (nick)namesake of my Powerbook Lombard.

So, for the proverbial shits and giggles, I've turned the post back into a draft so I can monitor the decrease in traffic.  I expect it'll take a while for any significant change, as no doubt the post has been cached by every search engine out there.  If this works, I'll do the same to another post featuring a certain actress who was married to the guy from Fight Club.

Let's see what happens...

Update:  The Top Ten Posts widget still registers it as the most viewed, but doesn't display it on the list.  Therefore there are only nine posts listed in the top ten.  Interesting.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Screw the Election, Here's some CanCon!

As my faithful readers and data harvesters will attest, I don't care much for politics these days.  After closely (read obsessively) following civic, domestic, and foreign (US, Europe) politics in the 90s and early 00s, I am still quite burned out on the subject.

Suffice it to say, I'm not following the US election tonight.  Or tomorrow.  Or the inevitable controversies during the next few weeks.

Instead, I took to the 'net to search out some music.  And you know what?  I'm glad I did.

I had a song in my head earlier this evening, and something told me to check YouTube to see if anyone had finally posted the video. Sure enough, someone had...

T'é Qui Toé was one of my favourite tunes in rotation on MuchMusic back in the early 90s, and I was quite excited to see it again after twenty years (unfortunately, nobody has posted his other song Vise Le Top yet).  Pining for a past that exists only in my head, I hit eBay to see if anyone had Dédé Traké's eponymously-titled CD for sale. Usually a futile effort on my part, a quick search turned up two copies for sale! Needless to say, I snapped it up without hesitation.

Another video in rotation during the same period was About to Drown from Ottawa band Furnaceface.  The song grew on me after a week of heavy rotation, and I was compelled by my corporate masters to seek out their appropriately-titled album Just Buy It.

Purchased initially for the aforementioned tune, the album occupied a slot in my 5-CD changer for nearly a year after purchase.  As much as I liked About to Drown, two other songs on the album became my favourites:  Unemployment satire Government Cheque, and the album's title track - Just Buy It -  which I embed for your viewing pleasure.

I'll leave off here.  I think I hear my CD racks calling me...

Anyone (around) my age have a favourite Canadian song from the same time period (early-to-mid 90s)?  Let me know in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy 25th birthday, PC Engine!

On this day in 1987, my favourite video game console of all time was released in Japan.

The NEC PC Engine celebrates its 25th birthday today, and I in turn celebrate the many years of enjoyment the system has given me.

Released to compete against Nintendo's Famicom system (itself modified for the North American and European markets and released as the NES),  the PC Engine was Japan's top selling game console until finally losing ground to the Super Famicom some years later.  It was also the first home gaming console to have a CDROM attachment (albeit at a price - $400 CDN when it hit our shores!), which allowed for bigger, better, and more technically advanced games while also lowering production costs.

PC Engine games were released until 1999, when the last title, Dead of the Brain, was released.  The system retains a cult-like following (myself included) and remains one of the most sought-after platforms in the collector's market.

"Wait a second, CJ," you might be thinking, "I've been around since the NES days.  Why have I never heard of this system before?"

Well, my friend, it's probably because you're one of those people who only accepts what is waved in front of your nose and needs to be told what to buy, or you're totally ignorant of things outside your own particular culture.

Just kidding!

Truth is, if you've been around, as you claim, since the NES days (or further back, to the Atari/Intellivision/Colecovision/Vectrex/LeisureVision days), you probably have heard of the PC Engine.

In 1989, to compete with Sega's new Genesis console, NEC released the PC Engine in the North American and European market as the TurboGrafx-16.

Unfortunately, it wasn't much competition on these shores.  Despite largely being the dominant console in Japan until the early 90s (trouncing the Sega MegaDrive and Nintendo Famicom), poor marketing, horrible localization/censorship of Japanese games, and worse third party support relegated it to second-tier status to the domestic gaming public-at-large.

My own history with the console began in 1991.  We'd received a Sega Genesis for Christmas the previous year, and my friend Jason was in the market for a new console to replace his aging NES.  I'd shown him the Genesis, but he was leery of the Sega brand (unlike me, he hated the Sega Master System) and was curious about the new TurboGrafx-16 we'd seen advertised on TV.  I admitted to knowing nothing about the "Turbo", apart from what I'd read in the popular (and biased) gaming magazines of the time.

We went to the one place in Winnipeg where the machine was sold: Compucenter in St. Vital mall.  They had both a Genesis and Turbo on display - the Genesis was running Altered Beast, while the Turbo was running the appallingly-named Keith Courage in Alpha Zones.  After playing 'Beast and chatting with the salesman about upcoming games, and with the local video store now renting Genesis titles, Jason eventually decided on the Genesis.

Not long after, Radio Shack began selling the TurboGrafx-16.  Being my go-to place for computer stuff (I was a Coco 3 enthusiast), I was confronted with their Turbo display every time I walked in.  When the second wave of Turbo titles were released, I was subjected to games such as Bonk's Adventure and Devil's Crush.  They looked alright, but they still didn't touch the Genesis, and you couldn't rent Turbo games anywhere.

I remained curious, even played Bonk's Adventure a couple of times in-store.  The $200 price tag turned me off, and the $400 price tag for their vaunted-but-rare CDROM attachment didn't sweeten the deal.

One day, shortly after the release of the Super NES, the new Radio Shack flyer announced a price drop on the Turbo console:  $99, and you can pick TWO FREE GAMES from a limited assortment in-store.  Needless to say, I was sold.  Payday couldn't come quick enough!

Once I got the unit home and played a few rounds of Keith Courage, I was seriously underwhelmed.  "No wonder this thing is losing the Console War," I thought, "this game SUCKS!".  I took the game out of the system and vowed never to play it again.  I popped in one of the two free games I got with the machine, China Warrior, and played that for a while... "Good LORD, this game is worse!".  However, things changed when I got to the third game... Legendary Axe.

One of the few games ever to receive a perfect 10/10 rating from Electronic Gaming Monthly (one of the most biased and editorially corrupt magazines ever), Legendary Axe kept me occupied for weeks.  I picked up the aforementioned Bonk and Devil's Crush not long after, followed by a few dozen more games over the next couple of years.

In 1993, during my brief  "I need to grow up" phase, I sold off most of my video game collection... including the TurboGrafx-16.  NEC had handed their domestic console division to a new company called TTI, which tried and failed to keep the system relevant.  First-party support was gone, and the console as such had no future on these shores.  The only way to stay current was to join the truly hardcore Turbo fanbase, and devote myself to importing games from Japan.  I'd need to learn at least a little Japanese, and had to be willing to take a chance on unfamiliar games without knowing anything more than the title.  "More trouble than it's worth," I thought, and I soon gave up on the system and sold it.

In 1996, I discovered emulation.  A few years later, I was able to play all the old Turbografx-16 and Japanese PC Engine games on my computer via emulation.  By this time, I'd learned a bit of Japanese - enough to be functionally illiterate - and decided to give the system another look.

In 2002, flush with cash left over from buying my house, I finally bought a Japanese PC Engine.  I went whole-hog and bought a PC Engine Duo-R, which combined the PC Engine and the CDROM attachment in one console.

My PC Engine Duo-R, in need of a good cleaning

Ten years later, the system still sees near-daily use... from the occasional ten minute round of Galaga '88, to a few hours of Dungeon Explorer or Dracula X, to multi-week sessions of the system's many excellent RPGs.  With nearly two hundred games in my collection as I write this, and with more arriving every month, I suspect my PC Engine will be entertaining me for many years to come

Akumajyou Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
An excellent game that is not rare by any stretch, but still really overpriced..

Yesterday, I briefly considered resurrecting the video game section of Conceited Jerk Dot Com or starting a new video game blog altogether, but I don't really have the time for such a huge project (enthusiasm notwithstanding).  Besides there are already hundreds of established video game blogs and related Youtube channels on the net... why do one more?

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Tale of Entitlement (conclusion)

CJ's note:  This post is dedicated to Brian Gilchrist, who reminded me several months ago that I hadn't concluded this story from this time last year.  As it turns out, I'd inadvertently deleted the post from my drafts folder, but thankfully the events that inspired the whole yarn are still fresh in my mind.  Since the day is dragging here at Moron Industries, I decided to finish the story off.

Part One can be found here, followed by parts two and three.

The following is a true story I just made up.

I was poring over the computer parts section on eBay when the boss called over from his desk, "Shaun, line two is holding for you."

CJ: Shaun speaking, how may I help you?

SP:  Hello, Shaun.  This is Nancy, the branch manager from Snailspace Express.

CJ: Hi Nancy.

SP: We're still trying to figure out what happened with Turnip Brothers yesterday.  Are you available to meet this afternoon?

CJ: I should be, if you'd like to pay us a visit.  We can talk to our shipper and sort out our stories if you'd like.

SP:  When would be a good time?

CJ:  3pm would work best.

SP:  I'll see you then.

At 2:55, our counter sales guy came up to my desk.  "There's a scary looking lady asking for you at the front."

"She's early," I thought, "how unlike Snailspace..."

I walked over to the front counter, where an older lady in a red coat was waiting.  She reminded me of the school principal from the movie Uncle Buck, without the mole.  She had her game face on.

CJ: May I help you?

SP: Good afternoon, are you Shaun?

CJ: Shaun Wheeler, Inside Sales.  Nancy, I take it?

SP: Yes, I'm Nancy Rinckelsbottum, manager of Snailspace Express.  Do you have a moment?

I nodded in the affirmative, and led her to our shipping area, where I introduced her to Ken, our "shipping department".

SP: I'm still a little unclear as to what happened yesterday.  I've had two different stories from my own people, and one from the customer at Turnip Brothers Mining and Smelting.

CJ:  Well, I received an order from Jimbob at Turnip for some parts he needed on a direct shipment.  The order was written up and filled, and sent to the shipping area.

Ken: Yes, I had the order packed and ready to go within fifteen minutes.

SP: What time did the driver arrive?

Ken:  Steve arrived not long after.  He got pissed off when I told him he couldn't fill his giant coffee mug, and he stormed out of here without the package for Turnip Brothers.

CJ: Did you call after him?

Ken: No, I didn't notice the package on the counter until ten, fifteen minutes later.  By that time, he'd already left.

SP: Did you call dispatch to let them know?

Ken: No, to be honest.  We got really busy back here, by the time I thought of it, the customer had already called looking for the stuff.

CJ: That's about when I got involved.  I spoke with Jimbob, and he called you guys to send the driver back.

Ken: And he never showed.

SP: He never showed up?  At all?

CJ & Ken:  Nope.

SP:  Our dispatcher told us a driver had been dispatched at 1pm and again 4pm, because the parts weren't ready.

Ken:  Oh no, they were ready.

CJ: In fact, Jimbob had left specific instructions to ask for me personally, per my suggestion, when the driver arrived.  And nobody did.

SP: Okay.

CJ: In fact, I waited around until quarter to six last night, and arrived early at 7am just in case the driver came while we were closed.  I kept an eye out for him, and nobody came.  Jimbob picked the parts up himself this morning, bitching that he'd been charged for several pickups that were never made.

SP: That corroborates what the customer is saying.  Do you, by chance, have surveillance video?

CJ: No, I'm afraid not.

SP: Okay, well, I guess that's all I need for now.

CJ:  If there's any more you need, please give myself or Ken a call.

After a brief tour of our branch, Nancy left, seemingly on a mission.

A week later, I got a call...

CJ: Good afternoon, Moron Industries, Shaun speaking...

JB: Hi Shaun, it's Jimbob.  I'd like to place an order.

Jimbob placed his order and asked us to hold it for pickup.  Remembering the unpleasantness from the previous week, I asked him which courier was picking up.

He laughed.

JB: I've switched over to ButtonFly Courier, they've been pretty reliable.

CJ: Ever get things sorted out with Snailspace?

JB: Oh yeah, they ended up crediting us for the four attempted pickups.  Their manager has been in here a couple of times to win the business back, but I told them basically to fuck off.

CJ: I can't say I blame you, given what happened.  Did they ever figure out what happened?

JB: Apparently they hauled the driver out onto the carpet and grilled him.  They figured out he was lying... He'd actually made pickups in other parts of the city at the times he'd claimed to have been at your location.  Apparently it wasn't the first time they'd had issues with this guy.

CJ: Shit...  anyways, I'll get the guys to pull your order.  Have a good one.

JB:  You too, thanks.

So, ol' Supertanker Steve was canned.  I felt a tad guilty at first, since it was my idea to limit his consumption which lead to the freakout and denial of service in the first place... I gave Ken the news.

Ken:  I'm not surprised.  The guy was an asshole.

CJ: Yeah, but really, what were we out by letting the guy fill his mug?

Ken:  It's my responsibility to make sure there's always coffee for the customers and drivers.  I have to run all the way upstairs to make a new pot, and at my age (CJ's note - he's 62!) it's pretty exhausting.  Frankly, I don't have the time to keep filling the damned thing what with all the work I have to do.

CJ: Yeah, I know, but I still feel a bit guilty...

Ken:  Don't!  I've been wanting to say something to him for a while, but didn't think I had the authority.  I was just waiting for someone to tell me I could...

CJ: Well played, old man, well played...

The preceding story is fictional.

Rather, it was an amalgam of several incidents that played out over the course of my 11-year career here at "Moron Industries".  There really was a "Supertanker Steve", however the real-life "Steve" was quite gracious when we asked him to limit his coffee refills, and was a really friendly guy.  He retired due to health issues in 2008, and is a regular reader of my blog.

Other drivers weren't as gracious, some being downright nasty, when cut off.  We had many arguments with drivers over the "free coffee" which led to the coffee pot's temporary removal a few years ago.  The day I wrote the first installment of this story, we'd just had a blowup with a customer's pickup driver (not an actual courier) over the coffee.  He stormed off in a huff, forgetting the package he'd been sent to pick up.  He did come back a half hour later, without having to be called, feeling rather sheepish.  It was this event that inspired this tale of entitlement.

What bugs me, to this day, is the fact that there's a Tim Hortons location in our parking lot.  If they needed a coffee fix, it's just a 20 second drive away.

Both Frieda and Nancy from "Snailspace" were modelled on real people as well.  Frieda was based on a courier dispatcher I dealt with when I first started at Moron Industries back in 2001 as a warehouse guy/shipper/receiver.   She had the worst disposition ever.  Nancy was based on a particular freight salesperson who used to visit us regularily.  She was all business, no nonsense, and you were always looking to stay on her good side.

My boss has always said "We could write a book about this place", and after writing this small story, I'm convinced he's right.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (conclusion)

Thank God I'm done.

And thank you for putting up with my disjointed and oversimplified ramblings about things I experienced on TV, radio, books, and Wikipedia.

At the time of this writing, it's 9:21pm.  I have been blogging about the Power of We for over twelve hours.  Apart from a walk to 7-Eleven and a couple of bathroom breaks, I've been sitting at this keyboard all day.  I missed a lecture by a famous architect that I wanted to attend.  Not how I pictured myself spending the last day of my vacation.  And what did I get out of Blog Action Day?

Did I bring about change?

Was it positive change?

Did I win?

No, no, and no.

I was never really out to win.  I don't think one can "win" Blog Action Day (I got a couple of retweets for my efforts, though!), and despite participating nearly every year, I don't think one can truly bring about real change by participating.  One can bring raise so-called Awareness of an issue, but I have a number of problems with the current use of that word Awareness in social media and activism... problems I will detail in an upcoming post.

At any rate, I'm not entirely happy with my efforts today.  They weren't bad, but know I can do better.  I dusted off the Prague Spring draft a couple of weeks ago, along with the outline I'd done for Seasons of Change.  But I sat on it until this morning, and the work suffered.

Such is life.

So, what about this Power of We?

I sum it up as follows:

We have the power to effect real change in our lives and situations, but we need to have the courage and the will to speak up.

We need to have the fortitude and strength of conviction to speak louder if we are not heard, and to act if need be.

There is always strength in numbers.

And finally, though the winds of change may blow, they don't always smell pleasant.

Viva la revolucion!

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (part four)

"But just like over there, getting rid of the crooks and turning things around for real will probably require a revolution. Let's hear it for revolution!  The kind of revolution that the people of Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Nicaragua thought was impossible until they actually went out and did it!" - Jello Biafra, If Voting Changed Anything...

The Changing of the Seasons, part four:  Nuclear Winter

One of the things I remember most from my childhood was watching the news.  In 1981, from my privileged vantage point as an eight-year old observer, I got to watch history unfold live on TV.

I never saw coverage of Pope John Paul II's 1979 trip to his native Poland, but being barely six years old at the time, I wouldn't have understood its later significance.

Two years later, however, I got to see the first signs of the fall of Communism.  I got to watch millions of Polish workers organize to form the first non-Communist trade union, the Solidarność trade union, and the government's subsequent declaration (and eventual failure) of Martial Law to stamp it out.

At eight years old, I was just past the Age of Reason.  I began to question.  I asked my parents what was going on, and they did their best to explain it to a mind ordinarily preoccupied with Star Wars toys.  Much like Star Wars, it all came down to good guys against the bad guys.  Only I wasn't quite sure which one was which.  Aren't the army the good guys?  If it's "happening all the way over there, a long ways away in Poland", why is there a Solidarity flag by that big church? (At the Polish club on Main St. at Mountain Ave, kitty-corner to the Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox church)

I watched day after day.  I learned words your average eight-year old shouldn't need to know if he isn't affected by the events: Solidarity, martial law, repression, communist, hunger strike, Lech Walesa, and later, Mehmet Ali Agca...

This was my first conscious experience of the Power of We.

I saw a lot as a kid.  The Iran hostage crisis; the wars in Afghanistan, Central America, and Iran/Iraq; turmoil in Lebanon; assassinations; assassination attempts on the Pope and Ronald Reagan; car bombs killing yankees in Rome; the rise of groups like Hizbollah and Islamic Jihad; the worsening of US/Soviet relations; the bombing of Libya; Korean airliners being shot down; everything.  My favourite homework assignments were the ones involving current events.  But even as a bright elementary school kid, I knew deep down that things were very, very wrong in the world, and had a sense that things might come to a head.

Looking back at the 80s, it wasn't hard to see why the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war.  It didn't help when our own (Western) governments and media engaged in a new Nuclear Red Scare.  We were treated to nuclear holocaust movies such as the UK's Threads, and the US film The Day After.

Thankfully, in 1985, it all started to come to an end.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the head of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union.  Ushering in systemwide reforms like Glasnost and Perestroika had unintended consequences which (while I won't get into them now as it's getting late) led to political liberalization and a weakening of Soviet control over its republics and constituent states.

In 1989, with the stranglehold of Soviet rule loosening ever more, the people in the Soviet states began to rise up.  Poland was first, the workers reconstituting Solidarity, holding elections, and ultimately voting the Communists out.

On the other side of the world, public demonstrations took place in China in Tiananmen Square.  The bloody crackdown that followed made headlines around the world, and gave us some of the most iconic photos of the 20th century.

Hungary followed suit with reform and elections, voting the Communists out.  East Germany came next after a bit of resistance at the top, but ultimately lead to the symbolically important Fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent German Reunification (and more competition in the Bundesliga).

After peaceful protests and a largely nonviolent revolution, the Communists in Czechoslovakia realized what was happening in other Soviet states and saw the writing on the wall.  A new non-Communist government was formed, and one of the figures of the Prague Spring, writer/playwright Vaclav Havel later became president.  The people celebrated in Wenceslas Square, named for St. Wenceslas, the patron Saint of Bohemia (and coincidentally, the saint whose name I took as my Patron upon confirmation).

Bulgaria came next.  The Communist government attempted to suppress popular dissent,  but soon relented...announcing it had abandoned power after a brief period attempting reforms.

Things in Romania weren't easy.  Leader Nicolae Ceausescu was determined to ride it all out, having recently been reelected.  The people rose up, Ceausescu ordered his Securitate forces to shoot to kill.  The army turned coat and joined the people, and the regime toppled.  I still remember seeing news footage of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu's bodies being strung up...

Other republics (Estonia, Latvia, etc) soon followed suit, and the Soviet Union was ultimately dissolved.  The Nuclear Threat was eliminated, and we were a couple of years away from the current terrorist threat.

But you get the idea.

The people took their destiny into their own hands.

This is the Power of We.

(to be continued)

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (part three)

"Rudi said 'We've got to get wise, and we've got to get armed'... Its a surveillance state operation, rich kid with a gun!" - Luke Haines and the Auteurs, aka Baader-Meinhof

The Changing of the Seasons, part three:  The German Autumn

The Power of We has its ugly side, too.

The protests of the late 60s weren't all flowers, beads, and peace, man!  They could get ugly.  Growing impatient due to a perceived lack of progress (or social change) of peaceful protest , and with authorities and governments cracking down (often violently) on peaceful protests, some groups of protesters took matters into their own hands.

Some groups, such as the Youth International Party ("Yippies"), resorted to civil disobedience, pranks, petty crime, and minor sabotage.

Other groups mobilized, grew more and more militant, got armed, radicalized, and attacked.

You've probably heard of such radical groups as the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and the Black Panthers.  Many such groups existed or still exist, in some way shape, or form.

One that has always stood out for me was the Baader-Meinhof group, known by their formal name, the Red Army Faction.  Apart from my love of all things German, I was originally drawn to study the RAF by the writings of the group's half-namesake, Ulrike Meinhof.  While researching radical groups from the 1970s, I came across an article titled "The Urban Guerilla Concept", written by Meinhof and translated from the original in German.

I read the article.  Then I re-read it.  I was equally intrigued and horrified by what she had to say, what went through her head, how the group related (and responded) to their contemporaries in the "struggle".  I was so intrigued that, when I heard that her book Everyone Talks About the Weather... We Don't had been released recently in English, I hopped the first bus downtown to pick it up.

The book was a fascinating read.  It truly gave a sense of her (and later, the group's) reasons, motivations, and of the sociopolitical states of Germany(s) at the time.  It was certainly a lot different from other radical texts I'd read, from the disturbing Anarchists Cookbook, the near-comedy of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, and the hundreds of poorly written textfiles I'd gotten from BBSes and the net.  These people were serious...

...and fucking scary.

I won't go into details as to the group's roots, motivations, and history (and those of its many offshoots and successor "generations"), suffice it to say, they were responsible for a wave of bank robberies, bombings, kidnappings, hostage-taking, and murder that lasted nearly thirty years.  The RAF's activities peaked in the mid-70s with the deaths of its founding members and the subsequent events of the German Autumn, with less and less activity in the following years.

What truly frightened me was that, at one point, the group had the approval and (tacit) support of a quarter of the West German population for a few years, identifying with their struggle against Western (American) Imperialism.

Condoning death, destruction, and extrajudicial killing in the name of social and political change.

What change was wrought?

Was it positive change?

Did you win?

This is the ugly side of the Power of We.

(To be continued)

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (part two)

"If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair" - Scott McKenzie

The Changing of the Seasons, part two:  The Summer of Love

Cold War interests notwithstanding, what really interests me is music, both as entertainment and also as a means of communication, of propaganda, of getting the message out.

As a young man, I was attracted to Punk.  It was loud, harsh, and in most cases, very political.  I was especially into the Dead Kennedys and through them, I discovered (former) lead singer Jello Biafra's spoken word albums.  Jello's frank talk on topics such as censorship, politics, the media, and activism are what inspired me to take up writing (and to attend the odd protest and public meeting)!  I started writing in 1994 and haven't looked back (although I have grown up a lot).

Before I discovered Punk, though, I was into Rap.  In my late teens, I'd gotten tired of the insipid crap they played on the Top 40 stations.  Sure, there were the oldies, sports, and country music stations, but there wasn't much out there that would interest a bored but searching teen.  I bought or borrowed a few rap albums, but nothing really grabbed me.  It seemed like it was the same pop crap repackaged for a different demographic.  That is, until I discovered Public Enemy.

Public Enemy were labelled "The Black Panthers of Rap", and with good reason.  Most (if not all) their material dealt with issues facing (and I hesitate to use this term) the African-American demographic: racism, poverty, addictions, slavery, and street gang activity.  The liner notes in one Public Enemy album summed it up best, "Rap is the black man's CNN".  PE turned me on to other similar acts, and it really opened my eyes to issues that really, in a so-called civilized society, should not still exist. 

I saw it for what it was: a rallying cry... although as a white man, not one particularily meant for me.  I cut myself adrift, and floated until I could find my own voice.  After a period of searching, I discovered Punk and subsequently the alternative music scene and ultimately, Lollapalooza.  This music drove my dad nuts, while Jello Biafra's spoken word material (particularily the political stuff) drove my mom nuts.

I used to joke that, over the course of my childhood, I was constantly subjected to their music, which in turn drove me nuts!

My parents were young-ish when I was born in early 1973.  Dad was almost 23, mom was nearly 20.  They grew up in the 50s and 60s, and naturally their musical tastes were centred around this era.  I grew up listening to corny songs about where in Philadelphia the hippies met, what to wear when travelling to San Francisco (flowers in your hair, apparently), and protest songs about how many were dead in Ohio.

As I got older, I began to realize that maybe these corny songs had a message of their own.  The more I listened, the more I reflected on events and sentiments of the era...  postwar consumerism, anti-authoritarianism, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the Free Love movement, this cornball music was the hippies' CNN, galvanized during the Summer of Love and culminating in 1969 at Woodstock.

I realized these songs weren't just singing about events, they were inspiring events, motivating people, fuelling protests, and inspiring change.

It was the voice of my parents' generation, and a testament to the Power of We.

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (part one)

"The leaders' mistaken policies transformed a political party and an alliance based on ideas into an organization for exerting power, one that proved highly attractive to power-hungry individuals eager to wield authority, to cowards who took the safe and easy route, and to people with bad conscience.  The influx of members such as these affected the character and behavior of the party, whose internal arrangements made it impossible, short of scandalous incidents, for honest members to gain influence and adapt it continuously to modern conditions." - Ludvik Vaculik, The Two Thousand Words

The Changing of the Seasons, part one: Spring

It started, as it always does, with economic stagnation.  Soon followed political stagnation, then economic decline. 

Jobs were lost, the standard of living got gradually lower and lower, leading to mass poverty.

There was talk of reform.  The talk was quickly stifled.

We complained.  We questioned.

We were given no answers.

We demanded answers from the powers that be.

We were told to shut up.  Dissent will be dealt with harshly.

We contacted friends, who contacted friends, who contacted friends.

By radio, by phone, by samizdat, by social media, we organized.

We gathered.

We took to the streets.

We were told to go home.

We got louder.

We got noticed, by both the right and wrong people.

Friends and allies were imprisoned or disappeared.

Rights and civil liberties were taken away.

We were branded enemies of the state.  Agents of the West.

We marched on.

We got louder..

The crackdown came swiftly.  The rights that remained were stripped away.

With the world behind us, we fought back.

We bled, we died.

We wrought change.

But was it positive change?

Did we win?

The original title for this draft was Prague Spring, and it was to be the first part of a larger five-part work on political change.  I wrote it back in 1997, inspired by Jello Biafra, and it was to set the tone for a new online magazine I was planning.  As with most of my grandiose and overthought ideas, I realized I couldn't do it alone and sought the support of a few similarily-minded people I knew online.  It was a good idea, but internal squabbling over the magazine's direction lead to it being a non-starter.  The irony is, had I been willing to relinquish a bit of editorial control, listened to others' concerns and criticisms, and loosened up the subject framework a little, it would have worked... perhaps well.  Art imitating life?

A lot happened during the intervening 15 years since it was written.  First was the realization that I'd been confusing the 1968 Prague Spring with the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, which blows the whole "Seasons" theme to Hell if taken chronologically (you'll understand later).  They started out largely the same, had different levels of violence, lost the battle when the Soviets intervened, but ultimately won the war when Communism fell in the late 80s.

Second was my discovery of two more "Springs", in keeping with the seasonal theme.  The Beijing Spring of 1977, which was largely centred around freedom of speech, and the Croatian Spring of 1967, which started out as a means to preserve the Croatian language and evolved into a Croatian rights movement.  I won't get into these now, but will save them for a later installment.

Third were the events of the recent Arab Spring, which started in response to police corruption and brutality in Tunisia, and quickly spread to other nations in (and out of) the Arab world.  Thousands took to the streets to protest corrupt or brutal regimes, poverty, the standard of living, etc.

Dictators and leaders stepped down or fled.  Some were ousted.  Others, like Moammer Qaddafi, were killed.  But still others listened to the demands of their people, and conceded reforms.

Some battles were won.  Women in Saudi Arabia were granted the right to vote, regimes changed and elections held in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Some battles are far from over, with Syria being plunged into a civil war, and Libya left in chaos.  Resolutions seem a long way off, and the fight continues.

So, while change has been wrought, and some of it positive change, did we win?

(To be continued)

Blog Action Day: The Power of We (Intro)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it - George Santayana

When I heard that the topic for this year's Blog Action Day was "The Power of We", I was reminded of a magazine article I'd read some years ago.

Those of us old enough to remember Spin Magazine might also remember an "alternative" music festival called Lollapalooza.  It was the Woodstock of Generation X!  In 1992 (Good Lord, was it really twenty years ago?!), during the buildup to the event, Spin ran a "Lollapalooza Survival Guide", advising us disaffected and impressionable young adults what to wear, what to bring, and why.

One of the items on the list was deodorant.  Going through the whys and wherefores, the author of the piece (whose name escapes me) wrote something to the effect of "Your dreams of a unified front raising their fists in unison might seem like a good idea now, but wait until the wind changes!".

I remember laughing at the thought, until I realized the author was dead serious... and unfortunately, he or she likely spoke from experience.

I'm a history buff and, as my regular readers know, I am fascinated by different (and obsolete) means of communications.  But what many of you don't know is that I have also studied (informally, of course) military history and psychological warfare extensively, and I am also a collector of 20th century propaganda.

Such as this original Idi Amin shirt from the 70s

As a small kid in the mid-to-late 1970s, I was enthralled by the news on TV.  I experienced (second-hand) the turmoil and resulting paranoia of worldwide terrorist attacks, hijackings of airlines, bombings, Middle East tensions, hostage taking, OPEC and soaring gas prices, and the excitement of protest and revolution.  All of which continued (while I watched) into the 80s, then the 90s, then the new millennium, and continues to this day.

As a kid, however, I didn't truly understand what was happening right before my eyes.  All I saw was guns, planes, bombs, hostages, artillery, and most importantly, explosions... it was all just another TV (or alt-rock) show, and what a show it was!

It wasn't until much later that I learned about the human cost of the spectacle.

Today, as my Blog Action Day post, I'd like to share with you a multipart piece I started years ago entitled "The Changing of the Seasons".  I'll be posting throughout the day, following up with a post that ties everything (from Lollapalooza to propaganda) together in a relevant manner.

We'll be back after this commercial break...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Blue Balls, or Il Ritorno del Bastardo

So, I'm back a tad early.  Nine months early, to be exact.

I had a few privacy-related concerns that needed to be addressed immediately, and now that the leak is plugged (and welded shut) and the persons responsible taken to task, I decided to stick around.

That's the official story, anyway.  The truth is, I'm getting blue balls from all the pent up creative juices within.

During my (nearly) three months away, I've been keeping a written journal of little interest to you.  I've also been keeping a project log on a certain public access Unix system, but it hasn't satisfied.

Rather than drive Jillian insane with my incessant monologues, I'm cutting my hiatus short.

Let the juices flow.

* I also heard that Eintracht Braunschweig are currently at the top of the 2. Bundesliga, and want to listen to their games live on

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Well, I've run out of things to say.

As of July 1st of this year, I am taking a year-long sabbatical from all things Internet.  Not even gonna log on once.  Even cancelled the data plan on my Blackberry.  I am just plain bugging out.

I'd like to tell you that I'm doing this because I want to spend time with the missus, starting our family, fixing the house, and working on my many dozens of projects (podcasts, book, cars, renovations, directed energy weapons, etc).  I'd like to, but I'd be lying.

Truth told, I am sick of the internet and need some time away.

I'm sorry, internet.  It's not you, it's me.


** Update **

A friend of mine just sent me an email, joking that it didn't really matter, since my blog ceased being relevant a long time ago.  I disagreed, saying my blog was never relevant!  ;)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Conceited Jerk Exercise Program

So, I've joined in the 30 Days of Creativity fun.

The idea is to do something creative each day for thirty days.  Yesterday, I created a small controversy when I announced that I was giving the Internet up for an entire year, starting July 1st.

The idea isn't without precedent.  I've done it before (2008-2009).  Well, I gave up Hi-speed internet for a year... I still had a free dial-up shell account that I used in "emergencies", but more on the whys, wherefores, and motivations in a later post.

Today's creative endeavour is twofold: a drink recipe and a related exercise program.

Jillian and I had agreed that, once the weather warmed up, we'd start taking evening strolls again.  When we first started living together, we'd go for an after-dinner walk every other day.  For one reason or another (the scenery in West Kildonan gets old fast, we bought a car, etc), we stopped this practice.

Now that the weather is nice, and both spirit and flesh are willing, we began the practice anew.  Today, for the year's inaugural stroll, we walked to Kildonan Park.  It was a pretty good indicator of how out of shape we really were, as halfway through the park, my hips started to ache, and Jillian was getting dehydrated.  With the Sun beaming down on us, I remembered why we preferred evening strolls as opposed to afternoon strolls...

Suffice it to say, we were exhausted when we returned home.  After a light, cool dinner, I decided to make myself a drink.  Turning to my dusty, long-neglected liquor cabinet, I thought about what I'd make.

French-style Pernod?  Nah, I'm sick of that.

Sazerac?  It's not Sunday morning!  (An old ritual, explained on a long-deleted blog post I should re-post.)

Brandy & Benedictine?  Had one last night.

You know, I haven't made myself a Martini in ages...

In fact, it had been so long since I'd made myself a Martini, I'd forgotten my personal, top-secret Martini recipe... the same recipe I'd used every day after dinner for three years (twice a day on weekends).  I remembered the basic ingredients, but not the ratios.  Irrelevant, really, as I was missing a key ingredient...

So, rather than give up on the idea, I threw together a new recipe that was close to the original, but with a couple slight changes.  Here's what I used:

2.5 oz.  Bombay Sapphire gin  (I usually use Plymouth Gin, but had none on hand)
1 oz.  Martini & Rossi Dry vermouth  (Sweet vermouth should be saved for Vodka Martinis)
1 splash  Pimm's No. 1 Cup  (or to taste)
1 dash  green Chartreuse (I usually use two drops of Angostura Bitters, but had none on hand)

- Crush the ice in your preferred manner (I use my Art Deco crank-style manual ice crusher, or a Zip-Loc bag and hammer in a pinch)
- Fill a cocktail shaker half-full of the aforementioned crushed ice
- Add, in this order, the gin, Pimm's, vermouth, and Chartreuse (or bitters)
- Put the lid on the shaker and make sure it is sealed.
- Shake the mixture VIGOUROUSLY for 20-30 seconds
- Strain into a large Martini glass
- Drink while it's still cold

The thrown-together concoction wasn't bad, but not as good as I'd remembered my original recipe to be.  The Chartreuse added a different flavour, and overpowered the Pimm's No. 1 Cup (which is a Gin-based liqueur) to the point I couldn't taste it.  Using Bombay Sapphire instead of my usual Plymouth gin also imparted a slightly spicier taste to the drink.

Result?  If my personal recipe was a ten, this would be a six... maybe a seven.  Still, not bad for something I threw together.

As for the exercise program...

Shortly after shaking the mixture, my shoulders and abdomen started to hurt... Shaking the cocktail was a bit of a workout, and I'm a tad out of shape.  To get back into shape, I devised the following exercise routine:

Using one's favourite recipe, make a Martini
Shake the Hell out of it for 20-30 seconds
(3-4 reps, more if desired)

After a few reps, you won't care if you're fat and/or out of shape.  Keep it up, and you'll be a drunken Schwarzenegger in no time flat!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

These (Jack)Boots Are Made For Walkin'

When we left our hero last episode, he was discussing his planned child-rearing techniques with his amused (and horrified) coworkers.  Let's tune in to hear how the story unfolds...

Boss:  Al-Jazeera?!  Are you trying to teach them to blow things up?

CJ: Al-Jazeera isn't the "Terrorists' HGTV", you know.  It has some of the best reporting in the world, much better than the party-mouthpieces our newsrooms have become.

Boss:  Oh, I know.

CJ:  We'll still watch the evening news, but I want them to have an international perspective, too.  I've found Al-Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, and the BBC provide just that.

Boss:  But they're kids!  Why not let them watch kids shows?

CJ: No!  They must be indoctrinated young!

Boss:  (speechless)

CJ: (laughs)  Of course they'll watch children's programming, too.  We really don't want them to be exposed to the violent nature of the world, via the news, until they're mature enough to handle it.

Boss:  Yeah, why scar them for life?

CJ:  Our plan is simple.  We want our kids to enjoy childhood, but tempered with a good education, discipline, and better morals.

Boss:  Good idea.  Kids these days grow up too fast.

CJ:  No, they don't.  They're simply leveling the playing field.

Boss: What do you mean?

CJ:  With more and more adults behaving and dressing like spoiled teenagers, they're simply meeting us in the middle.

... and that's about where the exchange ended.  I'll be expanding on that last statement in a later post.

It's been a week since our wedding.

 Photo credit:  Susan Felbel

Jillian and I were married last Saturday at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, and it was a great ceremony with only a couple of minor hiccups.  The reception that followed was a very low-key alcohol-free event without boring speeches, awkward first dances, or presentation.

Hell, we didn't even have a head table!  Instead, Jillian and I wanted to be seated among our guests, rather than looking down on them from our lofty perch.  We mingled, spent time at each table, and more importantly spent time with our guests.  We had a buffet-style dinner with what we described as North End soul food: perogies, meatballs, garlic sausage, sauerkraut rolls, ham, cheese, etc, which really seemed to go over well with our guests.

The guests were mostly family and close friends, including a couple of local bloggers and Winnipeg forum members whom I've really gotten to know over the last few years.

My parents surprised us with an unexpected gift:  they rented us the Honeymoon Suite at the Four Points By Sheraton hotel by the airport... which, I might add, is rather nice.  Apart from a mix-up with parking (my fault), it was a beautiful way to cap off the evening.

Now that the wedding is out of the way, we're concentrating on having kids ('cause I'm not getting any younger).  Jillian prefers a more scientific approach, with ovulation detectors, basal body temperature thermometers, etc.  My preferred method is more akin to carpet bombing: drop enough bombs and you'll eventually take out your target.  I'll spare you the details.

Suffice it to say, the next couple of years will be interesting...

Speaking of interesting:  As most of you already know, Walter at One Man Committee has called it quits.  I'd link to his erstwhile blog, but he's deleted it.  Which is too bad, as he wrote some pretty insightful stuff about Winnipeg and urban planning, subjects near and dear to my heart, and now we're unable to revisit his backcatalogue.

I'm hoping someone else comes along who can fill his shoes.  Sure, there are a number of blogs about Winnipeg and urban issues, but by and large, they're filled with bile and snark.

Here's hoping.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Pitter-Patter (er, goosestep) of Little Feet

The big day is just over two weeks away.

With Wedding preparations going smoothly (almost too smooth), it is almost fait accompli in most of our family & friends' eyes.

Talk then centered first on our honeymoon (Boston & Worcester, and New York), then inevitably onto children.

As I've mentioned before, we're planning on having a few kids (again, as previously mentioned, we've already named the first four)... doin' that big ol' Catholic family thing.

Discussions among our respective coworkers couldn't be more different;  Jillian's coworkers have a pool going, taking bets on how long after the Wedding it'll take for us to get pregnant.  Mine are taking bets to see when the first of our children is arrested on terrorism charges.

I an only imagine getting a call from their elementary school...

Principal:  Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, this is Principal Oakley at Good Shepherd Elementary.  We have a bit of a problem.

CJ: Oh?  What have they done this time?!

Principal:  It appears little Rachel and Siobhan have taken over the gymnasium again and are holding their teacher and classmates hostage.  We'd like you to come in as a negotiator.

CJ: We don't negotiate with terrorists!  I did warn you, at our last parent-teacher meeting, about making them jump rope.  You know damned well they see the skipping rope as a symbol of male oppression...

All kidding aside, it seems as though everyone has ideas and suggestions in regards to child-rearing.  Everyone has advice on what to do, and what to expect.  My usual response is a condescending look and a curt "Remember, these are mine & Jill's kids we're speaking of," at which point the person giving me advice has a frightened look of realization come across their face.

If you've been following my online missives over the last twenty years, you'll know I'm not exactly... er.. sane.  I'm given to bouts of distemper, megalomania, outright sociopathy, and occasional cartoon supervilliany.  I've been studying war and warfare throughout the ages, enjoy a good PsyOps exploit, and I used to leave a copy of the CIA Field Interrogation Manual on my desk when interviewing potential new employees.

Jillian was crowned Canadian Debating Champion in high school (for your own sake, don't ever call her a "master debater"), is as stubborn as I am, and also has a mean streak a mile wide.  She's also tough as nails.

To top it off, we're both fucking brilliant.

My office mates and I were talking about kids today... and the end of the conversation went something like this:

Boss:  (singing "The Wheels on the Bus")... You knooow, it's only a matter of time 'til you start singing these songs..!

CJ: My children will hear no such thing.

Boss:  Ooooh, I'm sure they wiiiillll...

CJ:  Not if I have anything to say about it.

Boss:  You'll be watching Barney the purple dinosaur before you know it!

CJ:  Fuck that!  My idea of quality children's programming is Al-Jazeera!

The boss was speechless.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A New Direction

Image Credit: Conceited Jerk 2012

Always looking for new ways to express myself, I have been exploring the Typosphere of late.

The Typosphere, because I know you're wondering, is a community of bloggers who use typewriters to write their blog entries, then scan the typed pages & post 'em to their blog.

Being a fan of keeping older technologies useful in this day and age, naturally I jumped at the chance to join this community.  After a week of scouring the used sites and thrift stores, I happened upon an Empire Aristocrat portable typewriter for $15... with the appropriate ribbon being had for $10 on eBay.

My first typewritten post was uploaded to Conceited Jerk Dot Com as part of my entry in the 2012 Retrochallenge Winter Warmup (my typing skills have improved greatly since then).  Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to further delve into the Typosphere (I am preparing for my wedding next month, after all!), but will be incorporating typewritten elements into Conceited Jerk Dot Com's Tenth Anniversary redesign this summer.

I'm taking the main site in a whole new direction (which is why I've blown so many deadlines).  No longer relegated to being Conceit & Sociopathy's supplementary blog, the site will now showcase my less commercial creative works and experiments in media... and, of course, to follow my life's goal of taking advantage of anything as a publishing medium!

Some of my plans include:

  •  A 10th Anniversary rewrite of my infamous handwritten title page and 404 message.
  • Further development of Mobile CJ
  • Public Disservice Podcast
  • A blog post carved/chiseled into a stone tablet (I'm serious!)
  • The "Dead Tree Edition", a mechanical experiment in presentation and storytelling
  • Dot Matrix art
  • Honest-to-God cave painting with handmade clay paint (again, serious!)
Not to mention a few things done using old computers.  Pointless?  Probably, but then so is the rest of the Internet when you get right down to it.

The next few months are gonna be a blast!  Hope you're up for the ride.

**UPDATE 04/11/12**

I've noticed a lot of traffic from visiting the main site (probably checking to see if I really have been around for ten years, lol).  One thing I'd like to point out is that I only registered the domain in 2006.  If you're looking for earlier (2002 - 2006) iterations of the site, search under the URL*/  You're welcome.  Oh, and I'll apologize in advance for my heavy use of the unreadable Haettenschweiler font on certain pages... it looked good at the time!

Monday, March 26, 2012

On Good Stewardship and the Mixing of Vices, part II

Flushed with enthusiasm from my previous successes, I tried my hand at infusing a few more cigars with different types of alcohol.

This time around, I chose brandy.

One cigar each, infused with Meukow Vanilla Cognac, Napoleon VSOP Brandy, or McGuinness Cherry Brandy.  I used the same method as before:  soaked a cotton makeup pad with the appropriate spirit, threw it into a Ziploc bag, placed a dried-out cigar in the bag, sealed it, and let it sit for a few days.

This time around, the cigars were forgotten over the course of our busy week.  I remembered about them this morning while getting ready for work... when I opened the bags, the cigars were quite damp and squishy!

I figured the best way to dry them out would be by placing them into my humidor with the balance of my dried-out cigars.  Let the dried-out ones absorb some of the excess moisture from the newly-infused ones... how symbiotic.

It worked.

I tried the one infused with Vanilla Cognac on my lunch break today.  It was heavenly... at least it was until I dropped the cigar halfway through.

Ah well, plenty more where that came from.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Dream is Dead.

My other blog, The Speakeasy, has closed its doors for good.

I originally started the blog a few years ago to document my garage renovations.  The original plan was to convert my disused garage into a four-season gazebo, complete with fireplace, skylights, HVAC system, and wet bar!  I wasn't driving, and my '86 Daytona inside the garage was completely undrivable, so The Speakeasy seemed to be the perfect idea.

At the time, I was living it up as a bachelor and was looking for a place to throw the kind of parties I wanted to attend myself... laid-back, sophisticated affairs with premium cigars, great drinks, good company, and plenty of outre-lounge music.

The fact that I could do it fairly inexpensively was the icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, the world being what it is, The Speakeasy never came to fruition.  Suffering a number of financial setbacks (and tanking investments) saw the project's start date pushed further and further back, until it lost priority altogether.

Then I reconnected with Jillian, got engaged, and bought a SUV... realizing we needed somewhere to park the thing, we reclaimed the garage, effectively killing the project for good.

While we could renovate the house to accomodate the sort of grown-up parties we'd love to throw, we're also looking at moving in a year or so... meaning the project would be unfeasible.  The dream is dead.

So tonight, I'll be raising a glass to what might have been.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

On Good Stewardship and the Mixing of Vices

Those of you following my escapades on Twitter and Facebook know I've been experimenting this weekend.

It was a slow workday afternoon last Friday.  The phones weren't ringing, the emails were nonexistant, and the fax machine was quiet.  Even the weekend warrior walk-ins were few and far between!  This made the afternoon drrrrraaaaaagggg.

I'd read all my favourite blogs, exhausted Twitter and Facebook, and even made sure my work was up to date.  With little else to do, and with my sanity nearing its end, I opted to go for a walk.  Grabbing my sunglasses off my cigar humidor, I wondered aloud if I had any cigars left.  To my delight, I had two!

I'd neglected to refill the sponge in the humistat for quite some time, so the humidor was slightly less than humid... the inside was sitting at 20% humidity.  Not exactly conducive to keeping one's cigars fresh.

I figured "What the Hell", grabbed the older cigar of the two, borrowed my coworker Nick's lighter, and walked outside.

The cigar was horribly dried out.  I carefully trimmed the end off with my trimmer, making sure to work slowly, so the end didn't disintegrate and unravel the works.  No problem there.

The cigar was pretty harsh, burned a bit too hot and fast for my liking, but it was a welcome relief from the tedium inside the office.

I was out there for about half an hour.  A few of the guys saw me outside and decided to have their smoke breaks with me.  Our camaraderie was great!

While I was out there, I wondered if there were ways to reconstitute or rehydrate dried out cigars.  A few suggestions (and encouragement) came courtesy of Facebook, so I took some of the ideas and, after searching for answers on Google, I ran with them.

When I got home that evening, I grabbed a couple of the dried-out Rafael Gonzales' I had in my living room humidor.  They had been in a nearly bone-dry humidor for the better part of a year!  Figuring I had nothing to lose, I grabbed two for experimentation purposes, along with a flask full of Wild Turkey bourbon (which had probably been in there a couple of years).

One of the solutions I found was to soak a cotton ball with water, put it in a ziploc bag with a dried out cigar, and seal the bag (making sure the two don't touch).  The tobacco in a cigar is highly absorbent, and will slowly draw the water from the cotton ball.

Another solution was to pour a bit of brandy (or whiskey, cognac, etc) into a glass and to dip the end of the cigar into it.  A third proposed pouring water (or your alcohol of choice) into a shotglass and leaving it in a humidor with your cigars.

Not wanting to risk all the cigars in the humidor, I combined the first two solutions.  As we didn't have any cotton balls in the house, I grabbed a couple of Jillian's cotton makeup removal pads... just like cotton balls, but flat.  I soaked two of 'em in the bourbon, and threw 'em in the ziploc bag, not bothering to wring them out.  I carefully placed the cigars into the bag and sealed it up, making sure the cigars and cotton pads weren't touching.  I put the bags up on my old radio and left them alone for the weekend.

Fast forward to this morning.

Deciding that the cigars had had ample time to absorb the bourbon, I removed them from the bag.  Whew... they smelled like year-old Wild Turkey alright!  I put the cigars into my portable humidor and threw that into my lunchbox.  My lunch break couldn't come fast enough!

When it did, I excitedly scurried outside, trimmed the end of the cigar, and lit it.

Was it worth the effort?  It was indeed!  I was rewarded with one of the best cigars I have ever had the pleasure of smoking.

Pictured:  Happy CJ.

It was also a Hell of a lot of fun being creative with things I'd have normally thrown away.  The cigars would have been tossed, and the bourbon would have been used to unclog my sink.

So, with eight or so more cigars still in the non-humid humidor, and with a full liquor cabinet, I'm going to repeat the experiment with different spirits.

Tonight's attempt will be infusing another Rafael Gonzales cigar with cherry brandy, one with vanilla Cognac, and another with Glenfiddich Scotch.  I'll hopefully have more good news to report.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Baiting the Trap

Oh man...

I really have to check the stats page of my blog more often, it's mildly amusing.  The search terms that lead people to my blog are... interesting.

I feel like a Trapdoor Spider lying in wait... and this is the bait I use to lure unsuspecting passersby to my corner of the Blogosphere:

andrea spinks  (aka Nadia, a British porn actress & model.  Nadia is also the nickname of my Powerbook Lombard)

image of a rock 

images of a rock
picture of a rock   (must be all those geology-related posts I did back in the day)

jennifer aniston nude in wonderland

jennifer aniston nude pic wunderland

jennifer aniston nude pics and wonderland  (a little something I posted years ago to prove a point)
model 100
model t    (one of my favourite portable computers of all time)
Makes me wonder what other kinds of tag-bastardry I can do.

Heh heh heh...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don't Play Tetris With Your Life.

I turned 39 a month ago.

Ordinarily, this wouldn't mean much to me at all.  Age is just a number, right?  I sure as Hell thought so, at least until this past Monday.  So what changed?

I looked in the mirror...

... and for the first time, I didn't see a snide, know-it-all, jaded twentysomething staring back at me.

Instead, I saw a man in the prime of his life.

So, I had a conversation with this man.

"CJ," my mirror image began, "I have something to tell you."

"Oh, do ya?", I said, plagiarizing Cherenkov.

"Yeah," he continued, "Don't play Tetris with your life."

I sat there with a dumb look on my face.  I probably drooled a bit.  But I think I knew what he meant.

"Do you understand," he asked, "Or do I need to spell it out for you?"

A bit more drool.

"You're stuck in this narrow playing field you've created for yourself," he berated, "and you have so many things going on.  You're twisting and turning yourself and your schedule, trying to fit them all in, and all the while more and more things keep coming at you.  They're piling up and piling up, but no matter how fast you work, no matter how well you fit things in, they'll eventually overwhelm you... then it's gave over."

"Game... over?" I stammered.

"You ain't no spring chicken, CJ," he pointed out rather pointedly, "and given your family history and current lifestyle, it's Game Over... and you're out of quarters."

At which point, the phone rang and I snapped back to reality.

My first thought was, "Why did it have to be Tetris?  Couldn't he have picked Soko-Ban?  I was good at Soko-ban!"

But point taken.

It's time to shift priorities.  I'm making a number of changes in my life, dropping some things and focusing on what's important... and what's most important is marriage.

Yes, the big day is just over two months away and things need to be finalized.  We also have to get the house in shape so we can receive guests after the big event, and also to make room for any children we're blessed with.  No small order, to be sure.  I also want more time to concentrate on blogging and improving my writing because...

I'm also writing a book.

Part autobiography, part societal observation, and part made-up bullshit, its (working) title is "Fuck, You're an Idiot!".

Some of it will be content rehashed from this blog, recycled from my backcatalogue of even earlier writing, some will be material from my upcoming podcast, and some will be freshly excreted.  Hoping to have it written by the middle of next year.

Speaking of the podcast, I'm now looking at a mid-March launch date.  Gotta finish a few things before I can make this a priority.

Things will be quiet here on C&S for the next couple of weeks, and I'm hoping to have something to show you all when I return.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Conceited Jerk's Valentine Wish to his Readership.

Happy Valentine's Day to all my friends, readers, search engine crawlers, and spambots.

Much like life, Valentine's Day is what you make of it.  To a romantic, it's the culmination of a year's worth of love.  To a cynic, it's a meaningless marketing event, making money off of gullible, lovestruck fools and the duty-bound husbands of bridezillas.

To which category do you belong?

I used to belong to the latter.  I admit it.  I saw Valentine's Day as the biggest ripoff ever, sentiment being cynically exploited by the greeting card, florist, and confectioners lobby.  If you truly love someone, why do you need one specific day a year to show it?  Why do you need to spend a ton of money doing it?

Do you know what made me switch?

It was reemphasising those very questions.

Why do you need one specific day?  Why do you need to spend a ton of money?

The fact of the matter is, you don't.  Love comes from the heart, not the wallet, not the store.  Love is eternal, not seasonal, not dictated by the calendar.  Valentine's Day can be a meaningless marketing event, if you make it such.  It can also be something meaningful, if you make it such.

For us romantics, it's an excuse to be sickeningly lovey-dovey and to go all-out.  I'm looking forward to spending time with Jillian tonight, cooking her dinner, working on our wedding invitations, and stressing the foundations of the house.  It's all about spending time with (not money on) the one you love.

So, to all you cynics out there, I say this:

Pull your head out of your ass, and tell someone you love them.
It won't kill you.
(Jealous spouses notwithstanding)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Due to Illness, the part of CJ will be played by... CJ.

Well, that failed miserably!

Okay, it wasn't that bad.  My first attempt at audience participation and collaboration ended in slight disappointment.  While I did indeed receive a number of submissions from readers, none really fit.

There were a couple of very well-written pieces on the American presidential race, a few on our own Canadian political scene, the comparative microcosm of Winnipeg City Hall, and even an essay on the recent Planned Parenthood funding issue.  Great topics all, but not for Conceit & Sociopathy.  I've encouraged the writers to start their own blogs, as I'm certain they'd do well.

I also received a number of submissions that can only be described as abusive, but after twenty-plus years of Usenet posting, it rolled right off my back.  Apart from the pictures of a rock and a stool sample (as mentioned last post), I was also treated to a picture of a child with Down's Syndrome, which I did not find funny.  Both were submitted by a user with a disposable Gmail account.  I advised the submitter to go back to the Winnipeg Free Press and CBC comments section until they grow up.

So, while the idea didn't quite work the way I'd hoped, I may try it again sometime in the future.  As every exagerratedly proud man knows, when life knocks you off your (high) horse, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the saddle.

Now, for my next trick...

Work on the podcast, Public Disservice, is coming along.  Still have a walking tour, a bit of writing, and a bit of organizing to do.  I'm trying to work on my breathing and cadence as well, so I don't run out of breath & gasp for air between sentences.  Working with a diminished lung capacity certainly doesn't help... neither does this cold I can't seem to shake.

It's been an interesting experience nonetheless, certainly different from my other works in terms of presentation.  When writing for magazines, blogs, and webpages (other than my own), I never really concerned myself with presentation.  I just wrote whatever I was writing off the top of my head (I never use outlines), checked spelling and grammar, reworded when necessary, and let the layout people deal with the rest.

For me, audio production is trickier.  Hitherto unknown territory for me, I find myself having to think in three dimensions.  As mentioned before, I'm working on my breathing and cadence, but also on keeping the tone of my voice consistent, while trying to stay on topic.  To help with that, I'm learning to work off an outline for the first time ever.  I thought about writing a script and reading off of that, but then it'd sound like I'm reading from a script, and I'd rather like to avoid that if possible.

My final issue is one of episode length.  While I have enough planned to keep me talking for a couple of hours, it won't leave me anything for the next episodes.  Right now I'm leaning toward a half-hour run time.

At any rate, the premiere episode of Public Disservice will rear its ugly head near the end of February, and will be announced here on Conceit & Sociopathy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Due to Illness, the Part of CJ will be played by ... a rock.

Guest submission by:  anonymous
Blog URL:  n/a

Today the part of CJ will be played by this rock it has a better personality but u shouldn't notice much differnce.

(CJ's note:  I'm only posting this because it made me laugh.  The anonymous submitter also included a second photo of a stool sample, which I've opted not to post.  From here on in, serious submissions only, please.  Surely we can do better..?)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Due to Illness, the part of CJ will be played by...

... YOU! 


Looks as though I've caught the nasty virus Jillian had, meaning I'm going to be bedridden for the next few days.  This is going to cut into my blogging and forum-trolling time, as well as push back the release of the inaugural episode of my podcast a week.  It'll probably affect my day job too, but that's largely unimportant to the proceedings.

Just like any good daily soap opera (is there such a thing?), the show must go on... so I am currently looking for "guest stars", an ersatz CJ or two.  Or three.  Or eight.  Special preference given to local Winnipeg bloggers, but Hell, I'll take anybody if the submission is somewhat close to adequate!

If you're interested in filling in here on Conceit & Sociopathy, please email me your submissions (remove the gutteral scream to reply) with the following info:

1. Your name (or alias)
2. Your blog or website address, if applicable(I'll link to both at the beginning of each post)
3. Your submission(s), complete with text, pictures, etc.

That's pretty much it, really.  You can pretend to be me, you can pretend to be yourself, you can write about the same kind of crap I write, or you could do something out of character for this blog and write something intelligent.  Write once, or even a few times for the next week or so.  Either way, I'll read all submissions.

The only real guidelines I have are:

1. Keep the language (and content) fairly clean.  I don't mind a bit of vulgarity, but let's not go overboard.

2. Don't attack others, unless it's in obvious jest.  Self-depreciation is encouraged to an extent.

3. Make some attempt at humour.

4. Take it easy on the formatted text or HTML.  Try to submit articles in plain text when possible.

All submissions will remain your own, free to be posted wherever and whenever you see fit.

There's no set deadline, so keep 'em rolling in until I post here saying to stop... or you receive a friendly Cease and Desist from the C&S legal team.

As far as remuneration is concerned, I'm broke!  After all, we have a wedding to pay for!  All I can offer you is the reassurance that any works appearing here will be read by at least a dozen people a day! 

...and I'll buy the best couple of writers a beer or two.

Now if you'll excuse me, my sinuses are killing me, and I need to lie down.