Monday, January 28, 2013

Catching Up, and Amazing Grace

I'm a week-and-a-half behind schedule regarding my daily posting.

However, unlike falling behind on bill payments, nobody's going to be phoning us several times a day to post something!

I've been a tad busy with all things domestic, electronic, and culinary, some of which I will share with you in  future posts.

In the meantime, I've repaired and tweaked a $25 Gateway laptop (aka Grace) I bought at the Salvation Army thrift store.  I couldn't get any version of Linux to recognize the wired or wireless network cards even with 3rd party drivers (and the snarky, elitist fucks on the Linux forums were of no help, as per usual), so I said "Fuck it!" and installed Windows XP.  Downloaded the drivers from Gateway's website and everything worked, so I grabbed all the open-source apps I use on my main design machine (for compatibility and financial purposes) and went to town.

The problem is that the battery is dead (common with used laptops of any vintage), and the lower case is cracked where the battery sits, so the battery wouldn't charge properly anyway.  A short trip to eBay and five bucks later, I found and bought a replacement lower case.  With my experience taking apart Nadia on a regular basis, it should be a quick and easy fix.

The only other issue is, because of its vintage, Grace has no USB2.0 or Bluetooth capabilities.  I had a spare Bluetooth dongle and mouse left over from Nadia, and so made do with that for the time being.  However, come payday I'll be splurging for a combination USB2.0/Firewire/Bluetooth card for the machine ($13 on eBay) and possibly a new battery and port replicator.

After that, I'll have a whole new mobile blogging/design machine, and I'll be back in action!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Well, I Feel Pretty Good, and I Guess That I Could Get Crazy Now, Baby...

I've been reminiscing a lot lately, mostly about my friend Karl and our old computer group The Thugs, and all the hijinks and mischief we got into on a daily basis.

One of the other things that Karl, myself, and our friend Fry had in common was our love of music, and one tune in particular became our theme song (apart from the drug references, we never did that stuff), which I present for your listening pleasure.

Turn it up!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Everything Was State-of-the-art Once...

As part of the amalgamation of my blogs and web-projects, I am killing off two of my more neglected blogs for good.

Both blogs focused on retrocomputing, a subject near and dear to my heart.  Neither one has been updated in years, so it was time to purge them from human memory.

The first one to go was Archaic Online, published under the pseudonym SparcIPX... which is also the model of computer I was using at the time.  Archaic Online was originally started out of spite.  In the previous decade, I was a regular contributor to a fan-based, low-print run Zine also called Archaic Online.  Its print run lasted twenty quarterly issues, and my articles on retrocomputing appeared in eighteen of those issues.  Things were great until the gentleman who started the zine appointed his girlfriend as Editor-in-chief.  She had no experience whatsoever in writing, editing, publishing, or even computers, her only qualifications were that she'd minored in English Lit in college.  Couldn't even make the claim that she "worked on the school paper".

She also had no people skills and treated her "position" as though she was running a major publication (or kingdom).  Several regular contributors were told they "no longer fit the direction the magazine was taking", others like myself had to constantly rewrite and re-tool submissions until they met with her approval.  The nineteenth issue was the last to feature myself or many of the other regulars... and after the twentieth issue the zine went bust.

When I found out they wanted to move to a blog style publication, I grabbed the name for myself, just to be a cock... and when you google "Archaic Online", you won't find a single mention of that particular Zine.  I am now relinquishing the name, as I never really posted anything there, and my spite has largely dried up.

Killing off the other blog was a bit of a heartbreak...

The Thugs were a computer group started by my friend Karl (aka Slam) and I.  We grew up together and shared a lifelong fascination with computers.  We weren't your stereotypical 80s computer nerds though... by all accounts we were kinda scary looking.  Karl was a large neanderthal-looking man, while I was a skinny Irish punk.  Scary enough that we were branded "a bunch of thugs" by the manager of the restaurant where we worked.

We met in the seventh grade and were pretty much joined at the hip well into adulthood.  When I bought my house in 2002, we converted a corner of the unfinished basement into The Lab.  As we both held good paying jobs, and with the burst of the Dot-Com bubble, more and more computer hardware found its way into our hands.  We made it all work somehow, and were constantly amazed at what we could make these things do.  All it took was a little ingenuity and patience.

We adopted the philosophy, one that I still hold, that everything was state-of-the-art once.  I won't expand upon that philosophy here, as I'd be at the keyboard all week.

Unfortunately, life took its toll on Karl.  He disappeared sometime in 2007 and hasn't been around since.  He'd contacted me a couple of times over the years to let us know he's alright, but needed to sort things out.  We hope he's doing alright.

Our (now ad-laden) website can be found here for the time being... if I can remember the password to our Tripod account, I'll be archiving what I can, backing it up, then hopefully merging it with the retrocomputing section of the main site.  After which the Tripod site will be deleted.

Speaking of retro... I've been warned about taking an expensive digital camera with me on my lunchtime photo jags along Logan Ave and Keewatin St... it has a reputation for being crime-ridden.

While I work in the area and yes, certain parts of the area are indeed crime-ridden, most are not.  I will however be dusting off my older camera, an Olympus D-460Z, for my excursions.  It was a great camera for its time, and has a few features my current digital camera doesn't have. 

Plus, if it gets stolen or broken, I'm out the $15 I paid several years ago for it.

Hell, I've spent money more on batteries (it takes four AA batteries) for the thing over the years.

You'd think I would have invested in rechargeables...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Intake Outtakes

"You're far too young for that," the lady said.

This time, however, she wasn't denying something illicit.

She was telling me that my blood pressure was far too high for someone my age.

I don't remember the exact reading, but it was enough to cause the triage nurse to do a double-take.

"What's your blood pressure like, normally?" she asked.

"Horrible," I said honestly.

"Diet?", she asked while raising an eyebrow.

"Diet, mostly," I answered, "but I'm also under a lot of stress."

As I was at Urgent Care due to a horrible cough (which turned out to be an upper respiratory tract infection), we didn't get into cardiovascular details.  Suffice it to say, her words really hit me like an Acme anvil.

The Wheeler Curse is creeping up on me.

Many health issues run rampant through my paternal lineage.  Heart disease, Diabetes, Alcoholism, Manic Depression, to name the worst.  While I have a (relatively) clean bill of mental health, and my drinking is limited to a couple of cocktails a week, I am still a high-risk candidate for the other two.

In fact, considering my lifestyle until recently, I'm surprised I'm not already afflicted.

In just under three weeks, I'll be turning 40, and Jill and I have a baby on the way.  At the rate I'm going, I may not live long enough to see my child graduate high school, land their first real job, have children of their own, win the Nobel Prize, or become the most wanted terrorist in the world.

So, changes were needed, and for a change, I've stuck with the changes.

I've been eating a bit better, avoiding the huge bags of chips, chocolate bars, processed foods, and litres of soda I'd normally take in over the course of a week.  It's tough when I work next to a Tim Hortons and a convenience store - snacks and unhealthy lunches are a few footsteps away.  My lunch hour is fraught with temptation, so in order to stave it off, I had to come up with a plan.

Remember my now-cancelled plan to turn my garage into a four-season gazebo, complete with wet bar?

While the plan may have fallen through, there were a few things I'd acquired in the meantime... such as a bar fridge.

One that would fit perfectly under my desk at work.

Pictured:  Room for a bar fridge

The idea is to stock the fridge with fruit, juices, bread, sandwich fixins, and healthier snacks.  If nothing else, it'll eliminate the urge to run out to buy crap I don't need to be eating.

The downside is it'll eliminate the exercise I get by running to buy the aforementioned crap.  I guess the solution is to take walks after I've finished eating.  While I've pretty much tapped the immediate vicinity out in terms of photography subjects, there are a lot of old buildings and examples of walkability in the blocks to the northeast of here... and the area (Logan Ave. east of Keewatin St.) isn't one that's photographed too often.

That's the beginning of my new health scheme, and if it works, I'll build on it and go from there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fait Accompli


It took all day, but I've tagged all three hundred or so posts on C&S.

I tried to be creative when naming each tag, to keep things somewhat interesting.  Feel free to explore the tag cloud in the right sidebar, you may uncover a hidden gem.  Then again, you may not.

Speaking of hidden gems, there are a number of older posts I'm going to delete in the next few days.  Some were little more than single line posts that were announcing future posts I never got around to writing, some were incomplete thoughts, some were meant to stay as drafts, and others... well...

Going through my older posts was educational.  It's really interesting to see how I've matured and grown as a person, how my interests have changed, and mostly how much I've calmed down.  It'll be more interesting reading these posts in December 2016, when this blog celebrates its tenth anniversary.

I'm sure the kids will give me plenty to write about...

This weekend I'm planning to design a proper C&S logo for the Google+ page, as well as a graphical title banner.  Not sure if I'm going to use GIMP and Inkscape on my Linux box, or if I'm going to rebuild my Amiga 1200 so I can use ImageFX again (I do rather miss using it).

Either way, I'll come up with something.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tag! You're It!

Lately, I've been asking myself, "If I had to do it all over again, what would I do different?"

This time, the context wasn't my job, my hobbies, or my life.  No, this time it was about blogging.  Apart from the usual things like post more, attempt to be interesting, study English grammar, use proper tenses, et cetera, I came up with a short list of things related to the user experience, of functionality.  Some actually made sense, so I've decided to implement some of the changes.

Tomorrow, I'm starting something I should have years ago...

Tagging my posts!

As I am killing off some of my other blogs and continuing them here, it'll be easier to find which posts pertain to certain subject matter.  It'll also help me with organization.

I've also started tinkering with the layout of the site.  One thing you'll notice is the button bar underneath the Conceit and Sociopathy banner, with links to the FAQ, my main website, my design project, etc.  I'll be putting other links of prominence there when they present themselves.

Also, as I mentioned, I've now stopped using Twitter altogether, as well as LinkedIn, although that wasn't as big a deal.  I'll be on Google+ from here on in.

Blog updates will be announced via Google+, and will continue to be announced via the good old-fashioned RSS feed... or readers can check back daily, as I'll be posting pretty much every day anyway.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Plus One

I've left Facebook pretty much for good.

I got really tired of having to wade through my friends' and family's posts, filtering out all their game accomplishments, smarmy and snarky e-cards, etc.  Twitter isn't too far from being dumped, too.  I'm getting tired of the constant babbling about hockey and politics... so I moved over to Google+.

It's been alright so far, if a little boring.  Since I'm keeping my circles small and organized into tightly packed units, I don't have to wade through a lot of crap to find something interesting or relevant... and it's easier to ignore people this way.

Call me a control freak, but it's much better this way.

I've spent a bit of time fooling around with the features of Google+, and in doing so, came across a free ebook showing how to get the most (or make the most) out of Plus.

It can be found here:

A few more tips can be found here, and if you're interested, you can add me to your circles (even if it's the "pointless blogs" circle) by clicking the +1 widget on the right sidebar.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some circles to expand... the G+ Architecture and Design community beckons.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rooted to the Spot (Intro)

I've never been able to leave this city.

I've never known why.

I've taken vacations, I've travelled on business, I've even worked in the US off-and-on for a couple of years.  I've had ample opportunity to pick up stakes and settle somewhere else.  But something keeps me here in Winnipeg, that God-forsaken Hellhole I dearly love.

It's not the familiarity of routine... most of my old hangouts have either closed or "switched focus", at least the ones I haven't outgrown.

It's not my job.  I can sell hose & fittings or fasteners pretty much anywhere there's a need.  My wife can be a social worker pretty much anywhere.

It's not my friends... I hardly have the time these days to hang out.  And family will always be family no matter where I am in the world.

So why the Hell am I still here?

In the coming weeks, I will explore that very question.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Seriously Serial

I'm gonna need a plan.

A week ago, I announced that I was going to blog every day for the next year.  It's become painfully apparent that I can't keep coming up with random crap on a daily basis to make up my numbers.  I also can't rely on my backcatalog and collection of half-and unfinished posts, as most of them require a lot of work.  I spent part of Tuesday evening going through the archives (some dating back to the mid-90s), and came to the conclusion that much of it will be of little value to me.  Some of the articles were so topical that they are woefully out of date, and some - well, let's just say I've matured a lot since they were written.

It's like sticking your arms almost shoulder-deep in a pile of manure, searching for that million-dollar gold ring you know is in there.

Rather than rely on the shitpile, I'll have to come up with fresh... material.

After thirty whole seconds of brainstorming, I came up with the idea of doing a series of ongoing posts, to be published at least once or twice a week, concerning a certain subject.

So far, I have three in the works.

The first one is a series of posts that was not meant to be a series initially.  The House That Jerk Built will detail our home renovations as they happen.  We're getting the house ready for our child, who is due to spring forth near the beginning of July.  The previous owner of the house was a serial do-it-yourselfer, and not a particularily good one at that... so watch as we try to undo everything he did.

The second series will be the continuation of Getting In Touch With My Feminine Side (etc).  Originally intended as a three part post, I've scrapped the remaining two parts as I was not satisfied with the finished product.  I've decided to rework it as a larger series, and may even get the Missus involved.

The third series is called Rooted to the Spot.  I've been asking myself why I (we) stay in this city, and this series will have us exploring the city and doing some soul-searching as we attempt to answer the question.

Now... time to get to planning.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Handi-capable II: Electric Bugaloo

I blame the medication.  Specifically the one containing Codeine... I was warned by the attending physician (and later, by the pharmacist) not to drive or operate machinery while under the effects of the drugs.

I haven't been driving, which is good news for you jaywalkers out there, but apparently I shouldn't be using a computer, either... I somehow edited several paragraphs out of today's previous post.

Which isn't a bad thing, mind you, as I thought of several other things I should have added.  With that in mind, I give you the unplanned sequel to Handi-capable:

Handi-capable II: Electric Bugaloo

How long should electronics manufacturers and software developers support their products?

This is something that's been on my mind for a long time, and something I've written about many times over the years.  Longtime readers and old Usenet friends are no doubt familiar with my angry rants about planned obsolescence, and the rapid march of technology which has left countless numbers of dead and wounded devices in its wake.

My typical answer to the question has, for the longest time, been "At least ten years".  After all, nobody wants to spend a ton of money on a smartphone, tablet, computer, piece of software, or gadget that's going to be next to useless in a year or two.

Why hast Thou forsaken me?

I've been burned like this a number of times.  I've been an early-adopter of several pieces of hardware (and software) that have failed in the marketplace, been discontinued, or abandoned by developers within the first year.  Each time it stung a little more.

In my more melodramatic moments, I would take a page from The Bible and tear my shirt, screaming "Why hast thou forsaken me?!" at the developers/manufacturers, "I placed my trust, my faith in you!  How can you leave me hanging?  It can't end like this!"

All too often though, it did end like that.  Stuck with a useless, unsupported piece of electronic detritus that probably cost me more than it was worth.

Around the time of my last electronic heartbreak, I read an expression on the net.  It came from a textfile called "Cowboy Zen" or something similar... "Good judgement comes from experience, which usually comes from poor judgement".

If nothing else, I learned to wait until a product had matured and developed a significant user base before diving into waters unknown.  Never be an early-adopter in the Tech World, more often than not, you'll end up broke and disappointed.

You have to grow up sometime

Which brings us back to the previous post. In January of 2011, at the age of thirty-eight, I broke down and bought my first cellphone... a Palm Treo 650 smartphone.  I'd been an avid user of Palm OS devices for many years and was used to the platform.  I had spent several hundred dollars over the years on apps and software for my Palm Pilots and Handspring Visors, most of which were used on a regular basis.  I went with the Treo because it could run all my old, familiar apps... and in some cases, newer and better versions of the apps I had.  To me, buying the Treo just made sense.

The Treo was already seven years old when I bought it for $15 (incl. shipping) on eBay.  The battery held a decent charge (and still does to this day), and I was able to transfer my apps to the phone without issue.  It was a Telus branded phone, so I took it to Telus to see if they still supported it - and they did.

Another factor in my decision to buy the Treo was the fact that, despite both the phone and Palm OS being long discontinued (and Palm Inc no longer in existence), there was still an active Palm community, and most importantly there was still third-party support!  I could still buy apps at several online stores, and several of my apps (Agendus, Fotogather) were still being actively developed.

With a little research, I bought a mature product with an installed userbase and active community support.  And it worked well.  I used the Treo for just over a year, however during that year, nearly all of the online app stores had dropped support for the device.  My needs had also grown by this point, and the Treo was becoming increasingly unable to deliver.

Shortly after my wedding in May 2012, my mother-in-law had given me a broken Blackberry Bold that she'd salvaged from a phone recycling drive.  As I had started to outgrow my Treo, I was looking to upgrade, and decided that fixing the Blackberry might be educational.  After all, the Blackberry was still a popular platform with a huge userbase, and was still relatively current.  So I gambled and bought a replacement screen, battery, and charger.  It took me all of fifteen minutes to fix the Blackberry, and was pleased to see it boot up when I plugged it in.  For thirty bucks and a bit of effort, I had a current smartphone, and it was compatible with the Bluetooth earpiece and stereo headphones I'd bought for my Treo!  A trip to Rogers ensued, and my Blackberry all but replaced my Treo.

I was still using the Treo for Ebooks, as I found its screen easier to read, and I was unable to find a comparable outliner program on the Blackberry.  Around this time, Chapters began clearing out their Kobo Vox e-readers and, knowing that the Vox was essentially a stripped-down Android tablet, I bought one without hesitation.  It had Gmail and Facebook apps already installed, and I was able to find an outliner app in the Google Play store that was compatible with the one I had on my Treo!

Unfortunately, in retrospect, I really should have hesitated.  You see, it wasn't that I needed or really wanted an e-reader.  What I really wanted was an Android tablet.  The Vox represented the cheapest option at the moment and, while I'm happy with what it does, I'm not happy with what it can't do.

The Vox was never intended to be a full-fledged, fully functional iPad-beating Android tablet.  Therefore it has no built-in camera, no Bluetooth capability, and a USB port that's used solely for charging and syncing with a PC... can't use external devices such as keyboards or Bluetooth dongles.  Hell, I can't even upgrade the version of Android on the machine without a ton of risky hacking.

While the Android OS and tablets are what I'd consider mature products, the Vox's growth was stunted - an evolutionary dead-end.  But it'll have to do until, as I said in the previous post, I find a new partner.

Now that I've brought the previous post full-circle in my own longwinded way, it's time I revisit the question I asked at the beginning of this post... How long should electronics manufacturers and software developers support their products?

I've come to the conclusion that they should support their products as long as they have a large enough userbase and it is financially/practically viable to do so.  If the vast majority of your userbase has moved on (or was never there to begin with), it makes no sense to keep a dead product on life support.

At that point, it's up to the community and third party developers/manufacturers to keep the dream alive.  I have only to point to the Commodore 64, Amiga, MSX, and TRS-80 Model 100 communities as examples.

Handi-capable: Your Device is Not Supported

"Your Device Is Not Supported"

I've been seeing this a lot lately while searching for apps...  Device Not Supported, This Version Is Incompatible With Your Device/OS Version, Upgrade Required.

That is, if a particular app is even available for my chosen platform.

You'd think I'd be used to it.  After all, the vast majority of my computer or communications gear is out of date or completely obsolete.  However, with a bit of creativity, nine times out of ten I'm able to come up with a workaround to accomplish a specific task.

Years ago, I was able to post pictures to Facebook and Twitter from a coffee shop, using my ancient 1994-vintage Powerbook 540c running at a brisk 25MHz.  I had the rare PCMCIA slot adapter for the machine, as well as a supported WIFI card and software, and figured "Why not?".  Not even the most up-to-date browser for the 540c can render Facebook's or Twitter's sites, however it will display the mobile versions of each site, provided you enter the correct URL (, or  I also had an old Kodak DC-210 digital camera with a Compact Flash-to-PCMCIA adapter, so getting pictures off the camera to my old laptop was easy, and Photoshop 3 (68k version) installed so I could edit the photos.

It wasn't the fastest, prettiest, lightest, or most elegant solution, but it worked.  It was like a retro-version of Instagram - a testament to ingenuity and creativity.  As a proof-of-concept/test-of-endurance it was an interesting experiment, however, it wasn't something I'd recommend doing on a daily basis, unless you have the patience of a saint... it was slloooowwww.  Slower than a tranquilized snail sliding uphill in Winter.

Saaaaay "Cheeeeese!"

My wife recently got hooked on Instagram, and yesterday I decided I wanted to try it out for myself.  Unfortunately for me, there's no Instagram app for Blackberry, and my Android Tablet (a Kobo Vox e-reader) lacks a camera (its version of Android is also unsupported).

Right away, my brain sprung into action.

I could try to hack the Kobo to run the latest (or at least a newer) release of Android, then download Instagram.  Take pictures with my regular digital camera, save 'em to a Micro SD card, then upload via the Kobo!

But that's risky, and I may lose all the ebooks I've purchased by trying to update...

Instead, I checked Blackberry App World for something similar to Instagram... nada!  There was an unofficial Instagram app that didn't seem to work, and a few photo editing apps that claimed to produce "Instagram-like" results.  I bought one called "CAMultimate", which isn't bad for what it does, and the price of $2.99 can't be beat.

But it's no Instagram.

Gettin' too old for this shit

Another thing on my wishlist was a decent blogging app.  There's no official Blogger app for Blackberry, not even any third-party apps that use the Blogger API.  There is an official Blogger app for Android, but it's not compatible with my Kobo.  There are a few third-party apps that'll work with Blogger's API, but they uniformly suck.

So, in order to blog on the go, I'm stuck with using Blogger's Email-To-Blog interface.  I can either type out posts using my Blackberry's cramped keyboard, or my Kobo's onscreen keyboard that'll obscure half the screen while I'm trying to type, edit, etc.

While I can do everything I need to do with the equipment I have at hand, things are starting to require too many workarounds and compromises for my liking.  Much like the straight-man in a buddy cop movie, I'm gettin' too old for this shit.  Time for a new partner.

I'm looking at buying a new Android tablet, one with a camera and Bluetooth capabilities.  One that'll stay somewhat supported for a couple of years.

Time to do a bit of research.

My current machines are one day away from retirement.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

And On The Seventh Day He Rested

Wow, today marks my 300th post on Conceit and Sociopathy.  300 posts since I started this blog just over six years ago... not really a good average, I guess.  What's funny is that I will more than double that amount if I stick to my Quantity Over Quality plan of posting every day.  As with everything I do, however, there's a snag...

As Sundays 'round the palatial Mattrèssor Manor are typically busy with church, chores, and family time, I won't be doing any blogging... not that it'll break anyone's heart.

Of course, putting my blogging aside every Sunday for the next year will leave me woefully short of my self-imposed goal of 365 blog posts by the end of the year.

I suppose the only solutions are to either write a post in advance and tell Blogger's scheduler to post it Sunday on my behalf, or to make the post up during the week by posting twice on a particular day.  Both would work, and I have enough half- or mostly-finished crap in my draft and archive folders that I should be good for material for the coming weeks.

Anyhow, I'm off to bed.  I spent seven hours at Misericordia's Urgent Care last night (7:45pm - 2:45am) due to a wicked cough... and was diagnosed with an upper respiratory tract infection.  After a few hours of sleep, I was up sanding and prepping the floor in our storage room then putting down tile.  Had to quit after nine hours due to fatigue.

Suffice it to say, my body's not too happy with me right now.

Good night.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jaywalkers of the World, Unite!

My wife and I were out for a ride on New Year's Day, just to get out of the house for a while.  We were cruising west on Broadway, and as we entered the intersection at Fort St, two men sauntered out into traffic against the lights.  Jaywalking.

The car in front of us slammed on its brakes, narrowly missing the first guy, while his companion jumped back just enough to avoid getting hit.  The driver of the car in front of us leaned on his horn, and the first jaywalker turned around, gave the guy the finger, yelled "Fuck You!", and laughed.  Spurred on by his compatriot, the second guy decided to continue on his merry way in front of the first car to catch up to his buddy.

As for us, we barely managed to avoid hitting the first car.  I managed to swerve into the parking lane while braking, ending up not ten feet from the first guy.  My first thought was, "I could kill you right now, you arrogant, entitled fuck!", but cooler heads prevailed.  I shook my head and let the idiots pass.  The first guy flashed me a smug, toothy grin, and all the while I thought how I held this man's life in the palm of my hand... one touch of the gas pedal could ruin all our lives forever...

Ordinarily, I'd have just muttered "What an asshole!" to myself without the thought of vehicular homicide entering my head.  Ordinarily.  That afternoon, however, was different.  These two sons-of-bitches weren't the only jaywalkers we'd encountered on that drive.

No, in the space of the twenty minutes it took for us to drive south down Main St from West Kildonan to that point on Broadway, we'd encountered several people sauntering into moving traffic like lemmings.  Just walking in front of cars, sometimes with only a couple of car lengths between them and certain death, laughing while the drivers are forced to maneuver to keep from killing them.

I'm not exaggerating.  These people made a conscious decision to step out into oncoming traffic, in the middle of the block, putting themselves and all the drivers in traffic at considerable risk, and laughing about it as though it were a huge joke.

And if they were hit by one of the cars in oncoming traffic, they (or their next of kin) would whine and cry to the media about the evil, careless automobile drivers.

Suffice it to say, by the time the incident on Broadway took place, I was ready to kill.

But, as I said, cooler heads prevail, and I let it slide.  Some people are assholes, and jaywalking has existed forever.  I wish the cops would start cracking down on these people as they did recently in Halifax, but I have a feeling it'll take a few deaths and a number of broken lives before anything happens.

**EDIT 01/05/13:  I have since been informed, by several of you, that Jaywalking is not illegal in Winnipeg (I never bother with research), which is why the cops don't seem to bother with these people.  Perhaps I should lobby for change..?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Getting In Touch With Your Feminine Side and Making It Your Bitch (part one)

I've been thinking a lot lately about traditional gender roles in society, specifically how much they've changed in the last half-century or so.

It started a couple of months ago.  Jillian and I were taking a nice leisurely drive down River Road, after having lunch at Skinner's in Lockport.  We had the oldies channel playing on the radio, when one of Jill's favourite songs, "Mother's Little Helper" by the Rolling Stones, came on.  We both sang along, and afterwards discussed how domestic life has changed since the song came out.

I wondered if the stereotype of the "Harried Housewife" really applied anymore in this era of dual-income-no-kids-and-an-SUV-on-the-side, or is it a quaint (or patriarchal, depending on your stance) reminder of a bygone age?

As I pondered the question, I remembered an article I'd started back in 2006 that, true to fashion, I'd meant to finish but never did.  I dug it out of the archive, dusted it off, and embellished it a bit.  It'll seem really sexist and horribly wrongheaded at first (for which I'll apologize in advance), but it ends with everyone learning a good lesson, myself included, in the third part.  Please refrain from commenting until the third and final act.

Getting In Touch With Your Feminine Side and Making it Your Bitch

Part One

What a weekend!

After several weeks without a day off (we're in our busy season at work), the housework has really suffered.  My typical day follows the same pattern:

  • Wake up at 5am
  • Shower, feed cats, etc
  • Catch the 5:55 bus
  • Work until 8 or 9pm
  • Catch 8:35 or 9:10 bus home
  • Arrive home at 9:30 or 10pm
  • Feed cats, feed self
  • Check email
  • Go to bed by 11
Suffice it to say, the house is a disaster!  There's a pile of moldy dishes in the sink, old fast food wrappers littering the kitchen, half-full Big Gulp cups in the office and lab, and I'm pretty sure one of the cats has pooped somewhere difficult to reach.

I told the guys last Thursday that there'd be no overtime this weekend... that I was leaving work at 5pm on Friday and not coming back until today (Monday) at 8am.  Not that it mattered, they rarely stay to work overtime anyway (it's usually just me).

True to my word, I caught the 5:10 bus home on Friday.  I hit 7-Eleven on the way home for a Delissio pizza and a Double Gulp, and planned to spend the entire weekend cleaning the place up.

And clean I did.  I woke up at 7am Saturday, and cleaned like I'd never cleaned before.  I gathered up all the garbage, cleared the tables and countertops, did the dishes, mopped the floors, vacuumed the rugs, scrubbed out the litterboxes, did a couple months' worth of laundry, wiped down the walls, dusted the furniture, cleaned and disinfected the bathroom... and even cleaned behind the fridge and stove!

I went nonstop until 2-3am Sunday morning, when I could no longer stand.  I fell asleep with an immense feeling of satisfaction.

I woke up around noon Sunday surrounded by purring cats.  I guess they missed their daddy!

I spent the day lounging, listening to music, and playing video games (A guy needs his downtime!).  I also managed to write some more material for "Bloody Knuckles", my upcoming podcast... hope to have a couple of episodes done by the end of the month!  Made myself a nice dinner and headed to bed at 10pm.

I went back to work this morning at my normal time (8am), and it was nice to have that extra hour of sleep.  The day was mercifully uneventful... one of the few slow days in our busy season.  I actually had time to start the preparations for our annual inventory coming up in a month and a half!

At lunch, we had our usual banter.  We discussed our respective weekends, and when my turn came, I mentioned how I'd spent all weekend cleaning the house.  One of the dullards piped up, "Fuck that! That shit is womens' work!"

Now, in the lad's defense, he's not that bright (honestly, I've stepped in smarter things), so I let it go.  But one of the (somewhat) less moronic guys chimed in, "You gettin' in touch with your feminine side, CJ?".

I looked at them and gave a resigned sigh.  "Yes, boys," I said in my most dryly unamused tone, "I got in touch with my feminine side and made it my bitch."  The boys cheered and high-fived each other, oblivious to the fact I was mocking them.

"You gotta find yourself a woman!" the dullard said.

"Why is it a woman's job to clean up after me?" I asked.

"Huh?" one said, rapidly looking at his counterpart, confused.

"I said, why should it be a woman's job to clean up after me?" I asked again, getting angry.

They looked at each other again, not really having an answer.

To be continued...

I'll be continuing the story in the next couple of days.  Please refrain from commenting until the end of the third act.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Quantity Over Quality

Speaking of trying new things...

In order to test my own patience and to put my money where my mouth is, I'm going to blog every day for the next year.  That means 365 posts here on C&S from now until the end of the year.  As I neglected to post anything yesterday, I'm posting twice today to make up the day.

It won't be easy, but not impossible.  After all, I post a lot of random thoughts to Facebook and Twitter every day, and my own particular environment is fertile ground for ideas.  I've long lamented that many of these random thoughts could have spawned wicked blog entries, and seeing as I'm pledging to give up (for the most part) Facebook and Twitter, now's the time to test that theory.

Besides which, I have (as I mentioned in my previous post) two hundred or so half-finished/started articles and posts I can draw from should I get stuck for ideas.

So, with that in mind, the only real issue is keeping things interesting for my readers... but really, when have I ever worried about that?

The Perpetual Self-Improvement Game (Part Two)

In our last installment, I was complaining that I've gotten fat.  Now, everybody complains about being fat at some point in their life, but in my case it's particularily embarassing.

You see, I'm a bit of a clothes-horse.

I like to dress up, and can usually be found rocking a sport coat or blazer and tie.  I've spent quite a bit on my wardrobe, so you can imagine my concern when things no longer fit.  My newly-sedentary lifestyle has taken its toll, and I gotta lose the gut.

But I covered that (largely) in my last post.  It's old hat.  I did, however, mention that I'd trot out my New Year's Resolution list, so without further ado...

CJ's New Year's Resolutions

(no guarantees)

1.  Eliminate from my life all traces of snark, sarcasm, and passive-aggression:  It may surprise you to learn that I am a great deal more sarcastic and passive-aggressive in person.  In a world of snarky commentary, I alone am God-Emperor... in fact, things got so bad that some of my coworkers invented a new word to describe my own particular brand of sarcasm:  Shauncasm.  Looking back, some of the things I said (in jest) were pretty horrible.  As a Christian, I'm supposed to love my neighbour, so it's time to clean up the act and be more respectful (and respectable).

2.  Give up Facebook and Twitter for Google+:  Believe it or not, I actually prefer Google+ to Facebook, especially on my Android tablet.  The downside is few of my family or friends are on Google+.  The upside is few of my family or friends are on Google+.  However, all the businesses and magazines that I follow on both Facebook or Twitter are on Google+.  So, it's off to Google+ I go, swapping one personal-data-sharing corporation for another.

3.  Keep up the home improvements:  Make room for baby.

4.  Give up my both my computer- and video game hobbies:  I've been collecting console video games since the late 70s, and still spend far too much time on my computers.  Now that we have a baby on the way, I want to spend more time with/on our family.

5.  Try different things:  I admit to being fairly adventurous (sometimes to the point of madness) when it comes to cocktails and music, but I tend to play it safe when it comes to meals and restaurants.  Ditto for my wardrobe - I tend to stick to a couple of different colours and styles, so it's time to diversify.

6.  Finishing what I start:  I'm notorious for letting myself get sidetracked, and I have more ideas on the go than can be realistically achieved by one man. At last look, I estimate I have over two hundred articles and/or blog posts in the works, and several multi-part posts awaiting conclusion.  I'll have to come up with a better way of doing things and concentrate on staying on task.  Speaking of which...

7.  Amalgamate some of my blogs into the main site:  I currently have no less than ten blogs going, under a few pseudonyms.  Some see a few posts per month, others a few posts per decade.  Each comprises a facet of my personality or concerns one of my many, many interests.  I started moving some material to my main website, and perhaps it's time I started doing it in earnest, or eliminating some outright.

8.  Read more (physical) books:  I love my Kobo ereader, but I don't care for its battery life.  You don't have to wait for the old-fashioned paper variety of book to recharge in the middle of an extended read.

9.  Use more paper products:  Seriously, our pulp and paper industry was hurtin' a while back.  Besides which, if I need to consult my notes, it's just a matter of opening my Day-Timer and flipping through the tabs.  Instant-on, and no need to worry about paper holding a charge.

That's pretty much it.  Nothing too difficult!