Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The news these days is such a fucking bummer.

Shit, I almost liked it better when car bombs in Iraq were dominating the headlines.

Consider:
  • all those kids in a school in Pakistan getting shot-up
  • ISIS doing its murder-y crazy stuff
  • people getting gunned down by cops
  • cops getting gunned down by people
  • planes crashing into oceans
  • the Toronto Maple Leafs
(Too soon? C'mon, Leaf Nation, it'll be alright one of these decades.)

Unfortunately, I don't have an antidote for this. I don't have a joke, other than the lousy one above.

Hmm...

. . .

. . .

uh...

. . .

hmm.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

I have door-envy.

I am now the semi-proud owner of a four-door car, for the first time in my life; my previous three were coupes.

Four doors is just, well, too many doors. Think about it: you need a door to get in on the left side, and one to get in on the right side. Any more than two means you've got superfluous doors in there, buckaroo.

I'll be driving down the street thinking, "Jeez, I wonder what those doors are doing back there. Are they fully closed? Are the windows down a touch?" Unless I crank my head around and look at 'em, I'll never know. And that's irritating.

When I was in Florida last week -- hooray for work-related travel! -- I would check out two-door cars driving by and think, "Oooooh, hot damn, I wish I had one of them." It's like they were Kate Upton or something. Which is ridiculous, of course.

But, here we are. J owns a dorky, four-door car.

Damn.

Merry Fucking Christmas, assholes.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

These songs, I like.

I hate most music.

...wait.

I dislike most music. "Hate" is a pretty strong word. (It applies to the works of Nickelback, though, obviously.)

But J, you ask, why do you always have to be such a prick about this shit?

Because I likes what I likes, and I'm nerdy about things, so go start your own blog if your knickers are in a twist already.

Without further made-up ado, here are some songs.

1. Fleetwood Mac -- "Albatross"



Yes, all the videos of this on YouTube are littered with fucking pictures of fucking albatrosses. Which is annoying. But, on to the music.

The word that first came to mind when I heard this song was "smoky." If we know three songs from the Mac, they're from the late '70s when it was all Rumours and whatnot. But this was from an earlier version of the band, which was very bluesy indeed. (And you know how I feel about instrumentals.)

2. Jimi Hendrix -- "Hey Joe" (live)


The studio version of this song is a little higher-pitched, which meant Jimi had to strain a bit to make the high notes. It added a sense of urgency to the lyrics, as if he himself was a witness to Joe's murderous acts.

This, however, gets coloured entirely differently. This live version sits down a couple of semi-tones, and Jimi's vocal delivery is much more relaxed. Instead of witnessing the murder, it feels like he's coolly retelling the story around a living room, with an air of detachment. Did he know Joe well? Did he know Joe's "old lady" at all? There's a mystery here which isn't in the studio version.

(And, yes, he plays the guitar with his face and behind his head, too. But whatever, it's showmanship, and the dude had an otherworldly talent with the instrument, and yes, I think he might have been an alien.)

3. Wang Chung -- "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"


Look, it can't all be guitar nerdery around here. Gotta keep it light.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Be honest.

How long has it been since you've thought about the Sneaker Pimps?


I bet it's been a while.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Linux vs. Windows.

If you know me, and chances are you do, you know I'm a little nerdy. I also prefer to take the alternate way through, instead of going with the mainstream. This annoys some people, but fuck 'em.

I have a little netbook laptop computer that I keep on my coffee table; they don't really make these anymore, as the market has pushed people towards either a tablet or a cheap full-sized laptop. I personally think it's a good form-factor; I'm not gonna edit HD video on the thing, but I do enjoy having a keyboard, and it fits neatly in the front pocket of my carry-on.

It originally came with Windows 7 Starter on it, which started off fine, but it got progressively more and more sluggish (as everything Microsoft tends to do, over time). And, the original 250 GB hard drive was split into two roughly-equal partitions, and the second was empty... so, of course, what I did was delete that partition and install Linux on it (Xubuntu, if you're keeping score at home), and now it's a dual-booting beast.

I fire the thing up in Linux about 99.9% of the time, but occasionally I'll start it up in Windows so I can download any security or browser updates, and if I need a "real" copy of Word or Excel, I've got the starter versions of those on Windows.

But, every time I boot it up in Windows -- maybe once a month or so -- naturally, the thing starts downloading updates on its own, making the thing slow to a crawl as the hard drive chugs away, slogging through the Adobe updater, the Chrome updater, the XYZ Auto-Fast-Lightning Start Utility whatever-it-is-that-Samsung-preinstalled, nevermind the 44 or so Windows Security Extreme Crucial Updates that it feels it needs to install nownownow. To wit: about a month ago, I booted the thing up in Windows and, top to bottom, it took about two hours and three reboots to fully satisfy itself.

Compare that with Linux. It loads relatively quickly, and keeps track of all its software installs through one central program. It'll ping the server asking it for any updates -- you'll see about five seconds of hard drive activity -- and if there's something worth downloading, it flips an icon and lets you know. Then, while you download and install the updates -- a couple of minutes, tops, usually -- your computer doesn't really slow down much, unless it's doing something really processor-intensive (and that might only last for a few seconds).

Sure, Linux looks a bit different. And, you won't be able to play Murder The Hooker or Shoot The Infidel or whatever games are popular with the kids these days. But you'll be able to do pretty much anything else you want/need to, and your urge to kill won't rise up as often, I guarantee. I switched my brother's desktop, and my parents' desktop and laptop, to Linux -- and Norris knows they're not computer nerds.

It just works. Go ahead, give it a whirl.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Strategic voting.

Well, isn't this nice: someone's telling me how to vote.

To this person I say: "Go fuck yourself."

I'll vote for whoever I want to, for the reason I want to. It's my vote. Don't tell me how to use it.

Here's the truth:

I advance-voted yesterday because Monday the 27th looks like it's gonna be a busy one for me. (Actually, in a way, it's going to be pretty free-and-clear; I teach all grade 12 classes, and a shit-ton of 'em are going to be working the election. Why? They get paid $160, they get to put it on their resume and/or university application, and that looks fuckin' goooooood.)

And yes, I voted for John Tory, even though I really want Olivia Chow in charge. I voted this way because Tory is the person who has the best shot at winning who isn't named Ford (in this case, Doug Jr.). This is called "strategic voting," and I feel absolutely no remorse for doing so.

Last election, Drinkin'-Buddy Dave (DBD) and I were hanging out with some mutual friends a few days before the vote where Rob Ford won (handily), George Smitherman placed a shockingly-distant second, and Joe "Joey Pants" Pantalone barely rippled the water by placing third. The polls were all saying this before the election, although they didn't really show how big a lead Ford had on Smitherman; there was actually a glimmer of hope that Smitherman could've won.

"I'm voting for Pantalone," mutual-friend Y declared. "I don't care about the polls. Pantalone's who I want, so that's who I'm voting for." Meanwhile, of course, J, DBD, Y, his wife L, and everyone in the room (and indeed anyone who'd followed city politics for any length of time, even casually) knew that Rob Ford was a fucking idiot; exactly to what astonishing degree we'd only learn later, of course. And no, even if you put Joey Pants' and Smitherman's votes together, they wouldn't have defeated Ford's plurality -- but if the media had framed it a little differently in the last few days, maybe they'd have had a shot. (Water under the bridge, though.)

I felt Y's unilateral declaration, despite (a.) what the polls were saying at the time, and (b.) Rob Ford's obvious lunacy, stubbornly idealistic and naive. I mean, maybe, if Ford was polling at 50%, Smitherman at 20% and Pantalone at 15%, alright then, it's clear who's going to win, protest-vote for Pantalone and go home and have some ice cream. But, despite my own political leanings towards Pantalone, I voted for Smitherman, because the polls were suggesting something like 45-35-15 at the time; a longshot, but still a shot.

In short, George Smitherman was the least-bad shot at a winner.

And we all know how that turned out.

Thus, with a Tory-Ford-Chow poll running at about 40-30-20... it's close, man. Closer than it should be, if Etobicoke/North York/Scarborough knew what was fucking good for them. (Yes yes, downtown elite, sipping a latté with pinky-out, going to the ballet later tonight.) But, y'know, cautiously optimistic that Tory can hold on for a win.

This is, of course, a ludicrous thing for me to say. I've been a teacher and union activist for almost two decades, stretching back to my practice-teaching round of 1997; that fall saw the two-week walkout to protest the PC's Bill 160, which did a lot of fucked-up shit that we're still trying to undo. And who was later the leader of the Ontario PCs, who ran in Don Valley West, and who advocated for public funding of private, religious schools, and who green-lit an ad during Kim Campbell's glorious election campaign in '93 that may-or-may-not have made light of Jean Chrétien's facial paralysis? That would be one John Howard Tory.

In an ideal world, Chow's way out in front, Tory's saying some interesting things but has no shot, and the Fords are out somewhere calling people "kikes" or whatever it is they do for fun. Instead, we've got Doug Fucking Ford handing out $20 bills, people in TCHC buildings impressed with his little dog-and-pony show (and apparently voting for Fords in crazy-high turnouts), and now I've gotta burn my vote on... John Tory.

...and they say municipal politics are boring.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

It's not the lyrics, it's the voices.

I've made no secret in the past that I would prefer an instrumental song to one with lyrics -- and I've thought that it's because I genuinely don't care about what the singer's singing about, because they're usually singing about love, and isn't that weird topic to alllllways be singing about?, and who the fuck cares about you, I don't know you, why should I give a rat's-ass? (P.S., I don't.)

But I really think it's because a lot of singing-voices can get in the way of a good song.

In the past 20 years or so, in the post-vinyl, CD-cum-MP3 era of recording technology, engineers have been able to push recorded music louder and louder, because of the lack of any sort of physical constraint (i.e. needle in record groove). This is called the loudness war, and it's awful; I've written about it before, I'm sure.

A consequence of this is that, well, let's say there's a part of a song where there's only an acoustic guitar or a piano, and someone's singing on top of it. Because of ProTools and all other sorts of digital wizardry, that part of the song can be cranked-up so that its maximum volume reaches the same heights as the song's crescendo, which (a.) makes the vocals at the start crazy-loud, and (b.) detracts from the overall emotional response of the entire song, as studies have shown.

Two songs come to mind, both of which have female singers. I don't think this is a coincidence.

After a torturous search through YouTube, I found the Katy Perry song I was looking for. It's called "Firework," and the pre-chorus (e.g. starting around the 46-second mark) is the part I'm talking about here. I mean, the rest of the song is shit as well -- and, after listening to a half-dozen other song-snippets from her, sounds exactly like every other fucking song she's ever done -- but this is the part that, if the office-rock station is playing in our school's office, makes me want to run out of the place screaming.


It's so. god. damn. loud. And it forces you to stop whatever you're doing and listen to her inane musings. (Actually, it took five fucking people to write that song.)

The second -- oh, you're gonna hate me for this -- is "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele.


Adele's stock-in-trade is her voice. And I'll say this, it's actually a pretty good one, as far as voices go; somewhat soulful, pretty clear, all that jazz. (Hard to say how much of that is studio wizardry; if I cared more I could look up a live performance, but I don't.) But at the very start, that voice just pierces through the fog like a laser beam, the bass drum comes in and starts mashing-away, and since everything's loud in the chorus, the thing that should stand out -- namely, the crack of a snare drum -- is just entirely lost in the mix. The whole thing's a mess.

But hey, she sold a ton of records, so apparently I'm the one who's messed-up.

Just so you don't get the impression I hate everything about chick singers...


...yes Yes YES. This is how it should be done. I mean... wow. Just wow.

I think in pictures, so I went and made some. Here's how Adele's song is put together, sonically:


The so-called quiet parts (i.e. during the verses) are already really loud. When you get to the parts that are supposed to be loud (e.g. the chorus), where can you go? Nowhere, I say. So the dynamics -- the loud-soft interplay that bands like Nirvana had down to a science -- get entirely washed-out, and the whole thing sounds like bleh.

In contrast, here's how Aretha's song is mixed:


When it's supposed to be loud, it definitely is. But when it's not, it's not; there's room to breathe. And because that part is quiet, you know there's a loud part coming up, and that builds tension... What's the loud part going to sound like? How's it going to be different? Lyrically, how's she going to sum it all up in a chorus which is clearly the most important part of the song? It's this back-and-forth, this dynamism, that makes the song sound interesting, even if you don't pay attention to the lyrics at all (which, as has been mentioned before, I usually don't).

Also, "I Never Loved A Man" was written by one person; a guy, oddly enough.

In conclusion, the baseball game's starting, time to go watch the Tigers meekly bow-out of the playoffs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Ninety-one lashes and six months in jail.

Quick: can you name the least offensive pop-culture phenomenon of the past, say, ten years?

If you guessed "people taping themselves lip-synching and dancing along to the song 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams," you're correct. Hell, I don't even like most popular music these days and try to stay away from it like it was infected with Ebola, but (a.) I heard this song when it was relatively new and (b.) actually kind of enjoyed it. How could you not?

Here's a group of young people from Tehran who made their own version a few months ago.


Well, because the government of Iran is a bunch of pricks, the people who made this video each received the punishment described in this post's title. It was vulgar, it was pornography, it had public dancing. The person who uploaded the thing to YouTube got an extra six months in jail, too.

This is not, of course, because of Islam. This is because of a bunch of pricks in the Iranian government who can't just relax and have a little fun. (What I've learned about Islam doesn't really make it sound like a whole lot of fun anyway, but you could easily say the same about Judeo-Christianity if you followed all the rules.)

Here's the deal, though. There are tons of young people in Iran; the population skews very heavily towards the younger end of the age spectrum. And kids are kids everywhere you go; I'm fortunate enough to meet a lot of kids who are originally from a lot of places, and they all want to (a.) look good, (b.) fit in, and (c.) be trendy. A girl wearing a hijab will likely be wearing makeup and colour-coordinate that hijab with the rest of her wardrobe; the boy from Nigeria who barely speaks English will want a pair of cool sneakers like everyone else is wearing.

You run a place like North Korea, you're gonna be able to tell the kids whatever you want and they'll believe you. But Iran has a history of being right in the middle of things -- be it the Silk Road hundreds of years ago, or relatively-westernized democracy before the revolution in '79 -- and they ain't givin' that up easily. Plus, Iran's government sorta wants to engage with some of the rest of the world... and that's where all those devilish outside influences can creep in. Tehran ain't Pyongyang, not by a longshot.

It's just a matter of time before Iran turns the corner, though. I give it a decade before the old crusty pricks are chucked-out and replaced by a group that's a whole hell of a lot more popular with the youth.

Monday, September 15, 2014

That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard in my life.

Radio call-in shows are the worst.

OK, J, I give up. Why are radio call-in shows the worst?

Because people fucking call in to them.

I popped over to CBC Toronto's website to see what was happening in our fair town tonight -- not much, apparently -- and there was a tantalizing link to an audio clip from today's Ontario Today noon-time call-in show on Radio 1. It was tantalizing because the blurb suggested that some caller had her municipal-election vote earned by the Brothers Ford.

Naturally, I clicked on it.

* * * * *

Caller: I just didn't want anything to do with them [in the last election], and watching them survive the barrage that this town has thrown at them, for every little thing, y'know? I mean, some of those councillors could be drug-tested themselves, y'know? I don't think any one of them could be just singled-out. So I've watched them survive this, and I think, as a family, they represent something that all of us could take a little note from, there, y'know? They stick together. They never turn on each other, and a lot of people will turn on you if you're falling down. So I will vote for them this time, because... I think, if they were given a chance, and everybody just let them go, and do what they were attempting... got voted in on, I think that they would do a good job.

Host: So did you vote for Rob Ford in the last municipal election?

Caller: No, I didn't. I voted for, uh, Smitherman.

Host: And you're willing to give Doug Ford your vote?

Caller: That's right. Because of the way they've behaved as a family. Like, these guys stick together. If they would just give them, as a city, a chance to do what they initially set out to do, and stop picking at every little thing -- how petty can ya get, really? It's embarassing to see the way people have treated these people.

Host: Some people would argue that some of this is one's own making... cavorting with suspect people, opening yourself up to extortion, I don't want to repeat all that, but you've heard it. Is it piddly though, really?

Caller: Yeah, I think so. Because I think if you took everybody down that way, there isn't one person on that council that would come up with glowing colours. Not one.

* * * * *

There's just so much stupidity here. I can't even begin. I mean, I've got work in the morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Howard Stern is a good interviewer.

Say about him what you will, but the guy really knows how to get stuff out of people.

I've been downloading (through those YouTube-to-mp3 websites, which are real slick) a bunch of hour-ish-long Howard Stern interviews. A lot of his subjects are people in showbiz, as you might imagine, but he really does a good job at colouring-in a person that you thought might've been pretty blank.

Take Jerry Springer, for example. What do you know about from? Probably that he hosts the Jerry Springer Show, and with good reason; it's been on forever.
I also remember him in a small role in an episode of Married... with Children playing the host of a talk show called The Masculine Feminist, wherein he gleefully bashes men. Naturally, Al Bundy's men's club, "NO MA'AM" (an acronym for "the National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood") takes over a taping of the show and starts making ridiculous demands, and brings on guests such as a "Miss Bubbles Double-D," who was currently featured at their favourite gentlemen's club, The Jiggly Room. And yes, I recalled all this from memory, and no, I haven't seen that episode in twenty years. But, remembering my own current students' names? That's a tough one.

Here's a still from that episode; Springer's the one who's tied up.

Anyway, Springer's an interesting guy. He grew up in Queens, all of his grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, was briefly the mayor of Cincinnati, was a TV news anchor for a decade, then started the show for which he's most famous in the early '90s; it was outrageous and controversial then, and one could argue it's "merely controversial" now. But, he's a thoughtful, smart guy and, judging from the interview, doesn't feel terribly proud that he does the show named after him. ("I wouldn't watch it," he admits, "but then again I'm not really in the target demographic.")

He's also a pretty liberal guy, and he shed an interesting perspective on why liberal radio talk-shows don't do well.

* * * * *

Robin: Didn't you do a radio show for a while?

Jerry: I did, for two years, I had my own show. Air America [a defunct left-leaning radio network] picked it up; I didn't work for Air America, but Air America carried my show for two years. I loved it.

Howard: How come liberal talk shows never do well?

Jerry: Because the liberals won.

Howard: [pauses] Do you think, is that it?

Robin: Well, the conservatives were doing well under...

Jerry: Because they're on the outs.

Robin: They were doing well under the Bush administration, they didn't go away.

Jerry: But it doesn't matter who's president; in America, the liberals won. In all the protests in the 1960s, the protests were on the left because America was conservative. We have conservative politicians, we give conservative speeches, but on every major issue, the liberals have won. We are a liberal country. You can go into the most conservative neighbourhood in America, and you go into their home and talk to their kids, and their kids listen to the same music, talk the same way, dress the same way [as liberals]; culturally, we're liberals. I did a show, the first year of the Jerry Springer Show, in Cincinnati, we did a show on interracial marriage. And there were protesters outside the studio. Twenty years later we have a president who's the product of an interracial marriage. The liberals won, on every issue, on every issue. So therefore, the real energy of the protest movement -- think about it, whether it's the gun lobby, the right-to-life movement -- all the protests now, which is where talk radio gets its oomph from, is on the right.

Howard: So you're saying liberals won everything...

Jerry: We've won! And we don't know how to say, "Hey!"

Robin: So what's with this red-state, blue-state thing, then?

Jerry: We feel obliged often, even liberals do, or even Obama feels obliged, because somehow you seem more "adult" if you give a conservative speech. [in a low voice] "Well, we're gonna be..."

Howard: Maybe you're right, I never looked at it that way.

Jerry: We live liberally, all of us do.

* * * * *

He's right, you know. Even with conservatives in charge of the US for a while, and in Canada the past while (get out there and vote next year, you lazy lefty fucks!), think about all the crazy liberal shit we've gotten done.
  • same-sex marriage
  • pot legalization/decriminalization in places
  • sort-of health-care-for-everyone in the US
  • ended some long-ass wars
  • kept abortion legal (although in places it's not terribly accessible)
  • almost-kinda reformed prostitution laws in Canada
  • and probably a lot of other stuff I've forgotten
Granted, there's a lot of stuff that hasn't gone well...
  • corporations (especially financial institutions) run the US*
  • organized labour's power is being eroded, e.g. "right to work"
  • guns are still a pretty big deal, despite frequent mass shootings
  • the HarperCons are generally evil SOBs (vote in '15 to change this!)
But yeah, so much stuff that conservatives hate is either (a.) now totes cool, or (b.) still around, and it just totally pisses them off, and then they call up assholes like Rush Limbaugh and Ezra Levant** and do their little rant-y business, then they hang up and go rub one off to exceptionally-deviant pornography or whatever it is they do.

And I'm fine with that. I really am.
_____________________________________________
* and they're run by Jewwwws, obvy.
** the joke here is that nobody fucking watches Sun News, har har

Monday, September 1, 2014

Schoooool's back... for... the faaaalllll.

Well, it begins again.

I had to count 'em up a few days ago to figure out exactly how many times I've done this -- sit at home on the night before the first day of school -- and this marks a full baker's dozen.

As always, there are interesting challenges, both with colleagues and with kids. We lost some good people from the school, and we managed to get a few back that we thought were goners. We've even got a new principal for the first time since Jean Chretien was Prime Minister. (I had to look that up just to double-check. Wow.)

My schedule this semester... well, friend, it's pretty good. And I don't have it just because (a.) I make the schedule for the department and (b.) my second-semester Grade 9's from last year were god damn insane. No, friends, it's because (a.) I always do the Gr12 Earth and Space Science class, and (b.) having me do both Gr12 Physics made the most sense for the rest of the department, timetable-wise.

Honest!

At any rate... it's going to be good to be back.

One thing I did give myself in the timetable, because it's the way I like things, is the lack of a home-form classroom. You see, on odd-numbered days of the calendar, it's a Day 1, and the class you have first that day is your "home form." So, if there's crap to give out to kids or collect from them, if there's an assembly that yanks your class inconveniently away, if there's stupid stuff you gotta do that is just a royal pain in the ass, it's gonna be with these people. We teach three out of four periods in the day, and if I have period 1 off, that really helps me.

(Plus, as one of the department heads, there's a 50% chance I'm going to be off in first period, and if there's stupid crap happening like a supply teacher not showing up, or a teacher who's away hasn't left their lesson plans anywhere we can find them (or indeed anywhere at all (and yes, that happens)), I feel like it's part of my job to solve problems like this. But I gotta say, if the shit's hitting the fan and it's a Day 2, I can pull the, "Whoops, can't help out here, gotta go to class!" card, and that's pretty fun.)

But... 6:20 am.

Hell.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

That was a summer, alright.

Tonight basically capped-off the summer for yours-truly: a majestic hunk of steak, grilled on a hot barbecue, accompanied by corn, potatoes, and of course beers and cigars.

As my teacher-pal and I shot the bull, we both realized that, yup, it was back to the ol' grind. But that's alright because...
  1. They pay us to work.
  2. It's always an interesting challenge, this teaching thing.
  3. Colleagues are fun, usually.
  4. We can steal some more red pens.
I kid, I kid... the school board buys such crappy red pens, they're not worth stealing. Staples, baby -- dozen-boxes of Bic Ultra, something like $2.50? Can't say no to that.

(Besides, I usually mark in green.)

The summer was a good one. I seemed to have a better mix of in-town stuff and trips outta-town this year than in others, but still managed to get out-and-about and see some ball games, visit family, and generally goof-off in enjoyable ways.

But, alas, it has come to an end yet again. In a way it's easier to get together when it's not summertime -- people often aren't around when you want to put something together, or want to hang out, or whatnot. But in September onwards, chances are you aren't going to be jetting off somewhere for two weeks, unless you're one of those bastards that actually gets to choose when they take their holidays.

(Not flying and/or staying in hotels during peak travel season? What's that like?!)

In conclusion, Libya is a land of contrasts.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

God is amazing, alright.

On Thursday night the Marlins played the Pirates, and it was about as average a baseball game as you could hope for (Pittsburgh beat Miami, 7-2)... except that Marlins pitcher Dan Jennings got hit in the head with a line drive.

That's always a scary moment, and frankly I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often: a screaming line drive comes right back at the pitcher's head, and before they get a chance to get their glove up for protection or duck out of the way, bingo, ball meets skull/temple/face. Seeing as how these batted baseballs are moving at, at times, 110 mph (175 km/h), and the pitcher is standing a little less than 60 ft (18 m) away...

v = 175 km/h = (1.75 x 105 m)/(3600 s) = 49 m/s

v = d/t ... t = d/v = (18 m)/(49 m/s) = 0.37 s

...that's not a lot of time. (Always show your work.) Actually, that's not even the length of time you have to react. That's the length of time from when the ball leaves the bat to when it would hit you 60 ft away; you have to get your glove up by that time, and that takes a fraction of a second too.

So, Jennings got clocked. Preliminary tests suggest a concussion, but if you check the video clip above, dude didn't even fall to the ground. Ball smashes off his head, he spins around and takes a few steps, then puts his hands on his knees. Tough guy.

Anyway, he was well enough to tweet this afterwards:
The scans were negative-it seems I'm going to be ok. The support shown tonight has been unbelievable, speechless. God is amazing
Easy there, Dan -- that may well be the concussion talking. But let's unpack this statement.

God is amazing because...
  1. the scans were negative
  2. you're going to be OK
  3. you've received support from people
These are all good things, don't get me wrong. I'm glad the scans were negative, that you're going to be OK, and that you feel the support of family, friends and fellow players.

But is this really evidence that God is "amazing?"

According to all the descriptions of an almighty deity I've ever encountered in Christianity, God is everywhere at all times. Now, there's always a question of how "interventionist" you want your God to be, of course... but omniscience and omnipotence seem to be pretty key features.

If God is omnipotent, and if God loves all His creatures and creations, you'd think that getting nailed in the temple by a flying five-ounce spherical projectile would be something that God wouldn't want one of His precious little things to experience. And yet, it happened.

The way I see it, there are two events here in which God could have intervened:
  1. the initial incident of ball hitting face
  2. the relatively-positive aftermath
Also, there are two ways in which God could have reacted:
  1. do nothing
  2. make things happen the way they did
I smell a 2x2 table coming on.

God did nothing God did it
ball hits face Geez, do something already. Dick move! You DID this?!
positive aftermath Humans are pretty great. It was the least you could do.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I don't know if God exists or not. But if so, come ON.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A whopper of an existential crisis.

So I'm visiting my folks on the long weekend, and the topic of conversation turns to the windmills that are going up all over the place in southwestern Ontario.

Me: "I dunno, I kinda like them."

Mom: "Oh no, they're terrible. We don't want 'em."

Me: "Well, nobody really wants them in their back yard, but they've gotta go somewhere."

Mom: "But they wreck the soil. They drive the worms out when they pour the concrete pad, and that makes the farmland less productive."

Me: "It's a small price to pay for totally green electricity. Rather that than have coal spitting out carbon dioxide all over the place."

Mom: "Well, you don't know what it's like, you don't live here anymore."

And it's true, I don't, and I haven't lived in rural southwestern Ontario since 1996. But that's been stuck in my head the past few days, and I can't get it out.

Here's the crisis:

Am I a small-town person or a big-city person?

Naturally, my instinct in states of indecision or confusion is to draw a diagram. So I whipped up a spreadsheet and figured out how long I've been living in each place.


That's the basic idea. ("London," for the record, is the real one: London, Ontario. And I technically lived at RR#1 Deep River, but that's close enough.) There were various places in Waterloo and Kingston and Toronto that I've lived in, and technically I lived in pre-amalgamation North York for four months, but if it's the 416, let's classify it as Toronto.

This is a lot of colours, so we can simplify a bit. I'll consider Inwood and Deep River to be small towns; Waterloo, Kingston and London are small cities; Toronto and Calgary are big cities.


Small town still wins, but we're getting closer to 50-50. Finally, if we consider something to either be "a small town" or "not a small town," I think you know how this is going to go.


And there you have it. But, in my defence, my small-town years were my formative ones, so they probably count more than their 49% suggests. So, if I had to classify myself these days, let's go with...

Small-town roots but with a big-city veneer on top.

Yeah, I think that works alright.

Friday, July 18, 2014

It was approximately ten years ago today.

...with apologies to the lads from Liverpool.

In July of 2004, I started back at Queen's in the M.Ed program; took a couple of summer classes in July, kicked back and relaxed for most of August, then cranked it back up in September (well, as much as one could crank it up in that program (which wasn't very much (because it was damn easy))).

The four years previous to that were the first four years of my teaching career. They were pretty stressful; had some pretty tough customers and admin that didn't help much, labour issues aplenty for most of it, coached and supervised stuff beyond what I should have. Plus, the first few years of teaching, you're just finding yourself -- how you interact with a class, figuring out a routine, accumulating some resources, all that jazz. Not a trivial thing to accomplish, and something most of us continue to work on our entire careers.

Before that was five years combined at Waterloo and Queen's, in physics (UW) and education (Q). The Queen's part was obviously a bajillion times more fun than the Waterloo part, not only because of the schools themselves but because of what I took at each. My B.Ed stuff was done essentially in my third year at UW, with a couple of co-op work terms (fall/winter) swapped-out for the B.Ed program, which means that after spending eight months getting ready to get out there and go get 'em tiger... whoops! Back to Waterloo with you, young punk, for two more years of seasoning.

Granted, in the first four years of teaching, I did have three summers off squeezed in there... but in those summers I took two courses and took a month-long trip to Europe, so it's not like I was just sitting around. (Alright, I was sitting around in Stockholm and Prague and Brussels, but that hardly counts.)

And then... grad school, the "snooze button of life" -- if you choose the right program. And, brother, did I ever. Two years of minimal easy work, abundant women, booze everywhere? Sign me up! Want to co-host an indie-rock radio show once a week where you can play almost anything you like on Tuesday mornings? That's the place to go, I tell ya. (Mind you, it does take a bit of a toll on one's savings account, but that's what working is for.)

I met some amazing people during grad school, and a few of 'em were even in my program. (Honestly, most of those people, I could kinda do without. The M.Ed program was pretty evenly split between (a.) working teachers looking to climb the administration ladder later in their career, and (b.) psychology nerds who had no real-life teaching experience but wanted to study something child-development-y. I'm caricaturizing here a bit, but not much; I think it's particularly telling that the Fac of Ed had exactly one (1) graduate course linked to pedagogy in any way.)

I'd say, though, that the most important thing I learned at Queen's was to remember to relax and have a good time, and that fun opportunities really are all around you, all the time. Stop and smell the roses, so to speak.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

This god damn place is all going to bullshit hell in a fucking handbasket, I say.

What the fuck is this shit?

  • An airplane gets shot out of the sky.
  • A country invades another country.
  • Some other country invades another sorta-country.
  • A Canadian senator is facing multiple criminal charges.
  • Johnny Winter is no longer alive and well.
  • Little kids are getting hit by vans and falling out of windows.
And, to top it off, there's no baseball tonight because we're still in the All-Star Break. These assholes earn millions of dollars a year and they need FOUR days off in the middle of the summer?

Well, at least there's beer. And, owing to The One And Only Matt's appearance in town last weekend, plus a couple of other engagements, I had a streak of seven consecutive days wherein I ordered at least one beer at a bar. That got broken up tonight, but rest assured, I had an Atwater Vanilla Java Porter with dinner tonight, so the self-pickling streak definitely continues.

Ah, holidays.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Neil deGrasse Tyson says wise things.

In an interview with Larry King -- who is, somehow, still alive -- Dr. Tyson said something that I think rings really true. I'll paraphrase heavily, of course; I've watched another 30 minutes of this interview (it's a good one, natch) and other things crept into my head in the meantime.

Space is a way to get kids interested in thinking about their world differently. Whether you ultimately end up doing something space-related as a career or not, it gets them interested in the STEM subject areas -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. What you end up doing is creating a set of kids that grow up thinking differently about things, and that's a good thing.

I've seen this myself, many times. Kids are absolutely drawn to space; they're fascinated by it, have questions about it, think about it, wonder about it. I had a class full of Grade 9 characters in semester 2 this year -- to my knowledge at least 3 of them spent a night in jail during the semester -- and yet every day during the space unit, it was 75 straight minutes of jamasmanyquestionsaboutspaceasyoucaninthere.

It was a little exhausting, for sure, and it made getting through that day's material a little trickier, especially when the questions got off-topic (as they usually did). But, consider...
  1. I find space pretty interesting.
  2. I enjoy talking about it with others.
  3. I know a fair bit about it, and hope I can pass some of that knowledge on.
  4. Especially for these kids, if they have science-based questions, you'd better believe I'm gonna satiate their curiosity as thoroughly as I can. I know there's this idea that the teacher shouldn't just be the answer-box, and I usually take that advice, but when a kid has a question about a black hole and blurts it out when I'm in mid-sentence because he just can't wait, am I going to tell him, "Gee, sonny, that's a great question, why don't you go home and find out the answer and share it with the rest of us?" Like that would fly in my class.
Anyway, Dr. Tyson said something else pretty profound as I was typing, and I managed to get this one down pretty much verbatim.

We spend the first year of a kid's life teaching them to walk and talk, and the rest of their life we tell them to sit down and shut up.

So long as nobody's cranking-up to punch anyone else, calling them a "dirty gypsy" (yup, that happened) or anything like that... it's probably a pretty good teaching philosophy.

. . .

JESUS CHRIST I'M ON HOLIDAYS AND I'M THINKING ABOUT TEACHING.

SOMEONE COME OVER AND SLAP ME, PLEASE.*

_____________________
* mmmhmm. Please.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My history with eggs.

In short: it's an atypical one.

In long:

I'm not entirely sure why, but I never ate eggs on their own, growing up. Was I freaked-out about where they came from? No. Did I hate how they looked or smelled when either raw or cooked? Not particularly. Do I enjoy asking myself questions, Rumsfeld-style, and answering them? Absolutely.

I do recall trying out a poached egg on toast when I was little, and being okay with it. I also remember my dad having hard-boiled eggs in those little egg cups, using his spoon to crack along the top of it, putting a little salt and pepper on the innards, and digging out the goodness inside. And I never minded having French toast, even though it's essentially fried eggs clinging to bread.

But eggs on their own? Nope.

In third year of university, we had an 8:30 - 10:00 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. (It might have been Mathematical Physics 1, and yes, it was as horrendous as it sounds. It was actually kinda useful, though.) The class would wrap up around 9:45, and the Physics building was on the east side of campus; if we hustled we could get to a place called Mel's Diner before 10, which meant the breakfast special would still be on.
I love eating breakfast in restaurants. It's probably my favourite meal to have out (and, oddly, probably the meal I enjoy making the most for myself at home). Ninety percent of the time I'll get the same thing: scrambled eggs (well done)*, brown toast (or rye if they have it), hash browns, and sausages. So, this would be what I'd order at Mel's, along with a coffee.

* Eggs, steaks, toast: cook the fuck out of it, please and thank you.
For a while I'd just give my eggs to someone else who was at the table, usually either my buddies Ben or Mike. But after a while, Mike -- who's turned into quite the foodie lately -- would ask why I couldn't just get them scrambled and eat them. "They don't have a lot of taste, and you could just put some Tabasco on them and eat them yourself."
Mike's a guy who I trust a lot on matters of taste. One of the first encounters I ever had with him was in residence; he was a big fan of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which is a band I enjoy to this day. He told me he preferred songs without lyrics, which I initially dismissed as crazy-talk, but later came to agree with. I asked him, "If I was going to buy one thing at a grocery store and it'd make the most impact on what I cooked, what should I buy?", and he answered "Onions." -- that was absolutely correct. Also, we were in a band together, which was fun. And, we could/should have a reunion jam up in Ottawa pretty much anytime.
So, ever since, I've eaten them scrambled and enjoyed them. I don't ever make them for myself any other way, and if I get them in a restaurant, yup, they're scrambled. There are some Asian dishes where there are eggs cracked on top of things and the yolk percolates down and jesus CHRIST that's disgusting (and yes, I'm looking at you too, toast-yolk-dippers).

And that, friends, is why having summers off is great. You can take twenty minutes and describe your history with eggs on a Thursday afternoon.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Well now, this is awkward.

Like always, George Costanza may have said it best.



So... yeah.

I'd sorta grown accustomed to not really having an audience. Frankly, I didn't want one. But, now I have one.

Not that having an audience is a bad thing. No sirree. Not at all.

But I'm not sure I want one. And it's nothing personal, really, it's not. I just can't end up like George, hanging out at Reggie's.

Friday, June 13, 2014

And now, the god damn news.

Good afternoon, this is CBC News. I'm J and you're not, so go fuck yourselves. The weather is cloudy and 23 degrees.

Liberal premier-elect Kathleen Wynne really stuck it to the Conservatives last night, giving them kidney-punches and taking a majority government. Wynne held a press conference in a balls-meltingly-hot room today to explain what her government has in store for the next session.

I told that dickless Lieutenant-Governor to reconvene the Legislature on July 2, so we can get back to pissing in Tim Hudak's legislative corn flakes every day in Question Period. I've got a majority now, so if he's not careful, I'll walk across the floor of the House and slap that pretty little mouth of his.

Wynne didn't elaborate when asked if she'd slap Hudak "back into last week" during the first sitting of the Legislature or not, but she did give a playful wink to reporters in lieu of an answer.

In international news, instability continued today along the Ukraine-Russia border, because both sides are filled with pussies too afraid to fire their fucking guns. START SHOOTING, ASSHOLES! WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF THINGS TO SAY ABOUT YOU.

At the World Cup today, a bunch of Mexicans chased a ball around in the rain. Not a lot happened, yet the fans in Brazil were pretty damn close to fucking each other right in the aisles. The game ended 1-0, but nobody gives a good god damn who won.

In business news, a bunch of rich assholes on Bay Street got richer today and you didn't. The markets are closed, which means all these rich fuckers are currently boning their mistresses in their offices. Their wives all know, but they're too zonked-out on pills to care.

The weather forecast calls for shitstorms tonight, and a low of 14. Tomorrow you might as well just fuck off from work and hit the beach, because it's gonna be 27 and sunny. Nobody will miss you anyway, it's not like you're important down there. "Go and file this quarterly report, Jenkins" -- shit, a Chinaman could do that for a tenth the price. I mean, they built the railroad and all your kid's toys.

I'm J, and that's been the news. Suck my dick, Toronto.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

I'm kinda flattered.

Perusing the stats function here at Blogger, I can see that someone linked to a post of mine through their Twitter dealie a couple of days ago. Thanks, whoever that was!

The pros and cons of being me right now.

Let's take stock for a minute.

Pros:
  • Good overall health.
  • Steady job, shelter, food, water.
  • Owner of a reliable car.
  • Beer still tastes delicious.
  • Five school days until exams start.
  • Had a couple of dates recently that went somewhat well.
Cons:
  • Left elbow probably has a touch of bursitis.
  • Right elbow probably has a touch of golfer's elbow.
  • Coming down with a cold.
  • Physically hurt at the end of the work day.
  • Currently surviving on Advil and leftovers.
  • As union rep, had to be present yesterday as our principal told six people they were, at that point, out of a job.
  • As department head, have to re-do the entire schedule for next year (12-ish people, 67 classes in essentially 4 subject areas (9-10 Sci, 11-12 Chem, 11-12 Phys, 11-12 Bio, a mix of IB and Ontario courses)).
  • Also as department head, have to proofread about 20 final exams before Friday. Let's just say some people don't know how to write a question that makes any sort of sense.
  • As baseball coach, still have to collect jersey and cap money from about 15 kids, or else I'm personally out about a grand.
  • As teacher, have to plough through a pile of marking that makes Everest look like a speed-bump.
So, it's a mix.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Provincial election time.

Tonight on The Agenda on TVO, there was a panel discussion with members of the four main parties, plus a guy from the National Post (wait, that's still a thing?). This debate focused on the 416; to those of you reading who aren't from southern Ontario, "the 416" refers to the City of Toronto, not including suburbs like Mississauga and Pickering and Markham and whatnot.

The polls, well, they look pretty shitty for the Libs right now. Our equivalent of FiveThirtyEight, called (rather conveniently) ThreeHundredEight, now has the PCs forming a minority; take a peek at Grit support in Eastern Ontario, and you'll see it's tanking faster than the goddamn Edmund Fitzgerald.

But alas, the discussion. Four candidates from the 416 -- two current MPPs, two who are trying win for the first time -- hashed it out. To their credit, they actually kept things fairly civilized... but, naturally, there were some differences. I'll try to summarize.

Mitzie Hunter -- Liberal

She won her seat in a by-election last summer in Scarborough-Guildwood, after Margarett Best retired as a sitting MPP due to health reasons. I'm not thrilled that she made "subways subways subways" part of her election platform, for two reasons: one, surface LRTs are much more appropriate for parts of the city like Scarborough than subways are. And two, no subway is ever going to go through that riding, so why make it such an integral part of your platform? It's like me running to get elected in Newfoundland and then not shutting up about the damn Yukon. Anyway, I thought she did reasonably well, made good points, and remained calm but confident.

David Porter -- Progressive* Conservative

He's running in my riding, Don Valley West. This is also the riding of the current premier, Kathleen Wynne, and sitting premiers very rarely lose their own ridings (unless it's a total bloodbath, and while it's edging towards the PCs a bit with some of the latest polls, it doesn't look to be "Federal Election '93" territory). Porter actually wasn't that much of a prick, for most of the evening... until the topic came to what to do with Toronto Community Housing Corporation, which has been a mess since the PCs downloaded that stuff onto municipalities in the '90s. His answer was predictable, yet disappointing: "We take a different approach. We're going to create jobs, and people will get lifted out of poverty." AND PEOPLE VOTE FOR THESE ASSHOLES? JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.

* I include "Progressive" because it's part of their official party name, but to think these guys are "progreessive" in any way means you need to consult a god damn dictionary about what that word means.

Cheri DiNovo -- New Democrats

She's the current MPP for Parkdale-High Park, and has been since 2006 when she won a by-election after Gerard Kennedy stepped down, stealing it from the Libs. She's a bulldog, and I like her a lot. But I really don't like how the NDP seem to be trying to outflank the Liberals on the right, screaming "No new taxes!!!" every chance they get. Dude, you're the NDP for chrissakes! This ain't your game! I realize what they're trying to do here: hold their social-conscience stuff for their traditional supporters who'd vote orange no matter what, and try and lure away some of the mushy middle who have held their nose and voted Liberal. I don't think they're really trying to entice PC voters to leapfrog the middle and go with the Dippers, but all of this just really bizarre. Of course, they run the risk of offending their traditional base, which is soft to begin with.

Josh Borenstein -- Green

And now, the interesting part. He's 19 and running for elected office in York Centre, so kudos to him for giving something like this a whirl. And I also give the guy props for apparently running an entirely free election campaign, as described on his website. It takes guts to say unpopular, but possibly true things, especially on TV with thousands of viewers. But whoever at the Green Party of Ontario picked him to be the spokesperson for the party that's ostensibly concerned with environmental issues should be fired, and quick. Every question asked turned into an eerily quiet rant about how the current system is fucked, how we should have recall rights for politicians that break promises, and that Ontario is broke. (Just borrow more money, duh.) And a further reading of his policies talk about stuff like merit pay for teachers, interest-free loans from the good ol' days, and other assorted sundry insanities. York Centre is polling at 1.9% for the Greens these days, which is about as low as it gets (most ridings are around 5%), but I'm not sure a whole lot of people ever really vote Green based on the individual candidate, save perhaps for Liz May federally.

So, there you have it. I'm still scared shitless for June 12, if the PCs win; Andrea Horwath has been deliberately vague on forming a coalition, and there's rumours she'd even form one with the PCs, which is just absolutely fucked up beyond imagination. This one's coming down to the wire, and that ain't fun at all.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Bleh, May is busy.

My life these days has been consumed with five things, most of which culminate to a crescendo in May:
  1. Teaching my three classes
  2. Being a department head
  3. Being a union rep
  4. Coaching a baseball team
  5. Organazing a field trip from hell
Here's how each of those is going.

1. Teaching

Well, my afternoon classes are great. My morning class is crazy, and getting crazier by the day; I spend 70% of my time during the day that I spend on my classes thinking about them, dealing with their bullshit, talking to the VPs about them, calling parents, and so on. I just hope I can steer them through the next 18 classes without me murdering anyone.

2. Department head

I think the other people in the department are noticing the state I'm in these days; as part of our weekly Friday Treats, the lady who did it this past week (a.) baked us a rhubarb pie, (b.) from scratch, (c.) with rhubarb from her garden. Possibly the best pie I've had in a decade. And she said she did it because she thought I'd appreciate it, because I've been stressed out like crazy lately. Ain't that nice?

3. Union rep

We're in the thick of the staffing process, and new information is coming at us all the time (including this past Friday at 4:30ish). So, I have to hold the VP's hand and make sure all the staffing rules are followed; seniority and qualifications, ahoy. Plus, I have to deal with assorted boneheaded bullshitty things that teachers do that might get them in trouble. Honestly, folks, stop doing stupid stuff.

4. Coaching

There comes a point in almost every teacher-coach's season where you start rooting against your own team, so maybe, just maybe the season can be mercifully over and you can have your life back. But this year was different; I wanted the fellas to win the regional title. We would've had a good shot too, but we lost in the semifinal in a tight 7-5 thriller.

5. Field Trip

Since I started teaching, we've taken physics classes to Canada's Wonderland to do experiments on the roller coasters; kids ask me on the first day of class if we're going. But the board is scared shitless of turning kids loose in an amusement park, even if what they're doing is curriculum-related. So, working with the other VP, we figured out a way to change things so (a.) it's slightly shittier for the kids, but (b.) it was to get approved by our superintendent (i.e., above our principal). We finally did, and we go tomorrow, and holy hell was that a lot of work.

Naturally, when I get home, I'm a tired boy. So, pesky stuff like marking and a lot of good, forward-thinking planning? Heh, that just gets pushed off to later -- and I feel like my classes are suffering because of it. But, as soon as I stop getting pulled five different ways every day, I'll just get right on that.

(I like to joke that when I enter my department office and the first words I hear are someone saying, "Oh, there he is" -- which inevitably means that someone's been looking for me to go do something else, probably urgently -- that's the worst thing I can hear. Because it usually ends up with me dropping whatever three things I was already doing, and going somewhere else to put out some fucking fire that popped up out of nowhere.)

SUMMER, WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Left Elbow Chronicles: Day 3.

On the morning of Thursday, May 15, 2014, I woke up with a sore left elbow. This set of blog posts is meant to document and capture the ordeal associated with said elbow: straight from the heart. No filter. Only the raw truth.

* * * * * * * * * *

Yeah, guess I forgot to do this last night. It's pretty much all better now I guess.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Left Elbow Chronicles: Day 2.

On the morning of Thursday, May 15, 2014, I woke up with a sore left elbow. This set of blog posts is meant to document and capture the ordeal associated with said elbow: straight from the heart. No filter. Only the raw truth.

* * * * * * * * * *

A bit of redness at the surface. Not quite as tender to the touch. Swelling may have gone down a bit, but can still see it some.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Left Elbow Chronicles: Day 1.

On the morning of Thursday, May 15, 2014, I woke up with a sore left elbow. This set of blog posts is meant to document and capture the ordeal associated with said elbow: straight from the heart. No filter. Only the raw truth.

* * * * * * * * * *

I woke up and it felt like I'd banged my elbow against a wall, really hard. It felt like it'd been bruised. I took two Advil.

By mid-morning it was slightly swollen, and warm to the touch. Swelling was noticeable at close-range.

Tonight the pain has subsided a little bit, but it's still very tender.

End of Day 1.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

It's been a little rough lately.

Last night, Friday night, party night, woo!

...and I was asleep on my couch at 9pm. Slept until 1:30, got up, went to bed properly. That's the kind of week it's been.

At work, I have four roles these days:
  1. Classroom teacher
  2. Department head
  3. Union rep
  4. Baseball coach
Sometimes, union stuff dominates my life. Other times, it's department stuff. For the months of April and (especially) May, baseball is all I really think about... but then there are those pesky classes, always there, every day. My job would be a lot easier if I didn't have to teach.

The other day, as I was sitting at a computer waiting for my email to load, checking it to see if any of the three people in my department who were away that day had sent in lesson plans (two did), I thought to myself, "Imagine if this was someone else's problem. You walk into the building, you worry about teaching your classes, you do that, and you go home. Wouldn't that be wonderful?"

This has got me thinking about not re-applying for the department head gig when it comes back up in... uh... two-plus years. Oh god, two more years of this bullshit? (Not that I mind doing it; I like organizing things, fixing stuff, and generally helping people out. But right now, it's not something I, y'know, need in my life.)

The union rep thing, well, I suppose I could finish out the year and just say, Sorry folks, I need a year off from it. And I think the rest of the staff would understand; I'm pretty visible, always doing stuff on some level, all throughout the year. Some times are busier than others: we're in the thick of staffing for next year right now, and we still have people who are surplus to our school (we aren't going to be able to squeeze them all in, unfortunately; hopefully they land gigs somewhere else in the board).

Also, when somebody does something stupid and they get reprimanded for it, I gotta be in on the whole process (unless it's huge and goes way past me). Fortunately, that hasn't happened in a little while -- or, rather, the ongoing situations seem to be in a holding pattern right now -- so that's alright.

The baseball thing... over the next two weeks, that's gonna be my life right there. We play five games in eight school days, which means my afternoon classes basically won't see too much of me until right before the long weekend. It's good that the season is short, of course... but I've had to put so much time and effort into paperwork, organizing people, wrangling hats and jerseys (neither of which will be in by our first game, whoooops), the season itself is almost anticlimactic in contrast. I just hope we win some games.

Add to this my grade 9 class, which is fucking insane, and it hasn't been too pleasurable a time lately. Plus, this girl that I went out with and got along great with and called on the phone and talked for hours several times with, well, she thinks you're a really neat guy and I think we'd work better as friends and I hope that's okay with you. Well, it's not.

Hence... asleep by nine. With no regrets whatsoever.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Age.

At dinner with a friend last night, we debated the idea of age, as we often do; she's a few years younger than me, and often reminds me of this. But, if you do the math, any difference in ages, percentage-wise, becomes less and less significant as the two of you get older.

(Sixty year old man with a fifty year old woman? Fine. Twenty-five year old guy with a fifteen year old girl? I think you see my point.)

Two things came to mind.

One, is there an "ideal age" for either gender? I think there's a magic age that a lot of people try to shoot for, in terms of how they act and dress, where they hang out, and what they secretly (or not-so-secretly) pine for. I'd suggest that for women that age is around 26, and for guys it's 19. I'm painting with a broad brush here, obviously.

Two, a bit that Louis CK has done recently rings very, very true: older people are smarter. I'll just let you watch him say it, because he says it better than I ever could. I've shown this to a class of mine recently (and apologized for the cuss words near the end), and they get it.

The moral of the story is this: getting older is a mixed blessing. But then again, so are most things in life.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

On religion.

So, Fred Phelps died this week.

Am I happy about that? I suppose. But not very, because the church he created (and apparently from which he was excommunicated last year) lives on. George Takei had a good take on it; to summarize, he suggested that love always triumphs over hate, in the end. And, more generally, I think it was Mark Twain who observed that there can be people whose deaths aren't to be celebrated, but aren't necessarily appropriate to feel sad about. Phelps being gone fits that bill pretty well.

The Westboro Baptist Church is an extreme flavour of religion, of course; its extreme-ness is why anyone talks about that particular, tiny congregation in a nondescript part of the US at all. But, religions find their way into a lot of corners of our lives, either through overt displays/rituals/symbols/practices, or though more subtle ways like the idioms in our language ("god forbid...").

The more I think about the whole concept of religion -- blind faith in something you can't prove is there, rituals that go back thousands of years that have weird and nonsensical meanings, rules that defy logic -- the more ridiculous the whole thing seems. It's a waste of time. I used to think it was interesting to think about different religions, and I guess it has a bit of a value in terms of historical curiosity, but these days that's fast losing its appeal.

Maybe part of it is because I'm actively seeking out a significant other, and in this town you've got a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds, and a lot of 'em belong to cultural groups that have a lot of rules, and a lot of those come from religion. (Full disclosure: I find a lot of different women attractive. Haven't always, but this place tends to open up your eyes.)

I am a member of the following groups:
  • males
  • white males
  • straight white males
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education who are employed
  • straight white males who are passably Christian-ish with an education who are employed in an occupation that is near-universally respected
To quote Louis CK, "you can't even hurt my feelings!" As such, there aren't a lot of explicit "rules" I have to follow in my day-to-day life. I can kinda do whatever I want, and that's pretty bitchin'. I wish more people had the freedoms that I have, and, boy-howdy, does religion (in some cases) handcuff some people.

(I used the phrase "passably Christian-ish" because I was raised in it, but don't consider myself Christian anymore, but can speak most of the lingo and am familiar with the general ideas, some of which are actually quite nice.)

But, just think about what we could do as a world if we just stopped thinking about religion, giving money to religious organizations, paying attention to who fucked who over, thousands of years ago. Who's specially-chosen, who's not. How much you have to cover your head/face/body in public. Who has a historical/divine right to certain places. Wasting time sitting on uncomfortable seats/kneeling on rugs/burning incense in shrines/getting up early/fasting/whipping yourself/going on missions to far-flung places/and so on.

The moral of the story is that it's Sunday morning, and Sunday mornings are for sleeping in.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Grad school vs the Nine-to-Five Grind.

A recent acquaintance of mine is a PhD candidate at a university here in Toronto.

Full disclosure: I have a master's degree in educaton from Queen's. Getting this degree was ridiculously easy (save for my unhelpful thesis advisor, but that's another story; I could've done a project instead of a thesis and that point would've been moot). And, I'm sure that other graduate degrees range from (a.) a little harder to (b.) much, much harder than what I had to go through.

But, there are some things I'm certain of.

If you have a regular job, it will grind you down. You will likely not be able to go out and party on Friday nights, because all you will want to do is crawl into bed by 9:30. This means you get one night a week to yourself, really, so you'd better fucking make use of it.

Again, I didn't have the most difficult time in grad school, but fundamentally, it goes like this: if you don't have a lot of fixed time where you're supposed to be somewhere, that means it's all up to you as to how you arrange your life. And that's what grad school largely is, no matter if your program is easy or hard.

ECB, former frequent-commenter to this site's predecessor, had a hell of a time in grad school. Her program was bitchier than eight bitches in a bitch-boat. But, y'know what, she had (or, more likely, made) time for her friends. Why? Because she's a competent human being, that's why. Stand-up dame, that one.

So, when someone comes cryin' the blues -- ohhh, poor me, I'm so hard-done-by, grad school is soooo much work -- I'm a little sceptical. (Especially when this person has spent her entire life submerged in academia, and has only briefly held any semblance of a 9-to-5 gig.)

Hell, when I was doing my MEd, there were people there who had come straight out of either a BA/BSc, or had done their BEd and went straight into the master's of education program, and had the same complaint. They were in the same easy-ass program as I was! And, one of my colleagues -- who I don't believe ever finished the MEd, startlingly -- once told me that, even in his undergraduate experience, he'd never handed a paper in on time. Ever. Not once. And was continuing that streak in his MEd career.

The moral of the story is that people need perspective, and need to stop complaining when they actually have it fucking easy.

Friday, March 7, 2014

I'm an ironman.

No, I'm not talking about my blog-writing prowess -- although, y'know, I've had a blog stretching all the way back to late 2004 -- I'm talking about my record of sick days at work.

I started teaching in the fall of 2000. I took a sick day about 3 years ago. And I took another one Tuesday. (Oh, there have been days I've been away -- workshops, field trips, funerals, weddings, master's thesis stuff -- but we're talking about actual sick days here.) Boy-howdy, did I need it.

I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that, at 3:15am on Tuesday, working up the strength to type up lesson plans for my classes, and email them into the school, was no small feat. I lucked-out because all three of 'em could do something fairly independently, which is actually kind of a rare thing in my subject area. So yeah, I didn't feel quite so bad about that.

Here's the thing, though. When you're not there for the day, you don't really know who you're going to get in your place. You assume they're going to be about 30% competent, for a variety of reasons:
  • There have been times when you neatly copy handouts, sticky-note the hell out of stuff, leaving detailed directions... and when you come back, you find the same neat piles of stuff, sticky-noted, with directions... exactly where you left them. The dope didn't come and get your stuff, and your kids sat there and dicked-around the whole class.
  • The person who came in was just flat-out crazy. You've heard rumours that such-and-such a person was a little off their rocker, and you know kids exaggerate whenever possible, but the stories they tell when you get back can't possibly be made up by them.
  • Maybe they saw the stuff the kids were looking at and thought, "Hey, I can teach that!" So they go off and try to teach the kids, usually with one of the following outcomes:
    • they do it in a totally different way than you would, and/or they do it entirely wrong and screw up the kids and you have to spend the next two days undoing all the damage
    • the kids see a supply teacher and immediately flip their brains into, "pff, it's not the regular guy, I ain't learnin' shit" mode
Now, don't get me wrong. It's a tough gig, coming in for someone who has routines all set up, knows their personalities and knows who should NEVER be sitting beside who, and has a general idea about where the class is going.

But, having supplied for a bit on the tail-end of my leave a few years ago, a lot of it has to do with how you approach the students. I found a good attitude to take was something along the lines of, "Look, this isn't optimal, and I know I'm not who you were expecting. But, we've got some work to do; I'll help you get it done, and if we get finished, we'll have some time to chill out at the end."

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Busy, fun, weird times down at the ol' schoolhouse.

I have a new crop of kids this semester, which started on January 31, and yes, that was a Friday, and yes, that means I saw my kiddies once and then we split for the weekend.

This semester I have one Grade 9 Applied Science, one Grade 11 University Prep Physics, and one Grade 11 IB Physics. Let's go through 'em, shall we?

* * * * *

1. Grade 9 Applied Science

To those of you not familiar with Ontario's education system these days, there's essentially two levels of courses in grades 9 and 10: Applied is a little less demanding, and Academic is, well, more academic. I've taught 'em all over my career, and each stream has its benefits and its drawbacks... and yes, I'm generalizing quite a bit.

CriterionAppliedAcademic
Attitude towards academicsnot so goodyou can usually get nice and nerdy
Memory skills"What? We learned that?""Yeah, we learned that."
Craziness levellowerhigher
Class sizesmaller, usually 20-ishbigger, usually 30-ish
Marking loadlowerbigger
Parent engagementusually lowerusually higher

Some of my best classes have been Applied, and some of my most-insane have been Academic. It's all dependent on the mix of kids, what other classes are running in that period, the chemistry between you and them, the time of day, the phase of the moon, who beat who in the NHL last night, and of course a coin-toss.

These kids are alright so far. I have one who's high-functioning Autistic who has very little filter on what he says, and another kid who's about five-feet-nothing and enjoys setting him off. (I've already moved them to opposite sides of the classroom. Also, they've been friends forever.) I have two girls beside each other who barely speak English, but speak different first-languages (Slovak and Hungarian, and no, they're not similar at all); it's funny to listen to them try and converse in broken English, but it's also not so funny when they don't understand a word I'm saying. One of my kids is obsessed with the idea of radiation. Another two are, oddly enough, from England (although one has an accent and the other's is gone). One is diabetic and wears an insulin pump. Another comes from clear across the city and is seldom on time. Another never says anything in class, but will speak in a low whisper to me afterward.

"Teaching: It's easy, right? Two months off in the summer, baby."

2. Grade 11 Uni Physics

It's been a while since I've taught this course, frankly... but it's an old friend, for sure. Kids get their first taste of an entire physics course here, after they have to put up with the "mix four different strands into the grade 9 and 10 courses" business. I remember thinking when I was in grade 10 science, "Oh man, I can't wait to have an entire course where I don't have to deal with this biology bullshit." (Full disclosure: I took two entire biology bullshit courses in high school.) (More disclosure: they were actually kinda useful, all in all, although not terribly pleasant.)

This class is always an interesting mix of fear and unabashed enthusiasm. On the fear side, you have kids who are told since they're little, "You are going to be an engineer," and naturally they have to take this course... regardless of how well they did in science up to that point. So, I get a fair number of kids who are in totally over their heads, but if they switched out of the course, their parents would (very possibly) murder them. They'll usually get dragged through by either me or their friends, end up with a 53, and they'll never take the subject again.

On the other hand, you have the enthusiastic lot. They, like I was, in the scenario described above, totally nerdy for physics, and this is their first chance to put the pedal to the metal. It might work out, it might not work out, but they're gonna give it their all and have fun doing labs and such.

This class is a mix of that, and more. Good vibe.

3. Grade 11 IB Physics

We have the IB program, which is for kids in grade 11 and 12; they apply for it during grade 8, take special versions of their 9/10 courses, and hit it for real in 11. Needless to say, for kids to have survived 9/10 in that competitive environment, plus having been motivated (and good) enough to apply (and get in) a few years back... it creates a very interesting environment.

I bet you had no idea that IB (and pre-IB 9/10) classes are, by far, the loudest ones I teach. They're social little monsters, these IBs; since they have so many classes together, they know each other extremely well. And, since they already have a lot in common, they're very friendly to each other. They may be chatting up a storm about what you're trying to teach them -- probably while you're trying to teach them, too -- but yeah, there it is.

That being said, IB/pre-IB classes are always a real treat to teach. Who wouldn't want a room full of certified nerds? Near-zero behaviour issues, parents are always engaged (and that's usually positive, although not always), and their memories are insanely-good; you'll mention something off-handedly once in class as an example of some idea, and on a test a month later, they'll give it back to you. Pretty nuts.

I'll tell you one drawback of IB, though. Since the final exam isn't written by us, and it's worth 76% of the course's final grade, that sets up some weird pressures. First off, we always feel like Big Brother is watching over our shoulders (because they are, actually) -- they write up the exam, and they don't trust how we mark labs so we have to send them random samples so they can check us. (Are we soft markers? Hard markers? Did the labs we do fulfill their nebulous and always-changing criteria? The answer is always, without fail, "You're a fucking terrible teacher, and we're docking all your kids marks.")

But, because the exam is worth so much -- and for other, more inside-baseball details I don't need to describe here -- there's a ton of pressure on these kids, and that comes out in weird ways. We had one a few years ago who started losing her hair in clumps because of the stress. There have been cheating issues (not on the final exam, but the in-between exams which help us predict their mark (and no, I'm not getting into that either)). Because they know the marking system, they'll start to exploit it by only doing the bare-minimum to get by, and they'll just nerd-out on old exams (which they can acquire online easily enough). In summary, things don't always turn out great.

This class seems alright, though. First quiz on Friday. We'll see how things are going.

* * * * *

So, that about sums it up for my kids. I'll leave out the part where we've had a guy in the department off on a leave since just before first-semester exams, and a revolving-door of supply teachers have filled in, and that means I've had to prepare his lessons on top of my own, and also deal with marks from his first semester classes, which were messed up in a bunch of ways and I had to fix them and field countless questions from his students, all of which fucking sucks balls, but thankfully it's over after this (mercifully) long weekend. Shit got real, as they say.

June is soon, right?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ugh.

Every so often, I have an existential crisis.
  • What am I doing with my life?
  • Am I just an idiot man-child?
  • How am I, in any way, a functional adult male?
This is neither the first one I've had, nor is it the first one about which I've written. Most of the time, naturally, these crises are brought on by my generalized lack of success with ladies... which has been a pretty regular feature of my life these days, let me tell you.

(But honestly... I think about the last few women I've gone out with, and... well... they just didn't fit, alright? One was jumpy/wacky/nutty, another was just flat-out boring, and the last one was waaaaaay too politically correct. Not that I'm not PC, because I am, but absolutely insisting that we meet up at an independent coffee shop rather than a chain? That was red flag numero uno; not that I'm against the indie places, because I'm not, rather the strenuousness of the insistence. I guess you had to be there.)

I was bemoaning this fact to a friend recently, including the bulleted points above, and the reply was the standard one: "J, you've got a successful career, a place of your own, several degrees, a car, and you've travelled around. You've accomplished a lot." And yeah, she's right, I'm awesome. So then I started thinking a little more about these crises, and about how our minds and memories work in general.

It's easy for us to see the things we don't have, because we spend a lot of time already thinking about these things; they're at top-of-mind pretty frequently, and we can recall them at a moment's notice. But the things we do have, even if they're significant accomplishments... how much time do we reflect on those? "Gee, let me take twenty minutes and reflect on how rare it is, in our society, to have a degree in physics from one of the most highly-regarded technological universities in the country. ... Boy, that's a swell thing I did." *

And so, my bitching and complaining seems, yet again, rather foolish. I mean, sure, I haven't accomplished all I'd liked to have accomplished by now; if I had, I'd sure as hell be knee-deep in naturally-blonde left-handed Korean supermodels multiple nights per week, while playing a defensively-solid third base for the World Series champion Detroit Tigers. But hey, navel-gazing is a natural human pastime; we all fall prey to it, now and again -- and I'd argue it's a powerful force which propels us forwards to check even more stuff off our lists.
__________________________
* Not to toot my own horn or anything, but... beep-beep.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

This is how winter should be.

That's right, you heard me.

You call it a "polar vortex," I call it "a regular god damn Canadian winter."

We've been spoiled, us southern-Ontarians, with some pansy-ass winters in the past decade. Is this directly related to my habit of leaving my car idling in the staff parking lot while I'm at work all day, and my hobby of burning vast quantities of Styrofoam out on the Leslie Street Spit, twice weekly? Perhaps.

You want a bullshit winter? Take the one we had a couple of years ago. A little below freezing, a little above freezing. Dancing around the zero-mark like friggin' Fred Astaire after a baker's-dozen Pomtinis. Snow? Barely any, then it's a grey, slushy, stupid mess. Then you get a little more, and it sort-of melts again. Lather, rinse, repeat, blow out brains.

But this... this is what January should be like. It was twenty-three-below if it was a degree this morning, I tell you. Had to dodge a wooly mammoth on St. Clair Avenue on the way into work. Potholes the size of football* fields. Children freezing into solid blocks of ice on their way to school. In short, it's the best winter we've had in a good long while.

The rest of our Home on Native Land makes fun of us, and rightly so, for being wusses about the cold. "Cold?", a Winnipegger might ask. "You call this cold? Why, we'd be out in our flip-flops in this."

...except Vancouver. They can go suck an egg, far as I'm concerned. (Enjoy those 60.2 hours of January sunshine on average, losers.)

In conclusion, there are 24 days until the Tigers' pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.
___________
* Canadian ones, no less.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hey, J, what do you look for in a woman?

I know what you're thinking (mostly because I took a six-week course which showed me exactly how to do that) -- Hey, fella, how come you haven't managed to club a woman over the head, drag her back to your lair, make sweet love to her, and make her your bride?

Well, friend, I assure you I've accomplished steps 1 through 3 as described above many times. Many times. (Usually with your mom.) But that last step, that one's proven to be a doozy, and I'll tell you why: I'm fairly picky when it comes to women.

I mean, sure, you can have dinner with them a few times, take them to bed for the finest lovemaking they've ever experienced, and all that -- but if I'm going to spend the rest of my life with just one woman, I've gotta choose well. And, I have high standards.

Let me give you a little tutorial on exactly what I'm looking for. I figure it's easiest to go from the ground upwards, piece-by-piece, breaking down attributes in an informative, yet easy-to-read, manner. This is because I'm both logical and helpful.

1. Feet/Ankles
Winds these days are pretty gusty, so you've gotta make sure the woman you choose won't just blow over in a stiff breeze. Simple physics will tell you that the best way to solve this problem is to have big feet; the longer and wider, the better. Sensible footwear is also a no-brainer. High heels? That's a recipe for disaster, far as I'm concerned. Oh, and ankle-strength is paramount; I suggest looking for women who have played a lot of hockey, preferably goalie.

2. Legs (aka "Gams")
Look, you could try to seek out a woman who has thin, shapely legs. I can certainly see the appeal in that. But, it's a rookie move; strictly bush-league. This woman's going to be carrying your children around, both pre- and after-birth, and you're not going to want to trust your DNA legacy to a pair of popsicle sticks. Now, I'm not saying you should look for tree-trunks, but I certainly wouldn't fault you if you did.

3. The Hoo-Ha Area
I'm nothing if not a gentleman, so if there are any ladies reading this, I'll be sure to use carefully-encoded euphemisms to describe the parts of their anatomy they've seen every day of their existence. (You're welcome.) Basically, hair helps to trap chemicals called "pheromones" which are attractive to the opposite sex. So, logically, it stands to reason that a woman's funny-business should have as much of that decoration as possible, for maximum allure. Let the 1970s and their down-there-grooming practices reign yet again, I say! Waxing is for communists and metrosexuals, and I don't see them getting laid anytime soon.

4. Posterior (aka "Dumper")
Anthropologically speaking, a round behind is tightly correlated to full hips and breasts, which can more successfully birth and nurse a baby, respectively. (Yeah, I think I have that the right way around.) As such, I'll defer to the words and wisdom of a guy I was in residence with, in first-year of university, who was from England: "Gimme a girl with a three-stone* arse. That'll keep me warm in bed at night."
____________________
* 1 stone = 14 pounds

5. 'Twixt Collar and Waist
They say a woman with curves is what you're shooting for. "They," of course, are the vast, unwashed masses, who buy things like Nickelback albums, chips with fake fat in 'em which give you the runs, and Toyotas. That's why you have to think outside-the-box here. It's like that movie Moneyball, where Billy Beane shopped around and found players who were great in unconventional ways. The result? The Oakland Athletics won the World Series seven times in the first decade of the 21st century. That's a fact, you can look it up.

6. Face (aka "Mug")
Symmetry reigns supreme here: it's a subconscious sign that she's disease-free and thus can crap out a bunch of healthy kids. I suggest bringing along pocket-sized mirrors to various nightclubs, house parties, and other assorted places where you might meet a woman (e.g. the bank, the dentist, the abbatoir). Check her facial symmetry subtly, though; you're going to have to be a ninja about this. I'm not saying you're going to nail the "hold it up to the midpoint of her face vertically and perpendicular to the plane of her cheekbones and then take it away quickly, evaluating the differences between the reflection and the real thing" move on the first try. You'll likely get punched. But, then again, like most things in life, practice makes perfect.

7. Hair (aka "Mane")
Is long hair more feminine than short? Blondes or brunettes? (Or, if you're feeling randy and don't mind a little syphilis, a redhead?) Do you like a Skrillex-ish hairstyle wherein part of one side of her head is shorn down like someone pulled a practical joke on her as she was passed out, drunk, after downing one too many whiskey-sours? Curly hair or straight? Are extensions alright? How about wigs? Do you just solve this problem and only pursue women with alopecia? Lots more questions than answers here, folks.

That about covers it, unless she's wearing a hat (no fucking hats, I cannot stress this enough). I mean, sure, it'd help if she had a fun personality, no serious criminal convictions, a rapier wit and the ability to read and write, but at this point, can I really be that picky?