Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Union shops.

I took a peek at the London Free Press tonight, to see what's going on back-home-a-ways, and saw a story that described how Unifor is looking to organize workers at Toyota plants in Woodstock and Cambridge. (Apparently it isn't the first time they've tried.)

Like an idiot, I took a look at the comments section below the article. At the best of times, they're inoffensive and stupid... but, of course, this being an article about unions, it brought out the labour-bashers in full force.

London has been a manufacturing town for a long time, but lately a lot of industry has left the area for Right To Work (i.e. "right to work for less") US states, Mexico, China, the whole nine. Now, you'd think that, in an environment like that, people would be in favour of organizations that look to protect workers and good-paying jobs, right? Wrong.

I saw a comment which went along the lines of, "If unions went away, that would make the cost of doing business less, which would make goods cheaper, and you could live on a lower wage and still buy these things." There are, however, several things wrong with this.
  • Prices are, as economists say, "sticky downward" -- they go up quickly and easily enough, but they don't come down without a big fight.
  • You mean to tell me that some company which is chintzy enough to cockblock their workers' (totally legal) right to unionize wouldn't just pocket the difference between union and non-union wages as profit?
    • They obviously would.
    • If they didn't, and their shareholders found out, that company would have a mutiny in the boardroom.
  • Your motivation for denying people their right to organize and flex their collective muscle is because you want to be able to buy a couple of things a little cheaper?
All of this, of course, is against a backdrop of overall declining union enrolment, especially in the private sector. What I don't get is how people (a.) notice things are generally getting shittier for working people, (b.) see the decline in rates of unionization, and (c.) don't put (a.) and (b.) together.

Could it possibly be that unions help raise the standard for all workers? Think about it... two companies, X and Y, run widget factories. X is unionized and Y isn't; Y pays lower wages than X for the same job. Now, if the gap between wages at X and Y is too big -- i.e., Y is too low -- Y isn't going to be able to attract enough workers, because they'll all go to work at X. (If they settle for Y, they're probably not going to be as happy or productive, and their output suffers; you get what you pay for.) Therefore, wages at Y are tied to the wages at X, and a rising tide lifts all boats, q.e.d.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rolling Stone's top ten albums of 2013.

First off, I have a pretty cruddy cold. Just puttin' that out there.

When I read Rolling Stone, I often get a little discouraged. All those words spilled about the likes of Miley Cyrus, Drake and Eminem? Who the hell cares! Nobody's going to care about them in 20 years, which is why I usually listen to old stuff: has it stood the test of time, or is it disposable and ridiculous? (I'll do you a favour and tell you to stay the hell away from the Billboard charts. They're depressing.)

But, alas, their editorial staff have given me hope. They've rated the top 50 albums of 2013, and while the three artists I've mentioned above do indeed appear in the list, they're not in the top ten. So that's something, at least.

Without further ado, here are RS's top ten albums of 2013.

1. Vampire Weekend -- Modern Vampires of the City
I admit I don't know a whole lot about this band, but what I've heard sounds interesting and quirky. (I have a KEXP compilation album on which they appear, live in the studio, and it's a good cut of a good song they did a few years ago.) Definitely worth checking out.

2. Kanye West -- Yeezus
Haven't knowingly heard a single note from this album. Don't feel the compulsion to check it out. Didn't he just name his kid North? Moving on.

3. Daft Punk -- Random Access Memories
I'm not much of a fan of electronic music, but what I've heard of this album is interesting and weird and kinda funky. I'm not going to run out and get this album, but I can appreciate its place.

4. Paul McCartney -- New
I was driving somewhere a couple of weeks ago and heard the title cut from this album on the radio. My first thought was, "Hey, whoever this is, they sure as hell like the Beatles." Then the voice kicked in, and I thought, "Hold on a minute, is that Paul McCartney?!" And then, without a word of a lie, the hair on the back of my neck stood up. For someone who idolizes the Beatles, to hear what could easily be a cut from that band in 2013 if they still existed... wow. Amazing.

5. Arcade Fire -- Reflektor
There are a few reasons why I'm not much of an Arcade Fire fan, which I've outlined before. But, y'know what? The title cut of this album ain't bad at all. I can deal with this.

6. Queens of the Stone Age -- ...Like Clockwork
Josh Homme can be a prickly SOB, but I'll be damned if he doesn't write some interesting music; Songs for the Deaf has aged quite well. I know people who hate this band, but frankly I can't figure out why -- they do know he has a sense of humour, right? There aren't that many bands that are both heavy and melodic at the same time, and this is one of them.

7. Lorde -- Pure Heroine
Look, I get it -- she's precocious. So were Tracy Chapman, Fiona Apple, Adele and Amy Winehouse. What I've heard from her has been... well... alright, I suppose. Not terribly compelling. But then again, I don't listen to lyrics, and the electronic-y instrumentation of "Royals" doesn't really thrill me.

8. The National -- Trouble Will Find Me
I'm a little torn on this band, frankly. They sound kinda moody and gloomy, which doesn't usually sit well with me, and their singer sounds like Morrissey after a couple of roofies. But I went to a show they put on at Yonge Dundas Square in the summertime, and it was actually really, really solid. The true test of a band is their live show, which is why it's baffling to me why anyone would ever want to see an electro-whatever band (or a rapper, for that matter) in person. What's there to watch? Someone at a laptop, hitting F3 over and over? I guess if you're tripping on MDMA, I guess it doesn't really matter.

9. Arctic Monkeys -- AM
Full disclosure: I hated this band when they were 19 and telling women how good they'd look on a dance floor; they were loud, fast, and not particularly good. But have you heard anything from this album? They've grown up, they really have. And it's much, much better.

10. John Fogerty -- Wrote a Song for Everyone
Well, he re-recorded a lot of CCR stuff with a bunch of guest artists. I suppose that's alright, but I've always thought it was weird when bands re-did songs they already laid down, years later. I'd hope that the original remains the definitive version, but... ah well. I guess he took decades away from his CCR stuff during all those legal battles and really wanted to play those songs again. Can't fault the guy for that; they're great songs. Still seems weird, though.

There's good music out there, folks. You just won't find it on too many pop radio stations, is all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Prince Fielder, we hardly knew ye.

Personally, I always really liked the guy. Stand-up fella.

But, trading Fielder to Texas for 2B Ian Kinsler opens up some interesting options. Consider...
  • Cabrera can be moved back to 1B, where he's a decent fielder (unlike, well, Fielder). He's better at 3B than people give him credit for, but let's face it, Prince was a modern-day Dr. Strangeglove.
  • This also allows Victor Martinez to put in some time at 1B, if Cabrera shifts back to third or DHs for a game; V-Mart showed himself to actually be a pretty nimble defensive first baseman in limited time there this year. (He wasn't much of a catcher, admittedly.)
  • The elephant in the room, of course, is Nick Castellanos. From all reports, he wasn't ready to make the move from 3B to the outfield anytime soon, despite spending most of his time in LF this year in both Toledo and Detroit. Having him at his natural position makes everybody breathe a little easier, not in the least being Dave Dombrowski.
  • What to make of Omar Infante, then? He's got a little pop, and plays solid defence at second... but, of course, his contract is up and he's a free agent. Do they re-sign him and plug him in at third, to buy time until Castellanos proves he's a ready-for-prime-time player? My guess is no, because Infante's too valuable on the open market. Someone's gonna snap him up, and that someone isn't Detroit.
  • The Tigers just put Jordan Lennerton on the 40-man roster. I saw him this summer in Toledo, albeit briefly, but he seemed to carry himself pretty well. (He's Canadian, too.) He's not what you'd call a prospect per se, but DD must see some sort of future for him, and he knows the game pretty well.
Add to this the fact that, over the weekend, I bought planet tickets and reserved both hotel and car for a Florida spring training trip in March, and... baseball's back, baby!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The mayor, continued.

Well, Mayor McCheese has decided to stick around, "move forward," and not go anywhere.

It's inconceivable that he wins next year; Fordites have been interviewed all over the place, and a lot of 'em are of the opinion of, "Well, I support him, but he should take a leave of absence, at the very least."

Council -- even his traditional allies -- turned against him months ago. He couldn't get an agenda through 100 Queen West if he put it in the back of a dump truck and rammed through the front doors. And, he's an international embarassment.

But no, there were the Brothers Ford this afternoon on CFRB, on their weekly straight-to-the-taxpayers media outlet, proudly stating that Mayor Fat Fuck isn't going anywhere. Furthermore, they thanked all the people who have called or written to them and offered support.

* * * * * * *

Look, there are plenty of things that I dislike which, apparently, lots of other people love:
  • seafood
  • Nickelback
  • Japanese cars
  • dumb blockbuster movies
And I can see why someone might find each of those things appealing, for the most part. Hell, I can even see why someone might like Stephen Harper, at least on the surface. That's because each of the items listed above does have, even if it's hard to see, some sort of redeeming quality which outweighs all the other negatives.

Rob Ford, on the other hand... well, I can see how his "I fight for the little guy" rhetoric could be appealing. But then when you look at all the horrible stuff he's said and done over the past couple of decades, (a.) it easily outweighs any sort of oft-trotted-out platitudes he trumpets every chance he gets, and (b.) even if he does do as he says, you can't help but question plenty of other choices he's made in his life with clearly hamper his ability to be a successful office-holder.

Last night at a banquet dinner for our slo-pitch team, I sat with a teammate -- a Toronto police officer who works in Etobicoke, no less -- and we came up with a list of easily 15 really big, really public, really awful things that Ford has done. And we just sorta shook our heads and pronounced ourselves amazed that this guy is (still) the mayor of the fourth-largest city in North America.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A few things.

First off, here's some lovely mood music by Heinz Kiessling you may listen to, as you read this post. You might recognize it. (You may also recognize this and this.)

And now, the things.

1. My Detroit Tigers lost Game 6 of the ALCS last night against Boston, thus ending their season. It was a good season, I would say; taking the best team in the league to six games in the LCS is no small feat. Still, you can't help but point to the glaring miscues and underperformers (coughcoughPrinceFieldercoughcough) and wonder what might have been. I think there's enough left in the tank for another year with the same core guys -- minus Jhonny Peralta, of course, but this Iglesias fellow makes some pretty nifty plays at shortstop -- so we'll see how 2014 goes.

2. I think my 0-to-100 "Do I ever want to have kids?" meter has clicked down a notch recently. It's somewhere in the mid-70s, I think -- tough to read the dial sometimes -- but I've heard a few stories told by current-parents in the past week or so which have made me a little more skittish. But hey, if I meet the right woman tomorrow and we're married in six months and spittin' out babies nine months later, would I be surprised?*

3. This season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is right up there with any other. Season 8 was a little shaky in places, and I'm not saying season 9 is perfect by any means, but they're definitely making high-quality cringe-worthy television. I'd say it's the only TV series I follow these days.

4. I had dinner with an old high school friend of mine on Friday night, along with a friend of hers. She lives in the NYC area these days, and the other person works in a highfalutin' finance job with CIBC, and I didn't pick the restaurant... so I ended up paying more for dinner there than I believe I ever have before. (With tip, and including two beers, it ended up being in the triple-digits.) It was at a restaurant which looked like it attracted a lot of Bay Street types, and I am definitely not one of those... but let's just say I clean up halfway decently, so it's not like I rode my tractor up to the front door and left it idling the whole time. (Besides, it's in the shop; it needs a new Johnson rod.)

5. I brought absolutely zero work home with me this weekend. This feels incredibly bizarre.

That about covers it. Next time, we'll take a look at the evolving situation in Syria, and compare it to Real Housewives of New Jersey. The parallels, you'll see, are striking.
* Yes, I would.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

American politics are stupid.

Today is the second day that the US federal government is, for the most part, shut down.

Let me try to summarize what's happened, in the most objective way I can.
  • Barack Obama got elected in 2008, and one of the things he promised he'd do -- and what people seemed to vote for -- was a dramatic overhaul of the health care system.
  • He and Congress put a watered-down, but still significantly-different, plan in place so that, among other things, (a.) people could buy reasonably-priced health insurance, and (b.) private insurance companies couldn't turn people away for pre-existing conditions, which they'd been known to do, a lot.
  • The Republican party, especially the Tea Party faction of it, hated this. By the midterm elections of 2010, this faction managed to get a lot of seats, especially in the House; from 2010 until today, the Democrats have controlled the Senate, but the Republicans have controlled the House.
  • In order for bills to get passed through both the House and the Senate, they have to agree on various tweaks and amendments that get made, and a bill might bounce back and forth a couple of times before it gets signed by the President, who can simply veto it unless the final vote on it is really big in favour of it.
  • Because cooperation between houses of Congress is required for anything to really get done, the government can get deadlocked if one house puts up a big fuss.
...which brings us to the present. House Republicans, especially the Tea Partiers, hate Obama's health care bill. They see it as "big government," an intrusion on privacy and people's right to choose health insurance (or indeed not to choose it at all). So far, however, despite the fuss the TP has put up, this health care plan has passed scrutiny with the voters (who re-elected Obama in 2012; even John McCain, a moderate Republican, has mentioned that recently), and the Supreme Court a few months ago said it was altogether abiding by the Constitution.*

There. I think that about covers the summary of things so far. Now, the editorializing.

As McCain pointed out, the US public has been pretty clear: this health care plan is a good thing. The Supreme Court said everything was a-ok. And because a few far-right nuts feel like they can take over the entire conversation -- despite the previous two sentences I just typed -- they've made this new law out like it's the worst thing to ever come down the pipe. (Indeed, a House Republican recently called it "one of the worst laws ever to be crafted by mankind" -- which, as Jon Stewart points out, puts it in the company of the old English law which would allow the King to nail your wife on your wedding night.)

Look, there are a lot of laws passed in any given jurisdiction in any given year. And yeah, this one is a big one. But just because a small number of Congresspeople don't like it, that gives them the right to hold up the entire business of the nation? (That is, they wouldn't allow a budget to get passed, which means the government can't spend any more money, save for vital things like air-traffic controllers and the military (of course).) Seems pretty bananas to me.

Which it is.

Because I'm fucking right, 100% of the time.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The kids are alright.

It's not just a mod anthem from the Who, it pretty accurately describes how things are going down at the ol' schoolhouse this year.

Class #1: Grade 12 Earth and Space Science

Whenever I tell anyone that I teach this class, their first response is usually, "That's a thing?" And when I respond that, yes, indeed, it is -- although not all schools offer it, and it's only been around for the past eight-ish years -- people wonder what's in it. Technically it's 3 units of earth science (rocks and minerals, processes, earth's history) and 2 space (cosmology, solar system)... but, let's face it, I'm an astrophysics guy, it's half-and-half.

With 20 kids in it, this might be the biggest one we've had so far. But I'll tell ya, these are 20 of the quietest kids I've ever seen. Normally you can count on any given class having 3 or 4 real characters to liven the place up, but this class really doesn't have one. Having it in the morning doesn't really help either, because a lot of kids are still half-asleep, especially if the schedule of the day makes it first period. Also, I may or may not have called this assemblage of kids "a bunch of cardboard cut-outs." To them.

Class #2: Grade 9 Science (morning)

They're young, they're dumb, and collectively they have the worst taste in music I've ever seen. They were born in 1999 (excepting the couple of kids who are in grade 10 and taking this course), which is ridiculous -- and also explains their terrible taste in music.

But alas, I think about myself at their age, and... well, yes, I knew some Beatles songs. But I clearly recall the summer between grade 8 and 9, practically wearing out my Poison album -- and no, I don't mean the hair-metal band, I mean the album by New Jack Swing vocal group Bel Biv DeVoe. (Look, it was a dark time in my life.)

I can't go around judging 14-year-olds by adult standards. They don't know what the hell they're doing. I just don't really know how best to point them, musically, in the right direction without just straight-up making fun of who they listen to. Perhaps I'll figure out five songs they need to hear, and dispatch them to YouTube. But that's tricky; you can't just give them a huge dose of awesome right off the bat, you've gotta work up to it.

As for the actual science-y stuff? They're doing fine.

Class #3: Grade 9 Science (afternoon)

It's bigger, louder and perhaps not as academically strong as its morning counterpart. But that's alright; their friends in the morning class probably tell them what's on tests and whatnot. Believe me, they need the help.

One thing I refuse to do is yell. Remember the mom from "Malcolm in the Middle"? Her normal speaking-voice was a yell, and the kids learned to tune that out pretty effectively. Same goes for teaching. Hell, when I really wanna rattle 'em, I pause for a long time and then speak really quietly. Freaks 'em out good.

High school teaching: Psychological warfare with teenagers, three times a day.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Just once, I'd like to hear this on the traffic report.

...and now with the traffic, here's Steve Bennett.

Thanks, Alice.

The 401 westbound is pure bullshit from the DVP all the way to the airport, both express and collectors. Eastbound, anywhere between the Allen and Kennedy, you're pretty much fucked.

Some asshole on the 400 northbound at Finch has a flat tire on the shoulder, and dickheads both north and southbound are slowing down to take a look. Keep it moving, you morons!

The QEW? Just forget it. Stay home, or at work, or wherever you are; god knows everyone on that infernal stretch of pavement is staying exactly where they are for a hell of a long time.

On the Don Valley, there's just too many fucking people. Who are all of you, anyway? And why did you all decide you had to be somewhere else right now? Holy shit, people.

Gardiner eastbound, construction in the left lane near the South Kingsway means everyone from the 427 on in means you're gonna be late for whatever the hell you were trying to get to. Gardiner west, same thing at the same place, so get comfortable. Thinking of taking Lakeshore instead? Forget it. Just as bad, trust me.

All you rich assholes on the 407, you're moving nicely across the whole city. But what's all the way up there, anyway? Last time I was near the 407, all I saw were Chinamen and WOPs, and I don't want anything to do with either of 'em. Back to you in the newsroom.

Thanks, Steve. This traffic report is brought to you by Rogers Cable. "Rogers, because we've got you by the balls, and you don't have any other choice because Bell's a bunch of pricks, aren't they?" After the break, we'll see how much money you lost on the markets today.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A short treatise on the subject of romance.

Shit's fucked up, but you already knew that.

* * * * *


I shouldn't be so harsh. I mean, I'm sure there are people who find True Love™ and everything's magnificent and storybookish and whatnot. But...
  1. How many people do you know that really have done exactly that, so far? Out of the people roughly my age that I know of... a handful? Probably single-digits. And, let's face it, the story on them is nowhere near done being written. Not trying to be a dick or anything, but that's just the way it goes sometimes.
  2. Yeah, I have some pretty high standards. They're not unreasonable, and it's not like nobody's ever been able to meet them. But when you run across someone who you think might just make the grade, and you end up rolling snake-eyes instead... well, to quote The Dude, "that's just a bummer, man."
  3. Some mathematicians recently crunched some numbers to try and figure out a general idea of how many people in the world there are who would make a good significant-other for you. I don't remember all the details, but the number was depressingly low, possibly in the triple-digits. For the world.
So, there you have it. For now. Who knows, maybe I'll meet that left-handed blonde Asian bass player while buying bagels at the place up the street tomorrow, and I'll be singing a different tune.

Speaking of women, and tunes, I think the late Bon Scott sang about all of this pretty eloquently.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A logically-airtight system of belief.

I've been running through this in my head for the past few minutes. Let me get this straight, and allow me to think out loud (or, in print).
  • You create a system of religious belief which is derived from an extremely common pre-existing system.
  • This system you've created highlights, as its central tenet, that anything which occurs is the direct consequence of the existence of the source of your belief system, which you naturally believe to be true, because you're an adherent to the system.
  • It doesn't matter if the things that occur are "good" or "bad," they merely need to take place.
  • Again, the source of your belief system is the sole determinant of whether things happen or not.
  • And since things happen, they must have been caused by the source, thereby reaffirming the source's existence.
  • "Good" things -- that is to say, things which the majority of people approve, enjoy or like -- are easy enough to attribute to this source, due to its all-powerful nature.
  • "Bad" things, while deemed to be unpleasant to the majority of the populace, are also attributable to the source and thus prove that it exists because, well, the thing happened.
  • People tend not to like "bad" things. But you posit that these things prove that the source of your belief system indeed does exist, thus reaffirming your beliefs and thus your system.
  • If you showcase these "bad" things which have happened as, conversely, "good" things -- because they prove that your system of belief must be right -- people tend to get mad.
Alright, I think I got it.

The system of belief, of course, is the Westboro Baptist Church. They have about 40 adherents, which might be roughly the number of members in attendance at your local Elks Lodge meeting, but people around the world have only heard of one of the aforementioned small groups, and it ain't your local Elks Lodge.

The beauty of this system of belief is that, no matter what happens, you can point to the thing that happens and say, "Look, because God is the direct source of everything and makes everything happen, this all proves God exists. And because we know this fact, and we take pride in never deviating from it, unlike others, we're the ones who got it right."

Is this controversial when, say, a baby kitten sneezes in a cute YouTube video? Nope. God made kittens, and sneezes, and YouTube -- so we're all good, baby.

Is this controversial when, say, a US soldier dies in battle in Iraq? Yep. Americans tend to like their soldiers, and get bummed when they die; they tend not to celebrate dead soldiers as yet another affirmation that God exists and does things. But, not the WBC -- this is a time to show that, look, God did this, and therefore God is powerful, and you may as well just join up with us, because we're the only ones who look at a soldier's death this way, which is to say, the right way.

At this point, you have to make a choice. Do you...
  1. grieve the death of a fellow human being, which is arguably a somewhat natural human response, or
  2. put all that aside and take this opportunity to reaffirm the existence of God?
I think I may have said this before in a previous blog post, but it goes like this... if your system of religious beliefs makes you less human, it's probably not a good system to which to adhere.

Now, I'm not entirely certain why they chose the God Hates Fags thing. I can imagine that they probably figured out that homosexuality is a pretty controversial topic -- or at least it was, however-many years ago -- and that'd be their angle on the whole thing. I mean, sure, that list of bullet-points above hangs together on its own pretty well, but if you want to make things practical and comprehensible for Joe Sixpack, you've gotta give an example.

A: "Why does God do bad things to us?"
B: "God does bad things to us because... uh... hmm. Well, I know in numerous places in the Bible, it says that God loved the world and thus everything and everyone on it, but... there's this one little thing it says God's not too keen on, but we do it anyway."
A: "Oh, you mean eating shellfish? Way ahead of ya. Don't touch the stuff, myself."
B: "Well, yes, that could be. You get a bad shrimp, you're gonna be alternately shitting and puking for days. But crustaceans don't really add much zing to a religion, you know?"
A: "Yeah, I know. Besides, I like Red Lobster. How about all those fags, then, mincing-about?"
B: "A, it looks like we got ourselves a church here."
[A and B, both dudes,* furiously make out in celebration]

And thus, Fred Phelps and whoever-else was equally demented and happened to be around and agree with him, created the WBC. Hallelujah, indeed.
* also works for two chicks, trannies, ladyboys or two-spirited persons

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

It's summertime, bitches.

And in the words of Otto Mann, "Two months of Spaghetti-O's and daytime television!"

(N.B. I have always hated Spaghetti-O's and all other forms of canned pasta, and daytime television is ridiculous.)

I've made it a point to tell people these days, when they ask me what I'm doing this summer -- and people do it a lot, because they know I'm a teacher and they looooooove the fact we're not in school -- I've been telling them that I'm going to make it more of a point to see this great city I live in.

To wit, here are a few things I'd like to accomplish.
  • lots of breakfasts at out-of-the-way places
  • buying some nice light rye at Silverstein's
  • riding the entire length of the 501 Queen streetcar and taking a bunch of pictures
  • finally seeing the Scarborough RT
  • whole lotta baseball down at the Dome
  • random trips to places like Pacific Mall
  • Toronto Islands, anyone?
  • riding my bike more, especially on the off-street trails
  • reading books on patios while sipping beers
As you can see, it's a full summer. Barely enough time to take a 9-day solo baseball road trip, this time focused on Baltimore/DC.

Fun times ahead, for sure.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Apparently I'm in the minority here.

...which is a weird thing for a white, straight, English-speaking male to be saying, I fully realize.

I've been to a lot of baseball games. I don't know if it's more or less than the average person attending a professional game -- on the one hand, I'm a big fan; on the other, I spent a good deal of my life nowhere close to a stadium. But what I do know is when we're at important parts of games; it's a full count and the bases are loaded and it's a tie game and the world is ending or something.

Consequently, I don't need the scoreboard to tell me to MAKE SOME NOISE!!!!. Firstly, I'm not the scream-and-yell type, unless something actually deserves it ("You suck, Jeter!"). But, more importantly, I know when to make damn noise. Putting this up on the scoreboard in the fourth inning of a game with a 2-1 count with the bases empty and one out and our team up by three does not make me want to make the aforementioned sounds.

To SkyDome's credit (and yes, I still refuse to refer to it by its corporate name), they've done a hell of a lot less of this lately. It's a much better atmosphere in there these days, in comparison to the days where every. single. foul. ball. was accompanied by the sound of glass breaking, for example. Comerica Park in Detroit, home of my boys the Tigers? Eh, not so much.

So, I wrote to the Tigers telling them as such.

First off: lifelong Tiger fan, attend several games per year, if I ever got a tattoo it'd be an Olde English D.

I live in Toronto these days and attend many games at SkyDome, and in recent years they've really scaled back the scoreboard/PA sound effects, urgings to "Make Some Noise!" and the like. It used to be really obnoxious... but they've done a great job, and fans legitimately know when to cheer.So when I attend games at Comerica and are constantly subjected to these requests, I find it really detracts from my enjoyment of the game. Perhaps some fans enjoy hearing the [Harry Belafonte] "Day-O" clip, but I believe I heard it quite enough, thanks.

That said, I'll still go to Tiger games, don't you worry. It's a bit of a drive from Toronto, but I'll make it.

Go Tigers,

To my mild surprise, they wrote back. To my mild dismay, they ain't changin'.


Thank you for your email and interest in the Detroit Tigers.

We are so happy to hear of your dedication to the team.

We will consider your request for the scoreboard. We do get a lot of compliments that fans like the atmosphere when the scoreboard prompts them to cheer. We understand we can't please every fan, every moment, but we strive to do our best.

Thank you for your suggestions.


Really? People write into the Tigers saying, "Ooooh, we love it when you tell us mindless idiot drones when to cheer! It makes us feel amazing! Wheeeee!" I find that somewhat surprising if it's true, and somewhat dubious overall. But hey, maybe I'm truly in the minority here.

That being said, Tigers/Jays at the Dome next week, four games. You know where to find me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tomorrow ain't gonna be a fun one.

I'm the union rep for the teachers in our school -- it's a job with a lot of glory, a lot of prestige, and gives me a hefty pay hike.

(It also allows me to make a lot of shit up, such as the three things listed at the end of the above sentence.)

Tomorrow is a step in the staffing process where people board-wide, if they tentatively don't have a job for September, get to find out if they got placed into a position -- thereby bumping-out the least-senior teacher on staff with similar qualifications. This process, perhaps unsurprisingly (and unglamorously), is called "bumping." (No grinding, though.)

There are a lot of people on my staff that are feeling pretty edgy about Monday. And even though I'm extremetly likely to stay where I am, I'm feeling edgy too -- if someone gets The Letter, I have to be in on that meeting. And that's a very, very shitty room to be in.

I got bumped in my first year of teaching, but things eventually shook through and I got recalled. Which was great, of course -- I've only ever been at the one school, and frankly I don't see any reason to leave. We've got a good thing going.

I can clearly recall being bumped, and sitting in the staff room looking at another teacher who was a bit of a dingbat but who had so much seniority there's no way in hell she would've been bumped. I remember thinking, "I work my ass off, and she's kinda crazy. How come I have to search for a new job, and she doesn't? This is unfair."

It may have felt pretty unfair. But the point is that this entire system, which is based on seniority, is equally unfair to everyone. If it wasn't, you'd have situations where people, who might be doing a great job, get left out to dry because they weren't coaching the principal's favourite sport. Or maybe they spoke up about problems they had with admin a little too much, and got the boot. Perhaps the principal didn't like the way the teacher parted their hair.

But that's why you have unions: to make sure the rules are fair for everyone. And yes, that means that occasionally you'll get a bad teacher protected the same as a good one; it's a standard criticism of unions, and frankly it's one that I share to a point. The problem is, everyone thinks they're an expert in education because they were once a student... but just because you've been a patient in a hospital, that doesn't mean you're an expert on how to run one (or how to perform a liver transplant).

So yeah, Monday's not going to be one of those fun days at the ol' schoolhouse, that's for sure. There may be some tears in these meetings. It's happened before.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things kids say.

As you well know, kids say some pretty strange stuff from time to time. I mean, take a look at any toddler growing up -- they pick words up from everywhere (so you'd better watch what you say around them). So, naturally, when they're teenagers, not only do they pick up new words, but they have the mental capacity to invent completely new ones -- which they do with alarming frequency.

Being a teacher surrounded by kids from every imaginable background, I get to hear quite a few of these novel words. A good number of them are somewhat vulgar... but hey, take a look at the word vulgar itself: it's the Latin word for common, as in, it was the commonly-spoken language of regular people (as opposed to the hoity-toity language used by the upper classes).

I'd say a good percentage of the new words I hear come from, or are inspired by, all sorts of Patois from all kinds of Caribbean countries, chiefly Jamaica (although Guyana and Trinidad have a pretty rich vocabulary too). When you mix all these kids together, they pick up on each other's slang, and come up with new combinations all the time. Definitions are fluid, spelling is approximate, and (perhaps most importantly) hearing your teacher say them is apparently hilarious.

(Hey, I do what I can.)

So, here are a few examples of what I've heard recently. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and six months from now these words might just disappear. But if you're looking to speak fluent South Scarberian in mid-2013, you'd better take some notes.

gursh (adj.) — gursh
Definition: extremely ugly -- "like roadkill," apparently
Example: "Did you see Alice the other day? Oh my god, she's so gursh."

gwala (n.) — gwa′ la
Definition: money
Example: "A new iPhone? That's a lotta gwala."

wha gwan (interj.) — wha gwan
Definition: an informal greeting upon seeing someone, cf. "What's going on?"
Example: "Hey Bob, wha gwan?"

cyatty (n.) — kya′ tee
Definition: a woman who is probably a little on the large side, wears brightly-coloured or loudly-printed tights or tight pants, and has a weave and/or extensions
Example: "Charlene is such a cyatty."

N.B. a year or two ago, this used to define a woman who might fit some of the physical descriptions listed above, but who would very specifically chase men who they couldn't or shouldn't be chasing, e.g. men who are already in relationships.

Cyatty Tuesday (n.)
Definition: the five-dollar Tuesday movies shown at the theatres in Scarborough Town Centre mall, ostensibly because they attract cyatties
Example: "Dave went to see Ironman 3 on Cyatty Tuesday."

I'm gonna miss these kids over the summer, I really am.*
* Not too much, though.

Friday, May 31, 2013

So, Rob Ford.

I started writing this a week ago, not long after the whole "the mayor may or may not have been seen in a video smoking crack with known-shady people" thing broke. But I held off thinking that, jeez, when this smoothes over, maybe I'll take another crack (hah!) at it.

Because this is apparently never going to smooth-over, though, I figured I might as well throw my opinions around while the maelstrom is still whirling.

Bullet-points seem appropriate here.
  • The mayor might have a crack problem.
  • His family has a history of substance-abuse problems (see his sister's unfortunate case).
  • He's too stubborn to resign.
  • He absolutely knows that things are going badly, but he can't ever admit to the public that he's rattled.
  • There's no way he's getting re-elected, but I wouldn't be surprised if he ran. Not at all.
If he'd come out after this video surfaced and said, "Look, this video is false, that's not me, but I do have alcohol and drug issues, I need a while to get myself clean," took a leave of absence and let Doug Holyday run the city for a while... y'know, I might've respected the guy a little. I'd have been proud that he admitted having a problem -- which has been no secret around here for years -- and he's gotta look after his health.

But that's not what he did. He's been trumpeting the "it's business as usual around here" line all week, in an uncharacteristic bout of availability to reporters (although for trivial things; he won't take questions about this controversy at all). It's a good thing we have a weak-mayor system around here; all he can do is be one vote on Council and stack his Executive Committee (who are all turning against him anyway these days, even hard-liners like Jaye Robinson and Dennzil Minnan-Wong). Hell, even my own Councillor, the former PC MPP John Parker, sent a Ford cartoon out in an email to constituents today (falling on Stephen Harper and Mike Duffy).

The sad thing is that a lot of Torontonians voted for this guy, even though at the time of the election in late 2010 he'd already had a very public track record of being an asshole and someone who couldn't hold his booze. Smitherman was gay, though, right?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Your guide to having a great weekend.

As I write this, it's almost midnight on Thursday night. And you know what that means: it's almost the weekend!

(Skip forward to about 2:25 unless you want to watch the members of Loverboy engaging in semi-staged faux-witty banter.)

Because the weekend is only two short days long, you're going to want to make the most out of it. But it's not like back in university, when you'd shotgun a couple of beers at the crack of noon on Friday and keep the party rolling until sometime Monday afternoon* -- you work for a living! So, here are a few tips to make sure you squeeze the most out of your grown-up reprieve from responsibility.

* * * * *

1. Get a good sleep on Thursday night.

It's almost midnight, and I should really be under the covers already. If you're up late Thursday, you're gonna feel terrible all day Friday, and by 8pm you'll be fast asleep on your couch in front of a rerun of Just Shoot Me. So, bed down early, quaff a little NyQuil if you need to, and you'll wake up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Friday morning.

2. Pace yourself.

You've made it through Friday, and now it's nighttime and you're ready to party. Now, I know what you might be thinking -- I have a trunk full of beer, a mountain of coke and some knives already jammed into the stove elements; what man can stop me? -- but you're going to want to watch it, Pedro. Friday's merely a dry run for Saturday, so don't blow your wad all in one night. Besides, you have to get up early the next morning to pick up some eleven-sided bolts at Ikea that they forgot to pack in your Flüvënhävën or some shit like that.

3. Eat sensibly.

It's Friday night, it's 3:30 in the morning, and you've been going pretty hard. What could be better than a double Big Mac meal with poutine and a side of bacon grease? The answer is, absolutely nothing. Go ahead and pound it into yourself. It doesn't matter anyway; you'll probably just be puking it back up in a little while. But, damn, that's gonna taste good.

4. Make the most of your Saturday.

Farmer's markets, craft shows, free samples aplenty at the Costco: these are things that happen on Saturday mornings. Since you probably hit it too hard the night before, you're best off sleeping until past 4 -- woken up by intermittent bouts of projectile-vomiting, of course. Stay in bed, asshole!

5. Saturday night is the real thing.

Well, you made it through Friday without any (permanent) damage to your liver, a few hours in the drunk tank, or somehow waking up wearing someone else's socks on the outskirts of Owen Sound. Saturday is the real deal: get yourself gussied-up, pimped-out, whored-down, whatever's the parlance of the day. Then, plunk yourself down in front of the TV and watch that episode of Frontline on PBS you've been meaning to catch, maybe make a donation and get a nifty tote bag, and turn-in early. Besides, there's church tomorrow morning, if that's your thing.

6. Sunday is a day of rest.

  • Meet the Press: NBC, 9am
  • This Week with George Stephanopoulos: ABC, 10am
  • Question Period: CTV, 11am

There's your plans right there. Make yourself a nice pot of coffee, grab the coziest blanket you have, and catch all those riveting round-table discussions on flat taxes, congressional redistricting and the latest goings-on in the Centre Block. Take notes; there's bound to be water-cooler talk on Monday about them, and you don't want to look the buffoon, do you?

7. Have a nice family dinner.

Grab a chicken from the coop, kill it, gut it, dress it, stuff it, and put it in the oven. (You all have chicken coops, right?) Make up a nice big pot of mashed potatoes, invite over the family (or someone else's, if you're an orphan), and enjoy each other's company -- until your mom asks you again if you're sure you're not gay because she hasn't met a girlfriend of yours in a while. Or ever. And you respond the same way you always do: Mom, just because your life has been an abject failure and "the 'beetus" took your toes doesn't mean you have to take out all your aggression on your children. But maybe that's just my family.

* * * * *

Whoops! Midnight, the "witching hour." And speaking of witches, has anyone heard from Ann Coulter lately? Anyway, it's off to bed for me. Good night, and have a fantastic weekend.
* I went to Waterloo, so this never, ever, EVER happened.

Friday, April 26, 2013

We might be doomed after all.

My grade 9's are in the Electricity unit right now, and we're doing some very simple calculations involving power, energy and time. Seriously, folks, I'm giving them formula triangles which are simple as hell -- they don't even have to rearrange a formula, just cover up the one thing they want to solve for with their thumb, and the triangle tells them what the formula needs to be.

For the record, power = energy / time, or P = E/t. The triangle goes like this:

The question I presented to the class, and had them work somewhat independently to solve, went like this:

A refrigerator has a power rating of 3.2 kW, and it runs for 12 h. How much energy does it use?

This one kid, B, has trouble with math. Hell, B has trouble with everything; s/he's in their grade 11 year, but hasn't yet passed grade 9 science (failed it first time around, didn't manage to get it in Credit Recovery the next year (and if you can't do that, I'm sorry, there is really something wrong)). It really doesn't help that B can't seem to shut the hell up for more than 15 consecutive seconds.

For the record.... B and I got into a bit of a verbal back-and-forth a couple of weeks ago in class. I asked B, for the bajillionth time, to stop talking during the lesson. B shot back with the standard, "Sir, I'm not the only one who's talking!" -- and it went predictably for a while. But I got thrown a "Why are you picking on me?" and decided to go for broke. I shot back with, "I'm picking on you because I care about you. If I didn't care about you, I'd let you do whatever the hell you want. But I don't. So, stop it." And B stopped. But I can't keep bringing out this bazooka every time B can't stop talking, which is every fucking day. For the record, if you tell a kid to move across the classroom to an unoccupied desk and they don't... what then? I mean, you could send them to the office to get dealt-with down there, but honestly, that has always seemed like a huge cop-out to me. I'm not saying I've never done it, but the number of kids I've sent to the office in my nearly-11 years of teaching is very likely in the single-digits.

Anyway, I'm circulating around the class, helping kids individually that needed it (about half the kids, far as I could tell, managed to solve it on their own), and eventually I come around to B. Naturally, B hasn't even started -- but I decide that, darnit, we're going to get through this.

The first thing I have the kids do, after they've read the question at least twice, is to go through it and pick out the numerical information. These are grade 9s, so I don't pull tricky stuff on them like giving them extra numbers that don't mean anything; I play it straight with 'em.

I'll refresh your memory:

A refrigerator has a power rating of 3.2 kW, and it runs for 12 h. How much energy does it use?

me: "Alright, so, let's read this... 'power rating of 3.2 kW' -- what do you think you have there?"

B: "Uh.... [long, long pause] that's power, right?"

me: "Yup, it is. So, write P = 3.2 kW right there in the 'Information' section."

B: [writes it down]

me: "Alright, good. So, let's keep reading... 'runs for 12 h'. What do hours measure?"

B: "Ah...."

me: "OK, so, if you say that a baseball game takes three hours, what does 'three hours' measure?"

B: [utterly bewildered look]

me: "Look, it's going to be one of three things: energy, power or time. Look at the formula you're using. So... what does 'twelve hours' measure?"

B: "I... [long pause] uh..."

me: "All you need to say is one of the words 'energy,' 'power' or 'time.' So, which thing would '12 hours' measure, out of these three?"

B: [cautiously, but without any sort of certainty] ""

me: [head nearly exploding] "Um... no. Hours measures time. It's time. So, write t = 12 h here."

I'd like to say things got better, but they didn't. Meanwhile, as I'm trying to teach B some exceptionally basic mathematical reasoning skills, the rest of my class is starting to go insane and bounce around the interior walls of the place.

As I've said before, my job is ridiculous.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

With co-workers like this, eh?

Around the lunch table today...

me, licentiously: "That Serena Williams, man. YES."

several people: (laughing)

R: "Oh god. No thanks."

me, more licentiously: "YYYYYYEEEESSSS."

V: "Really? Her? I thought you were into petite Asian women."

me, puzzled: "Um... what?"

V, backpedaling a bit: "That's... what you're into, right?"

me: "Hey, I'm not gonna say I've never dated one in the past, but I wouldn't say I'm exclusively into them."

V, disappointed: "...oh."

* * * * *

I fully realize Serena Williams is an acquired taste. But, brother, have I acquired it.

Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A new word I learned.

Admittedly, this is second-hand, but well worth sharing.

This kid I taught last year, let's call him Steve... wow, he was a crazy one. I won't get into specifics, but let's just say he was easily in the top-3 most challenging kids I've ever dealt with. That said, he's definitely likeable, in a weird way -- but, he will drive you fucking crazy.

Oh, and he's also exceedingly vulgar.

A colleague recently relayed an anecdote wherein he was having a conversation with the lad in question, and Steve used this phrase:

"he clapped her ass"

Now... to you and me, that might mean something like "he patted her on the derriere" -- you know, like two hands clapping means one hits the other. But no, it means... well... copulation.

Two things jump out at me.
  1. That word is very typically South Scarberian -- partially opaque in meaning, short in length and sharp-sounding, and vulgar. Pure textbook.
  2. Really? Steve thought it was appropriate to mention anal sex in a conversation with a teacher? That's god damn insane.
But then again, so is Steve.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Things teenagers say.

Vignette #1
Two boys, grade 9 science class working on seatwork, the day after Sidney Crosby got hit in the face with a puck

C: "Hey, what's the name of that guy who plays for the Leafs?"

J: "Um... which one do you mean?"

C: "You know, that famous guy. Is it... Stevie Wonder?"

J: (bewildered) "Uh... do you mean... Sidney Crosby, who plays for the Penguins?"

C: (relieved) "Yeah! That's the guy."

J: (bewildered) "Wow."

* * * * *

Vignette #2
Grade 9 science class, during a whole-class discussion about the Earth and the Moon and their structures

(N.B. "N's" English is about 70%; he's originally from Pakistan)

N: (at back of class) "Um... sir? Have you ever heard of... ah... what's it called... [makes gesturing motion with his hands]... I think it's called a... a 'glory hole'?"

class: (absolutely no reaction, [surprisingly])

me: (showing no outward reaction) "I... no, I've never heard of that."

N: (gesturing again) "It's... hmm. Well, have you ever heard of a hole that appears in the ground? Apparently it's really deep?"

me: (inwardly relieved) "Ah! You mean a sinkhole. Yeah, there was just one in Florida a few weeks ago that swallowed a house and killed a guy."

N: (relieved) "That's the story I heard too. Do we get them around here?"

me: "Nah, we're alright here. We have a different type of bedrock."

* * * * *

Vignette #3
Grade 12 physics class, most students are paying attention to the demo at the front of the class (some working on problems already)

Demonstration: Newton's Cradle (in the context of elastic collisions)

me: "So, eventually the motion dies down to nothing, because the collisions aren't entirely elastic, and the kinetic energy goes away into sound and heat. Then the balls are motionless." [you see where this is going. --ed.]

N: "How could you get the thing to go on forever?"

me: "If you lose a tenth of a joule of energy every time through, and the ball only has 1 J of energy to start with, that means in ten swings it's done. What you have to do, then, is increase the... uh... mass of the balls..."

N and a few others: (big grins, then bursts of laughter)

me: "Well then... I think I should probably just stop there."

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Things teenagers say.

"If you're going to steal a car, you've gotta know how to parallel-park."

Truer words have possibly never been spoken.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Greetings from the Sunshine State.

Well, so much for writing here regularly.

Anyway, bitches, here I am. And where am I, pray-tell? Currently, I am seated on a chair in a room in a hotel in Lakeland, which is in Florida. It's my Seventh Annual Spring Training Baseball and First Sunburn Of the Year trip, and so far it's fulfilled both criteria:
  1. spring training baseball
  2. sunburn
Because I'm exceptionally pale -- they'd probably let me in the door at the Albino Convention -- I managed to get a pretty nice pink glow today. Part of it was my fault, as I'd forgotten to put on sunscreen before the game. But a good chunk of it goes to Mother Nature herself, because until noon it was either pouring rain or just sorta dreary and misty, thereby allowing me to forget the aforementioned sunscreen. What a bitch, eh?

Today's game was on the Gulf coast of Florida, in the city of Clearwater, against the Phillies. I've never been to Clearwater before, and I didn't really get to see much of it, but it's close to Tampa, and Tampa is a god damn hell hole. Ergo, there's bound to be some spillover to Clearwater, right?

(Actually, I don't think that's true at all. Clearwater is much closer to the coast than Tampa is, and the places on the coast tend to be tourstified/fancy/at-least-presentable. So there's that. If anything, Clearwater would form a barrier protecting the coast from the shittiness of Tampa, and vice-versa.)

After the game, instead of diving elbows-deep into Tampa's notoriously bad rush-hour freeway traffic -- the intersection of 275 and 4 is referred to as "Malfunction Junction" -- I decided to head up the coast a bit on US-19 to see what was up there. What I observed can be summarized in a bullet-point list.
  • oodles of billboards frequently advertising things such as...
    • vasectomies (including "No incision! No scalpel!" and an assurance that the doctor in question has performed over 26,000 such procedures)
    • plastic surgery of various flavours (chiefly liposuction)
    • personal-injury lawyers (including one with a female lawyer which asks rhetorically, "Have you ever argued with a woman?")
    • a picture of a cute baby and the caption, "My heart starts beating 18 days after conception!" -- so, presumably, something right-to-life-ish
  • gas station after gas station, all puzzlingly displaying different prices (in Toronto most of the stations move in perfect lock-step, except for full-serve ones which are consistently 0.4 cents per litre higher than self-serve)
  • the red/green cycle on traffic lights is WAY longer here than in Canada, which makes for some idiotically-long backups
  • lotsa churches, man
The jewels of the US aren't often found along these crazy-busy, strip-mall, chain-store roads. They're found in the smaller places, the independent stores, the places that you need to dig a little to find. Hell, tonight I had dinner at a little Turkish restaurant in downtown Lakeland, and it was fantastic (and not out on US-98 with the Applebee's and the Hooters and the TGI Friday's).

That's why I'd love to go back to France -- I visited Paris in 2001 for a week in July, and it was insanely busy and touristy -- but go to a much smaller place. I think it'd be amazing to find a little place in the middle of nowhere, where few people speak English (if any), and just chill out there for a week, forced to sharpen my rusty grade 11 French into something workable. Could be fun.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

An admission.


The following post may be too much for some musically-sensitive people to handle.
If your record collection contains several albums' worth of prog-rock,
cool jazz from the '50s or anything by the Pixies,
reader discretion is strongly advised.

So there's this song, you see.

This song is called "Call Me Maybe," and it's done by a singer named Carly Rae Jepsen. Surprisingly for a pop song these days, she co-wrote it; now, whether she just came up with a couple of lines in the middle of the thing or she wrote the bulk of the music and lyrics, I'm not sure, but her name's on the credits, and that's more than I've ever been able to do.

By all accounts, I should hate it.

But I don't. And here's why.

It's catchy.

I think a main source of this catchiness is the lyrical flow in the chorus -- some words linger, but other ones are chopped-up and spat out staccato-style, and if you can hang on to all of 'em, it can be very satisfying for the listener.

Words in songs give the listener something to hang their hat on; if you have a guitar you can play along with a song, but most people don't carry one everywhere they go (except that hippie dude in your residence who thought that and a soul patch was all you need to get laid (and he very probably got laid more than I did in uni, but whatever)), so singing is easy and portable. It makes you feel good because connects you with the song very directly in a melodic way; dancing does the same thing, but in a large-motor-skill way.

It's not what I'd normally listen to. And frankly, I don't believe I've ever sat around and thought, "That 'Call Me Maybe' song, that'd really hit the spot right about now." But it's good at what it does, and in the right environment (e.g. in a fire-code-violatingly-jam-packed New Year's Eve house party at five minutes to midnight), it can be a hell of a lot of fun.

So there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Booze Reviews #1: Four Loko Watermelon.

Beverage: Four Loko, watermelon flavour
Container: can
Size: friggin' huge
Alcohol by volume: 8%-ish
Price: pretty cheap

This beverage used to be a lot more controversial, as old formulations used to contain both alcohol and caffeine, and probably made some teenagers' hearts explode (but not in that My Chemical Romance-y way). The caffeine is out, but lordy, the alcohol remains.

There was no way I was going to drink this whole thing myself, lest my night turn violently shitty ridiculously quickly. So, I shared this with Drinkin'-Buddy Dave (DBD); we poured it into two glasses (not the good pint glasses, mind you) and had at it.

First impressions:
  • "Oh my god, this tastes like incredibly alcoholic liquid watermelon Jolly Ranchers."
  • "Jesus christ, this is terrible."
  • "Who would choose to drink this?"
After many, many mouthfuls, you start to get desensitized to its incredible booziness; if you wait a couple of minutes and take another drink of it, it hits you anew. Finally we managed to put the rest of it away and move onto something more palatable.

I'll tell you this: if you were to drink a whole can by yourself fairly quickly -- it's 695 mL, which is about the volume of two bottles of beer (with significantly higher alcohol content) -- there's no way it won't fuck you up something fierce. I realize some people are looking for that, but I'm (usually) not. I'll stick to beer, thanks.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I know I should be making the most of my life.

I'm young (ish), I'm hot (temperature-wise), I should be out bangin' chicks, right?

Instead, I'm re-watching season 3 of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Q: Why?

A: Because it's god damn funny, that's why. Anytime Frank Reynolds describes a place as being "darker than a well-digger's ass," that's something I want to be a part of, as often as possible.

Also, in season 3, they really start nailing the "episode title comes up right after something totally awesome sets it up" gag. To wit: Mac, Charlie and Frank are preparing to fight boredom by shooting their own news show.

Dee, to Frank: "No, that's a bad idea. Usually when you get involved, somebody gets hurt."
Frank: "That's ridiculous. I'm just pallin'-around with the guys. How's anybody gonna get hurt?"
title card: "Frank Sets Sweet Dee On Fire"

The timing is just fantastic. There's enough of a pause to make you wonder, Is this where the title-card joke comes in? And then, bang, it hits you, and even though you already know the title of the episode, the joke totally kicks your ass.

Yep. These are the golden years, these ones. Hooray for this moronic extended adolescence of minimal adult responsibilities aside from showing up for work, occasionally doing my laundry, and feeding myself somehow! Yaaaaayyyyy!!!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm concerned about the kids these days.

No, no... not because they act like horned-up rhesus monkeys after you've injected them with research-grade amphetamines most of the time.

It's the god damn music they listen to, and will be listening to for decades.

Let me explain.

A couple of days ago, I was in the Bulk Barn that opened up close to me. (For years I was concerned that BB was owned by Loblaws, which is owned by the Weston family, who is close with the Fraser Institute, who supports private schools. Apparently not, though.) As I walked into the store, their background music was about a minute and a half into "Stairway To Heaven" which is, of course, one of the most famous and possibly the best rock song ever made.

It was released in late 1971, which is a little more than 41 years ago.

The girl at the cash seemed to me as if she'd grown up here -- if you spent your formative years on a walnut farm in Mongolia, you can be forgiven for not knowing about Stairway -- so I thought I'd give her a little pop quiz (and no, there is no "off" position on the teacher-switch). She looked to be about maybe 16 or so.

Me: "The song that's just finishing up now on the speakers. Do you know what that is?"
Her: "Uh... not really, no."
Me: "Yeah, I sorta thought that would be the case. It's called 'Stairway To Heaven,' and it's by a band called Led Zeppelin."
Her: "Oh yeah, that sounds sorta familiar. I remember my dad talking about them once."

Listen... I know we're in good hands with the generations that follow us. There are a hell of a lot of fantastic kids who will accomplish things we never even dreamt possible. They will invent, innovate, think, create and explore, and they'll build upon and eventually surpass our accomplishments. But, for fuck's sakes, they should know god damn Stairway.

This got me thinking about music being released today. I realize that there's a reason "classic rock" radio stations exist, and that's because baby boomers want to hear the same songs they've heard ever since they were 18, so they can relive the parts of their lives that didn't suck, and for a few minutes they can think about that chick Lisa they boned in the back of their parents' Datsun up on Lovers Hill after the Under The Sea dance and it was totally awesome, and oh yeah I saw Lisa at the church pot-luck last month, damn she's put on a bit of weight but she looks good after having the four kids and the spleen-replacement surgery, and I wonder if she still puts out like she did back then, damn that was groovy.

(Not to say all boomers' lives suck. I'm caricaturizing, because that's what an older kid told me writers do.)

But honestly, what are the kids today going to reminisce about when they get older?
  • "Wow, 'My Humps' is on the space-radio! That song really had a lot of merit."
  • "I think I'll buy and cranially-download the entire My Chemical Romance discography. *blinkblink* Ooooh, now that's a generalized malaise and feeling of ennui I haven't felt in decades."
  • "Hey, Ke$ha joined the 27 Club, right? Yeah, I thought so."
Yes, I'm being a music-snob here. And no, I don't think that all music released these days is bad. Just most of it that makes it to mainstream radio. But honestly... listen to top-40 radio, and for god's sakes, think of the children.

Friday, January 11, 2013

In which I tear a guy a new one.

It's a strange time for public education in this province... as you well know if you (a.) live here, and (b.) don't live under a rock.

Today ETFO, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario, was supposed to do a one-day walkout to protest the enacting of Bill 115, which imposes a contract on any teacher in the province that didn't already have one; namely, the public elementary and secondary teachers. (The Catholic union's leadership sold their members down the river by agreeing to a horrendous contract back in the summer without their membership's consent, and the French union finds it hard to negotiate being so small so they took the same lousy deal too.)

Last night -- actually, at 4 am this morning -- the Ontario Labour Relations Board determined that this walkout was, in fact, not a political protest (protected by law) but was an illegal strike (which means possible fines for union leadership and for individual teachers, over and above being docked a day's pay). So, ETFO backed off; our union was supposed to do the same thing next Wednesday, but has since cancelled it.

This has provoked a lot of response, both for and against teachers and their unions. A friend of mine wrote a fairly anti-teacher-union post on his Facebook wall today, and someone he knows (but I don't) took it to a whole new level. This guy's name is Matt (but not the One And Only Matt that I've known for years, don't worry). I felt I had to respond. So here's my response. Enjoy.

Matt, I disagree with you, but I'll do so calmly.

First off: if teaching is a cushy, easy job with glorious benefits, you're much more than welcome to join us. No? Not into spending all day with dozens of crazed teenagers trying to ram knowledge into their heads? Alright, then.

Secondly: the Catholic union's provincial executive accepted a contract. Exactly zero local deals have been ratified by Catholic (or French) teachers. So, representing those contracts as anything less than their union leadership selling them out -- because there's pressure to eliminate Catholic boards entirely -- is a huge misrepresentation.

Thirdly, a few small points: unions essentially agreed to wage freezes in April. Banked sick days also doubled as our short-term disability plan. We don't get vacation pay like many other jobs (nor do we expect it), because our non-working days are scheduled for us. We coach and supervise and volunteer our time because (a.) we enjoy it, and (b.) the kids appreciate it. I coach baseball and supervise a student club, in addition to teaching my timetable, being a department head, and being the school's union rep (full disclosure).

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly: I am an employee, with an employer. I am represented in negotiations by a union, and through it I have the right to negotiate a contract with my employer, without outside interference. Agree with the idea of unions or not, Matt, but (a.) they exist, (b.) I'm in one, and (c.) our ability to bargain with our employer -- the school boards, not the province -- has been sabotaged by the government. Complain about wages and benefits and such all you like -- as you have -- but the facts stated in this paragraph are clear and unambiguously correct. And that's what we're mad about.

Do students get "held hostage" in negotiations? That's debatable. I was a student during two strikes in my high school career, and it was lousy. I don't disagree with that part at all. But I only truly found out what the issues were when I became a teacher myself. That's the problem here: everyone thinks they're an expert in education because they were once a student. Are you an expert in medicine because you were once in a doctor's office? Of course not. So I suggest you learn a little more about the situation -- from both sides -- before you go shooting your mouth off again.
I dunno, I thought it was pretty good.