Wednesday, August 29, 2007

S is for Several Things...

S is for Sonic Blade.

Have you seen this "new product" which is being agressively marketed on infomercials? Yes, the revolutionary Sonic Blade is the latest wunderprodukt to be hocked on television and, of course, on the internet. Yes, it's even won the coveted "Best Product of the Year" award from the Electronic Retailing Association. ("ERA is the trade association that represents the leaders of direct response: members who maximize revenues through electronic retailing on television, online and on radio." Yes, the Sonic Blade won an award from the infomercial community...) Remember when this exciting product was just called an electric knife? They even say that "the Sonic Blade doesn't cut your food; it sonically separates it!" I checked, and "cut" means "To separate into parts with or as if with a sharp-edged instrument" which, I'm quite sure this product does. Don't worry, though, because the Sonic Blade people have even come up with an ACRONYM, NCSS: Non-Compression Sonic Separation. Methinks the word "sonic" is just being a little over/misused in any case. Don't get me wrong; it likely is a fantastic product. Still, enough with Sonic this and Sonic that. Yeah, the blades move back and forth very quickly. We get it. (For added fun, watch the video on the website and see the ... um ... interesting cutting techniques attempted with the regular knife. No wonder they can't do anything neatly!

S is also for Sonya.

She not-so-subtly indicated that she wished this to be part of the post. My friend, Sonya, came down from Toronto today and we had a smashing dinner, then went to ride the grand old carousel in Port Dalhousie. Ha! Just a nickel a ride! A good time was had by all!

S is also for Stalker.

... but I sort of covered that with S is for Sonya.

S is also for Smack the Pony.

Nobody seems to know this very amusing British sketch comedy show which we watched upon our return from the carousel and ice cream. It's like a blend of Kids in the Hall and Little Britain, but with a cast of talented British women.

S is for Summer.

Sadly, it's nearly over. Thank goodness I love Autumn, though it does bring me a bit closer to the dreaded Winter. Ug...

Monday, August 27, 2007

R is for Ridiculous Rambling

Okay, I'm sure it's a bit of a cop-out for a second post in a row to be primarily a video post, but after seeing this, I simply could not dismiss the call to share and comment.

Click HERE to watch a fascinating train-wreck of a response to a question posed to Miss South Carolina during the recent Miss Teen USA 2000 pageant.

Area of Concern Number One: The Question

Who thought up this ridiculous question? Yikes. Wait, that may not be entirely fair, since the response could have focused on ethnocentrism, or a need for greater global education in the American curriculum. But ... well ... it didn't.

Area of Concern Number Two:"US-Americans".

I'm not sure whether to shake my head at this curious distinction -- The United States is, after all, a "melting pot", is it not, made up of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latin-Americans, and US-Americans -- or whether to be impressed that she's being more specific than ... oh, say ... North Americans, of which Canadians and Mexicans are members.

Area of Concern Number Three: Map Shortage

Really? You've got to give her credit for exposing the Cartographic Drought which has swept across most of the western hemisphere in recent years. If only it were possible to put maps -- good, current, healthy, organic maps -- into the hands of more needy Americans, the problem of geographic shortcomings would be solved. The people cry out for maps! Why does the world not respond with compassion?

Area of Concern Number Four: The New Colonies

I get a bit confused in the middle there. How many states are there now? When did South Africa and Iraq become part of the US? At one point she seems to change her mind (maybe she received an up-to-the-minute map revision in which those two locations were declared NOT parts of the USA) and backpeddle a bit out of that little flub. Hey, at least she recognized it as a meandering flub ... sort of.

Area of Concern Number Five: Global Philanthropy

It's nice to see a young lady who wants to make a difference in the world and who believes that "our education over here, in the US, should help the US ["Pardon me, Freud, but your slip's showing!"] ... er, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future for our children." Pardon me, Miss, but may we revisit the question ... ?

Area of Concern Number Six: Such As

This was, by far, the most creative use of "such as" that I've encountered on television. English is, by nature, a living language, ever in flux, and it is only by usage that it changes and grows. Maybe this usage, which may at first appear random, will finally put that tired old "et cetera" (or "ex cetera" as many children I know prefer, as did a certain university professor of mine) to rest!

Area of Concern Number Seven: The Health and Well-Being of Mario Lopez

Watch him closely as engages in an epic battle with himself and with a nearly heroic level of success attempts to resist the urge to laugh towards the end of her ... um ... statement. I think he may have burst something in the process. Has anyone checked up on him to make sure he's alright?

Area of Concern Number Eight: The Homecoming Queen

What happened when this young lady went back home or, even worse, returned to school? I'm guessing there were tears involved. Poor young lass. I hate to be mean, but my goodness, what a response that was.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Q is for Quicktime

Alright, after watching an episode of Pee-Wee's Playhouse which featured this fascinating little tidbit, I was compelled to locate it online and enjoy it all again. I'm now ridiculously taken with the whole thing.

It is, of course, in Quicktime format. Here's hoping you can enjoy it, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

P is for Persistent Pressers

I was on my way home from some errand or other yesterday (Fine, I was on my way home from running out to get something to eat because I have no real food in the house. Are you satisfied?) and watched as this fellow on a bike came down the sidewalk to the intersection.

[We interrupt this none-too-interesting anecdote for this public service editorial: It bugs me when adults ride their bikes on the sidewalk. Sorry if you are counted among that population, but I believe that once you're older than ... oh ... twelve or so, you should ride your bike on the streets like the vehicle you have now become. You're a cyclist now, not a "bike rider". We now return to the whimsical reflection already in progress.]

So this fellow comes up to the intersection and, doing that whole "I'm not going to put my feet down for any reason" thing, leans himself on the streetlamp pole and presses the pedestrian crossing button. And presses it again. And again. And again.


He never stopped pressing it the entire time he was stopped at the intersection.

It drove me nuts. It still took forever for the lights to change, because it's one of those busy intersections at which there's a tonne (yes, a metric tonne) of left-hand turn signals and advanced greens. Did he really think the little button would think, "My goodness! There must be hundreds of pedestrians waiting to cross, so I'd better change now!" or what?

Really, people become persistent pressers all the time, don't they? They walk up to an elevator and push the button, wait a moment, and then push it again. Or they walk up, see that someone else is waiting and that it's lit up, and then push it just to make sure it's not a fluke of some sort. Once inside, they press their floor number, then press the wee [><] door close button about eight times until the physical closing begins. When you clear the digital timer on your stove or microwave, how many times do you push it? At least twice? Odd, isn't it? I'm sure not everyone is involved (I have realized I do it with the oven timer, but no with elevators or street lights) but I suspect most of us have at least one persistent pressing compulsion.

And, to wrap things up, a dose of inspiration from the pages of Lemony Snicket's Horseradish: "It is not very polite to interrupt a person, of course, but sometimes if the person is very unpleasant you can hardly stop yourself."

(Yes, a quotation which actually makes some sense on its own. Don't get used to it.)

***** Edited to add *****

I was walking downtown tonight with my friend, Traci, and we came to an intersection. And how many times did she push the button? Three times. Three presses of that button. Hmmm ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

O is for Ominous Places

On the weekend, a group of us gathered and, after watching what was supposed to be a scary movie, went out Ghost Hunting.

Yes, I said Ghost Hunting, now move along.

Our first stop, somewhere around 11:30 or so, was the infamous Blue Ghost Tunnel. As we walked (and walked and walked) along the gravel path to the tunnel itself, we passed a young couple who were just leaving. They reported that there was "mojo going tonight" and that there was another couple in the tunnel already. On we went, though the now-largely-closed-up-though-not-too-effectively-since-there's-a-door-in-it opening and into the darkness beyond.

The tunnel is beautifully long, dark, and damp and some ways along, we met the lovely folk who were sitting there in the dark waiting for ghosts. They told us that earlier the metal gate on the door banged open and shut a few times without explanation.

During our time there, a trio of young folk (man, I'm getting old) arrived. They said they could hear footsteps coming up the tunnel, so I went out in the dark to investigate. (Oh yes, I'm a brave soul, folks.)

I walked a short ways up the tunnel and waited, hearing the footsteppian sounds, then proceeding up a bit further and listening some more. I realized that the sound was a bit behind me, so I came a short distance back towards the group. Finally, in the dark, I came to a place where the footfallyesque sounds were directly in front of me.

"This is where the footsteps are coming fom," I called out to the triad of strangers and they came with their flashlights. The sound was coming from one particular leak in the wall, falling perfectly to sound like footsteps! "Is this the sound you were hearing?" and they admitted that it was.

Of course, one of the guys didn't like me debunking his footsteps in front of his girlfriend. "Yeah, but it's strange how they sounded like they were getting closer," to which I responded, well, you're in a tunnel. Your ears will play tricks on you." His buddy was in complete agreement that, this time, the footsteps were easily explained away, but he still wasn't wanting any of it. "Yeah, well, who's to say if that was making the sound or not." (I wanted to say, "Um ... it's right there. I'm watching it drip and make the exact sound you were talking about in perfect timing..." but I didn't.)

Then things suddenly got weird.

"Jerome?" The voice came out of the shadows. It was the girl member of the trio. It was a friend-of-mine's daughter! Ha! I'm sure she was THRILLED to find a friend of her mom's out in the middle of the night in a supposedly haunted tunnel.

(For an alternative report on the tunnel, click here.)

A while later, we moved on (more teenagers arrived in the meantime) to the Screaming Tunnel. This tunnel, being quite short and well-lit by comparison was a bit anticlimactic, but hey, we were out being silly. Although they (the great, vague, illusive "they") say that if you strike a match at night in the tunnel, you'll hear screams and the match will blow out, nothing much happened when we did just that. Alas and alack...

From there, we went to visit Butler's Burial Grounds in Niagara-on-the-Lake. If you click on this link, you can see what it used to look like, thought the whole entrance to the tomb has now been covered with earth, and only the top of the crypt still shows above ground. The headstones atop the hill are still there.

Finally, we went for a brief visit at Fort George, though, being three in the morning, we couldn't exactly wander about the buildings inside. We did, however, chat with a friendly (and likely bored-out-of-his-tree) nighttime security guard.

In truth, although our evening was not exactly packed with paranormal experiences, it was a rather fun evening wandering about in the middle of the night with friends. Really, who wouldn't like to creep along dimly-lit and damp places in the wee hours of the morning?

Friday, August 17, 2007

N is for Nocturnal Intermissions

Over the course of the past week, I've gotten into a very bad sleep pattern. Ridiculous, really. I find myself wide awake and unwilling and unable to sleep until three or four in the morning.

I can't imagine why.

Could it be because I've gone into complete denial about the work needing to be done and therefore have been spending my days this week lounging about and being utterly unproductive? I know that when I'm back at work, I'll be much more worn out at the end of the day.

Could the problem be compounded by the fact that I'm drinking four or five caffeinated cola beverages each day (which is nothing compared to Keltie at the height of her addiction)?

In any case, it's rather unfortunate to report that there's virtually nothing on television these days, let alone in the wee hours (though I must confess that I've happened upon an episode of Little Britain that I haven't seen before. (I should be completely ashamed that I enjoy this show, but I do. There you have it.) Thank goodness for television shows on DVD...

In other news, there is no other news.

Let me finish with an inspiring quotation, which I haven't included for some time. This one comes from Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a very enjoyable novel by the by. "He reached a large stream, of the kind the locals called a creek and pronounced crick, and decided to follow it."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

M is for Modesty

Every now and then, one comes across something ... um ... of interest in the Internet. Like this site for a company that calls itself WholesomeWear. Yes, it's a site where women and girls can buy swimwear which "highlights the face, rather than the body" and which "limits cling". There's a lot of commentary already out there on the whole matter (some rather hotheaded and some more thoughtful).

First, let me say from the get-go that I'm assuming this company caters to a rather specific and conservative audience and it's not my intention to mock anyone's beliefs; however, I do find some things curious about the whole thing.

First of all, I find it curious that covering a whole lot of skin automatically qualifies as wholesomeness. I would like to think that a person's wholesome quotient goes quite a bit deeper than mapping out and quantifying the exposed surface area. But that's really just a small side comment. What I find of particular interest is that the apparent requirement for modesty extends exclusively to women. Ah, yes. I did some further research and it's rather difficult to find any modestywear for men. In fact this site professes to be a listing of "Online Sources of Modest Clothing for the Family: Women, Men, Boys, Girls, Babies, Toddliers, Children, Adults!" and yet, scrolling down and reading through every one of the seventeen listed sites, one finds not a single reference to modest wear for the grown man. Hmmm. (I'm further stymied by the ad at the top of the page for Chinese Girls on the Web, where you can meet "beautiful, decent and sincere Chinese girls seeking love". Perhaps they are all of those things, but somehow the whole seems to clash with the overall tone of the site...)

It's also a bit ironic that a company offering clothing which is meant to highlight the face instead of the body has a slimming line of wear.

I guess this whole thing also gets me because it pretty much excludes women from participating in the more athletic and sporty side of swimming. Testimonials say they're easy to swim in, but they're certainly not athletic wear. Of course, I guess women are expected to "splash" and "paddle" in those suits, not swim laps.

I dunno. To each her own, I suppose, but it sort of smacks of keeping women and children more HIS own instead. Wear what you want, but wear it becase you choose it for yourself...

And I won't even get into the problem I have with THIS site's name, which is about to make me puke.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

L is for Lazing About

Well, you'd think that after a week of virtually uninterrupted leisure, I'd be all refreshingly raring to go on things. That, I regret to admit, is simply not the case. I've spent the day running a few errands, and by "running errands" I mean buying books, but apart from that I have no drive to accomplish much of anything.

WAIT! That's not true. I also wrote a couple of cards and a letter and put them in the mail. Now I sound like a regular busy beaver!

In truth, I'm sure I'll get going again shortly. I'm heading into work in the morning to get some things done, and then I will hopefully get back into the seat of some writing I need to do, not to mention trying to keep getting things read. After all, I just replenished some of the recently vacated spaces on my "waiting to be read" bookshelves.

Monday, August 06, 2007

K is for Kickin' Back

I spent the last week enjoying a “Hermitage” up on Lake Huron. Although I broke my informal vow of silence by making a couple of calls ... um ... on more than one day ... it was basically a chance to get away, relax a bit, and get some work done. Here’s the week in brief.


I drove up and my parents dropped by with my brother’s kids for a wee visit. A good time was had by all. Other than that it was just settle in time and a chance to get started on some serious reading. I also started my hermitage viewing of episodes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (it’s hard for me to define exactly what made this show so brilliant, but it really was) and The X-Files (Season One).

Book Still In Progress: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
Books Started: Born to Rock by Gordon Korman and Babysitting is a Dangerous Job by Willo Davis Roberts.


I’d decided that I would try to spend more time at the beach this year, not to be all “beachy” but because it seems ridiculous to be five minutes from the lakeshore and not spend some of my relaxation time there. So I did. I spent a couple of hours in the late morning reading down by the water. In the evening (in addition to my required viewing at day’s end) I started on a simple mask, just to get going and to try something out. I also started some work on the script I’m supposed to be writing.

Books Still In Progress: The Secret History.
Books Finished: Born to Rock and Babysitting is a Dangerous Job (See additional notes below)*.
Book Started: Fair Weather by Richard Peck.

I’m thinking I should have brought more light and quick reading like these to have been able to cross them off the list.


Back to the beach for a couple of hours of reading and a wee walk in the late morning. I’m trying to avoid the hottest and busiest times down there. Let’s be honest. I’m not really “Beach People”, am I? I have also figured out that if I had a barbecue at home, I’d probably cook more, and better. Those who know me would be impressed with the amount of salad and fruit I eat when I’m up here. I also made a little progress on the script, though I’m not entirely satisfied with the few pages I got down. That’s what drafts are for, though, right? For my good deed of the day, I went across the laneway to offer an extra set of hands to the neighbours who were trying madly (for some time before I went over) to figure out how to put up a tentish thing they’d been given to use for an event later this week.** The problem? Apart from the lack of directions, it appears they’d been given a rather random assortment of poles, not all of which seem to belong to this structure. Don’t worry, though, for they also had a distinct lack of tent pegs. Ha! In any event, we think we rigged up a plausible solution from the various and sundry bits and pieces they had handy. Pleasant folk, I must say. There. I’m not completely antisocial and crazy-man-in-the-woodsy.

Book Still In Progress: The Secret History.
Book Finished: Fair Weather.
Books Started: Prison Diary II: Purgatory by Jeffrey Archer and The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick.

I’m going to have to hunt down Volume III of the Prison Diary at some point.


What do you suppose it means if something is best before 263A? Because that’s exactly the time when my juice is apparently best before. My second carton of juice is best before 339H, so clearly I’d better get drinking before it’s too late.

Today has been rather uneventful, much like the days before. I’m already half-way through my wee hermitage, and that’s sort of sad since I’m enjoying the opportunity to read so much, but also regrettably not getting all that much done on serious work. The work always comes in the evenings, when there is less to do (and it’s getting darker outside for reading). I started on a second very simple mask tonight, but I’m not sure it’s going to turn out well.*** I was using up some old art mache, so I really need a fresher batch to do anything well. (I can make that tomorrow.) There’s no truly comfortable place to read inside, so once things get dark outside, I move on to other things. Of course, my nightly episode of The X-Files is one of them.

Books Still In Progress: The Secret History and Prison Diary II: Purgatory.
Book Finished: The Last Book in the Universe (which was good but could have had a better title).
Book Started: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. I’ve read it a couple of times before, but it was given to me recently and I thought, “Hey, why not read it again?”


Today was, perhaps a bit less productive – a term I’m using very loosely at the moment – than usual as I met up with my charming parents for dinner. Yes, they’re squeezing as much visiting as possible into my time up here and that’s fine. I also managed to grab a few nice framed photos for next to nothing from the restaurant where we ate.

Book Still In Progress: A Wrinkle in Time
Books Finished: Prison Diary II: Purgatory and The Secret History.


I cannot lie. There’s nothing interesting to report, so I’ll just get to the reading update.

Book Finished: A Wrinkle in Time and The Baron in the Trees (see below).
Books Started: The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino (thanks, Linda!) and The Killing Art by Jonathan Santlofer.


Book Finished: The Killing Art
Book Started: Exodus by Julie Bertagna

Then on Sunday I read a little more, but not much as I enjoyed a visit with my parents, my aunt, uncle, and cousin before heading back home. (I also began reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides in the morning.) As you can see, as the week became more routinely dedicated to little of interest, I gave up on specifics here.


* When you read several books at once or in close succession, you notice things. Little coincidences. By the time I’d reached Tuesday, I’d noticed that Born to Rock and The Secret History both had scholarships and financial aid as plot points. Babysitting ... and Born to Rock had characters named Murphy and McMurphy respectively. Babysitting ... and The Secret History both made references to root canals. These two books also both had characters named Henry while Born to Rock and The Secret History each had a character whose surname was Hatch. Later in the week I started recognizing other commonalities in books I was reading. Two involved twins. Two mentioned the ancient Greek language (one prominently and one in passing). Two made passing references to P.G. Wodehouse. And almost all of them, truly, featured a red-headed character, usually described as having unruly red hair of some sort. (I’m sure there are other commonalities which I noticed but can no longer bring to mind.) Interesting.

** As I drove by the event, apparently a rousing horseshoe tournament, I noticed that any plans to use the tent which I’d helped assemble had been abandoned sometime during the week.

*** The mask was not a rousing success, though I may try another similar design at a later date. I also discovered, as a sideline, that art mache is not nearly as flammable as one might think.