Sunday, December 06, 2009

Finally Photography

Hello. I have finally taken the time to upload a bunch of pictures that I took from sometime between the third last week in August and the second Saturday of September.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thank you Mr. Libeskind

I remember when the design of the addition to the Royal Ontario Museum, called the Lee-Chin Crystal, was first announced, early in the first decade of the third millennium. I thought it was ghastly. I dismissed my opinions as those of an uncultured buffoon. My roommate at the time agreed with me, without solicitation. That made two uncultured buffoons, I guess. Perhaps this was an architectural masterpiece, and we were just too improperly educated to appreciate it. In any case, I hoped that they would reject the design and go for something else. They didn't.

My current roommate, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design, feels the same way. Hmmm, so even arts students are against it.

I've yet to meet somebody who likes the design.

In any case, it's close to the end of the decade now, and they are close to finishing the project. Lucky Toronto, they are finally getting the international attention they crave.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's days like this...

...that I'm most proud of my heritage.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Truth in

Some time ago I was flipping through the radio stations when I happened to hear about some sort of remedy to some sort of health problem that I thought I was having at the time. I don't remember what the problem was, but I didn't like it and wanted it to stop. If I'm still suffering the same disorder, I probably still don't like it. The remedy, in any case, involved magnets. I listened intently as they talked about the benefits of magnets, as I was eager to be cured of my ails. I listened until the end (which didn't take long since I tuned in half-way through), when I was informed that this was a paid advertisement. I was let down, although not too surprised. They spoke convincingly about their supposed solution, as if this solution had actually been tested, but their claims were unusual and sounded too good to be true. If I had known from the outset that I was listening to an ad, I would have changed the station immediately.

Although it takes more effort to read a paper than it does to listen to a radio station, one advantage is that when somebody publishes an advertisement that bears the appearance of an article, the newspapers have the courtesy to write a suggestive word such as "advertisement" at the top of the page. Any claims in the middle of the page that seem to be bunkum can be verified as such simply by directing one's gaze upward, thus saving a lot of time that might otherwise have been spent reading bunkum.

This being the age of free stuff on the Internet, newspapers have taken to publishing large portions of online offerings. In doing so, however, they seem to have dispensed with the courtesy of notifying their readers that what appears to be an article is in fact an advertisement.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 02, 2009

Would the honourable members please stop saying stupid things

Yesterday or the day before, HBC unveiled Canada's Olympic clothing for the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Olympics. My reaction was "Ho hum. I don't think I'll buy any," the same reaction I've had for generations of Olympic clothing. Politicians don't share my views. For example Hedy Fry, Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, has this to say.

"Here is another embarrassing example of crass politics"

She's referring to the fact that both the Conservative Party's logo and the Olympic Hockey logo consist of a stylized C with a maple leaf in the middle. I guess she failed to notice that both Canada and Conservative start with the letter "C" and both are from Canada, whose national symbols include the maple leaf. Myself I've noticed that Liberal logos tend to be mostly red, and featuring a maple leaf, much like Olympic clothing from previous years. She goes on to say,
"Can the prime minister at least stop trying to politicize the Canadian Winter Olympics?"

I think she said "prime minister" when she meant to "Hedy Fry". There's more.
"I think the government should have said ‘I think that this is too similar, people may think that there is a similarity. They may think we are trying to advertise and therefore, we shouldn't do this. Let's find a different kind of logo,' that is what (they) should have said."

From which we extrapolate the general principal that future designers of Olympic clothing should be required to exclude any symbols or colours that are part of any federal party's logo. She concludes (I hope)
"I think the government should have said ‘I think that this is too similar, people may think that there is a similarity. They may think we are trying to advertise and therefore, we shouldn't do this. Let's find a different kind of logo,' that is what (they) should have said,"

Yeah, we'll just whip up a new batch. BRB.

Sadly, Hedy Fry is not alone. From Charlie Angus, the NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, we get
"If Minister Lunn thinks he can go into a Tim Hortons anywhere in Canada and tell an average hockey fan that this is not the Conservative party logo, then Mr. Lunn thinks the Canadians are stupider."

Fans of other sports at Tim Horton's and hockey fans at Starbucks will not likely be able to spot the similarities. I can't speak for Mr. Lunn, but I know who I think is stupider. It's not the Canadians. With all the orange on them, it's clear the NDP was involved in the design of the Dutch Soccer (sorry "football") jerseys. I bought my coffee at Tim Horton's this morning. I'm not stupid. I see their influence all over. The team kindly requests that the NDP stop interfering.

In conclusion, thank goodness for the Conservative Party of Canada that the Toronto Maple Leafs, with their blue sweaters prominently displaying a maple leaf, actually write their name on the front of their sweaters, lest the intelligentsia at Tim's across the country uncover the horrible truth that the whole team is actually just a marketing tool for the party.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


The meteorologists tell us when the seasons begin and end. Winter is the shortest day, Summer the longest. Spring begins when days become longer than nights, and Fall the opposite. They can tell us this all they want, but we all have our own definitions. Winter begins at the first snowfall and summer when the shorts come out of storage. Spring begins when the maple trees start showing signs of life and fall began yesterday.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Friday, September 04, 2009

Off to a good start

Mathematics is an easy subject to study anywhere. My brain, somewhere to write my thoughts, something to write them with, and maybe a math text or two are pretty much all I need (well, those and coffee). This and a shortage of keys to my office [1] for the first half of the summer meant that I got into a routine of working either at home or at a nearby coffee shop. By the time I finally did get my key, the routine was set. Even though I had the key, I continued to work in the same old pre-key locations.

Mathematics is not an easy subject to teach anywhere, however. You need to be in a classroom, and in multi-section courses, you need to coordinate with other profs. Today, I had a meeting with the two professors who will be teaching the other sections of one of my courses. It was the first time I had been back in almost two weeks, and the first time I actually needed the office key. After the meeting, I walked toward my office, along with one of the other professors from the meeting. I reached into my pocket for my keys, then turned to the prof beside me, and said, "It wouldn't be a start of a new school year if I didn't lock myself out of my office on my first day back." Fortunately for me, the head of the department has a master key.

Sometimes the fact that I have a PhD still seems unbelievable to me. My teachers always saw the potential in me, if their report card comments can be believed, even though my grades didn't usually reflect it. I'm now finally beginning to see what they saw. Already in grade school, I was misplacing keys at the PhD level.

[1] For security reasons (which no longer seem all that relevant), RMC recently upgraded its locks to a more secure type of lock. Among its features is the difficulty of making copies. Unless you "know a guy", it can only be done by the company who installed the locks in the first place, not at the local key shop and not at any on-site facilities, and apparently it can only be done at a snails pace.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Hearing things?

The other day, I read that "Chinese is not a phonetic language." This strange, because I could've sworn I heard people speaking Chinese just the other day.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

There you are now. Be entertained.

Where's Randy been? I know you've been wondering. I've been right here, and not all that busy, and enjoying it. Most of this past year, from September until the middle of June, was busy. Although I'm too lazy to check, my recollection is that there have been a rather high number of posts explaining or apologizing for my absence than posts about other topics. Much of what I've been busy with has been writing, mainly lecture notes. Textbooks contain a great deal of information, as there are no time constraints. It's a challenge to take what the textbook says, distill the important information, and compile it into something that is both succinct, complete (or at least seems complete enough to the audience that they have no follow up questions), true, and if I'm lucky, comprehensible. Perhaps for others this comes easy, but I frequently seem to get it wrong. It feels right the first time around. In the proofreading stages, however, I repeatedly realize that what I have written is not what I thought I had and is frequently flat out wrong. So I set about trying to correct my errors, scrutinizing every word, deleting, rewriting, deleting, rewriting, yet never being quite as satisfied as I was when I first wrote what I wasn't thinking but thought I was writing what I was. Even though I may have finally written what I meant to, I'm just never quite sure that I did. I get stuck in a cycle of second guessing. After nearly 10 months straight of doing that, I'm just a wee bit too weary of writing.

Plus, I got one of these in the middle of June, so I've been busy taking a lot of these [1].

[1] I took some pictures over the last few days that I also wanted to upload, but I still have a "free" account, which means I can upload at most 100MB per month. I went over that limit before the pictures finished uploading. Come back in a month. A pro account doesn't seem inordinately expensive, but given the level of attention I've paid to my account thus far, it is likely that it could still end up being a waste of money.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blog Off Hiatus

Mid June is here. I have gone to and returned from my conference. Earlier today, I handed back exams from my course, which means, aside from tweaking the spreadsheet with marks, I am more or less done with the class. I should be posting something new soon. Not today. But soon.

Friday, June 05, 2009



Monday, June 01, 2009

I can relate

Finally, someone understands my pain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Blog on hiatus until mid-June.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Better Than Obama

The first time I heard about swine flu, I was watching French language television with the sound off and didn't know until later that this was the first time I was hearing about swine flu. Since then, I haven't lost a moment of sleep due to worry about swine flu. However, I recognize that some of you might be more anxious about it than I am. Thus, in case you are concerned that you might have it, I thought I'd let you know about a website that will put you fears to rest, or else recommend to you a course of action. Do you have swine flu?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Electrified with Anticipation

When I was kid, I loved winters. I don't remember there being a whole lot of super cold days, and there were all sorts of fun things you could do on snow or ice that you couldn't do on grass or dry pavement. Some things were as simple as running and sliding on a small patch of ice [1]. Other things were more technologically advanced, like tobogganing. There were the occasional winters where the patches of ice were large enough to skate on. In fact, I accidentally taught myself how to skate one winter when the front patio of our house froze over. I was using front part of the railing of the patio as a support and using the side parts to push myself from one end to the other. After a while I noticed that I didn't need the railings for support or to get myself moving. That was the last time that winter that it was icy enough to skate outside, but the skills learned on the patio would prove useful later on.

That winter or the next, my family moved to the city. A short block away from our new house, there was a water reservoir, which was covered over by soil and grass so that it looked like a hill. It was a great place to go tobogganing, and I spent many hours doing just that. When I got older, one of my friends bought an ATV. The GT Sno Racer got tied to the back of it. We rode around that way for days, until the skis were worn flat.

Later on in high school, the student council organized yearly ski trip. I didn't go until my second last year of high school, but I had so much fun, I made sure to go again the next year. There was also the Quebec trip that only the grade 12 class took, which included about 12 hours (nonconsecutive) of skiing. I haven't been since then. There have been attempts to organize trips, but nothing ever materialized.

More recently, I bought myself a pair of skates, and went skating in downtown Kingston at the market square, which was fun for the few times I went before they closed it down (turns out they didn't close it down as early as I thought they would, so I could've gone a few more times). But this was the sum total of my winter activities. I had high hopes of spending more time doing this things, but just never got around to it. The handful of hours I did get in skating doesn't come close to how much fun I remember having.

Now, winter means trudging through the snow and clearing snow of my car and ice off my windshield more than it does fun. While I surely won't miss these things, this is not the part of winter that I am most eager to see gone.

With the end of winter officially behind us two or three days ago, I eagerly anticipate not getting that little electric shock every time I touch, well, pretty much anything it seems. Anything metal is sure to get me zapped. I get it from my car. I've seen the little blue arc when I put my key in the door. Often people are the targets of my excess electrons. Most recently, I even got zapped by my hand soap, and moments later, by my tap water. Bring on the spring!

[1] I still do this if there's a large enough patch of ice on the sidewalk. Sometimes I feel safer running and sliding than walking slowly.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Scrabble Advice

Some time ago, two brothers from India developed an application for facebook called Scrabulous, that allowed facebook users to play Scrabble against each other. Other than the name, it was no different from Scrabble. It also wasn't licenced by either of the companies that own the trademark to the game. Legal battles ensued, and eventually Scrabulous was shut down. In the meantime, Scrabulous was reinvented as Lexulous, a Scrabble-like game but not Scrabble, while Hasbro, the company that owns the trademark in Canada and the US, and Electronic Arts have developed their own version of Scrabble, which I assume is legal. Mattel, which owns the trademark in the rest of the world, has also developed a version of Scrabble which I shouldn't be able to play because I am not outside of the US or Canada, yet I just did. My impression is that Hasbro's version was hastily put together, ostensibly because they wanted to get the game to their fans on facebook as soon as possible, but more likely they were trying to prevent players from switching their allegiance to Lexulous. The application is still in beta, so there are lots of bugs. Also, it's usually referred to as Scrabble Beta on the discussion board.

Personally, I haven't experienced any of these bugs. The only problems that I've had is that the game is slow to load, if it loads at all, when they're doing server maintenance, but this isn't really a bug. But people are reporting alls sorts of bugs to the discussion board for the game (which is not the place to report bugs). One of the more common ones that I've read about is that the tiles that appear in the virtual rack are not the players actual tiles. The latest such question was as follows

i leave the screen, come back, and my letters have

To which I responded with the advice
The problem is not Scrabble Beta, but your screen. It has become infested with tiny little ants who are rearranging your pixels. Clever little buggers they are. Just tilt your screen to the side, and shake it a bit, kinda like an Etch-a-Sketch. That should clear things up. Oh, and get some bug spray and spray it into the vents at the back of your monitor, to ensure this sort of thing doesn't happen again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Big words

Some time ago, I learned about a book simply referred to as "Fowler". A book identified only by the the name of its author must certainly be an important one, and so I sought out the title of the book, which turned out to be "Modern English Usage," or "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage." The former title appears on the spine, while the latter appears on the first page of the dictionary.

While visiting a friend's office one time, I noticed two very old books on a desk. One of them was a desktop Oxford English dictionary. The other was a 1926 edition of Fowler. The book belonged to neither my friend nor his friend, the only other inhabitant of the office. So I took it.

There were dictionaries aplenty in every classroom of my grade school and most of my high school classrooms as well (mainly those which were mostly likely to host an English class). We were encouraged to use them. We also learned grammar throughout. Or at least the teachers tried to teach us. Thus, we had access to the bits and pieces of the language, and we knew the mechanics of how these bits and pieces fit together. But no effort was put into telling us how to use the language, or even where we might go to find such advice. Style guides by any author if they existed at all in the classroom, were never mentioned by our teachers. There are a variety of types of entries. Some give more detailed explanations of certain words than a dictionary would give. Other entries dispel various taboos about grammar that were invented when the first authors English grammar books seem to have been under the impression that the language was a dialect of French [1]. Some entries identify pitfalls of writing, such as writing sentences which, although meaningful and grammatical, are too long and complex, or how best to write a letter (not so much relevant anymore). Others are designed to give you an answer of "Yes" when you ask the question "Does this sound right?"

Among the pitfalls of writing are the entries on Pedantic Humour and Polysylabic Humour, which I reproduce below.

Pedantic Humour: No essential distinction is intended between this and Polysyllabic Humour; one or the other name is more appropriate to particular specimens, and the two headings are therefore useful for reference;but they are manifestations of the same implus, and the few remarks needed may be made here for both. A warning is necessary, because we have all of us, except the abnormally stupid, been pedantic humourists in our time. We spend much of our childhood picking up a vocabulary; we like to air our latest finds; we discover that our elders are tickled when we come out with a new name that they thought beyond us; we devote some pains to tickle them further, and there we are, pedants and polysyllabicisits all. The impulse is healthy for children, and nearly universal — which is just why warning is necessary; for among so many there will always be some who fail to realize that the clever habit applauded at home will make them insufferable abroad. Most of those who are capable of writing well enough to find readers do learn sooner or later that playful use of long or learned words is a one-sided game boring the reader more than it pleases the writer, that the impulse to it is a danger-signal — for there must be something wrong with what they are saying if it needs recommending by such puerilities — and that yielding to the impulse is a confession of failure. But now and then even an able writer will go on believing that the incongruity between simple things to be said and out-of-the-way words to say them in has a perennial charm. Perhaps it has for the reader who never outgrows hobbledehoyhood; but for the rest of us it is dreary indeed. It is possible that acquaintance with such labels as pedantic and polysyllabic humour may help to shorten the time it takes to cure a weakness incident to youth.

An elementary example or two should be given. The words homoeopathic (small or minute), sartorial (of clothes), interregnum (gap), or familiar ones: -- To introduce 'Lords of Parliament' in such a homoeopathic doses as to leave a preponderating power in the hands of those who enjoy a merely hereditary title./While we were motoring out to the station I took stock of his sartorial aspect, which had change somewhat since we parted./In his vehement action his breeches fall down and his waistcoat runs up, so that there is a great interregnum.

These words are like most that are much used in humour of either kind, both pedantic and polysyllabic. A few specimens that cannot be described as polysyllabic are added here, and for the large class of long words, the article Polysyllabic Humour should be consulted: -- ablution; aforesaid; beverage; bivalve (the succulent); caloric; cuticle; digit; domestics; eke (adv.); ergo; erstwhile; felicide; nasal organ; neighbourhood (in the n. of, = about); nether garments; optic (eye); parlous; vulpicide.

Polysyllabic Humour. See Pedantic Humour for a silght account of the impulse that suggests long or abstruse words as a means of entertaining the hearer. Of the long as distinguished from the abstruse, terminological exactitude for lie or falsehood is a favourable example, but much less amusing ad the hundredth than at the first time of hearing. Oblivious to their pristine nudity (forgetting they were stark naked) is a less familiar specimen. Nothing need here be added to hat was said in the other article beyond a short specimen list of long words or phrases that sensible people avoid. Batavian, Caledonian, Celestial, Hibernian and Milesian for Dutch, Scotch, Chinese, and Irish. Solution of continuity, femoral habiliments, refrain from lacteal addition, and olfactory organ for gap, breeches, take no milk, and nose. Osculatory, pachydermatous, matutinal, diminutive, fuliginous, fugacious, esurient, culinary, and minacious, for kissing, thick-skinned, morning, tiny, sooty, timid, hungry, kitchen, and threatening. Frontispiece, individual, eqitation, intermediary, cachinnation, and epidermis, for face, person, riding, means, laughter, and skin. Negotiate and peregrinate for tackle and travel.
All this being said, I want this book.

[1] One example of which is that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition. This is pure nonsense, in part because it contradicts the evidence, and in part because it misstates the imagined problem. You're not allowed to do this in French. In English, there is nothing wrong with it. Quite often sentences can be rewritten to avoid it. Sometimes they cannot. Even if they can, the rewritten sentence often sounds awkward and artificial.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 Random Things

This 25 Random Things meme has been flooding my facebook news feed for a few weeks now. I read the first one that I saw, when I had not yet realized what a phenomenon it was going to become. I've lost count on the number of people who have posted them since, so I don't remember how many of them I haven't read in full (I do read parts of them if they get comments).

The instructions are simple. Write 25 random things about yourself, then "tag" 25 of your friends who are supposed to do the same. Early iterations included conditions that they had to be true and not well known.

I've been seeing things like this since I started using email, although they usually ask for more specific details than just "things". I've sent a few completed replies (usually after I've been prodded by the sender), and occasionally passed them on. They don't seem to catch on. They've also shown up on blogs, although I've never been a victim of tagging in that case. They've even appeared on facebook in the past. One thing that is interesting (to me) about this particular meme is that a lot more people seem to have been doing this one than those that appear in emails or blogs.

The meme has been dying down. I've seen a few in the last couple days, and other similar ones are now appearing more frequently than the old one. I'm guessing those who thought the last one was oodles of fun are looking for they're next fun fix, but even though they're dominating now, they're not nearly as popular as the last.

In typical Randy fashion, I've jumped on the bandwagon just before it leaves town. I had been tagged a few times, and, you know, you gotta give the people what they want, although I didn't follow the rules very closely. Somebody reminded me today that I haven't blogged in a while, and I figured this would be good blog fodder. Enjoy.

25 Random Things

1. I think most people say "random" when they mean "arbitrary", such as in the title of this post.

2. I think that the 25 things that people write are neither random nor arbitrary.

3. I was in the grocery store when I thought of 1. and 2.

4. The 227g packages of mushrooms for $2.49 were sold out, so I bought bulk mushrooms at $3.99/pound.

5. I bought too many, which resulted in my pasta sauce boiling over.

6. My favourite colour is red. This is not because I find the colour particularly appealing. When I was young, my mother colour coded things so we would know which was mine and which was my brother's. My stuff was red, my brother's was blue. The only logical conclusion that my 4 year old mind could make is that she chose red because it was my favourite colour. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

7. I can show you how to do-si-do. I can show you how to scratch a record. I can take apart the remote control, and I can almost put it back together.

8. A little part of me dies when somebody tells me they want to do a PhD in anything.

9. See number 10.

10. See number 9.

11. What's with those people whose facebook activity seems to have nothing to with anything but politics?

12. The distance from my parking spot at work to the farthest place I've been from home is 3,914 km by car.

13. From 10 May 1940 to 27 July 1945 and from 26 October 1951 to 7 April 1955, I was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. [1]

14. Pending.

15. I's the b'y that builds the boat.

16. I am just as impressed that they all answered the bell when he asked for a helping hand recently.

17. I ripoff most of my status updates from songs, tv shows, and newspapers. Number 7, 15, and 16 are also rip-offs.

18. The status update about candy, if you remember it, is actually about me.

19. I know the difference between it's and its, you're and your, they're, their, and there, and other groups of homophones, butt eye right the wrong won moor then I right the write won.

20. I was feeling bold, so I formatted my note [2].

21. Hey remember that time when I would only read Shakespeare.

22. Hey remember that other time when I would only read the backs of cereal boxes.

23 is a prime number.

24. Having read numbers 1-23, I doubt that you know me any better now than you already did.

25. I agree with this article.

26. I can't count.

[1] Current facebook profile picture.

[2] When you are composing a Note in facebook, there is a small, er, note which reads "Feeling bold? Format your note".

Monday, February 09, 2009

Walking around

I remember learning about traffic circles or roundabouts in elementary school. It seemed like such an exotic form of traffic control. Lately, it seems like a fair number of them have been cropping up here and there. In the last year or two, I've encountered them in Ancaster and somewhere in the Waterloo Region. If any traffic circles existed anywhere nearby when I was learning to drive, I wasn't aware of them, and I don't think my driving instructors were either, because they never gave me any advice how to navigate them. My usual strategy is to go when I feel like it and rely on the politeness of others. So far there has been no honking of horns or crashing of cars. If you're a pedestrian, on the other hand, you don't need any guidance of walking instructors, even if you learned how to walk before the age of roundabouts. The Waterloo Region was kind enough to make a video to help you.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

That don't make cents!

And that is why you don't ignore your math teacher.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Truth, in Black and White

Back when my brother and parents were still living under the same roof, my dad would wake up around 5:30 and go downstairs to make sure that my brother was up in time for work. On his way to my brother's room, he would make sure that the cat's food bowl was full. After a while, my cat picked up on the pattern, and rather than wait for my dad, he would come and wake him up. While I was usually asleep for this, I imagine the cat's technique was something like this.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day Post

As of the beginning of the writing of this post, there were 17 minutes left of Inauguration Day, which means 17 minutes to post something before my thoughts on the day are hopelessly out of date (I'd have more time if I lived in, say, British Columbia, but then I would have just started this post three hours later). Truthfully, I don't have much to say on the matter itself. I did manage to catch maybe a half an hour of TV coverage, but it was in a noisy room and I was more focused on food. I haven't had much time to absorb what's been written on the event either. I'm fairly confident that Obama will make a fine president, eloquent speeches notwithstanding.

What did catch my eye, aside from the seemingly endless parade, were the facebook statuses of two of my facebook friends (with names changed to protect identities).

"Mademoiselle She kinda wishes she was American on a day like today."

"Mister He isn't used to being pro-Establishment."

Mademoiselle She is Canadian. Mister He is an American in Canada (no, not that American in Canada). Even before today's events, I could have told you that neither of these people are fans of George W. Bush specifically, or the Republican Party in general, or even conservative ideology (Mlle. She even suggested that there should only be a federal Liberal Party and a federal NDP party, and no more). Both of these express to me a sort of sentiment that I've never been able to identify with. Namely that they will like or dislike a political entity, not based on its inherent qualities, but rather because of the people who are leading it [1]. Mlle. She's sentiment is stronger than that of Mr. He, and I've heard stronger sentiments from others. One left leaning friend once asked another more left leaning friend (who describes Canada's federalist federal parties as centre (NDP), right (Liberal), and extreme right (Conservative)) what party his local MP was affiliated with. Thankfully for them, it was NDP [2]. I didn't quite get why it mattered.

I'm quite happy to be from Hamilton, despite the fact that most of the ridings in the Hamilton consistently elect MPs from parties I wouldn't vote for (and despite the fact that it looks terrible from the QEW, and other locations within). In my lifetime, the Province of Ontario has had Liberal, Progressive Conservative, and NDP governments. No matter which of these parties were in power, my preference for leaving the province or staying hasn't changed much. Or, more accurately, regardless of how much my desire to leave or stay has changed, the party in power has had little to no effect on that change. This is partly due to the fact that I'm from Ontario of course. Our provincial patriotism is low compared to every other province [4]. Even at that national level, though, the pride (or possibly lack thereof) that I have for my country, and my desire to be a citizen of it or any other country, doesn't change come election time. Finally, I don't recall that my preference for living in America, or being an American, has ever changed with the president. At the end of the day, though, it's largely a sideshow to me. I do find politics to be interesting, sometimes too much so, though I'd usually rather listen than discuss. If anything, my lack of patriotism to Canada stems not from the government of the day, but from the fact that Canadian self-identity seems to depend far too much, in my opinion, on what the government does or doesn't do.

None of this is to say that I don't think politics is important. It's just that they are more of a practical matter to me, like plumbing or wiring in my home. I hope some day that if you visit my house, both of these things are in good working order. More importantly, though, I hope that this wasn't the most impressive thing about your visit.

[1] I make an exception for political parties themselves.

[2] It just so happens, it's Pat Martin, the guy who's campaigning against the penny, so I admit to being a bit of a fan.

[3] It's now past midnight. I tried. At least it's still Inauguration Day in the next time zone. The actual location of this footnote got lost. It was intended to be somewhere in the middle of the second paragraph.

[4] Ontarians tend to identify themselves as Canadian, whereas, people from other provinces seem to identify themselves by that province. This has been pointed out to me by American observers and people from other provinces.

Monday, January 19, 2009


Oh be careful, little hands, what you Wii.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ripoff artists

After Dave Matthews released his second major album, there were accusations that he ripped of David Bowie. The only song I know from David Bowie is Ground Control to Major Tom [1]. The only other work from Bowie that I knew of was his portrayal of Andy Warhol in a movie about the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. To the best of my knowledge, Dave Matthews wasn't portraying Andy Warhol on his latest album, and therefore it was unlikely that I would have picked up on the similarities between the two artists. About two years ago, Dr. McNeil pointed out the similarities between The Who's Pinball Wizard and David Francey's Skating Rink. I knew both of these songs, but it had been a long time since I had heard the former, and they are also different genres, so I didn't notice. More recently, another friend told me that James Blunt ripped of Elmo. Not being familiar with the music of either of these artists, I never would have noticed. The oldest example of creative borrowing that I can think of is Beethoven's 5th symphony. While it's not a exact ripoff, the opening rhythm and melodic contour [2] of Beethoven's piece are noticeably similar to the main motif of Bach's Fugue in D from Book 2 of The Well Tempered Clavier.

Then, today, after seeing this video [3], I'm wondering perhaps Gentil MontaƱa should have appeared with Cypress Hill in the Homerpalooza episode of the Simpsons, instead of the London Symphony Orchestra.

[1] Moments after writing Ground Control to Major Tom, I loaded iTunes and played Ground Control to Major Tom. As of the writing of this footnote, Icarus from Enter the Haggis is playing.

[2] The melodies are not exactly the same, but at the very beginning of the respective pieces, Beethoven's notes go down when Bach's go down, even though the musical distances are different. The influence is not implausible, since Beethoven was known for playing pieces from Bach's Well Tempered Clavier.

[3] Hat tip to David Koyzis.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On my way back home at the end of Christmas break, I got a phone call just as I was heading out of Toronto. It wasn't a number in my contact list [1], and I was driving, so I didn't answer it. If the phone call is really important, the caller would leave a message. They didn't. Since then, I've received 8 more phone calls from the same number, 5 in the last 3 days.

Last week, not long after the first two or three calls, I checked the number on Canada 411 [2], and came up with nothing. I Googled the number, and found a site on which people identify unknown phone numbers. A few people on this site claimed it was from CIBC. Although I do most of my banking with them, I still wasn't going to answer when I got calls from that number. Occasionally they call with something important to tell me. Usually they just want to sell me something.

I suspected the same was true with this number. But today, when I received call number 9, I thought maybe, just maybe, 5 calls in 3 days meant that it really was something important, so important that they couldn't risk leaving a message on my voice mail. So I answered. Having confirmed my identity (and done a reasonably good job at pronouncing my last name), the caller began her spiel, trying to sell me the latest insurance product from the bank, or the credit card, or something. I wasn't interested. I never am. When will they get the point?

In any case, I kept listening, in part because I'm not usually very good at interrupting people when their talking (and I don't like hanging up on people, even if they're annoying telemarketers), but also because her voice sounded remarkably like that of the voices you typically hear on recorded messages. Even the responses to my questions sounded like that. I kept listening because I was waiting for some sort of cue that this was in fact a recorded message, and CIBC had purchased some sort of technology that could almost seamlessly integrate prerecorded messages with sound bites generated on the fly, based on my responses. I think it was an actual person who had perhaps been doing this job far too long. So much for my hopes of fancy technology.

These calls are annoying, and I wish they would stop. Of course, it's my bank, so I don't think adding my number to a Do Not Call list would help. Even if it weren't, though, it appears that it wouldn't help much, and might actually make things worse.

[1] As a general rule, I don't answer my phone unless the number is in my contact list.

[2] Which has considerably less information now than it did a year ago.


Okay, so I'm not the only one who does that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thingy Cheese

Cheese is one of my favourite things to eat. I've eaten plenty of the common varieties, such as cheddar, mozzarella, and marble, and I've eaten a variety of other less common varieties of cheese. I know that there are many other types of cheese that I haven't had the chance to try yet, but I'd like to. I never thought that there would be a limit to the sort of cheese that I would eat. Until now. (Then again, I used to think that I'd never eat blue cheese. I have. And I like it.)

Coffee Contradictions

My ears perk up every time I hear about a new study on coffee. And for the past decade or so, I've heard or read a fair bit about the health effects of drinking coffee. It seems that they take turns in suggesting that coffee is good for you or bad for you. Yesterday and today, I read two more such articles. The first suggests that drinking coffee could make you crazy if you're young, and the second suggests that it will prevent you from going crazy if you're old. The contradictions continue. On the other hand, this might have explained my dad's enthusiasm for drinking coffee.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Juxtaposition Fail

This article from the Globe and Mail would have been a lot more convincing, had the link to it not appeared directly above a link to this article from the Globe and Mail.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rethinking Democracy

When I think about all of the various options available to us for choosing political leaders, democracy usually comes out on top. Sometimes, though, I see things like this, and I can't help but become sceptical that The People are really the best ones to leave that choice to. 5 out of 5 stars? Really?

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!