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minutes left of Inauguration Day, which means 17 minutes to post something before my thoughts on the day are hopelessly out of date (I'd have more time if I lived in, say, British Columbia, but then I would have just started this post three hours later).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!