97 words: an experiment

14 11 2013

So I am going to try something a little different: I’ve created a new blog in which every post is going to be exactly 97 words long, just because.

If you’re curious, you can go here: http://97words.wordpress.com/


Francois and the wine tasting party

19 01 2013

So I bought a new vacuum cleaner today – it’s a Dirt Devil, in striking red and black colours (which totally doesn’t match the colour scheme of my apartment, which is blue, green, and IKEA). For some reason, as I assembled it, I decided to name it Francois. I have no idea why. I don’t normally name my appliances.

I envision Francois emitting a disapproving sniff as he/it is directed into the corner of my living room to hoover up unwanted dirt, and reacting with European stoicism as I change from the “poke into corners and baseboards” brush to the “brush up the doormat that my boots are on” brush. I am not sure why I am envisioning this. I blame mid-winter and the absence of baseball.

On an unrelated topic: a while back (about a year or two) I was invited to a wine tasting party. The idea was that you were supposed to bring your favourite bottle of (cheap) wine, and each guest would be served a tiny bit of each bottle in an unmarked plastic glass. You were then invited to write comments on the wine, and perhaps find a new favourite kind to drink.

As it happens, I (a) like to drink red wine, and (b) know virtually nothing about it. (The LCBO offers wine tasting courses, but they sell out quickly.) When offered a wine list, I point vaguely in the direction of the cheaper part of the menu, and say that I’ll have one of those, please. Historically, I have tended to buy cheap French red wine – the sort that the French themselves either export or use to clean car parts.

So, when I was given the opportunity to write comments on wine, all I could do was babble randomly. Here, in order, are my wine comments from that party, along with a note on whether the wine was white or red. Note that later comments were written after having had several mini-glasses of earlier wines – I will leave it to the reader to decide whether my sense of humour improves as my blood-alcohol content percentage rises.

Wine #1 (red): Sharp; a bit aggressive. Would probably stop you on the street and ask you for directions to the nearest nightclub – it would be overdressed and would laugh too loudly on the subway. Too sparkly. (N.B.: This is the one that I brought.)

Wine #2 (red): Lightly fruity, like those apples you stole off the neighbour’s tree and threw at passing cars. Sneaks up on you a bit, gets your attention in an apologetic Canadian type of way.

Wine #3 (white): Makes my mouth pucker. Tastes a bit like lemonade. Are you sure this isn’t a wine cooler? If it were a person, it would talk a lot about its cleansing diet.

Wine #4 (red): Smooth! Inoffensive, very Canadian. Sits in the corner and occasionally contributes clever witticisms. Dry.

Wine #5 (red): Flat, not much taste. Red food colouring with attitude. Maybe I shouldn’t have had the spicy stuff before I drank this.

Wine #6 (white): Fruity! The woman sitting next to me said it was a girly wine and snorted with derision.

Wine #7 (white): Unexciting. This is the first draft of a play that you throw out and rewrite. This wine sits in the corner and sings Morrissey songs quietly to itself.

Wine #8 (white): Is this the same as #7? This is water. You can’t fool me. I was not born yesterday. Or maybe it is vodka. Okay, I was born the day before yesterday. Give me my wallet back, you asshole.

Wine #9 (red): Lightly spicy. Sneaks up on you. Takes your money and breaks your heart. Bittersweet memories. I have no profound things to say about this wine. Perhaps my brain is dead. Or this wine isn’t interesting enough to write about.

Wine #10 (red): This is more red food colouring. This is what contemptuous bar staff give to people who have more money than brains. It’s sold in expensive bottles, and people spend $9.50 a glass on it and feel clever. I would drink it.

Wine #11 (white): Worst smell ever. This wine is cold, like Stephen Harper’s heart, if there is anything left of it after he was ruthlessly taunted and given wedgies in the Etobicoke high school he went to. Now he hates Toronto, and the essence of this is distilled into this wine.

Randoms for November

24 11 2012

Here’s an interesting project, which I discovered on the WFMU web site – some people have taken music from the Free Music Archive and video from the Prelinger Archives and used them to create remix videos.  There’s some really cool stuff here – I haven’t seen all of them yet, but, so far, this is my favourite.

As a Blue Jays fan, I haven’t quite yet gotten my head around The Big Trade (plus The Melky Signing). Is it really true that almost all of the best parts of the Miami Marlins are going to be playing for the Jays next year, and the Jays didn’t even have to give up their best prospects in return? I was expecting maybe Maicer Izturis and, if we were lucky, one front-line starter. Instead, the Jays have three new lineup regulars and two front-line starters. And the winter meetings haven’t even started yet, so the Jays might not even be done. Pinch me – I must be dreaming.

I got this spam in my email box the other day:


Americans proven to be over-confident and underprepared lack these crucial items – and may not have a chance to buy them later…

Fellow Patriot,

Do you know What you are going to do if you get to the store and see the shelves are empty?

I hope you have a minute, because We really need to talk… There’re some serious events about to hit the US. Some you know of already, but some will be brand-new in a threatening way…

The bottom-line is, any disaster (big or small) could force you to go weeks without food.

Without the essentials we may not survive. And there’s going to be no way to get them when a crisis hits (or the news even smells a crisis for that matter)

Take Survival Into Your Own Hands By Visiting here [link deleted, naturally]

If anyone is looking for me, I will be hiding under the bed. Thank you.

Needs more cowbell

30 05 2012

This morning, the music that came up on my player featured two consecutive songs with a whole lot of cowbell.

The first one, “Hazy Shade Of Winter” by the Bangles, doesn’t feature the cowbell until about the two minute mark:

(I have trouble watching 1980s videos sometimes – we were all young then, and now we are not young any more.)

The second one, “Vicious” by Lou Reed, features cowbell from start to finish (warning – lyrics slightly NSFW):

I love that rhythm guitar – it just keeps going and going and going.

Totally unrelated to anything: on the streetcar this morning, I was sitting behind a woman who had been divebombed by a pigeon shortly before boarding. There was an obvious streak of pigeon shit on the back of her left shoulder. I didn’t have the heart or nerve or cojones to tell her. I wonder how her day went, and if she ever found out.

Thank you

12 05 2012

I was the recipient of a random act of kindness recently, and I thought I would write about it, given that I have a blog I intermittently post to and all that.

When I’m at work, I like to take a book with me when I go out to lunch. I can sit outside and read and eat, and all is well. One day last week, I forgot that I had a book with me, and left it where I was sitting. It was hours later before I realized I’d forgotten it.

It was a library book, so I resigned myself to having to pay for it, but I decided to wait a few days before going to the library and reporting it as lost. This morning, I logged into my Toronto public library account to check to see if I had any overdue books, and I noticed that my lost book was no longer listed as checked out. The only possible explanation was that some kind citizen had found the book and had returned it for me.

I think I left an old business card in the book – I use them as bookmarks. So, in case whoever found this decides to Google my name – thank you. You’ve made my day. I now need to figure out what to do with the unexpected windfall – I believe that the universe requires me to do something good with it.

Partially unrelated to this – I am grateful that I have both a balcony and a laptop. This happy combination means that I can enjoy nice spring weather and geek out on my computer at the same time. Sometimes, it’s a good morning.

My knapsack has a lot of things in it

6 05 2012

Most places I go, my knapsack goes with me – it was made by Mountain Equipment Co-op, and it’s virtually indestructible. Because I’m a bit of a pack rat, things tend to accumulate in it. Here’s what I have in it right now:

  • Two library books to read – I always carry two in case I get bored of the first one – sometimes I have three on the go
  • An Apple iPod battery charger – this is temporary because the one I keep at work is falling apart, so I am bringing in a replacement
  • Sunscreen, in a separate plastic bag in case the top bursts (I ruined an old knapsack that way)
  • An umbrella – there have been days when I have needed both the sunscreen and the umbrella – I love Southern Ontario weather
  • My digital camera – it’s good to have that always with me, as you never know when a good photo opportunity will come up
  • An Allen key
  • A total of 4 pens
  • A pencil sharpener
  • Two portable flash drives (I didn’t realize the second one was in there – I thought it was lost)
  • My prescription sunglasses
  • A mini AM-FM radio for listening to Jays games while away from home – its reception isn’t good, unfortunately
  • A bottle of ibuprofen tablets that expires this October
  • A TTC transit map
  • Two booklets of Toronto public library branch locations (I forgot I already had one when I got the second)
  • An almost-empty plastic bag containing a small container of dental floss – I think I brought it for a job interview last year or something
  • A kazoo – hey, you never know when you might need one
  • Three sets of portable headphones, two of which (at least) are broken – I forgot about the third one, and have been using a fourth set
  • Eye drops – really handy in the summer when I get sunscreen in my eye – the bottle is empty now, so I guess I should take this out
  • A Christmas card from work – I guess I should take this out too
  • Chapstick
  • An extra rear bike light – I guess I could put this on the knapsack when cycling at night
  • An “I Tipped The Fringe” button from last summer
  • Odd bits of paper
  • $3 in change
  • Spare earplugs for one of the three portable headphones mentioned above
  • I think that’s it

I guess it would be a bad idea for me to ever make jokes about what women keep in their purses.

Government of Canada FAQ #4

29 02 2012

How do I get information on travelling in Canada and abroad?

Herein, a handy guide. Warning: excessive use of regional stereotyping ahead.

British Columbia

Principal features: rain, Stanley Park, recreational drug users, daffodils in February, expensive housing, rain, bad traffic, the Canucks, rioters, mountains, the ocean, rain, nude beaches, rain, rain, drizzle, rain

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I’m from Toronto!”
  • “You guys are all hippies, aren’t you?”
  • “Can I borrow your umbrella?”


Principal features: oil, cattle, climate change deniers, Conservatives, a cool mayor

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I’m from Toronto!”
  • “You guys are all rednecks, aren’t you?”
  • “Can you direct me to the local Liberal Party headquarters?”


Principal features: wheat, flatness, cold, drought, curling rinks

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I might or might not be from Toronto.”
  • “Okay, so this is Moose Jaw. Where is the rest of the moose?”
  • “Why buy anything here? There’s no sales tax in Alberta.”


Principal features: biting flies and mosquitoes, wind chill, one or more members of The Guess Who

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I’m from some unspecified location in Southern Ontario.”
  • “Admit it – you guys aren’t really westerners.”
  • “Which one are you – Bachman, Turner, or Overdrive?”


Principal features: a dying economy, metrosexuals, fat cat bankers, the world’s largest freestanding structure (and his brother Doug), lots of stuff other than Toronto for chrissakes they think they’re the centre of the universe ooh it makes me mad I need to lie down now

What not to say:

  • If not in Toronto: “Hi! I’m from Toronto!”
  • If in Toronto: “Hi! I’m from Scarborough!”
  • If in Scarborough: my sincerest sympathies


Principal features: poutine, French-speaking people, Bonhomme, latent separatists, more fun than you are having right now

What not to say:

  • “Bonjour! Je habite en Toronto!”
  • Anything in English
  • Anything in French, unless you’re one of the 43 anglophones in Canada who can speak it

New Brunswick

Principal features: none whatsoever – well, okay, Magnetic Hill

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I’m from Ontario.”
  • “Your province is boring.”
  • “Is there an Old Brunswick?”

Nova Scotia

Principal features: fish, tides, Stanfield’s underwear

What not to say:

  • “Hi! I’m a repetitive joke that has gone somewhat stale.”
  • “I have trouble telling the Maritime provinces apart. Can you guys wear name tags or something?”

Prince Edward Island

Principal features: red dirt, Anne of Green Gables

What not to say:

  • Anything about red dirt or Anne of Green Gables


Principal features: rocks, air force bases, hidden Nazi war gold, the odd Viking or two

What not to say:

  • “Where’s the bye that builds the boat?”
  • “I have this great joke to tell you.”
  • “The world will end at 9:00 tonight, or 9:30 in Newfoundland. Har har.”

Nunavut and/or Yukon and/or Northwest Territories

Principal features: scenery, cold, black flies the size of house pets, oil spills

What not to say:

  • “Can you carve a walrus for me?”
  • “I would like to run a pipeline through your property.”
  • “It’s colder than a [insert cliche about something very cold, possibly related to witch’s nipples] outside.”


Principal features: foreigners

What not to say:

  • “Can I have vinegar on my fries?”
  • “I am from the same country as Justin Bieber!”
  • “We whipped your ass in the War of 1812. Care for a rematch?”