Thursday, December 11, 2008

Scariest night of the year goes to - last night

I had just stepped out of the shower when I heard a strange and unidentifiable sound. At first I thought it was one of the cats wanting in the bathroom, as they are both obsessed with being in the tub when it's wet. However, when I opened the door there was no cat and the strange sound persisted. I soon realized that it was coming from the downstairs neighbour. At best the sound could only be described as a desperate wheezing. Capital M opened the door and saw our neighbour stumbling up the stairs. She managed to say "can't breathe" in between her laboured and terrifying attempts at breathing. I stood for a split second unsure of what to do. Part of me really wanted to be wearing more than just a towel; the other part knew I had to do something. I dialed 911 while M tried to assist our neighbour (I don't deny for a second that I had the easier job). Fortunately, our neighbour's breathing improved dramatically while I was speaking to the 911 operator. In the end no outside assistance was required. Our neighbour had no explanation for what happened; only that it sometimes does. She was also not inclined to stick around after she caught her breath. I was relieved then, when I heard her leaving for work in the morning.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

sage advise?

I annoy myself daily by reading the advise column of the Toronto Star. Why? I really don't know. I don't care much for the columnist; I find her advise either too simple or off the mark. However, I'm sure giving advise isn't easy (though it is easier than taking it) and I thought I'd see if I could do any better. The following question is taken from her column.

Q: I'm 32 and have been dating a girl, 22, for more than two years. She recently initiated a three-month breakup, which I understood as we'd had some bad times, though more were good.
She later reached out to get back together. At our first meeting, we cleared up a lot and our feelings are the same if not stronger. But her parents are against our getting back together – they even bought her a puppy to forget about me. There was never a parent issue before.
This new-found hatred of me has been tearing us both up – with their constant negative input and criticism. She still lives at home, and is in depression over this, rude and resentful toward me because of the way her parents are treating her.
I'm torn between loving her and leaving her, to end the stress.

A: There is an inconsistency in your letter. You claim your feelings towards each other are stronger now but at the same time your girlfriend is both 'rude and resentful' toward you. You can't put this solely on her parents. If anything, the parents are something of a misdirection - a way for you both to try and ignore what's really happening. You already broke up once and it's entirely possible that your girlfriend is grappling with wanting the familiarity of your relationship and wanting to have new life experiences. Either way, her parents' treatment of her shouldn't result in her resenting you. My advice would be to part on the good terms you recently re-established.

Whew, that is tough. But I still don't like the columnist.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It snowed last night

Norbert Ispin posits that we all need a mystery to solve. From the big - why are we here? The in between - the peculiarities of Edgar Allan Poe's death, for example, and the small (see picture above). The Lakeshore Village Bakery opened in the spring of this year. I had always intended to go as I'm fond of bakeries and the goods found therein. However, I may have missed my chance. A few months after offering the goods noted in its window, the bakery stopped being open. This isn't to say that it went out of business. There has never been a lease or rent sign posted in the window by the building owners. The homemade breads and buns on display have never been removed and are in fact looking quite sun bleached (I tried to get a picture but it didn't turn out). Truly, the interior of the bakery looks as though the owners closed up for the night and had every intention of coming back the next day.
So here's the mystery - what happened to the owners? You may notice the sign on the window that reads "bakery for rent." It looks like it was written quickly by hand on construction paper and its appearance doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. Would I wish to take over a store that has been mysteriously abandoned on the merits of a chintzy rent sign? No, I would not.
I can only assume that the bakery owners are still paying rent on the store space but why then are they not manning the store? Hopefully one day I'll find out.
And that's today's small scale mystery.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I saved this just for you

T. Gibbons writes:  Jesse V, sometimes your posts are a little negative (i.e. ‘I hate my job,’ ‘I missed camp’ etc).  How about something more upbeat?

Great timing Gibbs, here’s a post that’s sure to please.  Yesterday was my birthday; I think that out of all 32 I’ve experienced, this one belongs in the top ten (though to be totally honest I don’t remember several of the lower, single digit birthdays).   To celebrate the day Capital M took me to see ‘We Will Rock You’ a musical featuring the songs of Queen.  The performances were full of energy, the songs were great and I totally enjoyed the show.  But that’s not all.  There was dinner followed by ice cream cake (this alone would have made for a great day) and presents. 

The day reminded me of a scene from ‘Endless Summer 2,’ one of the surfers, Patrick O’Connell, catches a wave and exclaims ‘that was the best wave ever!’ only to repeat the same thing every time he caught one.  My day was full of great waves – thanks M.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ms Temper - she's just a baby man

Who knew that there would be lowbrow espionage in my job? I've had two phone calls in the past week from people that I suspect were trying to ferret information about my place of employment and the programs it offers. I was on to the first caller but, to my ever-lasting shame, I was duped by the other. There’s a lot of money to made by retraining injured workers and I have been told that my own supervisor frequently monitors competitors’ websites to see what they’re offering and how the programs are being delivered. This has led to me being signed up for an online Dispatch training program and I can only shudder at the thought of whatever else may be in my future.
I think at the very least these spy tactics should have an element of danger, maybe a femme fatale and a few cool gadgets.

And now a word from our sponsor:

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And now back to your regularly scheduled blog

In other news I recently bought a Venus Fly Trap. This will actually be my third attempt at growing one. So far I think I’ve been doing things right. I’ve been giving it distilled water, I fed it a bug that was hanging out on the wall far too close to where I sleep (I am concerned about bad karma and hope that the VFT starts catching fruit flies on its own), and it’s in a place that gets direct sunlight and then indirect sunlight. Capital M expressed her concerns regarding my metal health in the event of the plant not making it. These plants aren’t easy to grow and I took it to heart when the other two gave up the ghost. Hopefully the third time’s the charm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

won't be the same

An earlier version of today’s post sounded a little too assholey so I’ve decided to change gears and go with an earlier idea.
A few days ago I was walking to the bus and saw something that was pretty disgusting. On the sidewalk in front of me were the contents of someone’s stomach. Seeing puke is never a pleasant sight first thing in the morning but that wasn’t the grossest part. The honour went to the pigeon that was busy eating up the pasty little bits speckling the sidewalk. Blah, the thought of it makes my stomach a little queasy. So why, you may wonder, am I telling you this? While I continued walking I started thinking – that’s pretty gross but I’ve seen grosser.

Cue flashback music.

The summer of 1999 was a tough one. For reasons that no longer hold-up I had chosen to go home rather than return to Camp Chief Hector. Compounded with my missing camp was the fact that none of my friends from high school were around, there was also plenty of family drama, and people a lot younger than me kept telling me about partying with my mom (this is also an unpleasant thought but not the focus of this post). However, more than anything else it was my second job that ended up indelibly etched in my memory. That summer I was one of the few, the proud, and the thoroughly disgusted, I was a campground cleaner.

I can clearly remember one of my co-workers silently crying after finishing her first day on the job. The tears were warranted, as no one really deserves to see what we saw on a daily basis. We had to clean both outhouses and bathrooms with plumbing, among other things. Unfortunately, running water didn’t really make much of a difference. People on a camping holiday seemed to forget the basics of acting like human beings. For example, it was common to have to scrub away finger paintings, usually done with whatever was on-hand (pun definitely intended). Sometimes the paintings were quite intricate. Tour groups would usually abuse the outhouses they happened to stop at. It was common to encounter a ‘Mt. Shitmore’ (as my co-workers called it). This was formed in one of two ways 1) people would start going on the floor and build up from there 2) it was a naturally occurring phenomena that happened when the output exceeded the containment space.
I feel as though I’m crossing the line of poor taste so maybe I’ll stop with the descriptions. How about a reader poll – does anyone have a gross memory they’d like to share?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

that's not my name

For all those who were wondering – the publishing company I wrote to did get back to me. Here’s their response:

Hello Jessie,
Editorial appreciates your feedback and will take your comments into consideration as part of our Error Correction process

Wow, thanks. The misspelling of my first name is also a nice touch. It’s not like my name didn’t appear in the ‘from’ section of the e-mail and at the end of my brief letter.
Others may be wondering if I’ve heard back from the school and the answer is no. There are two possible reasons for this: 1) The school board insisted the school pick someone already on the ‘hire’ list. 2) This one is entirely on me, but justifiable – I’m not yet licensed to teach in Ontario. The reason is simple enough – I’ve never made it on the eligible to hire list. There was no point in shelling out money for a teaching licence if I wasn't going to be teaching. It’s true that an equally convincing argument could be made that I should have applied regardless. So, in the spirit of fairness I’ve decided to conduct a random poll of people on the street and get their reactions. Here’s what some had to say:

Darshan S. – Well, it makes sense that if he knew in April that he wasn’t going to be hired for the rest of the year than there wasn’t much reason to get the licence

Samantha H. – Seriously! He didn’t get his licence? Does he not want to be a teacher?

Tobby L. – Who?

Linda M. – Hmmm, that’s like a chicken and the egg question – what comes first the job or the licence?

Tobby L. – No seriously, who?

Carol B. – He doesn’t live with his parents does he? No, is he single?

Oleksandr K. – this response had to be censored to fit the blog’s mostly PG-13 rating.

Tobby L. – Do I know him?

So, am I a man of principal or a self-saboteur? Probably a bit of both. However, I'm not unconvinced that reason #1 hasn't had some bearing on all this.
The search for new, and better, employment continues.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

she's sitting on the beach

It's been a strange week. Last Tuesday I came home to find a message on the answering machine from a woman I'd never heard of asking me to fax my resume to the name of a school that I couldn't quite make out. I had to google the fax number in order to find out where the woman was calling from. My confusion didn't let up when it turned out the school was part of the Toronto District School Board.

A brief side note: The TDSB accepts applications starting on Jan. 2 of every year. They then determine who they're going to interview for the 'eligible to hire' list by March or April. If a teacher isn't on the 'eligible to hire' list they can't teach or even substitute for any school within the TDSB. Consequently, applicants (such as myself) who didn't hear anything back from the TDSB after April know that they will have to wait until next January to try again.

At first I thought there must have been a clerical error. Interviews with individual schools only come after being granted a coveted position on 'the list.' I'm not on the list. If I were a robot, this conundrum would have caused my head to explode. Regardless, I sent in my resume and was subsequently asked to come in for an interview on Thursday.

Another side note: The school is in Scarborough. I don't live anywhere near Scarborough. Capital M however works just down the street from the school.

The interview went well.  This was largely due to my interviewers not knowing I was waiting for them and thereby giving me more time to prepare.  When I arrived at the school I was handed a copy of the interview questions.  If I hadn't been given the questions before the interview I don't think I would have answered some of them very well.  

When I returned home there was another message from the school.  They wanted me to go back on Friday to do another interview.  This interview would be for the TDSB's 'eligible to hire list.'  So back I went (calling in sick yet another day).  Once again luck was on my side as I was given a copy of the interview questions before the meeting.  Only this time it turned out that I wasn't actually supposed to get them and they were taken back a few minutes later.  However, I had already read through all the questions.  That interview also went well, thanks in part to a mistake.

So where does this leave me?  There is a possibility I could be hired for the rest of this calender year to teach high school English and Social Studies.  It is still entirely possible that this won't work out but regardless of whether it does, or doesn't, this has to be the strangest job process I've ever experienced.

Monday, October 06, 2008

rebirth of slick

Because I care, I sent a letter of complaint to a publisher. Here's the letter:

To Whom it may concern:
My place of employment uses the More Reading Comprehension in Varied Subject Matter series. I was reading through selection 16, 'Annabel Lee' by Edgar Allen Poe in MRCVSM: book 1 and was very surprised by what I saw. The series author, Jane Ervin, treats this poem as though Poe was recounting a personal experience. In almost every question she refers to ‘the poet’ instead of ‘the narrator.’ Those two words are not synonymous. Here's an example of a question:
True or False
(a) The poet fell in love with Annabel Lee long before he wrote the poem
(b) The poet and Annabel lived on an island
As an English teacher, I always stress to my students that authors are not always the narrators of their works. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that your resource doesn’t make this distinction – it makes me question the integrity and academic scholarship of the series author. I hope that future editions will correct this glaring oversight.

Jesse V.

Alright, so I'm not an English teacher, but if I were I would remind my students of the aforementioned distinction. As well, the true or false questions aren't meant to be a trick and answered all false. Stay tuned for the publisher's response.

Lastly, I'm thinking that maybe a masters in library science is the way forward for me.

Friday, October 03, 2008

the street where you still live

I know I'm not supposed to laugh at the misfortune of others but today I just couldn't help it. Part of the course requirement for 'students' doing a vocational training program is that they work through a WHMIS CD. The information is presented in a confusing manner and narrated by a cranky, yet very boring, grandmotherly voice. There isn't much I can do for the poor souls who have to sit through that terrible CD beyond clearing up how to navigate its contents. At first most people are kind of keen but it doesn't take long before I start to hear sighs. This is usally followed by questions like: 'how long is this?' and then another even bigger sigh when I tell them they're on section one of five. In the background, the narrator's voice continues to drone on. I'm not sure if it's the voice, or the students' reactions or both that are starting to make me burst out laughing. Generally speaking, there is nothing funny about my job. Most people don't hear me laugh but today I couldn't stop.

Reason #43 why I need a new job: I am going insane

Thursday, October 02, 2008

pork and beans

Capital M and I went and saw Weezer on Tuesday night. All said, I thought the concert rocked (with the exception of the drunken oaf seated next to us who tried his best to ruin the experience). I could write a concert review but I found one that says pretty much what I would have.

Weezer Review - Air Canada Centre Sept. 30, 2008
Josie C.
Staff writer for Underfunded Publications

In case anyone is unfamiliar with Weezer's older works prior to their self-titled Red Album, I feel that it is my responsibility to inform you that I bought their first album on a cassette tape. Tonight's concert at the Air Canada Centre brought out the best offerings of the band's lengthy history, from 'Say it Ain't so' to 'The Greatest Man that Ever Lived.' Surprisingly, Rivers Cuomo, the band's front man, frequently let his other band mates take the spotlight and supply the lead vocals. I was somewhat disappointed that Cuomo didn't sing 'Perfect Situation.' It's one of my favourite songs from the Make Believe album and it just didn't feel the same without Cuomo.
At one point the band brought out some instrument playing uber-fans and they were given a chance to perform along to 'Island In The Sun' and 'Beverly Hills.' During 'Beverly Hills' I was reminded of the SNL sketch with Christopher Walker requesting 'more cowbell.' Yes, that's right, there was a cowbell solo during 'Beverly Hills.'
I give this performance 7 cowbells out of 8.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Some racing, some stopping

Here’s an excerpt from a recent conversation I had at work:

JV (to ‘student’ B): It’s important to always remember that many companies monitor internet activity and in some cases, e-mail use.

‘Student’ A: Yeah, like this one time I was using the computer at work and they froze it on me. I don’t remember what I typed in, but all this porn started popping up on the computer. I tried to close it but more kept popping up. Then the computer locked up with a message saying that it was frozen due to inappropriate usage. Then I had to call my supervisor and tell her that we had a problem.
It should be noted that ‘student’ A is different from the other guy I mentioned before, and different still from the guy I had to ask to stop looking at porn on the ‘school’ computer. As well, ‘student A’ didn’t normally use a computer at work; he must have a made a special trip. What I don’t understand about these stories is why people feel safer telling only half the story, yet the story is still incriminating. ‘Student’ A might not remember exactly what part of the human anatomy he searched for, but I’d say chances were good that his query brought up exactly what he was hoping to find.
Reason # 178 why I need a new job: pervasive, yet incomplete, porno stories.

Friday, September 26, 2008

whatever bubbles, bubbles up

Norbert Ispin encourages finding the humour in any situation. I’m not sure if this is so much funny as gross but maybe someone will find it amusing:

One of the ‘students’ I work with is rather malodorous. His scent is so strong that it lingers for hours after his departure. In fact, the room he occupies now permanently smells like the den of a wild, and very gamy animal. I wouldn’t say that I have become accustomed to the smell, far from it. But I do at least know what to expect and I also know that the smell’s intensity varies from ‘take your breath away’ to ‘this has got to be a biological weapon experiment.’
Unfortunately, a new ‘student’ at the school is struggling with the transition to this eye-watering/ stomach-churning situation. She finds the smell is giving her headaches and she has taken to eating her lunch outside to avoid her food being tainted. The worst thing is that there’s nothing I can do. The whole centre kind of stinks and the air just doesn’t circulate all that much.

Maybe one day I'll find this funny (the woman's reaction is kind of funny) but for now I’ll call this ‘Reason #216’ for why I need a new job.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

big, bad ghoul

No matter how many times I tried, I couldn't stop a native-English speaker from referring to a tsunami as a 'su-sammy.' He did say it right once and then expressed complete bafflement when he saw the word again. Being that he was reading a passage about tsanamis, he was pretty confused.
I wonder what a su-sammy would look like?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

take only what you need

One of the people I work with is preparing to write a GED test. Seeing the material he’s working through has made me realize how much I forgot, and how much I never really learned in high school. He’s given me a bit of time to relearn how to work with quadratic equations so I can help him understand what they're all about. At this point all I can really remember is that they come out as parabolas when graphed.
I’ve never liked math, and I’m pretty sure it never liked me. We fought each other for years – real grudge matches that scarred us both. Sometimes I gave it an unexpected KO but more often than not it sent me spiralling to the floor.
I think what I most dislike about math is the logic.

Here’s my kind of math question:

You can buy three bags of flour for $9.82. One of the bags of flour says ‘handle with care.’ Another offers first aid directions for 1/5 of its contents and the last bag claims to have a times two field multiplier.
Sally has three brothers, and two sisters, both of whom have Coeliac Disease. Her parents are bitterly divorced and have remarried. She spends ½ the week with her mother, and ¼ of the week with her father.
While shopping, Sally notices the sale on flour. How much flour will she need to buy for the time spent with her mother, and her father?
The answer, of course, is none. The parent’s lack of communication has resulted in not noticing their daughter is missing for part of the week. What’s more, none of the bags of flour sound particularly safe. The bag with a times two field multiplier would probably be deadly for the sisters with Coeliac Disease. Why would something edible need first aid directions for 1/5 of its contents and lastly, most flour needs (pun intended)to be handled, so handling with care just doesn’t add up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

that dull thud you've gotten used to

Ispin says that "regrets should keep us from making the same mistake twice, but they should never hold us back." With this in mind I've been trying to determine what's been holding me back, and how I can move past it. #1 on that list would probably be the Master's degree I started in 2001 but never finished. As a form of self flagellation, I never took myself off the e-mail list serve. Consequently, I still get almost daily messages regarding guest lecturers and thesis defences. That's probably not healthy, so I have requested to be removed from the list.

As well, I sent a professor from the program an e-mail:

Professor X, I was student of yours, taking IDS 001 in 2001. You may not remember me but I will always remember you. During my last class with you I had asked a question that prompted you to go on a 25 minute rant. At one point during your speech you said that we could have a conference and invite the foremost thinkers in the field of IDS and at no point during that conference would anyone ask the question I had just posed. I dropped your class that same day. I did not enjoy being ridiculed by you for 25 minutes. Moreover, there is no excuse for such derisive treatment. You may be well respected in your field but that doesn't give you the right to treat people the way you treated me. Ultimately what I would like is an apology. And, I would like to remind you that as an educator your actions can have far reaching consequences. You can take heart in knowing some good came out of my experience with you. I will use you as model for how not to act as an educator.

It was at this point that I accidently hit send instead of save. Maybe it wasn't an accident. I had to send another e-mail with my name on it so the professor could at least know who his attacker was. His response back was not at all what I expected. It was a sincere apology.

For some reason I fell apart in the Masters program. It has weighed heavily on me for years but no more. I've been thinking that I would actually like to teach in a post secondary institution. I've been thinking a lot of things but I'm not ruling this one out.

Monday, September 22, 2008

heaven restores you in life

Not long ago I stumbled across Creative Fusion: 9 Steps to Reshaping Your Life by Norbert Ispin. I’m not normally one for self help books – they all seem to repackage the same information, and I think they're a waste of time. However, this book was in the bargain bin and my life is in need of a little restructuring. As well, I liked the quick preview of Ispin’s view of the world on the book's jacket. I may be violating several copy write laws but here’s an excerpt:

Humanity is caught in a lonely trap of its own making. On one hand we scour the far reaches of space, hoping that we will come across something that proves we are not the only sentient beings beyond earth. On the other, we explore the smallest particles of our planet, hoping to unlock the mystery of our existence. Neither pursuit has provided us with the answer of why we are here, nor do they make us feel any less alone.

We see these same ideas reflected in religion. Depending on you what you believe, you may either look out to heavens or into yourself. Religion is, of course, far more complex than this but I am using brevity to help make a parallel. Regardless of whether someone has faith, or believes in evolution, or something in-between, we are all searching for meaning. Without it, we feel alone and the loneliness spurns the search and the cycle repeats again.

I haven’t read much yet but I’m interested in how Ispin believes people can find meaning and reshape their lives. Of particular interest is his first step in which he says “infuse your world with life where you need it. Create that which is important to you, whether it's something tangible or exists only in the ether of human consciousness."

Go Ispin - you tell 'em.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm just sitting on the shelf

I recently came across The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor in a bookstore. Capital M didn’t share my indignation at the title, nor did she agree with me that the author had blatantly copied my idea. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure I explained the idea of the book to her. And, I know that I really haven't made an effort to maintain the theme of my blog's title. However, there's no denying a certain similarity between our works - that's poor form Armstrong, poor form indeed!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's me, I'm back again.

When we last left Jesse V. aka ‘the naturewitch’ he felt confident that he would find a new job, a better job, by August ’08. However, it’s now the middle of September and we find Jesse still at his old place of employment. Let’s go now and try to unearth the reasons for this troubling situation.

Investigative Team: Jesse, what happened? Why are you still working at a job you can’t stand? Are you not living in a city of millions, surely there have been better opportunities.

Jesse V: Maybe we can talk about this when I’m not at work.

IT: But the people want to know. What’s been happening in your life and are you leaving your job soon?

JV: I may be forced to leave my job if you don’t quit asking me these questions while I'm working.

IT: (laughs) Well said old boy, well said. Rumours have been circulating that you referred to your Bachelor of Education as a ‘Bachelor of Unemployment,’ is there any truth to this?

JV: (Chuckling) ahh yes, I have said that on a few occasions.

IT: So no luck with the school boards then, but what about other jobs. Surly you’ve applied at other places – any luck there?

JV: If by luck you mean unmitigated failure, then yeah I’ve had a lot of ‘luck.’

IT: How intriguing. Do you find it paradoxical that your current job requires you to have a B.Ed, or even more absurdly, a master’s degree?

JV: Yes, yes I do.

IT: Is it also true that you stopped updating your blog on account of your job dissatisfaction?

JV: It's complicated.

IT: Well maybe your blog can now outline your quest to find your purpose in life, or at the very least a better job. Maybe your blog could focus on life #9?

JV: Maybe...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

asleep on the balcony after class

There have been very few books that elicited some form of verbal outburst from me. Captain Corelli's Mandolin is the only book that made me cry, I shouted out "You fool!" while reading The Meaning of Night, and most recently I said "Whoa!" not once but twice while reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.
Obviously, I'm going to highly recommend this book. But, and this is a big BUT – don't read it on your own. If you're going to read it, and I suggest you do, make sure a friend, loved one, bus buddy, or neighbour down the hall is reading it as well. Why? By the time you round third base and head for home, you're going to want someone to talk to, someone who is right where you are and says "It made me say "whoa!" out loud!" to which you'll reply "me too!"
Otherwise you'll end up like me, imploring a loved one to stop reading her current book and immediately start Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The problem of course, will be that the loved one may not want to stop reading the current book (even if it looks wholly uninteresting), and even if he or she did, they wouldn't read the 500 page novel fast enough.
I would like to go into detail about this story but to do so would ruin a wonderful reading experience. I can say that Pessl is more than likely in the top percentile of Mensa; at the very least she is a literary genius.
Oh, the voice of Moderation has just stopped by:
"You're gushing."
That's true. I'll tone it down. Pessl's story is full of literary references and enough literary devices to keep an English University course occupied for a semester – even the chapter titles are names of famous literary works that cast light on the upcoming content (Othello for the chapter describing the romance between the protagonist's father and mother). Some of the reviews I've read thought there were too many allusions but I'd have to disagree. The protagonist, Blue van Meer, has had her life shaped by two things: her father and books. It would follow then that those two elements dominate her story.
If the book has a shortcoming it's a lack of likable characters. There is a reason for this (though it's not immediately obvious). Blue's father is always interesting, and Blue comes into her own eventually, but I found my interest waning at one point when I wished both she and her friends could be a little nicer. However, I would advise anyone feeling the same way to keep reading because, well, you'll just have to read it to find out.
Bottom line – start a book club and read this book. Avoid having to discuss the story in your head, to yourself, like me. Or sneaking a look at other book reviews from work. Or writing this at...
"You're saying too much."
That's true.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A brief note

This is just a quick shout out to Hamesy:
Happy Pi day!
May you always be able to solve the radius of any circle.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ash and Koga

Recently I've been doing a lot of:
1) Makin' bread
2) Eatin' raisins
The above visual aid should clear up any questions. The careful observer will also notice the corner of the book I've been slowly reading as well. Why slowly you ask? My punishing commute to work has come to an end as I asked for, and received, a transfer to a closer office. It's still the same job but without a wacko co-worker and a man who probably holds the title for being a left hand mouse using, porno viewing champ.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

you'll fall by my hand

It's fairly common to encounter a delay on the subway, either going to or coming home from work. Medical emergencies, power outages, and most recently, a train derailing are but some of the reasons for these delightful occurrences. During one such delay a woman asked in a very loud voice "am I driving the train?" There was an instant lull in the irritable chatter followed by an almost audible collective thought 'are we stopped because there's no driver?'
The woman asked again, with more uncertainty and a hint of fear, "Am I supposed to be driving the train right now?" This time people had a chance to locate her face amongst the crowd. She was clearly not employed the transit commission and wore an expression of someone who was immensely confused. "God I hope not," came the collective thought.
She then started laughing a little. Not the laugh of a sane person, or even the insane laugh of a villain bent on world domination/destruction. It was a laugh of relief. She didn't really want to drive the train and when she figured out that she didn't have to her tension was relieved by laughter.
Unsurprisingly, no one else joined in in this merry discovery.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

There are 12 cylon models

The only reason why I'm still in my home and not out renting Season Two of Battlestar Galactica is that I just spent the past four hours watching the the last five episodes of the first season. I know that I'd probably pull another BSG marathon if given the chance -so it's best I keep the temptation away...

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Hodge Podge

I work with a man who is 59 years old. Unlike most of the people I deal with, this guy is fairly computer literate. I do wish however, that he would stop telling me his computer stories - I have a pretty good idea of what he's been looking at but I'll let you draw your own conclusions:

  • When ever anyone tells me they have multiple virus detection programs on their computer I get a little suspicious - he has three
  • He told me he spent most of his entire 2 week Christmas vacation just searching on the net. Every time he takes me on this trip down memory lane the subject of his search changes. First he couldn't remember, than it was something to do with radios and most recently it was how to alter an online casino program. The story always ends the same - his computer picked up a nasty virus
  • Recently he told me, and I wish he hadn't, that he set up his computer so he could do everything with his left hand, leaving his right hand free

Stop telling me these things!

Here's a little segment called "Lessons learned:"

It turns out that there is a difference between traditional bread yeast and yeast for bread machines. It's not just the difference in size and shape, though that would probably be enough for most people to decide not use traditional yeast in a bread machine. If however anyone is curious as to what happens in the above scenario, the answer is nothing. The little balls of yeast do not dissolve and as such, the bread does not rise. But wait, there's more. The little yeast balls can be seen in the bread dough, and presumably, in the cooked product. Mmm Mmm. Stay tuned for more easily avoided mistakes in the next installment of "lessons learned"

Movie Review: Brick

I'm borrowing a page from the book of Jobes, whose film reviews are dearly missed. I recently watched Brick, a film directed by Rian Johnson. After watching the very unsatisfying ending of Veronica Mars I was hoping for something a little more conclusive. Brick is the story of a high school loner trying to solve the mystery of his ex-girlfriend's death. All in all, I liked the movie and really enjoyed the noir elements - the morally ambiguous protagonist, the girl in trouble, the girl who can't be trusted and the underlying tension of the story. However, I would warn any would be renters of this film. The protagonist talks as though he grew up in a world created by Dashiell Hammett, yet the film is set in a modern day high school. This is a little off-putting at first, and at times hard to understand. Where the movie shines though is in watching the main character lose himself in his investigation. I give this film 4 Maltese falcons out of 5.

Random thought of the day: Adults who are only children have children later in life. I'm not sure if I qualify as the voice of all only children out there, but it feels like it could be true.

-Private to Butterfly girl - Thanks, as always, for your comments. I hope you enjoy whatever books you end up with. I've tried sending you an e-mail in an effort to learn more about a life lived 12 degrees north of the equator. I hope all is going well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

book review part 2

There have been so many people violently asking what other books I read in 2007 that I decided I better respond before a riot breaks out.

Blood Letting and Other Cures by Vincent Lam

I don't tend to read a lot of short stories. Most of the ones I've read have been for school and those always required an in depth analysis. However, reading BLOC was like watching a season of Grey's Anatomy (when it was good). It also reminded me that I like short stories and should read them more often.

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

For the most part I enjoyed this book. There are some pretty scathing reviews on but I'm not sure the readers actually read the book, or they missed something while doing so. My problem came when I reached the dedication at the end of the book and was more moved by the single sentence he wrote about his wife than anything in the hundreds of pages preceding it.

Stardust - Neil Gaiman

A good old fashioned fairy tale written by a contemporary author. Capital M pointed out that he made up his own rules and I'd have to agree. That doesn't stop the story from being a good one. Rock on Gaiman, rock on.

The Girls - Laurie Lansing

A novel about conjoined twins. I only point this out because Lansing truly does a great job of telling a story about two very different women who, unsurprisingly, know almost everything about one another. But, it's in what they don't know one another that I often found the most interesting.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

If there is an equation for minimum words = maximum depressing scene, then McCarthy has both found and mastered it. Parts of this book still haunt me and regardless of the 'fire' I found this story pretty bleak. However, I would recommend this book, just make sure you're in a 'good place' before you do.

The Thirteenth Tale by Dian Setterfield

After reading The Meaning of Night I needed a little more Victorian Style mystery. Capital M is currently reading the book so I don't want to say too much about it but I did enjoy it, though I found the narrator hard to like. Fortunately, she's not in it much.

Soon I Will be Invincible - Austin Grossman

It's hard to pick a favourite book of 2007 but this one would definitely be in the top three. Dr. Impossible may just be the best super villain ever. This book isn't just for guys who grew reading comic books, it's for anyone who ever felt bullied, misunderstood or questioned the line between good and evil. Yes, these themes are all in the book and so much more (including cyborgs and plans to take over the world). Highly recommended.

Bel Canto - Anne Patchett

I'm no doctor but I'd prescribe this for anyone who feels jaded, just broke up or likes stories permeated with love. I don't mean this derisively. The is a story meant to be read with music playing in the background and sunlight streaming though the windows (if it's cold out). There's a lightness to Patchett's story that elevates it to an almost fairytale quality. I'd like to say more but I'm afraid of giving something away. Highly recommended.

The Kite Runner by

I would truly enjoy teaching this book to a grade 10 English class. Hear me Toronto District School Board. I liked this book and would feel comfortable helping grade 10 students analyze it, so please at least interview me this year.

The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubanfeld

I actually just finished reading this one today, but I started it before Christmas. I think I have discovered that I really enjoy historical fiction. And, this novel is another stellar example of the genre. If anyone has an interest in New York at the turn of the 19th century, Shakespeare, Freud, Jung, and mysteries with more twists than a Chubby Checker concert this is a book for you. Highly recommended.

books I couldn't read:

The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell

It's not that I can't read non-fiction, it's just that - I don't know what it is. Sure things tip. A few 'cool' people wore hush puppies and then a lot of people wore them. Here's a new tipping point for you Gladwell - Nintendo has made a come back with the Wii because people like it. The few people who could actually get one after it was released told friends and family how great it was and those people went to great lengths to get one. Some even went to Ebay and paid for one but never received it...

The Bone Woman by Clea Koff

I'm actually quite interested in forensic anthropology (in theory and from a distance), so why I can't I read more than a page of this book a month? Probably because it's non-fiction, and probably because Koff comes off as unlikeable. She calls a mosquito 'mate' on page 2, maybe I could get past that if it were fiction, maybe.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

mad rhymes

I'm out of practice with blogging (which just so happens to rhyme with jogging, and I'm also out of practice with that. Dogging, logging, and hogging, are things that I am not experienced in, which may be just as well).
In light of my flabby blogger muscles I thought I would start small and work up to bigger and better things (come on 'blogs of note')
Here's a little snippet of my thoughts during my lunch break. I was alone in a small windowless room, reading the nutritional label of Coffee Mate (for the second day in a row).

"Clump is funny verb. The powder clumped last night when the dew set in. It's funny how everyone clumps together in times of stress. If clumpin' were a new dance, would the dancers clump together if they got wet ?" Cue inner techno music.

Well there you have it. The first, and hopefully worst blog of the new year. As my old band teacher would say "it will only get better from here"