August 21, 2003

Random Thought for the Day

Why do people only ever go backpacking through Europe? You never hear about anybody backpacking through America, and it's just as big.

I feel as if that's significant, somehow. Hmmm.

Mmmm, beer.


Now I remember why I moved to Canada!

Oh, sure, there's a better education here, and my sweet and wonderful girlfriend and all that; but, come on, there is a store at the top of my block where I can buy beer in pretty much any quantity I desire, at any time of day or night I desire. That's the sort of civil liberty that you just don't get in the States.

Now, I'm not going to get into my opinions on American drinking laws, because God knows I've done it before and you're probably all sick to death of hearing about it. But, I mean, come on people! Beer! Whenever I want! This is what college life is meant to be like, not hunkering down to a night of reading and watching Star Trek with your roommate (or, in any case, overhearing your roommate's Star Trek DVD while you're trying to do other things).

Don't get me wrong, everybody who I spent the last two years of college with in America, I had a great time-- but let's not pretend that if you had the possibility of beer whenever you wanted that you wouldn't drop me like a hot potato. It's okay, you don't need to act like you wouldn't. I understand. I've done it. I am living the dream!!

Ahem. That is all.

August 20, 2003

We Do Wear Kilts, Though

I saw Tomb Raider 2 yesterday, and in between all the gratuitous violence and shots of Angelina Jolie in revealing outfits, I noticed (and was outraged to see) that the bad guy, who turns on Ms Jolie in her moment of need, was Scottish (note: 'turns on' as in 'betrays', not as in 'arouses'. I'd have no problem if there were Scottish people in movies going around arousing women). And I was going to complain, because, after all, this wouldn't be the first designer-stubble wearing, foul-mouthed, violent Scottish bad guy in a movie. Mission: Impossible 2, for instance. And of course, there's always Macbeth (which wasn't technically a movie, but that Shakespeare asshole had it coming).

Anyway, I was going to complain about Scots being portrayed in this way, when I realized that I haven't shaved in two days, just referred to Shakespeare as an asshole, and ended my last two major entries with, respectively, spitting in strangers' mouths and beating strangers with shower rods. So I suppose it's not really an inaccurate stereotype after all. Oh well.

Try the Department of the Blindingly Obvious

My new shower is great. The water pressure is so strong that it actually strips the skin from your body-- which gets you pretty clean, let me tell you. Sadly, my shower came without a shower curtain, so earlier today I set out on a mission to find everything I needed to get one (if I'd taken some friends with me we could have been the fellowship of the curtain rings, nyuk nyuk nyuk).

Anyway, my first port of call was the quintessentially Canadian department store, The Bay (or, as I like to call it when I'm trying to annoy my Canadian girlfriend, 'The B, eh?'-- although I'm far too culturally aware to actually imply that Canadians say 'eh' after everything. Obviously).

On perusing the store directory, I was delighted to find that they had a Bathroom Accessories department. So, up to the fourth floor I went, and found a simply fabulous shower curtain; and this is where my troubles began. See, I couldn't find anything on which to hang my shower curtain. Perplexed, I approached the cash desk.

"Bonjour!" smiled the woman.

"Um, hi. Do you sell shower curtain rods?"

"Do we sell what?"

"Rods. For hanging shower curtains."

"Rods? You mean... poles?"

"Sure, poles."

"Hang on. [to second employee, in perfect French] Est-ce qu'on a des poles?"

At this point, the second employee said nothing, but shrugged so dramatically he looked as if he was having some kind of muscle spasm.

"We don't think so," said the woman, turning back to me. "Ask her."

So I walked over to the other woman being pointed out to me.

"Bonjour!"

"Do you sell shower curtain rods-- uh, poles?"

The woman looked confused and annoyed, as if I was the biggest moron on the face of the planet. Which I thought was a little unfair, considering all I was doing was asking if they sold shower curtain rods in their bathroom accessories department.

"No... No... No, we wouldn't have anything like that here."

"Of course you don't, how silly of me. Clearly, right here next to the shower curtains and shower curtain rings is the last place one would expect to find a shower curtain rod. Perhaps I should check with the ladies fashion department."

Well, okay. Maybe I didn't say that last part. Actually, I said 'thank you' and walked back over to the first woman at the cash register to pay.

"So?" she said, in a smug, told-you-so way that only somebody with a French accent can really pull off.

"No, they didn't have any."

"I didn't think they would," she replied, which I thought was a pretty dazzlingly helpful thing to say, really.

After all of which, I have concluded that the reason they don't sell shower curtain rods at the Bay is that it would be just too tempting to club sales assistants over the head with them.

August 19, 2003

Return of the Bloggy-Blog-Blogginess

So, here I am in Montreal, finally. Which means, for reasons about to be made apparent, that many long-winded and copious blog entries will soon be appearing, because:

1) I now have my first DSL connection all of my own. I truly have come of age.

2) I know hardly anybody in town and have relatively little to do with my time for the next few days, so I can happily spend hours tapping away at my computer without any sense of guilt whatsoever.

3) I am a windbag.

That said, for the moment I feel fairly subdued. Go figure.

August 13, 2003

A Frank Message to Annoying Restaurant Patrons

I was having a late breakfast this morning at a wonderful little diner where you give your order directly to the cooks and they make it right there in front of you. I had already ordered and was waiting on my food, when the man next to me said (to the Hispanic cook): "An omelette, por favor."

Try and picture with me, if you can, what this man was like. He was one of those upper-middle-class, middle-aged Americans who has 'executive' written all over him. He was was tanned and wearing khaki shorts with a polo shirt and was having a conversation about liabilities and sums of money in the hundreds of thousands. He was, in short, irritating by design before he even opened his mouth to talk to the cook.

Anyway, then he turned and said to his companion: "What do you want? The same? Okay... Dos omelettes por favor."

Hey! I have news for you, Mr Linguistic Genius! Not only will a short order cook be perfectly aware of the words 'two' and 'please', but a native speaker of Spanish is not going to be impressed by your knowledge of the words 'dos' and 'por favor'. Maybe if you knew the Spanish word for omelette, or, you know, any Spanish word that you couldn't pick up from watching Sesame Street, he would have been a little impressed, but frankly I doubt it. If a Spanish person came up to you and said 'Two omelettes please', I don't think you'd be too astounded (probably just a little confused).

So, I just want to say to all of you out there who like 'reaching out' to your foreign wait staff: you've probably eaten a lot of spit over the years. And if you haven't, well, just because you deserve it I'm going to hunt you down and spit in your mouth. Try saying that in Spanish.

August 10, 2003

Hidden Dangers of Emerson College...

Netscape AtPlay: "[Liberal Arts students] were twice as likely as medical students to die of lung cancer due to their propensity to smoke. Overall, their risk of death was 42 percent higher than the medical students."

Whaaaaa?! What 'propensity to smoke'? If ever there were an outrageous slur against the puritanical and godly students of Emerson College, this is it!

*Contented sigh* Ah, sarcasm.

August 08, 2003

The Shape of Things to Come

Evolutionary scientists (with, one can only assume, far too much time on their hands) have recently theorized a possible reason that the human penis is shaped the way it is (with the slightly larger glans at the tip). Apparently, this design is particularly effective, when used in conjunction with a thrusting motion, at scooping out any semen that might already be inside the vagina-- and, reasoned the scientists, if that semen belonged to another man, you'd be giving your own boys more of a chance.

The researchers tested their theories by constructing an artificial vagina and filling it with a cornstarch solution of a similar consistency to semen (earlier attempts at finding actual women to fill with cornstarch solution had apparently proved unsuccessful). Then, using a variety of latex penises-- some with so-called 'coronal ridges' and some without-- they performed thrusting motions in and out of the artificial vagina and measured the amount of cornstarch mixture removed, giggling for most of the time.

The 'headless' penis cleared only 35% of the mixture, while the 'normal' penis cleared almost 90%. The researchers also point to a correlate in another study which suggests that men thrust more vigorously when they have been away from their partners for an extended period of time. These men, claim the researchers, are sub-consciously trying to rid their girlfriends' vaginas of other mens' semen. The alternative hypothesis-- that men are more energetic after time away from their partners because they haven't had sex in a long time and are particularly horny-- went untested, largely because all but one of the researchers had never even kissed a girl (they were too busy in high school with their 'Artificial Vaginas Club').

Other experts in the field (yes, this is, apparently, a legitimate field of study) are dubious. Remarked one sceptic: "Don't be ridiculous. The reason the penis has a head is to stop your hand sliding off".

Yes, this is a real-life piece of published research-- for the real story, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3128753.stm.

August 06, 2003

The Un-Sugar-Coated Truth About Doughnuts


From Reuters News Service:
"Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) is moving to Europe in October, opening a doughnut "factory" at London's upscale Harrods department store, the company said Tuesday. "

From the Vancouver Sun:
"We've hooked them on premium coffee, fancy bagels and gourmet cookies. Now Britain appears ready to swallow another North American delicacy -- doughnuts."

Overheard on CNN Headline News:
"I know you probably expect British people just to drink tea, but no, apparently coffee is growing increasingly popular over there." (not a verbatim quote, but definitely the gist of it)

Okay, let's get a couple of things straight, here.

1) Hard though this may be to believe for all you North Americans who think you created the world, not everything comes from your part of the world. "We've hooked them on premium coffee . . . another North American delicacy"?!?! Let me tell you something about the history of coffee. It was discovered in Ethiopa, in Africa (you know, that big continent on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC?), and from there moved to Arabia in the 1200s, and on to Europe in the 1500s. Coffee didn't even reach South America until the 1700s.

Over three hundred years before Starbucks even opened its doors, coffee houses were all the rage in Europe, and by 1730, London had over 500 of them (which works out at about one coffee house for every 1400 people in London at the time-- compare that to modern day New York City, where there is only one coffee house, at my best estimate, for every 20,000 people). And espresso, the mainstay of Starbucks' business? It was invented in 1901 in Italy. So let's not fuck around here: coffee is not a North American delicacy (fun fact: the Japanglish term for 'weak coffee' is "American coffee").

What else? Oh, bagels. There is some debate about the origin of bagels but-- and this, I feel, is a cogent point-- all of the possible birthplaces of bagels are in Eastern Europe. Harry Lender, the man widely credited with bringing bagels to mainstream America, was Polish. And cookies? Even the word 'cookie' comes from a Dutch word ('koekje') meaning 'little cake'. The first American cookie was brought to the country by (oh, and this is going to kill you) English immigrants!

And doughnuts, the fatty little things that started me on this rant? They're also from Holland, originally-- although, credit where credit's due, it was the Americans (finally did something, huh?) who coined the word 'doughnut', and first made them with holes in the middle.

2) It's not like we don't already have doughnuts in Britain, it's just that, you know, we already have enough trouble with heart disease without eating little chunks of fried, oily dough on a regular basis. In fact, there are already two doughnut stores in the heart of downtown London, and pretty much every supermarket in Britain sells doughnuts. So let's not pretend that just because we don't wolf down doughnuts in bulk, we don't eat them at all.

3) "I know you probably expect British people to drink tea"?! Give me a break! If I ever see that news anchor on the street I want to give her a good slap. Talk about perpetuating stereotypes. Although the average person in the UK does conusme around 4 cups of tea per day, that's really very little compared to Paraguay, which, according to the Guiness Book of Records, has an average tea consumption of 14.62 cups per person per day. And what's more, almost 85% of North Americans drink tea regularly, compared to Britain (according to one source), where the figure is not quite 80%.

Right, well. I'm glad we got that cleared up.

August 05, 2003

I'm Poseidon, and I'll be your server today

I had to get up at 8am today, which, under normal circumstances, is a lot earlier than I would like to have been awake, really, but I had to register for classes for next year so it was either drag myself out of bed early or get stuck doing "Sociological Statistic Methods and Their Application to Things That Are, Let's Face It, Really Dull".

So, blinking away sleep and stumbling to my computer, I logged on to McGill's interactive services website, which is rather poetically nicknamed 'Minerva', and is hosted on a server that is nicknamed, also rather poetically, 'Poseidon'. Which might seem a bit pretentious (because, to be fair, it is), but inside every computer geek/system administrator beats a heart ripe with artistry and nuance, as witnessed by flowery (and, if I may say so, kinda gay) university server names the world over. My particular favourite is a server at Edinburgh univeristy called 'Erasmus', named after the grandfather of Charles Darwin-- which is esoteric in a way that only snobby academics can truly achieve (and also, I think you'll agree, sounds like the name of a bodily fluid).

Anyway, poor Poseidon was obviously feeling a little weighed down this morning (moany bastard-- it's not like he's Atlas or something), because he was running ve-ry slow-ly indeed. And as I sat, waiting for him to retrieve pages for me, I got to thinking about how many different people all over the world must also be sitting bleary-eyed in front of their computers, eager to register for classes before anyone else. And I spared a thought for those poor students on the West Coast, for whom it was only 5am (and who are, statistically speaking, probably the children of hippies, which is in general not something I would wish upon anybody). And I spared a thought for my fellow East Coast inhabitants (be strong, people). And I cursed those for whom timezones had granted extra sleep.

But, alas, my point seems to have disappeared altogether. Suffice to say that (as a particularly poetic system administrator might say), I have, like the brave Odysseus, survived the wrath of Poseidon.

August 04, 2003

Yummy, words.

Okay, okay, I lied before. I think I'm God's gift to writing and I'm going to write in this all the time, because I've actually wanted one of these things for a while-- but my inner syndicated columnist has always been beaten down (barely) by my inner cynical liberal arts student (man, I hate that guy), thus:

Inner syndicated columnist: Hey, Andrew! You know what's great? Writing!
Inner cynical liberal arts student: Pfft.
ISC: [confused by the interruption] And, uh, you know what's even better? Having other people read your writing!
ICLAS: Pfft.
ISC: In, uh, ah-- in an online journal!
ICLAS: Pfft.
ISC: I-- do you want a Kleenex or something?
ICLAS: Look, do you have any idea how many other millions of people keep online journals?
ISC: Well, I... no, I hadn't really thought--
ICLAS: And do you know what the infinitessemal number of people who read those online journals is?
ISC: Yes, but... Couldn't--
ICLAS: So really, all you're doing by keeping an online journal is a sort of bizarre form of intellectual masturbation.
ISC: Ah. I see.
ICLAS: Not so keen now, are you?
ISC: It could work.
ICLAS: Pfft.

But you know what? I like masturbation. So there.

August 03, 2003

I never thought it would come to this. For a start, I don't feel like I have enough (or, come to that, any) original opinions to warrant writing them down and putting them somewhere for people to read; second, come on, I won't have time for this once school starts again; and third, I don't know, it seems like I'm far too cynical to actually participate in something as widespread and--*sniff*--common as blogging.

But, a certain short, blonde, volleyball-playing girl (okay, well, actually, she just stopped playing volleyball so I suppose that only makes her short and blonde, but these things sound better in groups of three) has been pestering and cajoling me to start so that she can continue to feel like a part of my oh-so-exciting life even though I'm leaving Boston. Plus, she just got me a glass of water so I feel like I owe her something.

Hmmm... I just read that last paragraph over, and my coyness kind of makes it sound like the short blonde girl (see, that doesn't sound nearly as interesting, does it?) is my girlfriend. So, to clear things up: she's not. I'm sure you'll be hearing about my actual girlfriend later (assuming I actually bother to come back and update this).

Um... Blog.