May 31, 2006

Holla! Grams!

Towards the end of my day in Chicago I was feeling tired and somewhat gouged by tourist attractions-- $12 to go to the top of a building was bad enough, but I had been particularly peeved by the Art Institute of Chicago, the city's main art museum. They post their "admission prices" outside as $10 for adults and $7 for students, but not until you reach the ticket counter, with your money held out to pay, do they mention that it's actually just a suggested donation-- at which point, of course, they're counting on you feeling too embarrassed and cheap to take back your cash. Which seems really tastelessly conniving for an art gallery.

But I still managed to drag myself out to one last attraction: the Museum of Holography. It was about as surreally Twilight Zone-esque as it sounds; housed in an old Methodist printing facility, the 'museum' is in fact three small rooms in the larger School of Holography that takes up most of the rest of the building. You have to ring a bell before you're admitted by the curator, an intense relic from the Sixties who may well have been a hologram herself. She sits behind some strangely tinted glasses and tells you the unsolicited history of holography, what a "tribute to the intelligence of man" the science is (she used that phrase three times in five minutes), and who its most famous practitioners are. She also has a cat who roams the galleries freely, and often watches you with its belly in the air and its eyes inquisitive (and I mean 'inquisitive' not as in 'curious', but as in 'The Spanish Inquisition').

Facetious characterisations aside, though, she was a nice old lady with some fascinating stories to tell. For instance, the reason they're based in the old printing facility is because, in order to stop the sound of the multiple printing presses from disturbing the neighbours, the building was constructed with a sunken basement that is isolated from the street and the rest of the building by several feet of concrete. This makes it ideal for creating holograms, which must be exposed in absolute stillness or the laser beams responsible get misaligned and the photographic paper is left blank and spoiled. Thus, the School of Holography is actually one of the only facilities in the US that is capable of producing holograms-- and, indeed, it pays the bills by making most of the holograms that grace your credit cards.

And the best part? The museum is right next door to this:

I wonder if Dr Phil likes to gaze thoughtfully at holograms after a hard afternoon of telling people how messed up they are.

May 30, 2006

Turf Wars

I stumbled upon this intersection in Chicago, and was fairly entertained:

In case you can't see from the picture, it is a giant Hershey's Chocolate store right across the street from a giant Ghiradelli's Chocolate store. There are also several oompa-loompas outside flinging globs of Nutella at each other, and an extremely obese child caught in the crossfire, rolling around on his back and unable to get up. The mayor of New Orleans is standing to the side, yelling angrily that they stole his concept.

May 29, 2006

This Is Where I Bore You With Holiday Snaps (Again)

I arrived back from Chicago this evening, safe, sound, and a little exhausted from my 6am awakening today. My mum arrived at almost exactly the same time, so I am now gorged and mostly immobile from a very trendy and expensive Montreal dinner.

I only actually spent one day in Chicago, proper-- Friday I hung out in the suburbs with my friend Erin, and Saturday and Sunday I trekked all the way out to Peoria to visit my other friends Caitlin and Tim. Peoria is mildly famous for being where Al Capone stashed much of his illicit hooch back way back when, but nowadays has little going for it except for Caterpillar's global headquarters and a lot of gang violence. We spent most of the time lounging by their neighbourhood pool and drinking strawberry daiquiris.

Nonetheless, I have a couple of different Chicago stories and snaps to share, so I'm going to break it up into a couple of different posts. Today: my first two hours.

Erin's training to be an audiologist in Northwestern's graduate program, and had classes to attend on Thursday, so she dropped me off in Evanston at about 8am and I was left to make my own way into Chicago on the El ('El' as in how one spells the letter 'L', though I realise that to anyone who speaks Spanish that probably looked like 'the The'). I arrived just to the north of downtown and immediately sought out a Starbucks (where else?) to get some much needed caffeine and form a plan of action.

First stop was a short walk along the lakeshore, which was a beautiful watercolour of washed out tones, despite (or maybe because of) the gloomy weather.

Next up I ducked into the Hancock Centre to get a view of the city from their 100th floor observation deck (I picked the Hancock Centre rather than the Sears Tower on my guidebook's recommendation, and because it has a dirty-sounding name). It was a lot like the CN Tower, in that you pay a lot of money to get to the top and upon arriving there you think: "So this is what the city looks like from high up. Huh... Well, that was fun, time to go, $12 well spent".

Actually, though, it was $12 well spent, because from the observation deck I spotted something I knew I had to visit: this freakin' huge McDonald's:

Will you look at the size of those golden arches?! They are breathtaking! Now, this— this is a McDonald's that says: "Go on then, eat at Burger King. I fucking DARE you."

Actually, the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, as my guidebook later informed me, not only has some big-ass branding on the outside, but also features table service, designer European decor, larger-than-usual price tags on all the menu items, and an adjunct museum showcasing memorabilia from the Fifties onwards. It even has a song written about it. It's enough to make you sob golden yellow tears.

That's all for now.

May 26, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXI

May 24, 2006

Grin and Bear It

From Wild Bear Believed to Have Left Germany

"MUNICH, Germany— The first wild bear seen in Germany since 1835 is believed to have left the country after authorities ordered it shot or captured, an official said Tuesday."

Well, jeez, with a reception like that, why would it stay?


I'm off to Chicago on Wednesday morning. I'll be back Monday with parents in tow.

There is a girl in my lobby right now, screaming in some Asian language that I can't identify.

CWG as always, on Friday.


May 23, 2006

Past Simple Forms Of Bite, And The 3rd Person Present Simple Form Of Bob

How much longer can I continue to do the 'other ways of saying Bits And Bobs' gag for?

I would like to share with you three amusing quotes I've seen in the media today.

First, from a BBC Photo Article about the contestants on this year's series of the British Big Brother:

"Mikey, from Liverpool, says he hates feminists and can't stand to be around ugly people. The 22-year-old software developer is currently single."

Gosh, I wonder why! A misogynistic and intolerant Liverpudlian programmer! I mean, that has 'Mr Right' scrawled all over it!

Second, from an AP article about Tony Blair's upcoming visit with the President:

"Snow said Blair 'may report on his desires' to Bush."

Jesus, are the two of them doing group therapy, now? *giggle*

And, third, from another AP article about Mischa Barton's untimely departure from The O.C.:

"Although rumors flew in recent months that Barton was ready to leave the show, she says her departure was the producers' decision.

'But I really think it's best to do movies now,' says Barton . . . 'I was also thinking of spending a month in London, living there and taking a course in acting,' she says."

What a novel idea.

May 22, 2006

It's The Leest They Can Say

From BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific: WHO chief dies after blood clot:

Dr Lee Jong-wook, head of the World Health Organisation, died early Monday morning at a hospital in Switzerland. A statement on the WHO's website read:

"All of the staff of the World Health Organization extend their most sincere condolences to Dr Lee's family. The sudden loss of our leader, colleague and friend, is devastating."

Not to be outdone, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan saw their devastation, and raised them an emotionally hollow submodifier, saying in a statement:

"I am shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Dr Lee . . . This sudden loss of a leader, colleague and friend is truly devastating."

So apparently, it turns out that "A leader, colleague and friend" was Dr Lee's nickname around the office.

May 21, 2006

...And Other Tom Green Movies

So, as many of you know, I've been plotting a road trip up the West Coast this summer, and this evening I finally sat down and gave it some serious practical thought. This is the tentative schedule I came up with:

June 23: Fly into L.A, spend the weekend there.
June 26: Drive to San Francisco.
June 28: Putz around the Napa Valley, ending up in Eureka, California in the evening.
June 29: Explore Redwood National Park for the day, and finish off in Crescent City, California.
June 30: Drive to Portland, Oregon.
July 1: Spend most of the day in Portland, then drive to Seattle in the evening and spend a few days there.
July 4: Fly back to Montreal.

My original plan had been to get all the way up to Vancouver, but considering I already made it there in February, have limited time, and can actually get cheaper flights back from Seattle, I'm thinking I might give it a miss.

Does that sound awesome, or what?

The Job Hunt Continues...

I've spent a good chunk of this weekend perusing job listings and sending out resumes. A lot of the stuff that gets posted (especially for recent graduates in London) is fairly dry advertising sales stuff. Occasionally, though, you come across something a little more interesting-- like an Intelligence Officer at MI5, a Cage Washer (of course), or this snippet (in which I have added the emphasis):

"A leading publisher of children's books and novelties, based in Central London, is looking for an Editor. You will work on a non-fiction list for children which covers ages 3 to 11, but mostly for the 5 to 8 age levels. Most titles have some novelty element, or are packaged with components so experience of novelty would be advantageous."

I think anybody who reads that last sentence instantly has some experience with novelty.

May 20, 2006

Analytic Mind

So, after I discovered a few months ago that my web tracker was trying to install spyware on visitors' computers, I got rid of it and signed up for an invitation code to Google's tracking service, Google Analytics. It's a free service and so completely awesome that they had to halt sign-ups pretty much immediately after they launched it because demand was so high. Anyway, long story short, my invitation code arrived yesterday so I am now back to my creepy, stalker-like tendencies as regards you, my readers. Prepare yourself for the return of much search-referral-induced hilarity.

What's really struck me about the reports is just how freakin' detailed they are, compared to my last tracker. I can get all SORTS of information about visitors-- ISP, browser, click-throughs, domain (someone visited from!), and geographic location. And I mean, no screwing around geographic location: I see you there in Riviere-du-Loup, Ken! It's sweet that you check my blog twice a day.

Ah, technology.

May 19, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXX

May 15, 2006

Andrew Versus The Tsunami, Part II

From Netscape News: Israeli Warns of Mideast Terror 'Tsunami'

Jeez, do high-ranking Jews just not read my blog, or what? (Yourself excepted, Gil.)

What did I say back in January, huh? Let me recap:

1. Tsunami references are so 2005.

2. Tsunami references are, let's face it, a little offensive. I mean, using the pain and suffering of millions of people in order to make a snappy-sounding analogy? That's just like the Holocaust.

3. Weighty socio-political issues like anti-semitism and conflict in the Middle East are serious enough that we shouldn't really need to make them sound 'sexier' by using media buzzwords.

4. Steve Jobs looks like a rabbi.

That is all.

[Edit: Plus, I mean, come on, the Middle East is not even near a major ocean; they've got a lot of nerve complaining about tsunamis.]

May 13, 2006

I Hope They're Talking About Nicholas Cage

Now that I'm a graduate, I occasionally spend time looking for potential employment. That's where I saw this:

Whoa! That is some pretty experimental psychology, all right!

May 12, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXIX

May 11, 2006

News Briefs

Seen on Netscape:

We can see it!

The story is, in fact, some typical media scare-mongering about the invisible pathogens all around us. It seems that, because of growing concern about energy costs and environmental issues, people are using cold water to wash their clothes more often.

Well, this will never do! At least, not according to Dr Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona, who advises that if you don't do your laundry in 140F water, it won't be sanitized.

Now, look, I appreciate that dirty underwear is not particularly sanitary, and that's precisely why one wouldn't, say, rub one's face in it, or use it to dry one's dishes. But honestly, what is the point of wasting energy and money to sanitize something that is going to become instantly unsanitary the moment you use it again? Plus, how many people do you know who have actually contracted food poisoning from dirty laundry? It's absurd!

But, not to worry! There is one thing that you can fondle all you like, with gleeful abandon: "Never fear a doorknob," advises Gerba.


May 09, 2006

Phone and Games

The phone rang at nine o' clock this morning as I was getting ready to leave for the airport, and feeling a little sad about leaving the house I've been going to every year since I was four.

Me: Hello?


Them: I'm sorry.


And I thought: what an odd service. How do they know when to call?

May 05, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXVIII

Posted by Adrienne, but still written by Andrew. That jerk.

May 03, 2006


As some of you may know, I'm in Florida this week, and am thus being forced to slog around online using a very old school 48kpbs connection on AOL, complete with modem hisses and everything. And because it's AOL, I have a whole new goldmine of funny headlines to screen capture:

That pinko Democrat bastard! He drank them all, didn't he?

The reason I'm down here is to clear all our personal effects out of my grandparents' old house so that my mother can finally sell it. It's been simultaneously very time consuming and very interesting, because my grandfather was one of those people who never threw anything away-- I've found stacks and stacks of used, empty envelopes, medical supplies from the Fifties (including some bizarre liquid called 'Alkalol', which I assume has something to do with hearing very funny jokes over the internet), and what seems like every letter he ever received. But the real gems, my favourite discoveries so far, are the following:

•A stack of old X-rays (of whom, I have no idea).
•A certificate of appreciation from the NAACP, made out to my mother for her efforts in ending 'barriers to racial freedom in the United States'.
•Some Canadian tax forms from 1998 (WHY?! My grandparents never lived in Canada!)
•Two envelopes full of old banknotes from Communist Russia-- they're all dated 1919 and have 'Workers Of The World, Unite!' printed in five different languages on them. It is wild.

Tomorrow I'm driving to Tampa to visit Adrienne; but Conversations With Greatness will appear, as usual, on Friday.