Monday, December 21, 2009

The Decline of Tim Hortons

Last weekend, Pastor Jack and I went to the local Tim Hortons in Embrun. They had just finished renovations. There was a whole new look and feel. For the most part it was good. But one thing was different that I didn't like: The sandwich bar was at the back, facing the back wall. It used to be off to the side, facing the customers. Now, the poor sandwich lady had to shout to one end of the store asking Jack about his bagel, then the other end to shout something to me about my sandwich.

I have watched Tim Hortons go from a really nice place to go for a snack and hang-out to a place I don't want to go to at all. It's time I blogged about it.

When I was in high school I used to go to Timmies all the time with friends. I'd get a hot chocolate and two oatmeal-raisin cookies. The hot chocolate was smooth and delicious. The cookies were big and soft. Over time the cookies got smaller and harder. They were no longer appetizing.

This was long before their switch to "Always Fresh" where they stopped baking the products at the local Tim Hortons' and started baking at a central location, freezing the product, and shipping it out to the individual stores.  I know a lot of people were disappointed with this change.  They felt the quality of the donuts, muffins, etc. really went downhill.

Then they got new hot chocolate machines. They used to have a dedicated hot chocolate machine. Then they got machines that would dispense hot chocolate and "cappuccinos". I suspect they got a new hot chocolate formula at this time too. The quality of the drink went down the drain. I switched from hot chocolate to tea.

The nice things about tea is that I can control how long the tea has been steeping in the cup, and it's one price no matter what size you get. I like weak tea. I like the fact I can take the bag out of the cup when I want.

Then they changed that! They introduced steeped tea. I got it once. Once was enough. I couldn't finish the stuff. I had to pour it out. Oh well, I usually got Earl Grey tea anyway.  Their Ear Grey tea isn't steeped.  It only comes in individual bags.

Then I went in one day ready to beat the system by getting a large Earl Grey tea. I could let it steep for as little, or long, as I wanted. Then I was charged extra for the large! A large tea is not any more product than a small. It's one tea bag! The only difference is the size of the cup and the amount of water! This was the last straw.  No more Tim Hortons for me!  Now I only go to Tim Hortons as a last resort. Unfortunately, in Embrun there really isn't much else. If I'm willing to drive to Vars I'll go to the Country Style by the exit. (It turns out Country Style coffee is way better than Tim Hortons coffee.)

Now, they've changed the location of the sandwich bar. Jack likes to get a bagel with butter. They usually put too much butter on his bagel for his taste, so he likes to tell them to go easy on the butter. Now that they're way over behind the cash, with their back to him, it's a lot harder to ask for that. Interaction with your sandwich artist is important. They have taken that away from us.

Another thing, which may be only at the Embrun Timmies, is they no longer have napkins on the tables. That is so annoying! You're comfortably sitting down, you get some schmultz on your hands, and you have to get up, and go over to the busy counter to look for a napkin.

To recap, the ways Tim Hortons has gone downhill over the last several years are as follows:
  1. The Hot Chocolate quality;
  2. The quality of the cookies;
  3. The "Always Fresh"way of providing baked goods;
  4. Steeped Tea;
  5. Greedy tea pricing schemes;
  6. Relocation of the Sandwich Bar; and
  7. No more napkins on the tables.

It hasn't been all bad. In that time, Tim Hortons has introduced cappuccinos, Bagels, Sandwiches, Soups, Chilli, and made all restaurants non-smoking.

All these complaints. Tim Hortons will never listen to me. Now, if only I had a friend who worked for Tim Hortons head office.....

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wake Up! It's Time To Sneeze!

Yesterday I was pretending to sleep for a long period of time. (Long story. Don't ask. Not bloggable. Yet.) Then something happened. I felt a tickle in my nose. It was coming. There was nothing I could do about it. I was about to sneeze!

There are things you can do to prevent sneezes. There are certain pressure points you can touch to stop the sneeze. You can stifle it. But you can't do any of these when you're pretending to be asleep. I asked myself "Quick! How would a sleeping person handle a sneeze?" I didn't have an answer.

I decided the jig was up.  My cover was blown.  (Pun intended.)  No more pretending to sleep. I covered my mouth with my arm (a move I invented, by the way) and let loose.

It got me thinking. Can you sneeze while sleeping? I don't remember ever waking up to sneeze. I don't think I've heard of anyone waking up to sneeze. I suppose you could sneeze in you sleep, but surely it would wake you up! When you're sick with gastroenteritis (a.k.a. "Stomach Flu"), you wake up to go to the toilet. But, what about sneezing?

I thought about asking Quirks and Quarks - a science program on CBC, but that could take too long to get an answer. So I decided to ask Mr. Google.

It turns out, you can't sneeze while sleeping - sort of. Sneezing is a neurological reaction to stimuli in the body. But the reaction is processed in the brain. When you're asleep, you're brain is in a different state than when you're awake, and it doesn't respond to normal sneeze-inducing stimuli - unless the stimulus is strong enough.

I guess the only thing to say now is "gesundheit!"

Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm Tired Of The Pressure (Part 2)

On Monday I drove in to work.  When I walked out I saw one of my tires was looking a little low.  Sometimes the tires just look low, but they're not.  I decided it would be a good idea to check the pressure just in case.  I did.  It was low.  Of course, when I was checking the pressure I noticed something was lodged into the treads.  A nail!

I managed to get my car into Canadian Tire (where I bought the tires) where they took out the nail and fixed the tire.

If this blog post is causing you deja vu, that's because I blogged about something similar last week.  In real life, these two incidents were about a month apart.  That's right.  Two nails in two tires within a month!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I'm Tired Of The Pressure

One day shortly after I got home from work, Wendy was outside. She came in and yelled at me to check my tires. One of them looked flat.

Sure enough, when I went outside it was looking pretty low. I got out my tire pressure gauge and checked. As I bent down I saw something stuck in the treads. It looked like a little piece of metal. I started to push it, thinking it was just stuck. As I did, I heard the "psssssssst" of a deflating tire, and I saw the threads of a screw coming through the rubber of the tire!

The time was 5:30. I tried calling the dealership to see if it was something they could repair, and, if so, make an appointment for the next day. They close at 5:30. I couldn't get through.  There was no guarantee of an appointment the next day. I checked the 14 day forecast to see if it would be going above 15 degrees much. Thankfully, it wasn't. I had an hour of daylight left. I scrambled and got my winter tires on in just over an hour.

When I got the tires on, I checked the pressure. 3 of the tires were right about where they should be - within 1 psi. One of them was down 20 psi! Great! Now I have to keep an eye on that tire all winter.

It's been a few weeks now. So far so good.

Monday, November 16, 2009

This Is All Very Draining

Back in June, the main upstairs bathroom - the one I use - got a new sink. When the plug was raised, it wasn't very high. This caused the water to drain rather slowly.

One night, when I was shaving, I was trying to get the water to drain faster. I was jiggling it, and it stopped moving up and down with the controller. So I had to figure out (with shaving cream all over my face) how that worked. I managed to get it fixed.

As I was planning on getting some Draino to clear out the sink I heard a clunk somewhere in the pipes and the water drained really fast. Cool. Problem solved.

The next morning as I was taking a shower, I noticed the water wasn't leaving the tub at all. It seemed that the blockage in the sink pipes had moved into the tub pipes. I didn't have time to investigate until after work.

When I got home Wendy and Jack told me that they put Draino in the tub. This cleared out the tub pipes, but pushed some black gunk into the tub in their washroom.  This blockage seemed to move from one set of pipes to another.

I believe they got that sorted out by now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What About Singing In The Shower?

A while ago I blogged about an auto-body shop in Britain that turned up their radio loud enough to be heard by the public. They were sued for copyright infringement.

I thought, and still think, that's ridiculous for the following reasons:
  • The very nature of radio broadcasts are public, not private. This is not a fuzzy statement, as one commenter said. Radio waves are fluctuations in the electro-magnetic spectrum which exists all around us.
  • Radio signals are easy to convert into sound signals. Spock can do this with egg cartons and tin foil.
  • Radio signals aren't encrypted.
  • If you own a radio station that plays music, you've (presumably) paid for the right to play that music over the airwaves on your frequency. The rights to the music have been purchased.
  • Playing music over the radio is a promotion device. It promotes the album, the band, and any concerts, etc.
  • If you own a radio station, you likely want as many people listening as possible, not as few as possible.
  • If you're a band trying to sell albums and concert tickets, you likely want as many people listening to your music on the radio.
  • As a radio listener, I don't buy the right to listen to the radio.  The right to listen to any station it can pick up is implied. By not encrypting the radio signals, it's implied that if I own a radio, the radio station wants me to listen to their station.
  • At the risk of beating a dead horse: if you own a radio station, concerning what goes over the air, you have NO expectation of privacy.

Anyway. Suffice it to say, I think they went too far with that.

Then I read Today's Article! This time, the British equivalent of the RIAA told a shop to turn down their radio because it could be heard by the public. *spits on floor* So the store did. But one of the shop workers liked music. If she couldn't listen to the radio, she'd make her own music, Gosh Golly Darn it! So she sang to herself as she stocked the shelves.

She was then contacted by the PRS and told she needed a performer's licnese to do that! A performer's license for singing to yourself while you work! Well, you'd better fine me too! I listen to my iPod at work, and sometimes, I hum along with the song I'm listening to.

I shouldn't have to explain why this is ridiculous, but after the last time, I think probably will.

At least in this case, the PRS realized they were being donkeys, and sent her an apology, along with a bouqet of flowers.  How nice.

Monday, November 09, 2009

All Dried Up

The night before Jane left to school this summer, she did a laundry. Unfortunately, not all of her laundry had dried by the time it was time to go. Wendy informed me of this after my laundry was still very wet after spending over two hours in the dryer.

This is not good.

When I opened the dryer door I was hit with scalding hot moist air. The dryer was obviously getting warm, but my clothes weren't drying at all! Something like this had happened a few years ago, and I wasn't looking forward to spending more time at a laundromat again.

When I took out the lint trap, it had tons of red lint. I cleaned it off, ran the dryer for another minute or two, and looked at the lint trap again. Same thing. Tons of lint. It looked like a red sweater exploded in there!

It was soon time for me to go to bed.  Wendy said she'd be up for a little while later, and she'd make sure the dryer kept going. When I got up the next day, there my clothes were: dry! Thank you Wendy!

That day I decided I was going to research how dryers worked. I didn't actually do that, but I did mention the problem to some people who told me to try cleaning everything out, even the vent on the outside of the house.

When I got home I pulled a huge hand-full of lint from the vent on the outside of the house. I went inside and Wendy told me she spent time cleaning out the dryer.

The following week, the dryer worked great! I was so happy. I didn't want to have to think about getting a new dryer.

Earlier this week, I noticed the washing machine was making funny noises. Uh-oh!

Friday, November 06, 2009

United Breaks Guitars, and Looses Luggage

Remember that guy (Dave Carroll of Sons of Maxwell) whose guitar was damaged while travelling with United Airlines?

In Today's Article Dave was flying "to Colorado Springs to give a keynote address at a customer-service and social-networking conference, and also to perform his hit, United Breaks Guitars." The only direct flight he could get was with United Airlines. When he got to Colorado Springs, he found that United has lost his luggage.

I'm not sure if this is more sad or funny. It is ironic, though.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Take A Light Brake

Where were we? Oh yeah. Last I wrote, the McQueen household was really busy, and they had to take their car in to the garage for the third time in four weeks.

Since then, Jane, Bruce, and now Robin, have gone to school. Wendy and Jack are emtpy-nesters with the exception of me. I'm experiencing only-child status.

Before the kids left - about a week or two after the McQueens had their car brakes fixed, they noticed the brake lights weren't working! You can't have that! Back to the garage they went, with me following close enough behind so that no one would get in between and accidentally rear-end them, all the while watching them close enough so that I wouldn't rear-end them!

I think that's 4 times in 5 or 6 weeks. Ouch.

That was back in August. I'm writing this in October, and I'm happy to say that they haven't had any car troubles since. I, on the other hand.....well, we'll save that for a further post.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hands-Free Phone Law in Ontario

If you were driving down the road, talking on your cell phone and there was a clown on a unicycle, do you think you'd see him? Would it make a difference if you used a hands-free phone?

Probably not, according to today's Article.

The reason is obvious to those who know anything about attention. You can only really pay attention to one thing at a time. We multitask the way a computer does, but we're not nearly as good at switching from one process to another. The problem is not that you're holding something in your hand. The problem is attention.

If you think the problem is holding something in your hand, try this. The next time you're driving, try holding something in your hand. Heck! Try holding your phone in your hand without using it to talk. There shouldn't be significant degradation in your driving skills. (This may be hard for you to measure. Most people don't notice the degradation in their driving skills when talking on the phone, fiddling with the radio, or polishing off a 2-4.) In fact, if you have an automatic transmission in your car, you can regularly drive with one hand.

Furthermore, if driving with only one hand was as unsafe as driving drunk, then everyone who's either missing an arm or hand shouldn't be allowed to have a drivers licence.  And anyone with an unusable hand, due to injury or something, should lose their licence until they recover.

I guess the biggest problem would be for people who talk with their hands.  If they're holding their phone with one hand, and gesturing with the other, then they're not steering their car.

So, if the problem isn't having something in your hand, but attention, then why are we passing laws that say "It's okay to be distracted when you drive, as long as you're not distracted while holding something in one hand."?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hot Chicks -> Dumb Men

This may come as shocking news to you, but according to Today's Article, men actually get stupider in the presence of beautiful women. But, attractive men don't have that effect on women.

Jeez!  I could have told you that!  And I could even have told you long as their wasn't a beautiful woman near by.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (124)

This guy discovers a new mole on his back. Incidentally, according to this article in New Scientist, the Naked Mole Rat never gets cancer.

Friday, September 25, 2009

United Breaks Guitars - Part II

A few weeks ago I blogged about a guy who's guitar was broken while flying with United Airlines.

As an update: He was offered compensation for his guitar, but he turned it down. He wanted to go ahead with his songs. He wrote the second one and posted the video on YouTube. Here it is:

It seems, according to today's article he, Dave Carroll, has now gone to Washington DC to talk to a hearing on airline passenger rights.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (121)

I don't know if you can see it, but the guy's feet are sticking out of the bottom of his shoes. The woman's asking what happened to his shoes. He's saying he sold his soles to the devil. The devil is walking away, realizing he just got hosed in a business deal, punning that it stinks.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another Busy/Regular Weekend at the McQueens

Some work places have a sign that says "It's been ____ days since our last accident." I think The McQueens could have a similar sign: "It's been ___ hours since our last guest."

On Friday I got home to find two cars parked outside our house. They belonged to this couple who are friends with Jack and Wendy. They decided to bring food over for us. They brought the main course and dessert. The main course was delicious. The dessert, however, was this opaque green stuff with brown crumbs in it. I won't go into any details, but I didn't feel good after dinner. And after Jane's sickness last week (Jane had a stomach flu that was supposed to last for several days), I started getting worried. The next morning I felt fine. I was told that the brown crumblies were bran muffins. So, that explains that! I felt much better.

After dinner on Friday night, as we were watching Jeopardy!, a neighbour, Lois, was out for a walk and saw all the cars outside our house. She thought "The McQueens must have company!" So she went to M&M Meats and got some food and brought it over for us!

When the company left, I went to bed, at which point Jane and Robin each had a guest over. Thankfully I didn't hear them. I was completely oblivious.

I got up on Saturday morning and sat in the art studio reading. I saw another neighbour, Sol, and his daughter, walking in front of the house. They stopped by, intending on a 15 minute visit. The next thing you know, Sol's wife was over. She brought corn on the cob. We made the food that Lois brought over on Friday night. Six hours after the beginning of the "15 minute visit", Sol and his family left.

Finally, when all the guests left on Saturday I was able swim for a bit, sit around enjoying the weather, and do some reading. Then Wendy came out with the phone. It was for me. It was the worship coordinator from Blackbelt Baptist. Somehow he found out I was a drummer. Blackbelt was without a drummer the following morning. I was being asked. I said "yes."

It was great to be back on the drums. And these were _real_ drums!!! Not those electric deals! I used real sticks, not brushes or anything! I was worried I might be playing too loud. But no one said anything. In fact, the first person to talk to me afterwords complimented me on my playing and told me his son played drums, but "unlike you, my son plays really loudly."

Acoustic drums are a bit of a double-edged sword. When you play on electric drums, and the volume is kept at a reasonable volume, the other musicians don't hear you all that loudly. Without that loud "thump thump thump" in their ear, they tend to keep their own timing - which probably stinks. Keeping and setting time is the job of the drummer. Acoustic drums, being louder by nature, give that "thump thump thump" that keeps the other musicians on your time. But, if your timing stinks, theirs will too. So, as a drummer, you need to have a good sense of time.

I was completely out of practice. Not having used a metronome in a while, my timing stunk. I decided to go home and spend time with my metronome every day just in case I got to play drums again. When I got home I found my metronome. After about 15 years, it was pooched and needed to be replaced. D'oh!

I spent most of Sunday, reading, swimming, and enjoying the sun. Jane had her boyfriend over for the day. It was relaxing, but still too hot and humid to take a much-needed nap.

Oh! And the McQueen's car brake lights weren't working. So, we had to take it to the garage again last night! For those keeping track, that's 3 times at the garage in 4 weeks.

It may sound like a busy weekend, but it was just a typical weekend at the McQueen residence.

Monday, August 03, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Yesterday was a bad day. It was Saturday morning. Usually I take a long walk in the morning across Embrun and back. I stop in at Euphoria, a smoothie shop, for a pretzel and coffee on my way back home. I try to walk 70 000 steps per week. I was way behind yesterday morning. I was full of energy. Instead of stopping at the other end of Embrun, I decided to keep going.

I was well into Russell when it started to rain. Then it stopped. Whew! I wasn't prepared for that! I decided I had gone far enough. I turned around to return home. Then the rain started again. But this time it wasn't just a little smattering. It was a torrential downpour. It didn't take long before I was soaked all the way though. My shoes are still drying!

The walk was about 14 kilometres total. It took two hours.

I thought I had a bad time. Then I got home.

I walked in the door. There was Jane. She was not happy. Just as it started to rain, she was driving out of Embrun when the car died! She lost the engine and the electrics. The brakes didn't work, or at least as well as they should have. She couldn't put on her four-way flashers. She just prayed she didn't hit anyone as she rolled through a 4-way stop.

She tried calling me on my cell. With the rain I didn't hear my phone. She called home. Of course, they didn't have a car. She had it. I was in Russell and about an hour's walk away from home. Even if she had gotten ahold of me, I couldn't have done anything. Jack called a friend who was able to come get her. Bruce biked up to where she was. Somehow they got the car home.

So now they don't have a car. Hopefully it's something that can be fixed easily and cheaply. I'll keep you posted.

UPDATE: It was some electronic chip. They dropped the car off at a garage on Sunday night. It was fixed by Tuesday.

On the following Sunday, I took my car to church. The McQueens were going to take theirs. On the way I got a phone call from the McQueens. The brakes stopped working. The car would be in the garage again! Well, as my driving instructor said to me: "Thems the brakes, kid."

Friday, July 31, 2009

Someone Stole My Idea!

It seems someone has stolen my Coffee Cup Art" idea!

Actually, check it out. This guy is pretty good. We share a medium, but our style is completely different.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I Need To Cool Off

You know what grinds my gears? Apartments in this city (Ottawa) advertise "All inclusive". Then they say "$x/month for Air Conditioning". Well, then it's not "all inclusive" is it?

Charging extra for Air Conditioning is such a sham. What's next? Charging for using the stove?

I understand that air conditioners use a lot of power, but they're assuming that you're going to be using it a lot. How do they know how much you're going to use? They charge a flat rate.

This summer has been unseasonably cold. If the first half of this month continues, it will be the coldest July on record. Last week I heard, the average temperature was between 17 and 18 degrees. So the people who have air conditioning units probably aren't using them very much at all this summer. Yet, they're paying for them the same as though it was going up to 35 degrees everyday.

Consider this scenario: I live in an apartment with "all-inclusive" rent and being charged extra for my air conditioner. My next door neighbour moved in at the same time as me, so he pays the same rent. He also has an air conditioner, and he pays the same flat rate for it.

I don't have a television set. I have a laptop computer. I'm a vegetarian so I don't do a lot of cooking. I spend most of my day at work, and leave all my lights off at home. I spend the weekends out with friends. I enjoy the heat of summer, and set my air conditioner to keep the apartment at 25 degrees.

My neighbour has a plasma TV, which uses a lot of power. He has several computers he uses for gaming - a high power consuming activity, relatively speaking. He works from home, so he runs his lights, computer, etc. all the time. He loves foods of all kinds and cooks almost everyday. He enjoys his cool air, and he sets his air conditioner at 18 degrees. His social life exists in cyberspace, so he doesn't go out much. He's at home a lot.

Who uses more power? My neighbour. By a long shot. But we both pay the same amount.

Let's consider a second scenario. This scenario is almost exactly like the first, except my neighbour enjoys the heat and I don't. He doesn't even have an air conditioner. I do. I keep mine at 25 degrees. I run mine only at night.

Who uses more power overall? I'm not 100% certain, but I still think my neighbour does. Who's paying more? Me. How is that fair?! How is that right?!

Most places seem to charge a monthly fee of $10 for the air conditioner. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that that's what it costs to run one on average: $10 per month.

When I lived in an all-inclusive apartment in Sault Ste. Marie, I got a notice saying that the management would only be paying $40 per month for electricity. Any electricity beyond that would have to be covered by the tenant.

I asked my landlord how close I was to the $40. He said "pffft! You're nowhere near that! You're at, like, $12 per month."

So, assuming a $10 per month cost of running an air conditioner, if I had installed one, my power usage would have have been $22 per month. About half of my monthly allotment. If they had that air conditioner fee, then I would have been paying an extra $10, with an unused portion of my electricity bill of $28 per month. What a rip!

Of course, my whole rant depends on my assumption that apartment buildings are charging for air conditioning what it actually costs, and not just charging an extra fee that barely covers the cost of air conditioning.

Can anybody here tell me how much it actually costs to cool a one bedroom apartment in the Ottawa area?

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Hope This Class-Action Suit Really Takes Off

If you fly Air Canada much, you may be aware that a few years ago, Aeroplan announced that if you didn't use your points, or add to them in the span of a year, you'd lose them.

Ouch. That's worse than the time Bell Mobility announced that they would be charging for incoming text messages.

That's just bad business. I'm a believer in the free market economy. May the best businesses prosper, and may the worst business go under!

Instead of going out of business, bad businesses can also suffer at the hands of our legal system when they drive a knife into the backs of their clients. According to today's article, that's whats happening to Groupe Aeroplan Inc. Some people are launching a class action lawsuit against Groupe Aeroplan Inc..

Way to go, gang! Stick it to the man!

Friday, July 10, 2009

United Breaks Guitars

When I lived in Toronto, I worked for two airlines: Air Canada and Air Transat. I did the same job for both airlines. Most of the work consisted of getting luggage onto and off of aeroplanes. As a pilot wannabe, working there was awesome.

There was a huge difference working for the two airlines. At Air Transat, Fragile stickers meant nothing. Soon after I started working there, someone asked me why I wasn't throwing a guitar case like I did for the rest of the baggage.

Me: It's a guitar. It's easily damaged.

Him: Is that your guitar?

Me: No.

Him: Then why do you care?

I heard that line many times about many fragile items. One day, someone was bringing crates of olive oil back from overseas. Each crate had a Fragile sticker on it. The guys were just put them on the belt-loader like other baggage: with no care as to the fragile state of it's contents. The crates started falling over, breaking open and spilling olive oil all over the place.

Passengers in the terminal saw this and started taking pictures and making gestures to us. A few of the guys made some other more obscene gestures to the passengers.

I've seen the people riffle through passengers bags, helping themselves to whatever they wanted. I saw blatant damaging of office equipment.

Always lock your luggage.

Air Transat was like a company run by Jr. Highers on their way to Juvie.

Actually, I should clarify. I didn't actually work for Air Transat. I worked for a company called Haycott Services that was partially owned by Air Transat. Haycott was contracted to work on the ramp, and do cabin service for Air Transat. I always say I worked for Air Transat because nobody knows what Haycott Services is.

Haycott Services was like a company run by Jr. Highers on their way to Juvie.

When I started at Air Canada, I would hear things like "Woah! Be careful with that! It's Fragile!" Air Canada was a dream. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had. Air Canada was a company run by grown-ups.

One of my favourite bands, Sons of Maxwell, had an incident with United Airlines. One of the singers/songwriters, Dave Carroll, saw the ramp guys throwing guitar cases around as they were offloading the aeroplanes. When he got his guitar back, it was broken. United Airlines wouldn't acknowledge any wrong-doing or responsibility, and wouldn't pay for any damages.

So, Dave Carroll wrote three songs, and made a video out of one and put it on YouTube, seen here:

Way to go, Dave! It's really sad. It also doesn't help the rest of us when we get screwed over by a large organization. Most of us can't write and perform great songs with videos to stick it to the man. In a way, Dave, you're doing this for all of us. Everyone who's ever been jerked around by an airlines is behind you.

There should be two more videos coming. The idea is to get people to vote for their favourite. He wants to get one million hits in one year. This video came out 4 days ago. As of writing this, it's already up to 1 351 943 views.

Apparently, Dave is in talks with United to right the wrongs. I'd imagine part of that settlement will include Dave discontinuing his United-bashing. That would be somewhat unfortunate because he's a great songwriter. I love how this song doesn't cloud the message with metaphor. "United Breaks Guitars". Pretty simple, basic, and obvious. No hidden messages there. An English teacher's nightmare.

Of course, he'll probably only be offered the $3500 from United. But these videos will put him and Sons of Maxwell on the map, so to speak. He's going to get a real jump in fame due to these videos.

When I went to see Sons of Maxwell in concert, it was pretty small and intimate. At the end of the concert Dave announced he'd be at the CD table. So I went over and talked with him for about five minutes. How cool is that! When was the last time you went to a concert and got to talk to the musicians afterwords?

If Sons of Maxwell significantly increase their fame from this incident, then the next time I see them in concert, they might be too big to be able to talk to them. :( There'll be too many people.

Just kidding. I'd rather see them get the fame they deserve. I wish them (Dave Carroll and Sons of Maxwell) all the best.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Busy Month at Chez McQueens - Wrap-Up

At the beginning of the month, I blogged about how busy the month of June would be at the McQueen's house. I listed the following things packed into the month:
  1. BBQ with our Care Group;
  2. Re-shingling the roof;
  3. Pastor Jack's brother, sister, and her three young boys visiting for about a week;
  4. Jane's friend (and her cat) coming to stay the night;
  5. My parent's coming for a weekend;
  6. My dying of Swine Flu;
  7. I forgot to mention Robin's graduation, but it happened in June.

I'll recap each of these things in turn.
  1. BBQ with our Care Group
    We had a whole bunch of people over. They all brought food, and left behind what wasn't eaten. We used disposable dishes, so we didn't have any dishes to do. We were able to have the left-overs for dinner the next day, which is my day for cooking. So I was happy.

  2. Re-shingling the roof
    This is where the real craziness begins. Bruce and I were up on the roof with Jack. We went downstairs to get some breakfast/lunch. Aurthur stopped by to help out. He and Jack were up on the roof while we were taking a break. Then we heard a crash and Jack yelling. We ran outside to find Jack lying on the ground with his foot intermingled with the ladder. We called 911. As we were running around getting things ready for Jack to go to the hospital, Wendy stepped on a rusty nail. So, when we got to the hospital, Jack was checked in, and Wendy checked in for her punctured foot.

    In the end, Wendy's foot was easily taken care of. Jack needed surgery. He has crutches now, and a wheel chair. He's going to be off his feet for a while now. This turn of events is most unfortunate. The day that happened was the same day that...

  3. Pastor Jack's brother, sister, and her three young boys visiting for about a week
    As Wendy, Jack, and I were at the hospital, Jack's brother, sister, and her three boys arrived at the house. The boys had done some growing since I saw them last. The oldest was able to really help out. Besides finishing off the roof, they were able to help with a number of other projects around the house. We had a great time when they were here, but I got to bed late every night during that time. It was tiring, nevertheless.

  4. Jane's friend (and her cat) coming to stay the night
    We had to pick Jane's friend up, bring her, and her cat, over to our house, then return her the following morning so she could be there for some people coming to help her move in. She was to sleep in Jane's room, and leave the cat in the basement - Bruce's room.

    Once I reminded the pertinent people that Bruce was allergic to cats, we worked out another solution. Because Jack wasn't fully mobile, he was sleeping on a bed in the living room. Wendy was sleeping on a couch in the living room. Bruce, Robin, and I were in our own rooms. Jane slept in her parent's bedroom. Jane's friend, and her cat, stayed in Jane's room.

    The only real problem was the miscommunication. Jane's friend thought that we lived near her apartment in Ottawa's west end. We live far away from there. We live east of Ottawa. So, to pick her up was an hour away. By the time they got back to the house that night, I was asleep. I didn't wake up the next morning until they left.

  5. My parent's coming for a weekend
    This gave me the chance to take a break from the craziness of the McQueen house. I spent an afternoon getting sloshed with a building filled with single women. In fact, they were all sisters. My Aunt was celebrating her 50th anniversary as a nun. There was wine. I'm a cheap drunk. Okay. I didn't get drunk. In fact, they put me at the kid's table! They didn't have any wine there! They didn't even come around with the coffee or tea!

  6. Me dying of Swine Flu
    It hasn't happened yet. But it's coming.

  7. Robin's graduation
    I was happy it was a small class. Except for the awards at the end, it hardly took any time. First they handed out the diplomas and mentioned certain awards and scholarships. In my graduation they announced things like "And Joe will be receiving a $500 scholarship to Dalhousie University." At Robin's school they said things like "And Joe will be receiving a gift certificate to the Lucky 7." The Lucky 7 is a restaurant in Embrun.

    You know obesity is becoming a problem when your kid gets a scholarship to a restaurant.

    Afterwords, they handed out other awards and scholarships. This part lasted approximately 3 days to finish. The class size was less than one hundred. I stopped counting the awards after eighteen thousand. Anyway, Robin cleaned up. I think she got five of those awards. Go Robin!!

Now that that's over with, we can get back to our normal level of craziness. Of course, Jack is still not on his feet.

Jack's not scheduled to preach anywhere for the next few Sundays, so we'll check out more churches. Of course, to find new churches, we'll use our favourite search engines; Google, Yahoo! and AltaVista.

Friday, July 03, 2009

You Can't Help Yourself Because Your Self Sucks

According to today's article, Self-Help books that tell you to repeat mantras like "I am a lovable person" do not work for people with low self-esteem, (LSE) and only marginally work for those with high self-esteem (HSE).

I suspect they don't work for those with LSE because as they're chanting those they're thinking about how they're not true. It brings to the forefront of their minds how much of a lovable person they're not. Then they feel worse.

I suspect the reason a great many other self-help books don't work is that people who read them don't actually put them into practise. Reading a book won't fix your life. Doing what the book says might. Years ago I read The Wealthy Barber - a small, easy to understand, book about finances. I have yet to do anything suggested in that book.

Will Ferguson wrote a novel called "Happiness" about a self-help book that actually works. Everyone gets rich, looses weight, follows their dreams, and embraces the things they can't change. Hilarious.

BTW: Today's title is one of the best lines from the movie School for Scoundrels with Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder (a.k.a. Napoleon Dynamite).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Avenging Angel - Review

About a year ago Esther Carney, a doctor/author, found my blog. She found the book review I did of L'Avion de Gaston She contacted me and asked if I'd review a book she had written. Of course, I said I would.

The book, called Avenging Angel, is an action packed book about a girl, Angie Ryan, who was raised in South America in a camp full of mercenaries. Angie was raised as the daughter of the head mercenary, Colonal Morgan. Just before her mother passes away, she tells Angie that Morgan isn't her real father. Her real father is back in the States. Angie's mother dies before she can tell Angie her real last name, or the name of her father.

Angie escapes to the United States to find her real father. Doing so turns Morgan into her enemy. Her training as a mercenary allows her to do some Special Operations work with the FBI. But, it also gets her into trouble with the law at times. The book follows Angie's growth from a girl into a woman as she goes from town to town looking for her real father, running from the law, running from Morgan's goons, and beating up men who are several times her size.

What I liked
Angie seems to be a combination of Batman, Superman, Jason Bourne, Ferris Bueller, Jack Bauer, Parker Lewis, and a beautiful teen-aged girl. She seems able to do anything - even without Cloe's help. The book, at 642 pages, was a page-turner. I was never bored when reading it. It never made me fall asleep. There was lots of action. It was full of hand-to-hand combat, guns, aeroplanes, motorcycles, explosives, aeroplanes, terrorists, and a wee bit of romance...and aeroplanes. I like aeroplanes.

There were many characters in several subplots. This made the book seem, at times, like reading a bunch of short stories all strung together to make a longer story. Kinda like a TV show with an over-arching storyline. The only problem is if you forget someone's name, and the appear later on several chapters later, you're not sure if you should know them or not.

What I didn't like
Angie seems to be a combination of Batman, Superman, Jason Bourne, Ferris Bueller, Jack Bauer, Parker Lewis, and a beautiful teen-aged girl. She seems able to do anything - even without Chloe's help. She appears to have no weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Both incredibly smart and physically capable. I think the reason I like Spiderman is that you see his vulnerability. You don't see that with Angie.

The author is a doctor. There was some medical terminology in the book. I had to take it on faith that it was accurate. She had a weapons expert to consult, so I assume all the weapons stuff was accurate too. There was a lot of aeroplane/flying content. As a (student) pilot I got the feeling that some of those parts were written by someone who's read a lot about flying, and probably taken the controls of an aeroplane a few times, but never actually studied flying.(But that's the nitpicking pilot in me.) However, it does have a lot of accurate aviationisms.

The only other thing was the book was pretty big. It could have been two books. I think that was the original plan. I'm not sure why it was condensed into one.

In Summary
If you enjoy a good book full of action, head on over to Zeus Publications, or Fast Paced Fiction and pick this book up.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Phone Scam

Today I want to talk about two phone scams. The first one is where someone calls you, lets the phone ring a couple of time, and hangs up. You see the number on the call-display. Even though you don't recognize the number, you decided to call it back. The number turns out to be an adult entertainment line in a foreign land.

If you call a number back, without knowing who it is, just because it shows up on your call-display, you deserve the $1000 phone bill that goes with it.

The second phone scam is a much more serious and widespread one; one which you may have already fallen victim to. I know I have. It's called "Paying for Text Messaging."

I remember once upon a time, texting was free. The technology was already built into the phone system. It seems the phone companies noticed that people were texting and they decided to make a quick buck out of it.

I'm with Bell Mobility. They charge me $3.00/month for unlimited incoming text messages, and 30 outgoing messages. Any outgoing messages beyond the 30 is 15 cents per message.

How much does it cost the phone company?

According to this article, "Srinivasan Keshav, Canada Research Chair in tetherless computing at the University of Waterloo, told lawmakers probing text messaging rates and the state of competition in the wireless telecommunications industry that the maximum cost of a single text message "very unlikely" exceeds 0.3 cents."

The author of this article, calculates how much texting costs compared to talking on his cell phone, assuming data transfer costs the same for each method. The talk-plan he assumes ($40 per month for 400 minutes) costs about $1.75 per Megabyte. Texting, at 15 cents per text works out to $786.43 per Megabyte. If texting were charged at the same rate as talking, it would be 0.33 cents per message, which is about what Srinivasan Keshav calculates.

What can you do about it? All I can think of is to get a Skype account, or some other Voice Over IP system and start making phone calls that way. If enough people do this, then the phone system as we know it will die.

My answer requires Net Neutrality to be in place. Otherwise, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will just charge for emails and instant messages. They might do that anyway, so it's important that we get Net Neutrality laws in place to prevent that sort of behaviour.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (120)

This guy in a body case and wheel chair is on the stage to audition for "So You Think You Can Dance" thinking he might be that shows equivalent to Susan Boyle, the woman who surprised everyone with her phenomenal singing skills.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Church Hopping - Part 3

So far, since February, I have blogged about the following churches: a Catholic Church, Beaver Creek Baptist, Bedside Baptist, St. Arthur's Church, Golgotha Baptist, Blackbelt Baptist, Over-Easy Wesleyan, and even returned to Yahoo! Baptist for Good Friday Service. And that's where I left off.

Since then we've gone back to Blackbelt Baptist, Life Area Pentecostal, The Gathering House, and a Reformed Presbyterian church.

Life Area Pentecostal was my first Pentecostal service. It was like going to a rock concert on Sunday morning. The music was good, and tight. The light show was good too. As a Baptist, I tend to worry that people go for the show, for the emotional charge, instead of for worship. It can become about the show when it should be about Christ.

When the pastor got up to speak, you could see the Andy Stanley influence - the way the pastor dressed, spoke, had a bottle of water beside him on the table beside his high stool. I'm surprised he didn't slip into a southern drawl.

The following week, we went to The Gathering House. That's a church that's based out of Southern Ontario, and they have satellite churches set up around other Ontario locations. The satellite churches are in a theatre. They have a live music team there, and a local pastor. They let you bring food and drink into the theatre. The seats are really comfortable.

On the other hand, the morning we went was Mother's Day. Instead of taking time to have a mothers oriented message, or anything special about mothers, they had a status report! "This is how far we've come, and this is where we have yet to go." That was disappointing. They could have had that any other week. We decided to give that church another chance when Bruce got home. That service was much better. It was very culturally relevant.

We also went to a Reformed Presbyterian church. It was different, mainly because they didn't sing modern praise and worship music. They just sang the Psalms using only their voices. No other instruments. At one point we were singing an imprecatory psalm. Pastor Jack elected to not sing the bit about hating people who worship idols.

We also went to McDonald Baptist in Kanata. The pastor there is a Friend of Pastor Jack's. Unfortunately, he wasn't preaching that morning. So I can't comment on the preaching that morning. I have heard that pastor speak at night before. He always gives something to think about. The music at that church is done well. They are missing drums, which is unfortunate. They have some really good musicians on the music team. Drums would really add to it. The people are friendly too.

For the next three weeks Jack is preaching at Blackbelt Baptist. So that's where we'll all be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We Could Make Beautiful Music Together

According to Today's Article the same gene that correlates with musical ability "codes for a receptor for the hormone arginine vasopressin and has been linked with bonding, love and altruism in people." The thought is that people who are good at music are also good romantic partners.

I have nothing to say about this except "Fascinating!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

Busy Month at Chez McQueens

This month will be a busy month at the McQueen residence.

Tonight, a bunch of people are coming over for a BBQ. That's always a lot of work.

Last night I heard Jane talking to a friend on the phone. This friend is moving to Ottawa. Jane agreed to help her move into her new place. I think I heard her say she could stay over at our place on Friday night; cat included. Now, I like cats, but I'm not sure how the dog, Max, will feel about sharing the house with one. Jane suggested that the cat stay in the basement because Max doesn't go down there. That also happens to be Bruce's room. Bruce came to visit me last year when I was taking care of someone's cats while they were on vacation. He was there for about 20 minutes. Then it took him a few days to completely get rid of the allergic reaction brought on by the cats. Maybe he got over his allergies since then? This will be an interesting weekend.

We need to re-shingle the roof. Hopefully Arthur can help us out with that. The challenge so far has been to find a weekend with good weather. Ottawa weekends have had particularly bad weather lately.

On Saturday Pastor Jack's brother and sister, and his sister's three young boys are coming to stay for about a week. The idea is to do some much needed household repairs. Robin's heading into exams. She has declared she's not giving up her room. So, the question is: Where will we put everyone? I know where I'll want to be: at Uncle Joe's house — away from the craziness.

I may get my wish for at least one weekend this month. My parents are coming up for a family function. I told my parents I'd go with them to the function. My parents will be at Uncle Joe's while they're in Ottawa. When they're there, I'm usually there too.

I also plan on dying from Swine Flu sometime in June. I haven't been infected yet, and I don't know anyone who has been, but it is on my to-do list.

At least we know which churches we're going to every Sunday in June. Pastor Jack is booked to speak every Sunday this month. He's at Resurrection Church for one Sunday, then at Blackbelt Baptist for three consecutive Sundays.

I'll write further to let you know how things go. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Should Have Seen In Coming

In December I blogged that the RIAA announced they were going to stop suing citizens for downloading music. I wasn't sure if I was going to start buying CDs again. I still thought they were evil, but I thought maybe their new way of being evil would be better than the last.

It turns out, according to today's article they they launched 62 law suits in April alone. The boycott continues! Let the downloading keep going!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (118)

This guy is meditating thinking "I'm going to achieve inner peace if if kills me!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (115)

The little girl is asking her teddy bear "Would you like some more tea, Teddums?" to which the teddy bear replies "No thanks. I'm stuffed!"

Okay. Definitely not some of my best work. The drawing stinks, and the pun is worse. Actually, I stole that pun from somewhere. I maintain that my worst puns are my stolen puns.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (114)

A guy getting punched in the gut by his punching bag. Worst. Punching. Bag. Ever.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Back Off! Get Your Own Sandwich!

If you've hung around me for long enough, you've probably heard me say "Back off! Get your own sandwich!" I then have turned to you and asked you if you remember that commercial. Inevitably, you haven't.

We used to say that all the time when I worked at Tim Hortons. Maybe it was a Nova Scotian thing? Anyway, I searched for a long time to find the commercial. I found it, and I present it to you now. Watch it a few times, and you'll find yourself saying "Back off! Get your own sandwich!" every so often. In fact, if anyone (including you) ever says "Back off!" you won't be able to help yourself from finishing with "Get your own sandwich!" any more than a toon can prevent himself with finishing the old "Shave and a haircut" with "two bits".

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (113)

The guy is saying to the other "My next-door neighbour is an excellent hunter."

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Move It On Over

I hate apartment hunting. Amazingly, I've rarely had to do it, even though I've lived in a bunch of different places.

When I moved from Halifax to Sault Ste. Marie, I got a list of places that rented rooms to students. I called through the list until I found a guy who had worked in the same hospital as my mother several years ago. He knew, and remembered her. I decided to live with him. In retrospect it wasn't a good place to live, but at the time it seemed like the obvious choice.

The following year I moved to Toronto where my aunt and Uncle lived. They offered to give me room and board for roughly the cost of having me there. I lived with them for a year. It was an obvious choice.

When it came time to move back the Sault Ste. Marie the following year I met a friend there who rented a room from someone. My friend was moving out. His landlord needed to find a new tenant. I needed a room. It was perfect. It was the obvious choice.

After three years there, the landlord needed my room back, so he told me I had a couple of months to find a new place. That night I met with a friend at a local Wendy's. When she asked how things were going, I told her I was going to be moving soon. I'd start looking for a place next week. She mentioned she and her husband had a couple of spare rooms in their house they were thinking of renting out. She talked to her husband, and they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. It was an obvious choice.

After about a year living there I decided it was time to move on. I was about to get a job with the provincial government, and I wanted to live alone. I mentioned this to some friends. One told me that she and her roommate were going away for the summer and they wanted someone to sublet their place. It was in the building I have always wanted to live in. It had a good location, nice apartments, solid walls for quiet living. I couldn't afford to live there alone, but they only asked for a little more than half the rent. It was an obvious choice.

(Incidentally, that was the building Craig and I would eventually move into. Craig and I lived in the unit one floor above the apartment I was subletting.)

At the end of the summer I needed a new place. I did the traditional apartment search and ended up in a bad building. It was next door to the apartment in which I was subletting. At least it had a good location. I had a job with the provincial government, so I could afford a one bedroom apartment. The choice wasn't obvious, and it turned out to be not good.

After a couple of years there, my contract with the government ended, and I couldn't afford to keep the apartment myself for too much longer. At the same time Craig's current roommates were moving out, so he needed a new place to stay. So we moved back into the building I was in before. I didn't even have to shop around. I just knew I wanted to live there. It was an obvious choice.

Then when Craig and I moved to Ottawa, I came down with three weeks to find a room for him, and one for me. I spent the first week just getting to know the city. When it came time to actually look for a place I got a list from Carleton University of places that rented rooms to students. I called a few places. I hate apartment hunting. As I was walking to the first place to look at, my phone rang. It was Pastor Jack. He wanted to offer Craig and I to live at his place. He gave us an offer we couldn't refuse. It was an obvious choice.

I've lived with the McQueens off and on for 5 years this fall. As regular, long time blog readers know, there were frustrations. But there were a lot of good times. I spent a lot of time looking forward to moving out on my own. Now that that time is being thrust upon me, I'm not looking forward to it. I've started apartment hunting. I hate apartment hunting.

If you've paid close attention to this post, you will have noticed that the apartments I get through regular apartment hunting have been the worst. The best situations come from happenstance - usually a chance meeting, or a phone call. Serendipity. A God event. I've looked at a few places. I've liked two of them. They're just a wee bit expensive for my taste. (But, it may be worth it.)

Then, the other day Pastor Jack says "I don't want to sell, and there's a small chance we might not have to. So, if you don't mind living with uncertainty, you're welcome to stay."

I don't really like uncertainty. I have been looking forward to having my own place. But something about this doesn't feel right. I'm wondering Where's my chance meeting? Where's my phone call? Where's my serendipity? Where's my God event? Is it really time to move out?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Church Hopping - Part 2

It's time for another church-hopping report. To recap from Part 1, I had visited a Catholic Church, Beaver Creek Baptist, and Bedside Baptist. My preference is Beaver Creek Baptist.

Since then, I've gone to St. Arthur's Church, Golgotha Baptist, Blackbelt Baptist, Over-Easy Wesleyan, and even returned to Yahoo! Baptist for Good Friday Service.

St. Arthur's Church is a church plant. It's in the gym of a school. I was a minute or two late when I walked in, but I still had people saying "hi" to me before I could sit down. I was told it was a friendly church. I was told right. However, it was cold! I don't know if I took off my winter jacket. One of Arthur's brother's was wearing shorts! Brrrrr!

They had coffee sitting off to the side. It taunted me throughout the service. I usually get my coffee at the Country Style by the highway on my way to church. The highway was not on the way to St. Arthur's Church.

The next week I went to Golgotha Baptist. Pastor Jack was preaching there when I went. The people were nice The church was old-school. Old wooden pews. I was impressed when I saw the acoustic drum set there. I was less impressed when the only instrument that was played was the organ. Not that I have anything against the organ, but the drums led me to believe I might hear more contemporary music.

Then I went to Blackbelt Baptist. That seemed like a really cool church. Their kids program, so I'm told, is modelled after that of North Point, Andy Stanley's church. That struck a real positive chord with us. We're big Andy Stanley fans. I returned to Blackbelt for Easter Sunday.

Blackbelt, despite it's small physical size had acoustic drums. Blackbelt's music was, hands-down the best music I have heard at any church. Ever. The music was so tight! And well played. I find where most worship teams are weak is during the "trans and scans." They may be great at playing a verse, or the chorus, but going to and from is usually weak. Going from one song to another is also usually weak. If you're in a worship team, pay attention to those things! Work on them. Everyone needs to know what's coming up next! Always! Even in "free worship", you need some kind of signal system.

The teams at Blackbelt did not have that problem. I also noticed that they did not use the piano/keyboard very much, if at all. I find that a lot of churches fall into this "you need to have the piano, and it needs to be the lead instrument" way of thinking. Yet few, if any, big worship leaders lead with the piano. The leader of the team on my first Sunday there lead the congregation. He didn't just sing. It's hard to explain if you've never experienced it. If you have, no explanation is necessary.

Blackbelt Baptist might have done something very smart. Most churches have greeters at the door. Blackbelt either has three sets of greeters (at the door, in the lobby, and in the sanctuary), or they have really friendly people in those locations that are good with names. I can't tell. Either way, it makes me feel good when I go there.

I went go Yahoo! Baptist on Good Friday. My friend, who's birthday it was, was going there, and I was meeting up with her. Ironically, the person I talked to the most was my friend's dad, and they don't go to that church! But it was good to see some of my old friend's from that church.

This morning I went to Over-Easy Wesleyan with the McQueens. It was kind of like a reunion. We met up with a few people who used to go to Yahoo! Baptist. The people were super-friendly. There were lots of young people there. I could see me going there more often.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (111)

Being stranded on a dessert island is an old cliché. This is my take on it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Time For Some Tap Dancing

A little while ago Jack and Wendy found a used faucet that looked almost brand new. It was a fraction of the price of a brand new faucet. So they bought it. We needed a new one for the kitchen sink. This one had two taps as well as a spray hose.

Jack started to install it the night they bought it. Unfortunately, in the removing of the old one, something broke. Jack said "Well, there's no going back now."

The first problem came when Jack tried to turn off the water in the pipes under the sink. The cold water pipe had a valve knob that you could turn by hand. The hot water pipe was missing that knob. He could turn off the water, but he needed a screwdriver.

Once he got that worked out, it went a bit easier for a while. The faucet was the same size as the last one. The pipes didn't have to be modified. They were easily connected.

The only question was "How do we securely fasten the spray hose to the faucet?" You could slide the hose onto a pipe, but it wasn't tight. As soon as you turn on the water, the pressure would disconnect the hose from the fixture, flooding the cupboard under the sink.

We scoured the googles looking for a solution. Eventually we figured out what kind of faucet it was, and what it's make and model were. It was a Delta faucet, which has a life-time warranty. This is good. We found out that the faucet was missing a piece. A small plastic piece that snaps on, holding the spray hose to the faucet.

Since it was too late to put the old faucet back on, we were stuck. The sink drainage system still worked. But we were without a tap. The kitchen sink has to be the most used sink in a house. How did we get by? Until we were able to get that part, we did the dishes in the shower.

Just kidding.

We filled a bucket with hot water at another sink, carried the bucket to the kitchen sink and filled it with the water from the bucket. A load of dishes required 3 trips back and fourth from the other sink. It wasn't easy when we were taking care of Napoleon Dynamite because it kept getting in the way and tripping us up. Then you'd step in a puddle on the floor and you weren't sure if it was spilled dish water or drool.

Jack went around to different hardware stores asking if they had the part he needed. None did. Then he found a Delta supplier in the area. He had to order the part. He got our address from Jack so the part could be sent directly to us. Jack gave him our mailing address (which has a P.O. Box number).

After a while, the part never came. So Jack called him and asked if there was a problem. They said "Yeah, it was being sent by Purolator, and they don't ship to P.O. boxes. They ship to street addresses." I don't know why they couldn't have said that when Jack ordered the part. So Jack gave them our street address.

Over a week later it showed up in the mail. ?!?!?!?!?!

All in all, we were without a fully functioning kitchen sink for five and a half weeks. It's so good to have a working faucet! It's one of those things you never appreciate until it's gone.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (110)

A bad drawing of Ed Grimley expressing his surprise that Mr. Falcon would go to church.
"Of course!" Exclaims Mr. Falcon, "I'm a bird of pray!"

Monday, April 06, 2009

Dog-Sitting Can Be Rough

Last year over March break we took care of a neighbour's dog as they went on vacation. We brought the dog into our house. It was a collie. You'd think I would call it "Lassie" because of, well, Lassie. Or you'd think I'd call it "Laddie" because of The Simpsons. But you'd be wrong. I call it Napoleon Dynamite. Why? Because it was a mouth breather. And a drooler. It wasn't uncommon to walk around the house and suddenly find your sock soaking up a puddle of it's drool. It wasn't fun getting soakers inside the house.

I think Max liked this dog because it made him look obedient and well behaved. I've only ever seen Max take something from the counter-top once. Napoleon Dynamite did it several times. It had no qualms against getting up on the table either.

To be fair, I'm sure Napoleon Dynamite is well behaved at home. It's not really familiar with us, or our house. I don't know what commands it knows. It's owners might be issuing orders in French.

And this dog was so needy. It was always underfoot and would never leave anyone alone. It probably has separation anxiety and missed it's owner.

It kept chomping at my bits trying to give me a sex-change operation. Maybe it was doing that because I kept referring to it as an "it" instead of a "he" or a "she". To this day, I still don't know if it's a "he" or a "she". It's real name isn't gender specific. Either way, a dog bite in the leg or the rear is bad enough, but a canine administered sex change operation isn't very palatable, even if it's done with some lab work.

It turns out that it had some sort of mouth infection that made it do that. That was supposedly cured since last year.

This year the dog came back. This time for almost 2 weeks. It wasn't as bad as last year. It stopped trying to perform any operations on me. But, it did insist on repeatedly making sure I was still a man. (I think a lot of dogs do that. Max doesn't. Good boy!)

Napoleon Dynamite walks a lot slower than Max does. Max is always pulling, trying to get away. He doesn't seem to care that the more he pulls, the more his chain around his neck tightens up, and the less he can breath. Napoleon Dynamite doesn't have that problem. He walks really slowly. The difficulty comes with walking them at the same time. Napoleon Dynamite wants to stop and eat the flowers, while Max wants to chase after every passing-by photon. If one person tried to walk the two dogs at the same time they'd wind up being drawn and quartered. (So much for separation anxiety!)

When the owner came to retrieve the dog, we didn't beg to keep it for any longer. One dog is enough for us.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (109)

This is not an April Fool's Day joke. Shortly after Christmas I noticed my coffee cups were missing from my desk. I hoped someone was pranking me. No one has fessed up. Whoever took them left behind all my to-go containers. I don't think they, whoever it was, were cleaning. They left behind obvious garbage, like crinkled napkins, that are sitting right on my desk. I can't be 100% sure, but I think my cups were in my cabinet. Someone would have had to go in there and take them.

It really ticks me off because those cups really aren't worth anything to anyone except me. There are three explanations I can think of:
  1. We have a kleptomaniac around here who's smart enough to stick with stealing low-cost items. If you steal a computer, someone will come after you. Steal a used coffee cup, no one is going to care.
  2. I have an enemy in the office, and they took them just to get at me. I have no idea who this might be. I thought I got along with everyone here.
  3. Someone fancies themselves an art-critic with the authority to throw out any art he deems unworthy of display....even if it's display case is a closed cabinet.

I lean toward theory 1. Other data seems to support this theory.

I figure I lost about 30 to 40 cups. The following piece (which now sits on my shelf above my monitor) is my "artists" rendition of what I think happened; the "crime-scene" if you will. (Notice the cups saying "Don't take me, bro!")

Friday, March 27, 2009

Carcinogenic Toothpaste

What kind of toothpaste do you use? Currently, I use Colgate Total. Colgate Total has everything. It protects against cavities, tartar, plaque, gum disease, etc. It's supposed to whiten your teeth too.

But it might also give you cancer.

Colgate Total is one of the few, if not the only, toothpastes that contain an anti-bacterial called Triclosan. It's supposed to protect against gum disease. But, according to today's article, when triclosan mixes with water, it creates chloroform gas. In small quantities, it won't do anything immediatly. Over time it can build causing health issues, including cancer.

Just thought I'd let you know.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (108)

Sometimes things are invented for one purpose, but get used for another. I think preserving memories was a secondary reason for the invention of the camera. This shows the original reason the camera was invented.

One guy is showing the other "I invented a soul-stealing device."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (107)

On a foreign planet inhabited by big, green creatures capable of throwing cheap cardboard rocks around, a guy in a red shirt is phasing Captain Kirk saying "First you steal my girlfriend! Then you try to "make it up" to me by bringing me on an away mission? I'll make sure you die before I do!"

Now that I think about it, Captain Kirk should be saying, in reply "Don't phase me, bro!"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (106)

Today's Napkin Art has two parts. The main part is something Jane, Bruce, and I saw whilst we were driving through Embrun one day. This physically-abundant girl wearing low-rise jeans with a thong. We all shuddered. (The tiny circles on her back are vertebrae. They're out of alignment. Most people's backs are out of alignment. See a chiropractor.)

The second picture is a runway with a big brick wall at the end of it. A problem for pilot's to overcome is the standard 50 foot obstacle to climb out over at the end of a runway. This wall must be 50 feet high.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Church Hopping - Part 1

A while back I wrote that I would describe my church-hopping activities. Here's the first instalment.

On the first Sunday I went to a Catholic church. I was reminded of why I left the Catholic Church in the first place when I was a kid. It's boring. Really boring. The music is slow and emotionless. The sermon was ten minutes long, and sounded like it took about ten minutes to prepare. Of course, the sermon isn't the main point of the Catholic Mass. Communion is.

After "singing" a couple of songs to/about Mary it was soon time to go. As we walked out, hardly anybody talked to anybody else. We shook the priest's hand, through his robe, while he said "good morning" to us, avoiding eye-contact the whole time.

I wasn't seriously considering that church as a new home. A friend invited me. She had come to my church earlier, so I told her I'd go to hers.

The next Sunday I went to Beaver Creek Baptist. By this point, I was starting to wonder if friendly churches existed in Ottawa. I walked into Beaver Creek Baptist, and was assaulted with about 5 greetings within the first 3 seconds. Then people kept coming up to me and talking to me.


The music was good. It wasn't a Brian Doerksen concert, but it wasn't the organ either. The preaching was decent. Not great. Not bad. Mind you, I've been spoiled by Pastor Jack's preaching for the last bunch of years.

Then the College and Career people made sure I had the right numbers and information about their meetings and encouraged me to come out.

The following week I wasn't feeling well, so I went to Bedside Baptist with Pastor Featherpillow. I enjoyed that church, but it didn't do much for my spiritual growth.

Then I went back to Beaver Creek Baptist. I think you need to go to a church a few times in order to make a decision. I had talked up Beaver Creek Baptist with the McQueens. This time, some of them joined me. I told them I'd feel awfully bad if no one talked to them. Almost no one did. I felt bad.

The next week I took Jane with me. She met more people than the other McQueens did the week before. But less than I did when I went alone. Of course, you always meet more people in a group if you come alone. (I'm surprised at how few people know that. They'll show up to a group in their own group, shut themselves off from everyone else, then complain no one talked to them.)

Later, the McQueens said that it was because I was putting myself out there, talking to other people. I told them that I acted no differently than I did at The Meg (a Megachurch in Ottawa). I talked to people there who just looked right past me as though I wasn't there. Greeters don't count towards frienliness, BTW. They're "paid" to be friendly. It's their job. How friendly a church is will be defined by the level of friendliness of the people you meet past the greeters.

Next week I'll check out another church. I'm not sure which one yet. Stay tuned, and find out soon!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Merry Xmas!

As a fan of the show Futurama, I often pay homage to it by calling Christmas "Xmas." Christians, who don't watch Futurama, miss the reference and think I'm insulting them and Christ by taking Christ out of Christmas. Once upon a time I thought that too. I thought that the X was crossing out Christ from Christmas.

Then I started studying Greek.

It turns out that the Greek word for Christ starts with the character "chi" (pronounced with a sound that doesn't exist in English). The letter "chi" is written like the English "X". So, writing "Christmas" as "Xmas" is more of a short form. According to Today's Article, this has been going on for centuries. In fact,t he letter "chi" came to represent the word "Christ". The word "Christian" could be written "Xian".

Just like I suspected. This article just confirms it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (105)

She's walking with her eyes closed saying "Who turned out the lights?"

I figure she's blond. But I didn't have a blond pen, so it came out as blue.

I wasn't at Pizza Pizza that night. For some reason we have a lot of Pizza Pizza napkins at our house.

Or maybe Pizza Pizza is paying me to subliminally advertise for them.

Friday, February 27, 2009

His Name Told Him To

Sometimes a person's name can be influential on their life. Meet Mr. Nickerson, or should that be Mr. Knickers-on? For, you see, Mr. Nickerson is the star of Today's Article.

Mr. Nickerson got drunk, took a walk in the woods, and took his trousers off to answer nature's call. In his inebriated state, he lost his trousers. He stumbled around until he found the home of a couple of senior citizens. He broke in, found a package of women's adult diapers. Then, well, as his name told him to, Mr. Knickers-on put the knickers on. He put them on over his own underpants. He passed out and was found by the owners of the home the next morning.

The woman ran to a neighbour to get away, call the police, etc. When she told her neighbour, I wonder if the neighbour asked "Where is he now?" and she answered "Under there!" thus forcing the neighbour to say "under where?" I know I couldn't have resisted.

Nickerson was arrested, fined, and given probation.

I can imagine a conversation between Mr. Nickerson and his lawyer going like this:

Lawyer: "You're in a wee bit of crap now."

Nickerson: "Do you think I'll get off?"

Lawyer: "Depends. How many times have you been in trouble with the law?"

Nickerson: "This is number 1."

This is one of those stories where the embarrassment factor of the crime outweighs any punishment that could have been handed down by the judge. I don't know if Mr. Nickerson thought he was going to jail, but I bet he was relieved to find out he wasn't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (104)

My "Napkin Art" is usually done during family devotions after dinner at the McQueen household. Tonight's devotions were about dealing with people criticizing your vision. This guy is saying "Your criticism sucks!"

There's the missing irony I mentioned in last week's art.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I'm An Artist Too (103)

This is a rip-off of a scene from the old 1960's Batman where Batman is attacked by a shark and he sprays it with his Bat Shark-Repellent Spray.

Pastor Jack saw this napkin and said "You know what's missing from this one? Irony. There's no irony in this."

Next week I introduce some irony back into my Napkin Art.

Monday, February 16, 2009

My New Child

I have a kid. Well, sort of. She's not actually my child. I'm not even sure how to pronounce her name. But she has the cutest name for me. She calls me "Sponsor." For, you see, she's my World Vision child.

She's not my first World Vision child. I had one before. I had her for many years. I got my first World Vision child about 8 years ago. I liked her. We had an understanding. Apart from my monthly contribution, I ignored her, and she ignored me. It worked well.

Until this year. I got a letter from World Vision saying that sometimes families are hard to keep track of. They move around, and it's easy to lose them. They gave me a new child. Apparently, she isn't entering our relationship with the same set of presuppositions as my last child. I've only had her for a couple of months, and she's already sent me a letter.

Given the handwriting, I assumed the letter was written by my child. But at the bottom it said that it was translated and written by someone else. This "someone else" has the hand writing of a child. I had to wonder why they would have a child translating and rewriting another child's writing. I thought to myself "Maybe, it's one of Kathy-Lee's kids."

Now I'll feel guilty if I don't write back. If you've ever emailed me, you know how long you can wait for a reply. Snail mail is ten times worse. By the time I write back, she may be all grown up with kids of her own. I don't know if I can handle the guilt for that long.

At first I thought "If she wants to know about me and my life, she should just read my blog." But, I don't know if they've installed the tubes to carry the internets into her village yet. And she might not understand English. I don't know how good Google's English - Elbonian translator is.

Friday, February 13, 2009

That's A Good IDea

There's a lot of debate about Evolution versus Creation versus Intelligent Design. Evolutionists see only one other alternate explanation to life and how it got here: Creation, and they claim it's not science. Most Evolutionists see Intelligent Design as "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo." One of the reasons it's not science, they say, is that it doesn't make predictions.

I knew that to be true of Creationism. Creationism comes from revelation. But Design Theorists claim that Intelligent Design is science. They claim it starts with the data, not revelation. One day I decided to see if I could find what predictions are made by Design Theorists.

I found several predictions, one of which is that "two species will share a complex trait that a common ancestor doesn't have." So, for example, if:
  1. Species A and B both have eyes,
  2. Species A and B both evolved from species C,
  3. Species C does not have eyes, and
  4. Eyes are complex
then it is more likely that eyes were designed than that they evolved - twice - accidentally.

This prediction seems to be based on the idea that just about anything evolving, even once, is highly unlikely. Something evolving twice—independently—is even more unlikely. Especially when you consider that evolution is based on random mutations.

The prediction is also based on the idea that designers tend to re-use already designed parts. (Just ask any Object Oriented programmer.)

So I wondered if this is ever seen in nature. According to Today's Article (in New Scientist) it is.

You'll have to read the article for details.

Now, this could have come about by random mutations + natural selection + time. Either way, this was a prediction made by Design Theorists, and it's been confirmed. It doesn't prove anything about Intelligent Design, Creation, or Evolution. It's just a confirmed prediction.

It does deny one assertion made by many evolutionists: that Intelligent Design makes no predictions.

Note: It is possible that I misunderstood everything in the article. I'm a computer programmer, not a biologist, biochemist, or paleontologist.