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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

This sucks! I hate being dead! I hate it more than life!



The clips don't do this movie justice, but this is definitely the funniest movie I've ever seen that looks like it was shot in two days and cost less than $10,000 to produce.

It's called High Strung, and we found it in the back of the video store in Bangor one day. The label said that Jim Carrey was the star, so we rented it.

This was false advertising. Jim Carrey has a cameo at the very end: most of the movie is footage of this guy walking around in his apartment complaining about life and wanting to die. Like I said, it's a comedy.

I think this movie is something of an acquired taste. Most notably, Matt's old girlfriend couldn't stand it. (Heh heh heh heh.)

If you hated the first clip, don't click on the second one, because you'll definitely hate it. However, I will note that this next clip does a really good job of showing the frustration that I sometimes feel when dealing with people who stifle creativity and insist on keeping the status quo. Not that I have anyone in mind right now, of course.

The Issue: Industry at crossroads. We Say: Northern Lights, landscape and culture world-class attractions.

Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How to, write good.

The title of this post is copied directly from the editorial I am about to show you. Don't look directly at it. We'll just head straight into the main part of the editorial, which I swear I am not making up. My analysis is in bolded text:

Aurora tourism is shining as brightly as ever, but it's critical that business and government ensure, [name of town withheld] remains the northern lights tourism capital of North America.

Excellent. A wise man once said that there are no commas in radio, only pauses. When you write for radio, you use commas to indicate that the speaker should pause for a moment. This gives listeners a chance to think about what you’ve just said. Obviously, this writer uses commas the same way. I definitely want to pause after the word “ensure” to think about business and government. Good call.

That means working to improve airline connections and looking to other markets keen to experience the NWT's rich First Nations culture and amazing landscape.

OH. MY. GAWD. Improving airline connections and looking to other markets? What a fabulous idea! Does Harvard Business School know about this? You should totally give a seminar. I bet nobody, especially airline companies, ever thought of improving airline connections. And I’m CERTAIN that tourism companies have never thought of looking to other markets.

My biggest concern here is that you are just giving these ideas away. You should write a book or give speaking tours.

Crowds of Japanese tourists have been coming to [name of town withheld] since 1989, after an entrepreneur looked to the amazing light show and saw more than just flickering space plasma. By 2001, 13,000 tourists, mainly Japanese, were coming North each winter.

The 9-11 terrorist attacks hit the business hard. It has recovered to where 10,200 aurora tourists came to [name of town withheld] last winter, spending millions of dollars along the way.

OK, stop. What do you mean when you say “to where”? I like to proofread my work before I print it 10,000 times and pass it all around the city, but that’s just me.

Everyone should be thankful for the efforts of aurora entrepreneurs, because it's become a huge part of our city's economy. Without their annual trips to Japan and efforts to keep [name of town withheld] on top, this business could easily have been lost.

I think it’s time for a short lesson about pronouns. I love pronouns, because they keep me from having to write phrases like “aurora entrepreneurs” over and over again. However, it’s important to remember that when you use a pronoun, it should match the form of the noun you’re replacing. For example, you can’t use “it” to replace a plural noun like “aurora entrepreneurs”. It would be better to use “they”. In this case, you would change “it’s” (“it has”) to “they’ve” (“they have”). See how easy that was?

That hard work can't end when there's growing competition for aurora bucks.

An American Press article published on the weekend suggests more and more Japanese are flying to Fairbanks, Alaska to see the lights. This year, 3,500 will fly there on 10 direct charter flights to Fairbanks from Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya.

This one’s not really your fault. I mean, how could anyone in the news business know that the world’s largest news agency is called the Associated Press?

[Name of town withheld] can't offer the same direct flight. That would take a longer runway. To get here from Japan involves 24 hours of travel, with stops in Vancouver and Edmonton.

The land to extend the runway to 3,500 metres is available but the dollars aren't. The price tag was estimated at $19 million in 2004. In comparison, Edmonton's longest runway is about 3,400 metres.

[Name of town withheld] council, MLAs and businesses need to press the government to move ahead with the runway extension so we can compete with Fairbanks.

Wait, what? You want to spend $19 million of taxpayers' money (and God only knows how much that figure has increased in the past three years) in hopes that 10 extra flights will come here every year? Is this a joke?

Perhaps airlines can offer charter flights from Vancouver to [name of town withheld] during aurora season. First Air tried, but that was after 9-11. Is it time to try again?

Another fabulous idea. I bet nobody at the airlines has ever thought of tapping this market. Again, my concern is that you are giving these ideas away. Do you know how much money consultants earn?

As well, tourist companies must look to other markets, in Europe and beyond. Let's use aboriginal culture as another drawing card by developing a First Nations cultural centre as part of Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. There, drummers and dancers from around the North can play, slide shows and lectures can take place.

I'm not going to ask what a "tourist company" is or how it might be different from a "tourism company". There are two lessons here. First, you’ll want to use the word “the” in front of the heritage centre’s name. (See how easy that was?) I also think it’s important to review the basics of parallel construction. I like the way you’ve set up the last sentence to use parallel construction, but you seem to be missing part of the sentence. It would be good to have a third example, like “and art can be displayed” or “and crafts can be sold” or “and elders can tell stories”. This creates a nice rhythm and adds power to your argument. I understand that this is generally a problem for you, so I’m trying to help.

Business should not have to do this job alone. Tourism has never been a top priority for our government but it should be because it makes all of us and the bottom line look good.

I understand that commas are confusing. You might want to take some training, so you can be more confident when you need to use punctuation. Fortunately for you, this training is available right here in town at several locations. These training centres are called “elementary schools”. They also provide helpful tips about how to re-write clumsy closing sentences. Not that you need this type of help, of course.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Um, welcome, Del.icio.us users



The 2500th visitor came today around 3:00. This surprised me, because I welcomed my 2,000th visitor just over a week ago, but OK...

It's always tease, tease, tease

Nate, do you remember this song?

They say time can play tricks on a memory…

…make people forget things they knew…

Sorry, that’s one of my favourites. I even have Michael hooked on it. But now I’m totally off topic.

I don’t know that I really have such a great memory, but several family members have mentioned it to me in the past few days.

I have really clear memories of some things, like the rock wall that ran behind our house in Dexter and the rusted tools Nate and I would pull out of it. I remember the shock from the electric fence around the goat yard. I remember the smell of the chicken coop and the taste of the crabapples that grew in the pigpen. And yes, I remember a mix tape of the Heartbreakers and the Clash, and I remember how Nate and I used to sing along, including the introductory whoops to Should I Stay Or Should I Go. I’ll post a video when I get home, and I hope Nate will remember what I’m talking about.

There are some things I can’t remember, though.

I don’t remember how my brother Ben stopped being a seven-year-old and somehow ended up in university. It seems like that happened all at once. I still think of him as a little boy who looks and sounds just like Michael.

I don’t remember how I fell completely out of touch with my cousins and aunt after my aunt and uncle got divorced. I discovered my cousins on MySpace last weekend, and it was really exciting to finally make that contact again. I hope we can keep it going.

I don’t remember when I decided that Steve would be a good guy to have around for the rest of my life.

A cure for depression

I get upset sometimes.

Actually, I tend to fall deep into these funks and don't come back out for days. While in these funks I re-evaluate everything about my life, including my tendency to put on pajamas as soon as I get home from work.

Yes, those are tough times.

Fortunately, I have a secret weapon:

UPDATED: WARNING: Don't push the play button unless you are ready to be hit with a double dose of awesome.

Monday, January 29, 2007

I paid off my student loan today.

Yes, I still have (or had) a student loan. The friendly Government of Canada was anxious to keep me on the hook for as long as possible. As I paid the loan down, they would re-evaluate my payment, so I would still be able to pay them for the full 10 years of the original contract I signed with as much interest as possible.

Five hundred dollars per month turned into four hundred, and then into two hundred and one hundred. The bill that showed up last week was for $37.

About two years ago, Steve and I decided to stop paying it off so quickly. Compared to the interest rate on our credit card, the student loan looks pretty good. But I think I’d rather deal with the credit-card people than the jerks at the student-loan call centre.

I don’t have the energy to remember a $37 bill every month, so we would mail a package of cheques every year. And God forbid we should forget that November is cheque-writing time. The student loan is due on the first of every month. I would get a stern call on the third of the month, demanding payment. These conversations would go something like this:

Government of Canada: I’m calling about your student loan. Your payment is late.
Me: Oh, really? I guess I forgot to mail the package of cheques. I’ll send you another package.
GofC: You currently owe us $37.
Me: Yes, I know. I’ll send you another package of cheques.
GofC: When will we receive payment?
Me: When the package arrives. I’m in the Northwest Territories, so it will probably take a couple of days.
GofC: You owe us $37. You need to make arrangements to pay us right away.
Me: Yes, I just said I would mail you a package of cheques, just like I do every year.
GofC: When will you do that?
Me: Tomorrow, I guess. The post office is closed right now.
GofC: So you’re going to go write those cheques right now?
Me: YES.
GofC: If we do not receive payment, we will take collection action.

I don’t know if these guys spend their days chasing career criminals, but I can’t help but think it must cost them more than $37 to call and harass me into sending payment right away.

Wait, I meant that it must cost ME more than $37. Thanks, Government of Canada.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

A modest proposal

I think I am able to outbid all of my brothers, so here goes:

I am looking for an audio tape with the following recordings:

1) Nate singing "Oh Boy" by Buddy Holly. Actually, I believe the tape has two versions of this song; the second version features back-up vocals by a fellow named Craig Mercer.

2) Matt's spoken-word "My Christmas". ("But here, in Newfoundland, we get TONS of presents!")

3) Benjamin singing "Big Fat Spider". ("Dad, I -- almost. I too small. Dad, get another one.")

4) Nate and Matt singing "Blue Suede Shoes" by Elvis Presley.

This is a rare recording, so I am willing to pay top dollar. Believe me when I say that it will not be a rare recording by the time I am done with it.

I will start the bidding at $50. You know how to contact me if you have this tape.

MySpace update

It turns out that I do not know how to add friends after all.

Is this the sort of program that can only be operated by 12-year-olds and drunk people?

Happy Birthday, Nathan



Oh, and this:

I am a MySpace doofus

MySpace, as all the cool people know, is super awesome.

Sadly, I am not a cool person.

I figured out how to get in, and how to do a search, and how to add friends. Beyond that, I'm stumped. (Perhaps the saddest thing of all is that I only have two "friends", and one of them appears to be the MySpace administrator.)

MySpace appears to be a cross between a blog and an IM service. Am I right? If I'm wrong, what the heck am I supposed to do in there?

It's pretty bad when even the computer geeks think you are a loser.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Is there anything that's NOT on YouTube?

For reasons that will be clearer tomorrow, I have spent some time tonight watching videos of:
1) Weezer
2) Liberal Canadian politicians
3) A Canadian diva

The video-sharing boom is fascinating. We now have access to videos we would never have been able to find a few years ago. I can't help but think that this is an amazing time to be in my line of work.

Steve keeps saying that I should not reveal too many of my personal opinions on the blog (presumably to limit the options for character assassins) so I will stop here. However, if you call me or run into me on the street, I cannot guarantee that I will not expand on this theme at length.

Michael and Grampy



Now that our trip to Florida feels real, we can't stop thinking about it. This is a picture from the BEST. BOAT. RIDE. EVER.

Welcome, Amy

I don't know why I didn't do this earlier, but I have added another person to the links section.

Amy is a friend of mine from work and the reason this blog exists. When I read her blog for the first time last fall, I realized that she had found the solution to the ongoing Northern problem of falling out of touch with the rest of the family. I had been sending pictures through e-mail but that wasn't working very well, and we all hate using the phone.

It wasn't long after that that Amy's blog landed her on the front page of the local paper. (I'm not sure if that link will work for non-subscribers: let me know if you can't access the story. It is particularly nasty, so you might want to forget everything you've ever heard about Christians wanting to keep things in context.) She responded by stripping all of the content from her blog, then putting it all back up, then continuing with the court case -- yes, COURT CASE. This is an issue of some debate here in town. In fact, I've had fairly rowdy discussions with a dear friend of mine about the issue and eventually agreed to disagree.

This is why I call Amy The Famous One. Go take a look at her site.

UPDATED:
The story in the link I've provided is basically a hatchet job. I ought to be clear that I don't agree with its tone and I think this story would have been much better as an analysis of whether the members of public boards should be able to state their opinions in public forums. I would do a LMK-i-A entry about this, but I'm afraid that I would lose my objectivity.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I SUCK

This was a horrible day.

First, a little background.

I am really really really bad at getting to Michael's school functions. I missed a Mother's Day celebration once, early on. I was the only mom who didn't show. After that, Michael became semi-hysterical at any suggestion that I might not be able to come to a school event.

I am usually the last mom to arrive. This is partly because many of the others are stay-at-home moms, which is TOTALLY OKAY and I don't bear them any ill will. Still, it is tough. Events are usually held at lunch time, and I am usually late getting away from work. By the time I show up, all of the other moms are finishing their cucumber sandwiches and Michael is sitting over in the corner all by himself.

The last time there was a special lunch, I was about fifteen minutes late. It was an eat-lunch-with-your-kids event, and I did not have lunch because I had rushed out of the house that morning without packing one. I had packed Michael some leftover pancakes, because we were in a hurry and we were out of the usual lunch stuff. So picture the scene: Dozens of moms, sitting and eating with their kids in a Rockwellesque manner. And then I rush in and discover Michael sitting all alone and eating his pancakes. Worse, the teacher then passed out little sheets of paper and instructed us to write down what we had eaten and list which of the food groups each item was from, so we could easily tell if we had eaten a balanced meal. This was when I realized that all of the other parents had clearly known this was coming and taken great pains to pack extra-healthy items that followed the Canada Food Guide. Michael's lunch did not follow any country's food guide. Obviously, I missed one of the information sheets.

So I was determined not to screw up again.

Today was Family Literacy Day for Michael's entire school. Steve and I heard about it well in advance. We placed our pizza orders on Wednesday, as requested. We read the information sheets. Michael excitedly told us that we could have lunch anywhere in the entire school, and that he was going to pick a really special spot.

Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Steve was taking a course and would be able to leave for lunch. I was on my secret assignment, and I don't think I need to point out that of course everyone else was taking lunch and I would never be missed, plus it's not like I was doing anything over there anyway.

Steve and I made arrangements for him to pick me up at the undisclosed location, assuming he could find me with all of the other important people around. I had the cell phone so we could confirm the plan if needed. ("Turn right at the important woman in the red blazer. Then turn left at the important man with the hat.")

Then Steve's course ran late.

It was 12:05 when he picked me up. We got to the school at 12:15, found a nearby parking spot and ran to the door.

I think we were the last parents in the entire school to arrive. A long line had already formed at the cake table. We rushed down the hall and found Michael dejectedly putting on his coat so he could go outside for recess.

"You're late," he said.

It was true. And there was no excuse. I blinked back the tears and apologised.

Our pizza slices were on a plate labelled "Michael", covered with Saran wrap and set aside. It was the only plate that had been set aside.

Michael barely let go of my hand the rest of the time. We ate our pizza in the gym with other families who were finishing their cake. I blinked a lot.

We were too late for cake. Not that I wanted cake, but Michael did. Not that he really wanted cake, either, in the literal sense.

What's in my MP3 Player?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Political Reporting

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Things that are not really news.

The speculation about the federal election has gone too far. I can't handle it anymore. Yes, I totally GET that you are a reporter and that you work in Ottawa. Sadly, this does not impress me. Let me know when there's going to be an election. Your moronic speculations are not significant, interesting or new. They boil down to this: "There MIGHT be an election!" or "There MIGHT NOT be an election!". *Obvious pause so I can appreciate how smart and "in the know" you are.* Hrm. I'm not sure how this type of news contributes to any sort of national dialogue. I do see how it helps you fill your five-minute news hole at the bottom of the hour, but that is of limited benefit to the 30 million or so people in this country who are not you.

The latest supposed election news from this part of the country is that a variety of local politicians (including the premier) are not ruling out the possibility that they might possibly run in the federal election, or might possibly not. Maybe. The news is abuzz with this story. Please click over and read it. I will wait.

Everybody back? Good. Now, let's evaluate this important piece of political journalism for actual news content. Fortunately for you, I have been following this story, so I know what's new. I will put the new bits in bolded text:

1. The premier is not ruling out the possibility of running. Sorry, this is not news any more than it would be news if he was not ruling out the possibility of ordering pizza for supper.
Suggested course of action: Report on actual news, like that the premier is announcing his candidacy. Or, you know, ISN'T.

2. People who are with the Liberal Party and people who are with the Conservative Party have asked the premier about running. I'm not sure what this means. Has he been formally courted by two political parties? Or did people on the street who vote Liberal ask him if he is going to run? Is this the real story? He's so popular that both teams want him?
Suggested course of action: Ask a follow-up question to really get to the difficult issues here. I recommend using a really piercing question like "Can you explain what you mean by that?".

3. There is speculation that the premier has joined the Conservatives, but he won't confirm or deny that. He says he will not run as an independent. Okay, I'm not sure what to do with this. What are you trying to say? Who is speculating about the premier's political ideology? Is this like the time you quoted your neighbour as an "insider" because you wanted to look really cool? Shouldn't you be more surprised at the fact that you apparently are not able to look at the premier's political record and figure out for yourself if he is likely to be a Conservative?
Suggested course of action: Figure out what you're trying to say here. Then say that. Actually, say anything but this.

I'm wondering if the point of this story was not in any of the new (but non-news) bits above. I suspect that the real purpose of this story was to set up some confusion and then slip the last paragraph in. The one that mentions casually that the former premier wants to run as a Liberal (this is not news either, but in this case, it's not news because it has already been reported). You see, this sets up a new/old Conservative/Liberal showdown. How exciting! Or at least it would be if, you know, the hypothetical candidate decided to run as a hypothetical Conservative in the hypothetical federal election. Or if, you know, the reporter would be a little more open about this suggestion. Or if -- this is just crazy talk now -- the reporter would wait until there was a real story to report before rushing to air with this silliness.

I do not mean to pick on the CBC here. Everyone appears to be doing this story, and nobody is doing a very good job of it. I say this with the greatest respect for the CBC reporter who called me today and addressed me as Little Miss Know-it-All.

This might be a good place to mention that I do not do these media critiques out of any level of dislike for the media. I do them out of a sincere appreciation for the role of the media in our society and out of the affection I feel for most of the reporters I deal with. I do them because I know the media can do better. And I do them because it seems like nobody else is doing the same thing. Everyone's a media critic these days, but this often seems to come from a sense of entitlement, anger or snobbery rather than a sincere desire to see the situation improve.

A simple observation


Man, I adore my site meter.

You know what else I adore? My brothers' site meters. They reinforce my belief that I, personally, am responsible for whatever success they might enjoy. For example, it appears that most of Nate's visitors get to his blog through mine. I ought to be charging him a click fee. I am the American Idol of the family's blogs. Most people have to earn the level of fame that comes automatically when a person is added to my links list. Granted, this is partly because many of my fans are in institutions and wear special restraining devices, but I think it's partly because I am just awesome.

Nate is probably used to this kind of reflected glory. I note that he is doing all he can to show up in Google search results for "Justin Timberlake".

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Be vewwy vewwy quiet

News

I will get to the details of my exciting new life in a moment, but I have to mention one thing first.

As you know, I've been trying to give up my grammar-correcting ways.

I braced myself when I found out that a new anti-smoking law came into effect a couple of days ago. I was certain (with good reason, I think) that people would be "fuming" all over the news coverage, and then I would have no choice but to pull out my beheading knife.

I listened to the news on Monday morning. No fuming.

I bought the paper on Monday morning. No fuming.

I watched the news Monday night. No fuming.

Today was the real test. Today's paper would be the first chance for reporters who had found one or two smokers who were mildly annoyed about having to buy their cancer sticks from behind a curtain.

You will never guess what happened.

Not one person was fuming. A few people were mildly annoyed.

I think you know where I'm going with this.

Obviously, this is due to my diligence. My efforts have paid off. Clearly, I can't stop now.

LITTLE MISS KNOW-IT-ALL IS BACK!!!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Update #4

My name is Megan, and it has been 63 hours since I last attacked someone for abusing the English language.

I feel all giddy and night-before-Christmas-y. I am very proud of myself. By shrewdly closing my door and reading The Washington Post, I have avoided all temptation to correct grammar. This could be a good plan.

The best part is that my secret assignment starts in two hours. I have always known that I am better than the rest of you, but now I have certain proof.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Pagan Hell Poems

TAKE THAT, RUTLAND!!!

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...

Update #3

GODDAMMIT I CAN'T HANDLE THIS TODAY!!!

I've bitten all of my fingernails to the quick, eaten five chocolate bars and smoked three cigarettes.

Glen, I can't take this kind of stress. Not today.

Update #2

You know those weird LSD-inspired pictures with hidden 3-D images? The ones you can only see by crossing your eyes, uncrossing them, standing on one leg and holding a leprechaun behind your back?

Yeah, you know what I mean.

I can’t see the damn things. (Yeah, I SAID DAMN! Leave me alone. I’m in withdrawal over here.)

I will sit there for twenty minutes staring at the odd squiggles, unable to see anything but odd squiggles, and then someone will walk up behind me and say something like Whoa, that’s the coolest spaceship I’ve ever seen! And the aliens! They’ve captured L. Ron Hubbard! Quick, alert Tom Cruise!

And even with the benefit of knowing what I’m supposed to look for, I can never see them.

Yes, this is all relevant. Shut up. I’ll get to my point when I’m good and ready, thank you very much. Where the hell are those cigarettes I bought during my lunch break?

A friend of mine gave his blog a title that apparently has some secret meaning, and I cannot figure out what it is. The problem is made worse by the fact that other people seem to be able to get it with little or no effort. What, am I stupid or something? One of my bosses keeps popping into my office with mysterious tips like “You’re thinking in the wrong way” or “Don’t worry about thinking outside the box – think in a different box.”

Update

My name is Megan, and it has been 39 hours since I last attacked someone for abusing the English language.

So far, I appear to be doing well. I suffered a mild panic attack while reading the editorial page (run-on sentences AND sentence fragments, homophone confusion, comma misuse and a blustery editorial that stops mid-sentence for no apparent reason) but recovered fairly quickly.

Five minutes at a time.

A new leaf

My name is Megan, and I'm a grammar freak. It has been 35 hours since I last attacked someone for abusing the English language.

*Pause*

What, I don't get a cheer and applause? You cheer for the crack addicts, but not me? Thanks for nothing.

Five minutes at a time. Five minutes at a time.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Jihad (struggle)

I am trying really hard to be less judgmental about the English language. I was even mentally composing a post about Britney Spears' vagina, hoping it would be taken as a good-faith gesture, but the capitalist beat me to it. (No joke.)

Once again, it has come to my attention that people think I am a grammar freak. My own brothers have linked to my blog with titles like Grammar Beast. Thanks a lot, guys.

I bear some responsibility for this. Just yesterday, I became somewhat unglued when the philosopher king used the word "impacted" incorrectly. I have apologized, but I am wondering if I may need to make reparations to society.

A few idle comparisons

Yes, I know that my definitions of "north" and "south" are different from yours.

South: Hey, this is a DAY-OLD BAGEL! What a rip-off! I want my money back!
North: Wow, there are only two mouldy spots on this bagel.

South: GODDAMMIT! Eighty cents a litre for gasoline? WTF?
North: Did the shipment of gasoline come in yet?

South: *peers through window suspiciously* Are those guns on the neighbour's porch?
North: *peers through window suspiciously* Is that the back half of a caribou wrapped up in a blanket on the neighbour's porch next to the guns?

South: I refuse to buy these strawberries. Some of them are dented.
North: I need to buy more of these strawberries. I only had to throw a few of them away.

South: When you cooked this meat, did you use a meat thermometer?
North: When you prepared this meat, did you butcher it outside on a piece of cardboard, with flies buzzing all around? Has it been refrigerated at any time in the last four days?

South: I can't sleep at night because of the sirens.
North: I can't sleep at night because of the ski-doos, the squawking ravens and the barking dogs.

South: I can't afford a trip to Mexico. It's $200 per person.
North: I can't afford a trip to Mexico. It's $700 per person just to get to Edmonton.

South: OHMIGOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT??? SHOOT IT BEFORE IT COMES CLOSER!
North: Is it just me, or are there a lot of bison on the road today?

South: Man, I'm exhausted from shopping all day.
North: Excuse me, I'm trying to give you money in exchange for goods and services. Would anyone like to take my money?

South: When does the sun go down?
North: The sun goes down in summer?

South: I wish our trees were greener.
North: I wish we had trees.

South: I'm tired of working 70-hour weeks.
North: What, you go to work when you're tired?

Starry night, city lights coming down over me


People in the south have told me that they've seen the aurora before.

This is probably true. I've read that once in every ten years or so, you can even see it in Mexico. You can probably get a glimpse of it in southern Canada on clear nights when conditions are right.

But I think this is the best place to see it.

There seems to be a longer viewing season further north, but searching for it is far from fun. It is so cold that your boogers freeze. There's an ice fog. It's hard to drive out of town to look for the lights from your vehicle, because not only is your oil solidifying, but your tires seem to freeze to the road. You stay home with the thermostat cranked up (because at least half of the heat is lost through the windows) and ignore the aurora.

Tourism is huge here, especially for Japanese tour groups, all desperate for a peek at the aurora. The first time I saw one, I couldn't believe my eyes. We were in the airport, and I counted 31 Japanese people walking together and wearing the same outfit. One of my friends explained that the tour company meets the tourists at the airport and provides the winter gear. This made slightly more sense.

I've never been to Japan, but from everything I've heard, it seems like the opposite of Canada, especially this part of it. The tourists I've spoken to always remark that the territory is really big and really spread-out. This is true. We are 40,000 people in over a million square kilometers of bear country. In this town of 20,000 residents, we pretend that we are a city, but that's really a joke. We've just managed to carve out a few paved roads between the rocks, trees and aurora.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Everybody's talking about the same thing

Okay, this is just weird.

The Blueberry Princess
The Anarchist
The Famous One

UPDATED TO ADD: The Associated Press

Idolatry

No, Uriel is not back. American Idol is back.

Specifically, the cringe-inducing first rounds are back.

I have heard that the early episodes of the show, featuring the bad singers, are more popular than the middle rounds that weed the contestants down to five or so. This is sickening. Can it be true? Would people really rather watch this:

than this:

?

[This is a Canadian clip, featuring my favourite performer from all of the Idol shows. Sorry about exposing you to Ben Mulroney. He is hard to avoid. Believe me, I've tried.]

These must be the same people who actually enjoy watching strangers yell random numbers at briefcases. This is not good programming, people!

The endless parade of bad singers is mind-numbing. I can't stand to watch for long, and certainly not for weeks on end. How many times can you watch Simon roll his eyes? It's amazingly boring. I already know what I'm going to see: two dozen bad singers (mostly performance artists or wanna-be actors looking for some TV time, a few genuinely sad people who may or may not have developmental disabilities) and one or two people who actually have some potential but who I won't really get to see for weeks.

Listen up, Fox network: I'm a woman between the ages of 25 and 34, I have a decent income and I've got enormous jugs. I'm pretty sure all of those things count for something in your world. Stop giving us bad programming. I know your stuff isn't all bad: you did bring us Arrested Development, after all. I believe there is still good in you. Search your feelings.

Friday, January 19, 2007

It’s like a scrum in here

OK, I have received an unusual number of questions over the past few days and will make an effort to answer them in no particular order:

Are you all right? Yes, I am fine. Thanks for asking.

Why do you hate our country? Unless you’re referring to Reba McEntire, I don’t hate your country. I do get annoyed about things like taxes, freedom of speech, crime, freedom of the press, and so on. These issues are common throughout the planet and do not reflect my feelings about any particular country. Sorry.

What’s with the self-flagellation? You must not have any siblings. This is a hilarious joke to play on your younger brother. You overpower him, grab his hand and force him to hit his own face with it. Yell “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”. Don’t stop until he cries. As you can imagine, this is hilarious.

ihave this rash can u check it? EW. No.

Are you in trouble for something you’ve written? Nope. If anything, I am too wimpy to really speak my mind. Sorry you misread that entry. That one’s probably my fault.

Do you really drink Newfie screech? Yes. Next question.

No, seriously. Seriously.

What the heck is that picture of the soldiers? That is part of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington – you have probably seen the big black wall with the names. I like the look on their faces: tired, apprehensive, determined. (Sorry, Cindy.)

Is your brother Nate really an uggo? Nah, usually not.

Are you this mean in person? I am assuming that you want to know whether I correct my friends’ grammar during girls’ nights out. No, I don’t, unless I’m specifically asked.

Where did you learn so much grammar? I read books. This is the same way you learned how to speak English: nobody gave you lessons, you just picked it up from people around you.

What, are you a Fleetwood Mac fan or something? Oh dear. Yes, I guess so.

I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills

It can't be that hard to find jobs in warm parts of the world, can it? CAN IT???

Breaking news

I have a lot of magazine subscriptions, but I always look forward to the arrival of Consumer Reports.

This month's issue has a feature on doctors. There is a sidebar: Patients and doctors sound off. It details the most common complaints about each.

What bugs patients about doctors?
Kept me waiting for 30 minutes or longer: 24%
Could not schedule an appointment within a week: 19%
Spent too little time with me: 9%
Didn't get me test results promptly: 7%
Didn't respond to my phone calls promptly: 6%

My American readers are nodding quietly and thinking Man, that's terrible service. My Canadian readers are already trying to find out how to contact Consumer Reports so they can convince these doctors to take over their primary care.

Seriously, 19% of American patients say that sometimes they can't get appointments within a week??? I can't remember the last time I called the clinic and they 1) answered the phone, 2) told me I could see a doctor and 3) scheduled an appointment within a week.

Steve, by the way, wants to put an ad in the newspaper to ask for a primary-care doctor.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Mandal Man is dead to me.

I'm sure that dozens of you have Ben's blog bookmarked.

I know, the whining about having to get up at 6:30 is fascinating. I myself go there several times a day. I never know what he will complain about next: having to make his own sandwiches or having to do his own laundry.

Anyway, Ben has moved his blog. Update your bookmarks. I've updated the links list.

Another milestone

I knew I would probably reach my 2,000th visitor today.

I thought that I ought to do something nice for this person. Maybe surprise him or her with a drink.

I kept an eye on my site meter, which has been dreadfully slow for over a week now.

Around 4pm, I was able to determine that the 2,000th visitor had come to my site at 9:22:02 this morning and was...using a computer on my employer's network.

It was me.

STUPID STUPID STUPID. Can't I do anything right? I can't even do a 2,000th-visitor celebration without screwing it up. I totally suck. Why am I hitting myself? Why am I hitting myself? Why am I hitting myself?

FINE.

The 2,0001st visitor came 43 seconds later, at 9:22:45. This person is using a Mac, is on the SaskTel network and has my site bookmarked. I think I know who it is. If you identify yourself and can prove your identity, I will buy you a drink.

Until then, I'm going to stay over here in the corner.

Excellent.

Nate is back from his trip to the place he calls "the north".

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Justices' (Justices's?) decision

The U.S. Supreme Court weighs in.

Statistics

This is my 250th post.

This is my 110th day.

I have received 160 comments.

There have been 1,971 visits to my site since I put on the site counter.

Old at being young, young at being old


It always seemed to me that adults knew what they were doing. They always knew how to fix a skinned knee, how to cook fiddleheads, how long I would be in what we now call “time out”.

Given that, it was reasonable to think that with age, I would also know exactly what to do in every situation.

I had no idea that it was all ad-libbed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Punmanship

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Puns.

You know how I feel about cliches. Well, the pun is like the cliche's annoying friend. Cliches are lazy, but puns are even worse, because people put a lot of effort into developing them. I am somewhat forgiving when the person realizes how horrible the pun is, but when there is an obvious pause to allow the audience to appreciate the writer's greatness, my grip tightens on my beheading knife.

This morning, Steve and I were listening to the radio, which is how we learned about a "minor" issue in the mining industry. Yes. It was so obvious that Steve noticed it. A few hours later, I was reading an online newspaper and learned that two people had been set on fire after an argument in Toronto. The comments section included cute observations like "Sounds like a heated argument", "Hot off the press" and "The heat of the moment can burn you up". Pause for dramatic effect.

Let's forget the part where a man doused a woman with gasoline and set her on fire. I'm sure the authorities will deal with him. No, think about this heinous assault on the English language. Who will protect our children from this alarming trend?

Fear not, noble reader. I have been undercover.

Some undercover agents infiltrate crack gangs; others join terrorist organizations and place bulk orders for fertilizer. I, on the other hand, have spent some time at PunOfTheDay.com. I assure you, this has been a rough ride. There is a "Funniest Puns" section, and I am concerned that Chris Rock's day job might be in danger. The three funniest puns, as determined by readers, are:

  1. I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
  2. Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He's all right now.
  3. I couldn't quite remember how to throw a boomerang, but it came back to me.
Take a break. I'm sure you have been laughing so hard that you will have to mop your brow and catch your breath. I'll wait.

Everyone back? Good.

I make an effort to be extra helpful, so I thought I would provide some useful tips about how to avoid inadvertent punning:

People who are hung over are not ale-ing.
Podiatrists do not heel foot injuries.
The Canadian twoonie does not feature the Queen with a bear behind.
When you go through sequences of shock, you are not phased.
Prostitutes in the Arctic are not hoars.

I'll just pause to let you recognise my greatness.

Heh, heh. If I worked in the sewer drains, you could recognise my grateness. See how smooth that was? Don't try this at home. I am a trained writer.

For the philosopher king


I am posting this photo as a good-faith gesture. I am probably not the best judge, since I think my brother usually looks a lot like me, but I think this is a nice photograph. He was actually the best-looking person in this picture, so I cropped out the uggos.

Matt has complained that I do not post any nice pictures of him. This is not entirely fair. I have only posted a few pictures of him.

These photos are from our trip to Florida a year ago. If it helps, I do not particularly like the way I look in the first photo. I will defend the second one, though: I love that you can see the relationship developing between Michael and his newfound uncle.

Matt gave me the first photo in this post, so he really should not complain.

And as for this photo, well...*grins* (as he would say). It took a lot of digging to find this picture from my wedding reception. I'm reliably informed that I missed the most exciting parts of my wedding night, so this is the most embarrassing photo I could find from that evening. Under the circumstances, I could have done a lot worse. :)

Monday, January 15, 2007

Too far?

I have received many phone calls, e-mails and comments about the things I write. Naturally, I have a large number of adoring fans, but they are often concerned that others will not like what I have written. It is sweet of them to worry that other people are not quite cool enough to get the joke. I appreciate the concern.

Specifically, I have been warned about a potential backlash from:
* Canadians
* Americans
* The left wing
* The right wing
* Professional writers
* Professional talkers
* Unprofessional writers
* Gay people
* Straight people
* Christians
* Non-Christians

I am not sure if this is because I am mean to everyone or because I am not as nice to some people as they might personally like. I have not received any indication that anyone is personally offended (although I do get a lot of "someone ELSE might not like this") so it is hard to know if this is just our good old Canadian sensitivities at play.

HA! HA! I meant American sensitivities, of course. Canadians don't get offended on behalf of others. And they have fabulous senses of humour.

A friend and I were talking about this tonight: to blog or not to blog? How do you know when you should put something out for the whole world to see? How do you know when it's best to keep it inside your head?

50 questions

I have a friend who keeps sending me these things, so these are my responses once and for all. This is the END.

1. Your name spelled backwards? Nagem. I like this almost as much as my real name.

2. Where were your parents born? My dad was born in New York (Long Island, I think) and my mom was born in Maine.

3. What's your favorite restaurant? I don't think I have one. I go to the pub across the street from my office quite a lot, though. It is the only place in town that serves Newfie Screech. They keep it behind the bar, and when I come in, the waitress asks me how many shots I want.

4. Last time you swam in a pool? Jan 2, for Michael's birthday party.

5. Have you ever been in a school play? Of course. I was very good at memorizing lines, was a decent singer and always liked to be the centre of attention.

6. How many kids do you want? WANT...um...I think it would be safest to say "one".

7. Type of music you dislike most? I really hate those gospel-chorus CDs Steve has. Actually, I despise them. At the first strain of "Our GAAAAAWD is an awesome GAAAAAWD" I have a sore on my finger from jabbing the "change disk" button.

8. Are you registered to vote? Yes, I think so. I can't vote here, but I'm pretty sure I have been a registered Republican for the past 11 years.

9. Do you have cable? Yes. And satellite. Two satellite dishes, in fact. Steve probably has a good explanation for this.

10. Have you ever ridden on a moped? Is that one of those gas-powered bikes? No way. I love my bike, but it is leg-powered.

11. Ever prank call anybody? Of course, when I was younger.

12. Ever get a parking ticket? Yes. I got a ticket about two and a half years ago for parking on the sidewalk. In my own defense, they don't plow the roads here, so the road is at the same level as the sidewalk. Move over a couple of inches, and you are parking on the sidewalk. They had me. I was definitely guilty.

13. Would you go bungee jumping or sky diving? You must be confusing me with someone who is cool.

14. Furthest place you've ever traveled? Ulukhaktok, NWT to the north. Orlando, Florida to the south. St. John's, Newfoundland to the east. Old Crow, Yukon to the west.

15. Do you have a garden? I have a lawn. It takes up so much effort that there's no way I could ever garden. Some nice arctic poppies grow along the edges of the lawn.

16. What's your favorite comic strip? Calvin and Hobbes. I own all of the book collections.

17. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem? Yes. I know O Canada and the Star-Spangled Banner.

18. Bath or Shower, morning or night? Morning shower.

19. Best movie you've seen in the past month? Oh, crap. I only watch Michael's movies. Don't make me admit to watching Attack of the Clones five times in the last month. Wait, wait! I have all of the Arrested Development episodes on DVD. I vote for the Pier Pressure episode from the first season. This episode has everything: Liza with a Z, drugs, strippers ("Oh no, it's the cops! And a construction worker!"), lost limbs, and yet another incest reference. Good times.

20. Favorite pizza topping? Ham and pineapple should not taste good on pizza, but somehow they do.

21. Chips or popcorn? I really dislike popcorn. I am not a huge fan of chips, either, unless they come with Cindy's pickle dip. Another thing that should not taste good but somehow does.

22. What color lipstick do you usually wear? I don't. I have this all-natural lip balm that is white, so my lips look light pink. I'm not sure if that counts. When my lips are peeling, changing their colour is the least of my concerns.

23. Have you ever smoked peanut shells? I had no idea you could do this. This is like the time you told me about the banana skins, isn't it?

24. Have you ever been in a beauty pageant? As if.

25. Orange Juice or apple? I like both.

26. Who was the last person you went out to dinner with and where did you dine? Steve's parents, Steve, Michael and I went to Pizza Hut a couple of weeks ago.

27. Favorite type chocolate bar? I don't eat these that often, but Three Musketeers has always been my favourite type OF chocolate bar. (Were these questions written by a person who didn't speak English?)

28. When was the last time you voted at the polls? Never. I can't vote in Canada and it's too much work to get an absentee ballot for the American elections.

29. Last time you ate a homegrown tomato? I don't like tomatoes. I may have eaten one years ago, to please my grandmother. So let's say it's been 20 years.

30. Have you ever won a trophy? No trophies. I won a premier's award for excellence about a year ago, though.

31. Are you a good cook? I think so. I cook a lot of rice dishes.

32. Do you know how to pump your own gas? Nope. I hardly ever need to get gas, so I don't feel bad about giving the poor schmuck an extra dollar to pump it.

33. Ever order an article from an infomercial? NO. It is all I can do to keep Steve from buying things from the shopping network. He actually turns it on to watch it. And not just in the middle of the night, either. I will walk into the living room in the morning and he will be watching some moron try to sell blenders. I hate commercials and have no idea why a person would sit and watch an entire show that was nothing but an ad. This is also why I stopped watching talk shows: I started feeling like they were blatant hour-long ads for various companies.

34. Sprite or 7-up? I can't tell the difference.

35. Have you ever had to wear a uniform to work? Nope.

36. Last thing you bought at a pharmacy? I picked up some carbamazepine for my epilepsy this afternoon.

37. Ever throw up in public? Not in public, technically.

38. Would you prefer being a millionaire or find true love? I really don't want to be a millionaire. I am sure that millionaires are constantly harassed for money.

39. Do you believe in love at first sight? Nope.

40. Ever call a 1-900 number? Nope.

41. Can ex's be friends? You mean "exes", right? Don't make me pull out my beheading knife.

42. Who was the last person you visited in a hospital? Cindy, after she had her latest baby. I spent most of a day in the hospital with Michael when he had his surgery, but I don't think that counts as a visit.

43. Did you have a lot of hair when you were a baby? I don't know. I don't have any pictures of myself as a baby.

44. What message is on your answering machine? "Hi, you've reached Megan at the [name of workplace withheld]. Bonjour, vous avez rejoint Megan au [name of workplace withheld]. I'm in the office, but away from my desk right now. Please leave me a message. I will call you back. Je peux vous aider en francais par l'intermediare d'interprete."

45. What's your all time favorite Saturday Night Live Character? I don't think I have one. I particularly enjoyed the show in the early '90s: Dana Carvey, Chris Rock, Phil Hartman, Mike Myers, David Spade, Al Franken.

46. What was the name of your first pet? We never had pets. I don't know if farm animals count; if so, we had two goats called Snowmoon and Salluce. A third goat came later, but I don't remember her name. There were a couple of kids for a while, but I am guessing that my dad sold them. We also had pigs, which my dad called Lunch and Dinner, 75 chickens and a couple of rabbits.

47. What is in your purse? My wallet, lots of pens, cold meds, gum, stickers, temporary tattoos, and a recent pay stub. I'm sure if I dug down deep I'd find a ton of receipts from the pub across the street from my office.

48. Favorite thing to do before bedtime? I cannot sleep without reading. The floor on my side of the bed is littered with books and old magazines.

49. What's the last thing you downloaded from your computer? I think you mean TO my computer. I suppose that would be the MSN software, which I use to chat with Glen and Stacey. They do not like Yahoo Messenger, which is the chat program my entire family uses. The last thing I uploaded from my computer is the blog post right below this one.

50. What's the one thing you are grateful for today? I am grateful for my fuzzy socks. It is -41 today and I am a very unhappy person when my feet are cold.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I've got something to say but nothing comes



Little Earthquakes was one of the first tapes I bought with my own money. This video was the first I had ever seen of Tori Amos, and I remember thinking that it looked different than all of the other music videos I had seen on MTV and VH1. (This was more than 15 years ago: MTV played mostly music videos at that time.) The image of her rolling in the box has stuck with me.

Steve likes to annoy me, so he referred to Tori as a "PK" last night. If you know what that is, please don't say so. I like to imagine that my readers are much cooler than I am, so I can bask in the reflected glow. I've heard a lot about PKs, mostly because I am one.

"PK" stands for "preacher's kid". The only people who use this phrase are people who are convinced that they are very cool. These people will often have tattoos that say "Jesus Freak" and bumper stickers that say "Lead Guitarist For My Man J.C.". I really wish this was a joke.

In any case, I've always hated the term. It pretends to be descriptive, but in fact is no more descriptive than "postal worker's kid". Trust me, I know lots of preachers' kids. Some are desperate to distinguish themselves, but not in larger numbers than, say, the children of teachers or police officers or other authority figures. Just ask my dad and his brothers.

Welcome, Fisher


I call her "Fisher" because her first name is Meaghan. This is difficult for me on a number of levels: it is obviously spelled wrong, I think it may be pronounced wrong, and if I am in a pub with her (who am I kidding? IF?) it creates confusion for the drunk people around us. Calling her Fisher solves the problem.

This caricature is actually more accurate than most of the photos I've seen of her. She usually smiles for photos, which doesn't capture the frustration that is usually on her face. It is the best one I've done: I like the caricature of my family on my profile, but this one does the best job of accurately portraying the person.

Fisher has had a blog for a while now (longer than me, in fact) but posts would appear sporadically. I thought this was because she kept getting drunk and falling on her head, but apparently her posts were getting eaten. Welcome to Blogger, Fisher. You can pull all of your old posts over and give them the correct dates by messing with the Post Options button.

Well, this is just great.

Big Union is forcing me into mediation. They are troubled by my criticism.

They have said something nice about me. Apparently, I am responsible for relatively little oppression, am a woman, and own the right kind of lawn mower, although they would prefer that I seed my lawn with local greenery that would not need to be mowed.

Now it is my turn to say something nice about them. Hoo boy.

Big Union, it is great that you protect people from being fired. Otherwise, where would incompetent people work? Wait a minute, maybe I shouldn't lead with that.

Big Union, thanks for insisting that employers follow existing laws, like the ones that protect people from discrimination. I never would have thought of that on my own. Wait, that won't work either.

I have to admit that unions are responsible for the current working world. Weekends, eight-hour workdays and safety regulations exist because of unions. In a way, it is not nice for me to criticise them when I am a beneficiary of everything unions have done over the past 100 years. But I cannot help but think that they have outlived their usefulness.

Working for the weekend

This will come as no surprise, but I am not a huge fan of unions.

I chatted with a former co-worker the other day. In what will likely prove to be a fruitless attempt to slow the guessing game, I will tell you that we have both moved on to new jobs and then newer jobs (plural). It is not easily guessable or relevant, so don't bother.

She told me about the endless struggle for dominance at her office. How motives are always questionable. That work is never stable and could end with little notice. I cannot help but think that after ten years with the same employer, it is not nice to keep an employee on contract work. Thanks a lot, anonymous union and management.

I distrust unions and have little love for top management in labour issues. I believe that things like salary and benefits are largely self-correcting: companies that don't give their staff appropriate salaries and benefits will soon find themselves looking for new staff. You don't need a union to get in the way.

I actually had this discussion with my boss a while ago. My employer determines salary according to a complicated chart that considers job duties, expertise, etc. The idea is to be fair, and I'm generally in favour of that. But it seems a bit odd to have the union involved in deciding what a position should be paid. I would think that the market could decide that without any help from the union. Potential candidates can decide for themselves if the salary is good enough, thank you very much. A job that doesn't offer an appropriate salary won't get decent applicants. If I don't like my job or its compensation, I will find a new job that suits me better.

This works well in my industry, where there are fewer decent candidates than positions. But my former co-worker is in an industry that is, as far as human resources are concerned, like a crack gang. The rewards are huge near the top. The guys at the bottom are just paying bribes and trying to scratch their way further up the ladder. And the employers know it. They pay low wages, avoid providing benefits and keep all of the staff wondering how long they will have their jobs. If there is a union, it protects the people at the top and in the middle of the ladder, not the serfs at the bottom.

Steve pointed out that all employers would do this if they could get away with it. I don't doubt that that's true. But the unions and the staff are partly to blame for keeping the cycle going. If people refused to take a day of work here and two days of work there, if they told the hiring managers that $10 an hour isn't enough, if they insisted on vacations and health benefits, the industry would have to change.

I have to believe this. I have to believe that the employees ultimately have more power than the employer. I can't understand why they allow themselves to be treated this way, thinking it will ultimately get them further up the ladder.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Delurking


Apparently, this is Delurking Week.

That means that bloggers like me are hassling lurkers like you to use the comments box. Say hello. Don't pretend you're not out there. My tracking software has given you away:

Someone asked me to include a map that would show where my visitors come from. I already have one of those, but you might not have noticed it. There is a little green rectangle at the bottom of every page - if you click it, you can see where the last 100 visitors are from. Click on "By World Map" under "Recent Visitors" on the left side of the screen. From there, you can click on "100" to see the last 100 visitors. You can also view the hits from a particular continent. Since my blog is set to private, I don't get hits from all over the world, just North America.

For some reason, the software has been running a couple of hours behind for the past couple of days, but it will give you an idea of who has been here.

Now that we know WHERE you are, it's up to you to tell us a little more about WHO you are. I think I've done my part when it comes to telling you about myself.

There's going to be a wedding

Homeward Bound

Much like another short (although much more famous and hairy-toed) person, I wish to make an ANNOUNCEMENT. I am leaving, although this is not the END, I am not going NOW, and I do not plan to disappear with a flash.

Yes, I am a total geek.

We are going here:


This is Disney World, and those are my parents with Michael. This trip has been planned for almost a year (since our last visit to Florida, in fact) but has just become reality in the last 24 hours or so with the purchase of airline tickets. We are all very excited. I am hoping that two weeks in Florida will convince Steve that we should move to a warmer part of the world.

After our time in Florida, Michael and I will be going to a wedding. Whose wedding, you ask?


That's Matt with Michael. You remember Matt the philosopher king, right? Matt and the blueberry princess are getting married in April. I booked a month of vacation time ages ago so we would be able to go to Disney World and then to the wedding, but with the insane price of airplane tickets it looked like that might not happen.

This will be my first visit to Maine in six years. I haven't seen any of my extended family since then.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Excuse me while I kiss this guy

Michael was singing with gusto tonight:

Jump in my car
And you're so lame
Fifteen girls in ballet


Yeah, I was confused too.

It turns out that Michael is a Bon Jovi fan, but he can't figure out what they are singing. It is probably all for the best.

A is for apple pie, B is for bear

This will be short. We are heading to Cindy's husband's goodbye party in a moment.

Glen has responded to my challenge to rewrite the world's worst news story into something that resembles the English language. Check it out here. He has made me promise not to critique it -- he claims that I am on a journalism jihad.

This is partly true. And if I were to behead anyone, I would start at the copy desk. There are supposed to be multiple lines of defense at a newspaper:

Reporters
report. That means they research stories, decide what to include and package a story into an appropriate form. Usually, they are supposed to know how to write. (A girl can dream, right?)

Editors edit. They do this at several stages: by turning down bad story pitches, by providing direction to reporters, and by cutting bad copy out of stories. Usually, they are also expected to know how to write.

It is the noble and oft-misunderstood copy editor who is responsible for fixing a reporter's grammar. These people are angels who work behind the scenes. They fix spelling errors. They make sure that reporters follow the newspaper's stylebook. God love 'em, they even keep an eye out for rogue commas. At some publications, they clean up bad writing, lay out pages and write headlines (or "heds").

Copy editors are hired because they know how to use the English language. They can recognize a run-on sentence. They know what a subordinate clause is. And for crying out loud, THEY KNOW HOW TO USE A HYPHEN!!!

What happened? Are the copy editors on strike?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Muslims around the world are known for their sense of humour

(Shouldn't that be "senses of humour"?)



If there's one thing you can say about Newfoundland outports, it is that they have a really diverse population. Hindus rub shoulders with Muslims. This exposed me to a very broad range of cultures when I was growing up.

KIDDING.

I grew up in a place where people argued bitterly over which brand of Christianity is best. This is sort of like arguing about whether ivory paint is better than white paint, but this appears to be working for them.

King's is a notoriously white university, but was at least more cosmopolitan than Bay Roberts. That's where I met Muslims for the first time. (What a geeky thing to say. It's true.)

My friend Tez referenced her religion from time to time, mostly when she was feeling terrible about herself. She would give us a list of "shalt nots" and explain how she had violated each one, often repeatedly, often within the same evening. She eventually dealt with the guilt by not going to chapel with me anymore. (Not mosque. Chapel.)

But it was Rehab who really defined herself by her religion. Actually, she was determined to establish herself as distinct from the rest of us in several ways. She was originally from Egypt, and although she had lived in Canada for years, she continually described herself as a stranger in a strange land. We all knew when it was Ramadan, because we heard A LOT about fasting. When she started doing Arabic-language reporting for Radio-Canada International, she asked me to critique her delivery and let her know if she was speaking too quickly. (I tried to explain that since I did not speak Arabic, I would not be able to do a critique. Silly me.) She would talk about how she did not understand certain things about Canadian culture. Most memorably, she once asked our class what a cow looked like.

This was well before Muslims became easy targets for weirdos. As a good Canadian, I would like to be able to say that I am a citizen of the world and totally understand other cultures and religions, but that's just not true.

The MotherCorp has a new show about Muslim life in a small Prairie town. It is so overhyped that it is next to impossible to live in Canada and not know about it, but this will probably be news to my American readers. Apparently this is the first-ever North American comedy about Muslims. Entertainment reporters are comparing it to Corner Gas, the #1 Canadian comedy, but this is sort of like comparing Sex and the City to CSI: New York just because they are both set in the same city. The new show is funny, but I feel like it's trying too hard. The pilot episode is also very CBC: it takes potshots at Toronto, its authority figures are reliably red-necked and it has a warm ending (the imam and the Anglican priest agree that they can work together for good instead of evil, awwwwwwww).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Read between the lines

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How to write a really awesome news story.

I swear to God that I did not make this up. This may seem hard to believe, especially after last week's fake editorial, but I promise that this is real. My analysis is in bolded text.

Chillin' on Youtube

Awesome headline, man. You are SO ROCKIN'. I'm digging the sly reference to life in the Arctic and the way you've artfully misspelled the name of the company you're writing about. It makes me think that I am, like, ACTUALLY on the Internet. Well played.

[Name withheld]
[Name of news service withheld]

[Name of town withheld] (Jan 10/07) - Winter nights must be getting long when surfing youtube.com becomes one's pastime.

I am protecting the guilty here. Never say that I am unkind.

Now, on to the lead (or "lede", as some purists spell it). That is a great trick: writing about boredom in a boring way. I already feel like I'm bored! They say only the great writers can achieve this. My hat is already off to you, sir.


Started in February 2005 by some California kids, the Youtube website became an overnight sensation by allowing anyone and everyone to post and download video-footage -- homemade or bootlegged -- all for free. A year and a half later Google purchased the site for $1.65 billion.

While Google is hammering out the legality of providing bootlegged posts, the best stuff on Youtube is of the homegrown variety.

Omigod, this is like, TOTALLY the Internet and nobody cares if you spell names correctly! UR so sexxxy! IM me!

I'm loving the misplaced hyphen. Hyphens are sooooo sexy. I could totally dump a barrel of hyphens all over myself and post the video-footage on Youtube.


After downloading scores of former tennis pro John McEnroe's infamous on-court outbursts, this reporter searched for [name of town withheld]-produced entertainment. Surely our creative capital could deliver some fun?

I TOTALLY GET IT. Scores! John McEnroe! You are SO FUNNY! I could just rip that shirt right off you.

And yes, there was a veritable, er, gold mine of video posts by [name of town withheld]ers and [name of town withheld]-lovers on the famous website.

The "gold mine" comment is HILARIOUS. It is so smart. I LOVE the fact that you've placed an "er" in front of it, so we KNOW you're writing with a wink. I totally would not have caught the reference to local gold mines without that. I really like it when I don't have to think about what I read. Thinking is so unsexy.

Posts include everything from a helicopter tour over the city, to a Folk on the Rocks mini-documentary to the obligatory "Northern slide show."

You know what else is overrated? Commas. Who needs them? Not me, that's for sure!

But after a review of most of the more than 70 posts, credit must be given where credit is due.

"How to harness a Canadian Eskimo dog," in which an enthusiastic [name of town withheld] gentleman promises a 15-second harness demonstration, deserves some recognition on the homegrown humour front.

"You can tell you're getting better at this, honey," shouts the man's spouse around the one-minute mark while the dog jumps all over him. The appearance of subtitles, necessary to highlight dialogue over the yelping dogs, definitely gives this effort a comic-touch.

Viewer comments for this post, often as funny as the videos themselves, include one from MikeSch0815: "Show us how you harness a complete team!"

HAHAHAHAHAHA. That is HILARIOUS. Can you hear me laughing? I'm laughing here! And remember what I said about misplaced hyphens? They're still sexy!

A series of b-ball escapades featuring local youths kickin' it out large, titled "Chillin'N'illin" are full of sweet moves edited to sweet sounds culminating in an epic trampoline slam dunk exhibition. Nicely done, kiddies, especially since there were no apparent injuries in the making of these short films.

Whoa. Did you just do what I think you did? Did you just mix street talk with a reference to ancient works like the Iliad and Paradise Lost? That takes style, man. That is off da HOOK.

In a somewhat more serious-yet-no-less-cool sports post, Weledeh school's boys 2006 basketball and indoor soccer successes are featured in a highlight reel set to hip-hop.

Now, fellows. No need to push. There are plenty of hyphens to go around. Everyone will get a turn. A gal like me needs breathing room.

They're nice memories for these guys and they're now available for all the world to see.

Several peeks into "Life in the Woodyard" are also available including "Inside Ryan's Shack" in which we learn that he has "got two propane tanks now." No need to double-long-john it now, eh Ryan?

It's like I'm RIGHT THERE. As if this video was not exciting enough, I now get the play-by-play! You are SO AWESOME. This is definitely a public service. Can't we get some government funding for these reviews?

Want something hipper? How about the "Royal Rave" in which viewers get a sneak-peek into Tony "SnowKing" Foliot's snow palace during a disco dance?

I could go on and on but why not check out www.youtube.com, type "[name of town withheld]" into its search engine and see what you're missing.

You could go on and on? Gosh, I never would have guessed. Wait, do you mean that this amazing video service is available for ANYONE to search? This is a day of shockers. This is like, NEWS, man.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I will not cease from mental fight

A theme has appeared in my recent conversations with my friends: censorship, especially self-censorship.

I think most writers are concerned about censorship, although not for the reason you might expect. We are all secretly worried that we are contributing to it.

I do not write about everything that happens in my life: some things are far too boring even for me. (Hands up: Who wants to hear about my yellow eyeshadow? I didn’t think so.) Other things are edited out of my posts because they do not fit – I usually plan a topic in my head, write it down and then viciously take out the words that don’t belong. (That used to read “…viciously take out the sentences, clauses and words that don’t belong” but I decided there was no need for the extra words.)

None of this is self-censorship. It is editing. People who do not edit what they write are usually not very good writers.

You cross the line between editing and self-censorship when you stop thinking about what a sentence contributes to the main point you are making and start thinking about what people will think of the sentence.

It is remarkably easy to self-censor here in this series of tubes they call the Internets. With a click of my mouse, I can delete a post or comment, remove a reference or even take the entire blog down.

I am doing my best to avoid this temptation, because I hate this behaviour in others. This was never possible in the old media and, as much as I dish out the criticism to the old-media types, I can’t help but think that the fundamental rules should still apply.

I won’t be taking posts down. They represent my opinions at a certain point in time. If I change my mind, I’ll say so, but I won’t pretend that the earlier opinion didn’t exist.

This is as good a place as any to say that there are no secret messages in the titles of my posts. They are usually pop-culture or literary references, and usually have something to do with the topic in the post without being essential to understanding the main message. For example, if you know why it’s not a good idea to put new wine in old wineskins, you’ll understand why this would go with the video of Michael and the snakeskin. If not, no harm (at least in this lifetime).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Forever young

My dad's comment about aging rockers made me think.

Unfortunately, many of those guys do not age well. The options appear to be:
1) Die early and leave a good-looking corpse;
2) Turn into a weenie.

My dad used to have what I considered a fairly extensive record collection, but my brothers and I hardly ever listened to them because we had our own records (Pete Seeger, Captain Kangaroo, etc.). This was the early 1980s. I also suspect that we probably were not allowed to touch his records because we might have damaged them.

We did listen to his tapes, though. The one I remember best had several different artists on it. This was what we would now call a "mix tape": someone had recorded his or her favourite songs onto a blank tape. I am pretty sure that it was my uncle Butch. He did not like to listen to the tapes he bought at the store. Instead, he would painstakingly record each tape onto a blank tape, and listen only to that one. He kept the originals in the back of his closet. That way, if his tape player ever ate his music, he would still have the original tape. I bet this saved him at least seven dollars over the ten years he did this.

Anyway, I listened only to side A of this particular tape. It was a mix of the Heartbreakers and the Clash and (I think) the Ramones. The Clash and the Ramones did not age well, but the Heartbreakers are still OK.

This was the first song on the tape. I have never heard it on the radio, but I think my brothers may recognise it because we listened to it so many times. This particular video is clearly illegal, but it is the best one I could find. That's Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam, for those who did not come of age in the 1990s) singing lead.

Woman's Work

I almost vomited into my Cheerios this morning.

I decided it would be best if I did not go to work.

I went to bed.

My son woke me up less than an hour later and said that his father had left without him. I told him that was crazy, that his father had just gone out to start the truck and would be right back.

I was wrong.

When I woke up just before noon, I discovered that Steve had indeed left me here with Michael, instead of bringing him to school like a normal parent. You see, bringing Michael to school is my job. If I can't do it, he doesn't go to school, no matter how sick I might be.

If I sound somewhat bitter, it's because I am.

Happy birthday, Dad

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ashamed of my MP3 player



Well, Glen beat me to this topic, but I still think it's worth covering.

Having long ago given ourselves over to total geekiness, Glen and I watched TV together the other night. By this, I mean that we sat in front of our TVs and sent each other instant messages about what we were watching. (There is a reason I will never write a memoir: My life is too boring to be believed. The Million Little Pieces pajamahedeen would be all over me within a week, demanding proof that I am actually this pathetic. I don't have the fortitude to open myself up to that kind of scrutiny.)

We were watching a show called Guilty Pleasures, on a Canadian music channel called Much More Music. Perhaps I misunderstand the definition of "guilty pleasure", but I thought it was supposed to refer to something you like without wanting anyone to know about it.

If that's the case, Glen and I are both in big trouble. I think the purpose of this program was to make me feel guilty about my entire music collection. I've been told that I like "drag-queen music" (whatever the heck that is) but this is the first time I have been admonished by a music professional.

In fact, the entire show was made up of music that I either do not like at all or that I feel absolutely no shame about liking -- with one possible exception. I confess that I did not consider this song to be a guilty pleasure until it appeared on the screen. Having seen it, I definitely feel guilty. Unfortunately for you, I grew up in a world where guilt was encouraged:

Bring me my chariot of fire


Apparently I now have a reader in London. I only know one person in England, and I really hope that she will contact me. I am posting this video to prove my identity.

I am not foolish enough to think that this song is unknown in England, but only a few of my readers on this side of the Atlantic will know it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I took Steve's test.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Your results:
You are Spider-Man

























Spider-Man
75%
Superman
70%
Green Lantern
60%
Hulk
60%
Supergirl
50%
Robin
47%
Iron Man
45%
The Flash
45%
Wonder Woman
35%
Catwoman
35%
Batman
20%
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.


Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...

My Spidey Senses Are Tingling (by Steve)

Now I'm not going to beat around the bush...I freely admit that I am a huge Spidey fan. What you ask? Who's Spidey? You know... SpiderMan, the comic book character created by the great Stan Lee. As a young child, growing up in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland, I loved reading SpiderMan comics and watching the 1970s Cartoon TV series...surely my 'regular' blog readers will remember this show... it aired Saturday morning and began like this



On a side note, I have all three seasons of this series on DVD. My darling wife purchased the boxed set last year.

So I was doing my daily blog checking routine. Yes, I do have a routine...much like my wife. And I discovered a SuperHero Quiz. You answer a series of questions and based on your answers, the site tells you what hero you would be. So I completed the survey... expecting the results to be obvious ... I would be SpiderMan 100% no questions asked...well friends WRONG! Turns out I would be the Green Lantern! I never would have pegged myself as a Green Lantern...you need will-power and besides I find he is too SuperMan-like, and you need a ring to harness his superpowers.

Your results:
You are Green Lantern


























Green Lantern
70%
Superman
60%
Spider-Man
50%
Catwoman
50%
Wonder Woman
45%
Iron Man
40%
Robin
35%
Supergirl
30%
The Flash
25%
Batman
20%
Hulk
15%
Hot-headed. You have strong
will power and a good imagination.


Click here to take the "Which Superhero am I?" quiz...



So, I draw your attention to the 50% row... SpiderMan (but only 50%) & freakin CatWoman? How about SuperGirl for 35%. I have always been "the glass is half-full" type of guy so I will take the Spidey for 50%!