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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Welcome, newcomers

UPDATED: May 25.

I've been getting a lot of hits to a post I wrote about the schools issue, so I thought I would pull all of the information into this post. I will update this entry whenever I post something about the schools. That way, you don't have to search all over the blog if you are only interested in this one issue, and you don't have to read in reverse chronological order. The rest of the blog is probably only interesting to people who know me.

I am not an activist; I am just a mom.

Regular readers: there is nothing new in this post.

On Monday, March 5, I was pretty mad.
On Wednesday, March 7, there was a news release.
Later that day, there was a public meeting.
On Thursday, March 8, many people were upset.
On Friday, March 9, YK1 was not going down without a fight.
By Saturday, March 10, the discussion had moved to the legislative assembly.
On Tuesday, March 13, it was still there.
Later that day, I thought that sharing was the heathen way.
On Thursday, March 15, I thought about fighting back in public.
On Wednesday, April 18, there was pressure to give up a school.
On Tuesday, May 1, YCS parents spoke up.
On Wednesday, May 2, tensions were running high.
On Friday, May 25, it was finished.

Giving the fans what they want

Let's face it: I'm in show business. I exist to amuse my vast audience. And there's one rule in show business: Do what the audience wants.

And through it all, your wishes have come through loud and clear. You want more David Hasselhoff. Well, I will just have to comply.

I am not joking about this. I actually receive e-mails asking for more videos -- the latest was a message from a co-worker suggesting that I should re-post OOGA-CHAKA-CHAKA to celebrate a friend's upcoming nuptials. Now my brother Ben is in on the act. I have been trying to hold my ground and keep this from becoming a Hasselhoff fan site, but this is Web 2.0, after all. Users dictate content.

I think you will like this one. Not only is the costuming perfect (a leather jacket and ripped jeans? Be still, my heart!), the camera angles can't be beat. My favourites are the shots through the sunroof of the car. There is nothing like a bit of raggedy Hasselcrotch to brighten up a cloudy day.

Ben's favourite song

It's true, I barely know Ben. I've hardly seen him in the past fifteen years.

Many, many years ago, this was his favourite song, and Fantasia was his favourite movie. He loved listening to classical music.

Nate was the one who figured out that Ben didn't like classical music so much as he hated singers. I think I wrecked Tommy for him by telling him what it was about. (Sorry, Mom.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


In case it wasn't obvious from the birthday greetings and videos of my son, this is a personal blog. Nothing on this blog is an official statement from any organization I am or have ever been involved with. If you think it is, you're even dumber than I thought. And trust me, I get a LOT of dumb e-mails.

If you're looking for official information from Ascension Collegiate, the Girl Scouts, the Anglican Church of Canada, Optipress, the YWCA, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, the MotherCorp, the University of King's College, 4-H or anyone else, you will have to look elsewhere. I'm playing nice by giving you the links.

Another memory set to music

My dad may remember this differently, but I have a very distinct memory of the day my dad pulled out an odd handle, attached it to his electric guitar, and played this song. I think he called it a "kick", or maybe this song features a musical style called a "kick". (Yes, I admit that I am not a guitar expert: Dad will likely correct me within the hour.)

We were in Harbour Breton at the time, and my dad used to play guitar in his office between the desk and the photocopier. It was a small space, so I'm not sure if he played in there because he was avoiding work, because my mom wanted a closed door between her and the amplifier, or because he just wanted to be close to his four-track recorder.

Anyway, I remember that he seemed very excited about this attachment. In my head, this was the day he bought it, but I admit that this doesn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps he'd just misplaced it and found it again on his creaking bookshelves.

My dad has always been very intense about music, and he passionately explained the lyrics: I hope Neil Young will remember/The southern man don't need him 'round anyhow.

I, of course, was ten years old and had no idea who Neil Young was.

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's in my MP3 Player?

Mark 5:13

Good afternoon, cloven-hoofed demons:

Yes, I am sick again today.

Fortunately, I know what is wrong with me. Michael was sick two days ago. Obviously, the evil spirit that was possessing him went into me.

Don't laugh. For starters, it is too cold to start a fire, let alone make a burnt offering. Besides, the last time I burned muskoxen on my outdoor altar, the bylaw officer ticketed me and I had to explain myself to a justice of the peace. HEATHENS!

I really thought the rapture would have happened by now, but apparently my calculations were off. We must press through our anguish and carry on. I have turned my attention to something much more pressing: the indoctrination of other people's children. If other people won't scare their children about hell, I will just have to do it for them. It is really not a problem. I happen to have a few extra hairshirts lying around anyway.

Our first concern, of course, will be to ensure that schools teach facts, rather than ridiculous theories, in science classes. For example, some people would have you believe that I am sick because invisible creatures came into my body through my nose or mouth, and that other invisible parts of my blood are trying to kill these creatures. Of course, none of this can be directly observed, and if you press these so-called "scientists" on this, they will admit that this is just a theory. You heard me. A THEORY. So it might not be true. Therefore, my alternative explanation that an evil spirit is living inside my body wins by default. If I could only figure out how to cast out demons, I would already be back at work.

You would not believe it, but in some schools, children learn that earthquakes happen because the earth is covered with gigantic plates that move back and forth. I was horrified too. We all know that earthquakes happen because God makes the earth open up and swallow people. Unbelievable. These same teachers also claim that millions of years ago, the continents were in different places, but slowly moved to their current positions. There are so many problems with this preposterous claim that I'm not even sure where to start. Just for one thing, the earth is only 6000 years old (DUH!). And if the continents moved at all, it would be because God moved them. Just read Genesis 1 if you need any further proof. If you have any trouble finding it, it's on the first page of your Bible.

The final thing I want to mention is the ridiculous idea that the stars and planets condensed from sub-atomic particles. Now, I'm totally in favour of the Big Bang, because it is just like the Bible describes: first there was nothing, then God made the world. Totally believable. I don't need any more proof. But this whole idea that the stars and planets just made themselves? Ridiculous. Setting aside the obvious (that there just weren't billions of years for this to happen), nobody has ever seen it happen. We have lots of pictures of stars and planets, yes. But we have no pictures of a planet forming out of sub-atomic particles. That's because we know that by the word of God were the heavens made. Scientists are such liars. They even lie about the speed of light! I know this because they CLAIM that the stars in the sky are millions of light-years away. Right away, I know this is a lie. How could we possibly see them? Friends, you can be certain that you cannot trust anyone who will even lie about the speed of light.

The worst part is that although they cling to these theories, they openly say that they would change their theories if they found new evidence. Yes. I am not making this up. How can you possibly believe a person who openly admits that he might be wrong and that new evidence could make him change his mind? How many of these theories have already been proven false? I am just waiting for them to realize that the earth is not spherical: the Bible says it is flat and round, like a plate. Just look at any map from that time and you will see what I mean. The, um, satellite photographs did shake my faith, but only for a moment. I am confident that they will soon be exposed as hoaxes. When that day comes, I will claim the discovery as my own, just like I did with Piltdown Man.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

If Dad says this is suicide, so be it

About a month ago I wrote about a new CBC program called Little Mosque on the Prairie, the first North American comedy about Muslims. I said that it was funny, but trying too hard and too obviously CBC.

It is time for an update. The show has gotten better with time. The actors still seem to think they're on a stage (exaggerated facial expressions and so on) but they aren't mugging for the camera nearly as much. I especially like the way the imam's relationship with the Anglican priest is developing.

Here is the latest episode, sans commercials for Tim Horton's. A bit of background is in order: The characters live in Mercy, a small town in the Canadian prairies, and the Anglican church is renting its basement to the local Muslim congregation. This works well for both sides, because the Muslims need a mosque and the Anglicans need the rent to pay their monthly bills. In this episode, the archdeacon, who knows nothing about the mosque, shows up for his regular inspection. This episode also has a nod to the other network's show about life in the prairies: the archdeacon mentions that he just shut down a church in Dog River, but nothing was happening there, so he went straight to Mercy.

I ought to mention that I have never met an archdeacon who demands payment, threatens to close churches, or who is nearly as funny as Colin Mochrie.

Flashes of memory

I don't remember what happened before or after any of these things.

  • Running over the hill at Dexter Primary School, near the swings, on the first day of kindergarten.
  • Telling my mom I'd found a fox under the porch.
  • My cousin Justin telling me that he knew much, much more about fire than I did, because his dad was the fire chief.
  • Dancing with my dad to "The Waiting" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
    Me: Who's this, Dad? Tom Petty?
    Dad: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers!
  • Holding a contest with my brothers to see who could touch the electric fence for the longest amount of time. (Come to think of it, this might explain a few things.)
  • My uncle telling us that someone had shot the side window out of his car as he drove to our house.
  • The police officer who showed up to investigate.
    Me: All I can see is shattered glass.
    Officer (from inside my uncle's car): What's that? Shattered glass?
    Dad: You better stay back, Maggie.
  • My dad's friend Dr. Rudmin (his son Will was in my class) at our house, saying, "And if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, don't exaggerate!"
  • My uncle Butch saying, "Yes, you can watch Puff the Magic Dragon, but you can't cry and ask me to turn it off. If you didn't cry and stop watching every time, you would see that it has a happy ending."
  • My dad's laughter on the day my brothers and I hid from him. I set up decoys: for example, I stuffed my brother's socks, placed them into his shoes and put them under the counter so it looked like Matt was hiding there. In reality, we had stashed him in the washing machine.
  • Dressing up like Jupiter (yes, the planet) and doing a lip-sync instead of the science presentation that had been assigned.

Exciting news

Nate and Michelle are coming to visit! This is very exciting. We never have visitors. The last people to visit us were my parents, and that was almost five years ago in another town (which I dare not name because of the search engines, but it's much further north).

They are coming next weekend, and we are playing "tourist". I had not realized how frustrating this would be. When my parents visited, we went for a boat tour down the Mackenzie Delta and saw dozens of bald eagles. This was relatively easy, as the tour company was around the corner from my house.

This time, I'm a little annoyed. I saw an ad on CBC this morning advertising tourism to northern Canada. This struck me as fortuitous: exactly what I needed, when I needed it! I immediately went to the site.

It was not exactly what I needed. It has lots of beautiful pictures -- if you've never been north before, I highly recommend it. However, it was not great at answering my questions, like:

  • Can Michael go dog mushing?
  • How much will this cost?
  • When can we go?
It's possible that this information is available, just not in English. Matt, help!

Guitar songs for my grampy

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Steve has to put stickers on his students' textbooks

God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me

I read every comment that comes in. I love comments. Keep 'em coming.

It was through the comments that I figured something out. You see, I've been comparing Ben with Michael. When I moved out of the house, Ben was about the same age Michael is now. He looked and acted a lot like Michael -- with one important difference.

You see, Ben didn't understand what a joke was.

Oh, he understood the basic construction. You say something. I laugh. But he couldn't figure out what made a joke funny. He would take his cues from people around him: if others were laughing, he would laugh. I remember my dad demonstrating this: " a jello bowl! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Cue much laughter.

I've been told that I have a weird sense of humour (hence the humour-impairment test - please take it). Reading through comments like Nate's, I can see why a small child could be confused. We are a very dry-humoured family. We don't tell jokes. This is probably why I have a significant number of readers who are never sure if I am serious.

Those of you who are concerned for Ben's place in the family will likely be comforted by the knowledge that he now has his own dry sense of humour and can more than hold his own.

Friday, February 23, 2007

For sale: One blog

I was feeling brain-dead this afternoon, so I was playing around on Digg. (I figure that Digg should count as a newspaper, so this should be OK for the hawks who watch our Internet use at work.) That’s how I discovered that this blog – yes, this blog you are reading right now – is worth $564.54.

Sign me up! Who’s buying?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

If I could only read your mind, tell me the answer I would find: Do you dream of me?

I'm the only girl in our house. Michael and Steve could out-vote me any time. Luckily, I have a secret weapon: Jealousy.

The two boys are constantly battling for my affection. They figure out what annoys me, and then tell on each other: "Daddy bought new clothes that he didn't need!" "I did not! Michael didn't flush the toilet!" "Yes I did! Daddy didn't take out the trash!"

I do my best to keep them in line, but it is a tough job. Tonight I told them that I wanted them to clean the house. The boy who did the best job would be allowed to go to bed with me.

Michael immediately set to sweeping the floor, putting his dinkies away and fluffing pillows. Steve cleared away some dishes and then apparently decided that he had expended enough energy for the evening. Let's just say that we have a clear winner.

With that, it's Michael's bedtime. Good night.

Prince Harry

I am not sure what to make of the hubbub about Prince Harry’s military service. You know, once upon a time, it was just expected that the king and princes would lead the soldiers into battle.

I’m trying to imagine how the old stories might be written in 2007:

KING ARTHUR: Have this horse, mine old friend, for great need hast thou of horse. Besides, I won’t be needing it here in the castle. Send me a telegram if you have time. I’d like to know what happens during the battle.

ARAGORN: Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. This day YOU are heading off to battle. Let me know how it goes.

KING AGAMEMNON: Call every man on your way, and bid him be stirring; name him by his lineage and by his father's name, give each all titular observance, and stand not too much upon your own dignity; we must take our full share of toil, for at our birth Jove laid this heavy burden upon us. And when I say “heavy burden”, I mean that just listening to stories about the battle is really a strain. Good thing I don’t have to go out there.

The old and the new

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Welcome, Lyndsy

I've added another blog to the links list. Welcome, Lyndsy. I don't know what your parents had against vowels in first names (I almost automatically copy-edited it to "Lindsay", which would have been very uncool of me), but I like your writing. We'll meet in a month and a half. Yes, I am just as much of a loser in person as I am in cyberspace.

This sounds obvious, but one way to become a better writer is to write every day. When I started this blog I decided that I would do at least one post a day, even though I wasn't sure that I would have enough to write about. It is funny, but the more I write, the more I have to write. I hope you'll continue with your blog.

Insiders say...

[Note to those readers who happen to be my boss: This is a purely academic discussion. Naturally, I would not dream of doing any of this myself.]

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How to leak information to a reporter.

I was at a party one evening when talk turned to an intrepid reporter and his fabulous sources. (I say "his", although to be honest I can't remember who it was.) This reporter always got the best leaks.

I started to laugh, as did a fellow party-goer.

We both knew what a leak is: an intentional release of information that only LOOKS unintentional. The others were horrified when we explained this.

When you hear the Ottawa or Washington press whine about how nobody in the government is leaking information, go ahead and laugh. For one thing, your heart will just be bleeding for these poor reporters. For another, they are stupid enough to believe that they are actually getting information that nobody wants them to have.

Here's how it works:

  1. Think up something to leak. You might have a variety of reasons to release the information this way. Maybe you're just floating an idea to see if the public will go for it. More likely, it's good information and you want to get an extra day's play in the media. For the sake of illustration, let's say that you're in charge of the city budget and the official announcement will be made on March 2. You want to leak something good, to distract people from the bad stuff.
  2. Decide who to leak the information to. You'll probably want to leak it to someone you have a decent relationship with. Like a reporter you've leaked information to before. Also for the sake of illustration, let's say you're going to leak to the daily newspaper in your city. You could also leak to TV, radio or online media. But let's keep this simple.
  3. On March 1, move the plants on your back porch to send a secret signal to the reporter, and then meet her in a parking garage. HAHAHAHAHA! Not really! Just call her and tell her that the budget will include money for building ten new schools and hiring a hundred new doctors. Make sure she knows it's a leak, so she feels extra special.
  4. This part happens in the newsroom, so you won't see it, but it's always the same. The reporter will feel powerful, smart and successful for getting this top-secret information out of you. She will immediately go to her editor with the exciting news that she has a scoop: the city budget will include money for ten new schools and a hundred new doctors. She is such a good reporter! This should be on the front page! Time for an award!
  5. The good news you wanted on the front page of the paper is on the front page on March 2. It's there on March 3, too -- remember that the announcement was made on the second, so it will be reported again on the third. The purpose of the second story is to pat the reporter (and by extension the newspaper) on the back for getting it right. They have such good sources! They always have the news before anyone else!
  6. On March 4, you'll need a favour from the reporter. You see, by this time someone will have figured out that although the budget includes money to build ten schools, it also calls for ten firehouses to be closed. Naturally, the reporter's on the story. Fortunately, she now owes you a favour. Isn't that convenient?
You can do this for lots of things. A common twist is to release information about something you're not sure you really want to do.

For example, you might be thinking about putting tolls on the highway. You definitely won't want to send out a press release about this, because people will go nuts. Instead, you want to have a casual conversation with a reporter about how it's something you're considering -- off the record, of course. The reporter will be all excited. She is such a good reporter! This should be on the front page! The next morning, you'll read in the paper that sources say that you are considering putting tolls on the highway. There are two possibilities, both good for you:
  1. People think it's a fabulous idea. The next week, you announce your plan to put tolls on the highway. The reporter covers the story and owes you another favour.
  2. People think it's a terrible idea. You loudly proclaim that you can't believe anyone would tell such a ridiculous lie to a reporter. You were never considering putting tolls on the highway! The reporter does a story about your denial. You still look good.
Now, here's the best part: Reporters know that this is the way the game is played. Yet they insist on pretending that the people who leak information are the most ethical people imaginable. They are gutsy people who look out for the public interest! They provide information to reporters -- beyond what's in the official press release!

It's hard to imagine what it would be like to be in the presence of a person who would be quite so selfless, so just think about how honoured the reporters who actually get to talk to these leakers are. That's the most important part here. Think about the reporters. They're the real heroes.

So the next time you hear a reporter complain about how nobody's leaking information, go ahead and sob. It really is a tragedy.

Happy birthday, Glen

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The geography of Clay Aiken fandom

Someone asked if I was joking about the visits from the Clay Nation. I do joke about some things, but not that. This has been a learning experience for me.

This map shows the last 100 hits on the blog. The last hit is in red (that's me). The second to tenth visitors are in green. Looks like Stacey, Sally and/or Nate, Matt, Mom and Sean. The others are the eleventh to one-hundredth visitors. Trust me, I do not know this many people.

Clay Aiken's biggest fans live in:

  • Washington, DC
  • Prince Albert, Saskatchewan
  • Minnetonka Beach, Minnesota
  • Somewhere in the US (no city listed)
  • Wixom, Michigan
  • Buffalo, New York
  • Unknown country
  • Somewhere else in the US
  • Mandan, North Dakota
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • New York City
This is truly odd, and didn't happen when I wrote about Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan.

Happy birthday, Cindy

Monday, February 19, 2007

My son is destined to be famous

I know you've all been wondering about Michael's vlogs ("Today I'm going to talk about...Star Wars!"). These are 100% unscripted and uncoached. He chooses the topic. He chooses what he says. He also picks out any props or costuming. My role is limited to holding the camera and editing the footage.

I had no idea he would take to the medium so readily.

The Affair

You might think I’d feel dirty. Well, I don’t, but the sneaking around is a bit emotionally wracking.

At first I thought it was normal to be treated so badly, to be emotionally abused on a regular basis and constantly told I wasn’t good enough. I’d be physically harmed, and when I bled, I was told it was my own fault. This went on for years. I almost started to believe it was normal.

Then I met someone else. Someone who treats me nicely and is gentle with the poking device.

Thanks for your support in this difficult time. I am divorcing my dental hygienist.

We are still at the sneaking-around stage. I booked an appointment for today because my regular hygienist is away on holidays. That way, I don’t have to sneak into the clinic wearing a disguise and guiltily look away when she walks past me.

This has been a long time coming. I ended up with her by accident on my first visit. She had a free space on her calendar, and I quickly learned why. Lying flat on my back, I was helpless while she ground at my teeth, tut-tutted at my gum health and lectured me about the importance of flossing.

“You’re bleeding!” she would say accusingly.

“Yes, I know,” I would say. “Maybe you could be a bit gentler.”

“It’s not me,” she would insist. “It’s you. Your teeth have a lot of plaque. Clearly, you have not been flossing.”

This was true. I don’t floss. I’m not opposed to flossing in the same way I’m opposed to, say, indiscriminate capitalization, but I just never get around to it. Yes, I know. This makes me a bad person.

At the end of every visit, she would sign me up for another appointment. I quickly learned that this meant I would get her every time I needed a cleaning.

About a year ago, I started to try to break the cycle. “I don’t know my schedule so far in advance,” I’d say. “I’ll call and book an appointment.”

She eyed me suspiciously. She knew what I was up to. I caved.

After my last appointment, my gums still bleeding, I stood my ground. “I don’t know my schedule,” I said. “I promise to call.”

She ordered me not to eat or drink anything for half an hour, and gave me a card with the clinic’s number and her name. I was to call and book an appointment to see her.

My heart was happy and my tongue rejoiced until I got back to the office. That was when I realized that I would actually have to call the clinic and explicitly say that I didn’t want to see her again. My heart faltered and fear made me tremble. You see, I do not like personal conflict.

This is a tough time for me, and I appreciate all of your letters and phone calls of support. I did not want it to come to this: through all of the hard times I still believed that we could make things work. Sadly, it was not to be.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

A bird of the air may carry your words

I admit, I wonder what goes through the minds of the people who come here, read one post and leave.

This wasn't really an issue until today, because I don't generally write about things that would show up on a search engine. In fact, I have been going out of my way to keep from using my last name or the name of my town. I usually assume that my readers know me and can read each post as part of the whole. Do any of my posts make sense out of context?

Welcome, Clay Nation

I got a few unusual hits during the night, which is how I found out that Technorati has my site tagged with the keywords "Clay Aiken".

I only have one post that mentions Clay, although I now see that posting pictures of him may have been a trigger for the Clay Nation to keep an eye on my site in case I showed signs of being a latent Claymate.

We actually own one of his CDs. Yes, this is unusual for us in this day of downloaded music. Michael went through a period of obsession and is still quite a fan. We were in Wal-Mart right after his first single came out (Michael has helpfully posted a clip in the post below this one) and Michael grabbed it and wouldn't let go. He kept kissing Clay's picture and did not want to part with it at all, even to let the checkout girl scan it.

We didn't watch the first American Idol and somehow we completely missed all of the hype that summer. We started watching the show during the second season. During the early days the contestants are a blur, but we remembered Clay: it was startling to hear such a big voice coming out of a scrawny, geeky-looking guy. He didn't get through on the first round: they chose the top two from each group, and his group had the eventual top three from the entire competition. He got fewer votes than the other two, but we watched him a few weeks later on the Wildcard round. I remember that I had a meeting at the time they announced the winners from that round; when I got home, I asked Steve if Clay had made it through. I thought he was ROBBED when the series ended.

So yes, I am a Clay Aiken fan, sort of. He has a nice voice and I liked watching him on TV. And no, I don't mind his musical-theatre style. In fact, I kind of like it.

Clay Nation, you are welcome to stay and look around, but this is not a blog about Clay.

Michael's a Clay Aiken enthusiast

Dear friends or whoever you are,

i am goyn to sho you a sog

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hello, Internet, here I come

I have had a number of Web 2.0 moments over the past week or so, most notably the day I called Amy when her blog went down and I was seized with fear that something had happened to her. (No need to worry, dear readers. Amy is fine, or as fine as any mother of three could be.)

I have discovered a new blog. I say "new" because it appears to have been set up within the last few hours. New things are always fresh and exciting. What makes this particular blog so interesting is the fact that it appears to speak to me personally.

Now, you might think that I am one of those crazy people who makes tinfoil hats to keep the aliens from reading her thoughts. But really, go and read it for yourself.

Have I actually graduated to the big leagues, where my adoring readers create fanfic and nickname themselves MegLovr83?

What's in my MP3 Player?


Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Really big words.

This post is not about jargon. I am not opposed to jargon when used correctly: with the right audience, it can be appropriate to talk about “truncation”, “10-16s”, “co-morbidity” or “greens”. Jargon exists for a reason: when people work in the same specialized area, it makes sense for them to be able to talk about all the little things that most people would lump together in one general word like “sick”. However, it can create confusion when they try to use these words with other people. For example, I often hear journalists complaining that other people always talk in jargon. I laugh silently when I hear this, because journalists are among the jargoniest people out there. They just don’t realize it because they are constantly interviewing other people about their jobs, but never give interviews about their own jobs. Otherwise, you might hear something like this:

“The angle on this lede wasn’t in the pitch. Tell the slot to rewrite the deck. What do you mean, the cub got all this information on background? I won’t pay a kill fee.”

The point is, jargon is not necessarily bad.

Now, big words are another story.

Nobody needs big words. Nobody talks with big words, so you would think that this wouldn’t be such a big deal. Sadly, you would be wrong.

For various motivations, a significant percentage of the populace utilizes extraordinarily cumbersome terminology whilst they write. I’ve cogitated about this problem and have determined that they do this because they aspire to appear brainy. Regrettably, it has the opposite consequence. I’d more readily observe a comprehensively lucid message written in unpretentious language than a perplexing message that is designed to illustrate how clever the essayist is. It has become so appalling that there is at present an entire industry labouring to induce people to utilize a smaller quantity of words: it’s termed the plain-language industry. People no longer compliment each other on their unambiguous prose, they characterize individuals as plain-language writers. I’m not persuaded that this is either a beneficial thing or a distressing thing; on the one hand, it demonstrates that there is a particular value to unambiguous writing, but on the other hand, it prevents all of the other individuals from making an effort to write more clearly.

I think I’ve made my point.

Speaking of memory...

[UPDATED: Welcome, Clay Nation. Nice to have you along for the ride. This is not really a blog about Clay, but there are some posts about him closer to the top.]

Does anyone other than my parents know who this is?

I am convinced that you can find anything at all on YouTube. I spent about half an hour browsing 25-year-old videos of this fellow (he died in 1982) and discovered a video of a song he did called "23rd Psalm". I'm sure this song helped me earn a dollar: my dad used to give us money if we memorized psalms, creeds, commandments, etc. We would memorize as much as possible so we could buy chocolate bars, and did whatever we could to work the system: "Guess what I just discovered! Psalm 117 only has two verses! I can TOTALLY memorize that and you'll have to give me a dollar HAHAHAHAHAHA!"

Well, now I've completely gotten off-topic. Back to the song. It had been set to images: praying hands, Jesus on the cross, and...Clay Aiken. Yes. I figured you wouldn't believe me, so I took a couple of screenshots:

Another humour-impairment test

Please keep track of your answers. Yes, there are correct answers. This is a multi-media test and you will get a final score at the end.

1. This story makes me feel:

a) Weak in the sides from laughing so hard. Especially the part about the satanic attack. That guy should write speeches for the prime minister!

b) Sad. I can't believe it has come to this.

c) Inflamed with righteous indignation. Someone shunned a religious leader and didn't invite ME???

2. This picture of David Hasselhoff is:

a) HILARIOUS. Where did you get that? I need a copy for my office wall!

b) SO SEXY! Where did you get that? I need a copy for my bedside table, next to the old sock I keep there. What do you mean, what do I mean?

c) Obviously from his latest play, The Producers. I have front-row seats. I am so proud of David -- he has really been taking risks with his art lately.

3. Play this clip. It's about seven minutes long, but you can get the idea after a minute or so.

This clip is:

a) Creepy. Who the hell is that guy, and where has he hidden the woman?

b) Fascinating. Who is that guy?

c) Motivating. I totally want to cut the eyes out of other women! Someone has finally given voice to my deepest, darkest fantasies!

4. This story is:

a) HILARIOUS. Is that actually true?

b) Terrifying. Women are allowed to drink alcohol without being under male supervision?

c) A GREAT IDEA! How come nobody ever invited me to a BYOB playdate?

5. Play this clip. It is the pilot for a video blog called Chad Vader: Day Shift Manager.

This vlog is:

a) Weird. Who would go to all that trouble?

b) Hilarious. How can I watch the other shows?

c) Hilarious and AWESOME. Can I do a guest spot?

How to score:
a) 3
b) 2
c) 1
d: hehehehehehe you said "how to score"!) 5

a) 3
b) 5 points if you were being sarcastic. Otherwise, minus 10.
c) 1

a) 2
b) 3
c) 1

a) 1
b) 0
c) 3. You get five extra points if you invite me to a BYOB playdate.

a) 1
b) 2
c) 3

Friday, February 16, 2007

Presented without further comment from the public record, Part 2

Transcript: Joint Review Panel for the Mackenzie Gas Project – Public Hearing

MEMBER GREENLAND: Barry Greenland. And I'm just going to provide you with a scenario.

Say, for instance, the proposed project does go through and you have this massive camp down by Colville Lake. And because nobody has a clue of the personalities that are coming in to work within the area -- you don't know the personalities of the individuals. You don't know the background. So you can just about get anybody from anywhere working within the region.

And a camp being that close to a community, say something bad -- tragic was to take place, like, you know, a hostage taking in one of the homes, and, you know, the seriousness of it when there's no policing in the community and there's no way of getting into that community due to bad weather.

Using a scenario such as that, what would happen or how would the situation be dealt with?

S/SGT. HALINA: Don Halina. It's our understanding that there won't be any project-related camps in the Colville Lake area, per se.

No, I did not buy $9300 worth of chemicals from Fort Lauderdale

It has actually happened. I can finally call myself a Canadian. Yes, I am a victim.

Of all the ways I could be victimized, I suppose I prefer credit-card fraud, as long as the Visa people figure out how to reverse this giant charge on my credit card.

It’s funny – I feel less violated than I did the time someone came into my backyard, stole my bike, dumped the back half and decided to keep the front half. (I found it locked up at the store across the street from my office.) Mostly, I am just surprised at the NERVE of these people. Also, I’d like to find out how my credit-card number fell into the hands of criminals. Criminals who need chemicals. (Hmmm.)

Fortunately, Steve is a bit obsessive about checking our bank and credit balances. Do not infer that he is obsessive about cutting our spending: he is only obsessive about logging into our accounts every day to look at the balance. This is how he discovered the problem. Everyone, give Steve a hand. God only knows how many chemicals would have been purchased in quantities totaling just under $10,000 if Steve didn’t have mild OCD.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Newspaper clipping

Mom, this is for the fridge.

Presented without further comment from the public record

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Mr. Roland. Members, I have a request pursuant to section 20(1), the rules of the Legislative Assembly, from the Member of Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen, to rise on a point of personal privilege to explain a matter that came out in the media this morning. I will turn the floor over to Mrs. Groenewegen.

Point Of Privilege

MRS. GROENEWEGEN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last week in this House, I had questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services regarding the conditions that I observed at the Stanton Territorial Hospital obstetrics unit. This was reported in the media. I invited Mr. Roland to accompany me on a tour of the facility. He declined. I subsequently invited his deputy, who suggested that I just go and meet with the CEO personally and do a tour of the hospital with her.

Mr. Speaker, this is a Hay River issue because it is called Stanton Territorial Hospital and my obstetrics patients from Hay River have no choice but to go to that obstetrics unit to receive care to deliver their babies. I stand by every observation that I made in this House that day. I don’t care if the CEO of Stanton Hospital gets on the radio and refutes everything I said. What I said is true. I have a right and a privilege to stand up in this House and raise those issues. I do not appreciate being contradicted by somebody who works there. I did take the time to constructively go and walk through that unit with her and point out the things that I observed and even offered to come back and assist with redecorating, reorganizing, do something to improve the conditions there.

Mr. Speaker, I am very sad to say that this individual took the opportunity in the media, which is playing in my community all day today on CJCD Radio, that she went and checked it out and none of the things that I said were accurate or viable. I am sorry. That is a challenge to my credibility and is a contradiction of what I stood and said in this House and I stand by every one of them. Just for the record, I would be happy to go over them again.

I will still ask the Minister, or anybody else who doesn’t believe me, to come down there. I should have taken a picture when I had my camera there so I would have a record of it. I don’t know what kind of standards we are operating under there. I even told the CEO. I said there were more things that I didn’t feel appropriate to bring up on the floor of this House, but let me tell you, there was blood on the wall. There was a plastic bottle in the delivery room from the previous patient covered with blood when my daughter-in-law checked into that room before she ever went into that washroom. I looked at it. My daughter-in-law said, take a picture of that. I said, it is not what we are here about. We are here about a new baby. Let’s just keep our cameras poised on her. Anyway, there was blood on the wall and on things left in the washroom for the next patient. There was flaking paint. There were repairs to the wall with drywall mud that had never been sanded or repainted. The curtains were hung on every second hook with half of the hem hanging down. If you weren’t depressed when you went to the hospital, you would be by the time you sat there for a few days and stared at that.

As to the issue of the dead plants, I was told that they had a staff program where they allow the staff to winter their garden plants in the hospital to keep them alive until next spring when they can replant them in their garden. She says the plants are watered and they are green. They are not watered and green. They are probably full of bugs. I mean, this is a hospital. Most hospitals don’t even allow live plants in a hospital, never mind ones that the staff dug out of their garden that are dirty, mouldy, buggy and sitting in a hospital. That was the one thing that I got a lot of pushback on. I’m sorry. This hospital is about the patients. It is not about the staff.

The housekeeping is substandard. I stand by the fact that the base cove is off on the bottom of the wall. You cannot clean a surface that is just a bunch of glue that there is no base cove on it. The food is substandard. I could go on and on about this, Mr. Speaker, but the point is that I stood here and raised these issues because I am concerned about conditions at that hospital. I have a right. I have an obligation to do that as an MLA, and I do not appreciate the CEO of the hospital going on the radio today and refuting everything I said. I intend to follow up with this. I will again ask the Minister, would he like to provide me with the credentials of his CEO and would he like to…

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. I would like to remind Members to not be talking about members outside of this House that are not here to defend themselves. Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Yeah, it's Valentine's Day. WHAT OF IT???

I've been searching for this video for a LONG time. You see, I am very respectful of other people's religions, so I couldn't possibly post the real music video of this song. Someone might be offended, and I definitely can't have that. In fact, I am so respectful that I am already censoring myself before anyone can be offended. Just the THOUGHT that someone MIGHT not like it is enough for me.

Yes, I am forever in debt to your priceless advice.

[UPDATED]: Silly me. I forgot that some of my readers 1) did not come of age in the 1990s and/or 2) are hoping to be as offended as possible and really really want to find the original music video on YouTube.

This song is called “Heart-Shaped Box”. Hence the reference to Valentine’s Day. Get it? GET IT???

I owe Neil Young an apology

Dear Mr. Young,

I am sincerely sorry for comparing your arm position to that of Jessica Simpson and the wanna-bes on American Idol. I did not intend to imply that you are on the same level musically, poetically or any other -ally. In fact, my intention was to set up a humourous contrast. I figured that this would be obvious to all but the most thick-headed of readers.

Sadly, I forgot that many of my fans are in institutions, wear special restraining devices, and need all information spoon-fed to them with a minimum of sarcasm, parody or satire.

The truth is that I really like you. I used to program a radio show, and I would play your music all the time. Canadian radio stations are required to play a certain amount of "Canadian content" and I needed to balance out the Guns 'n' Roses the show host always wanted to play.


P.S. Dad, am I correct in thinking that you had at least one of his records in one of your milk crates?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Yes, I am sick today. However, it has been a good day for learning things. For example:

  1. Verticality is overrated. Horizontal is good. Vertical is bad.
  2. No matter how sick I am, Steve will still believe that taking Michael to school is my job.
  3. Canadian music videos are just plain bad. Especially the older ones.
A few people were annoyed the last time I suggested that Canadian music videos are bad. I had posted a Spirit of the West video and told you all to press play and quickly scroll down the page so you could listen to the music without having the watch the video. (I stand by this advice, by the way.)


I hardly watch TV these days, but daytime TV is much much worse than the tripe they air after I get home from work. I have the TV on now, just so the crushing silence doesn't overwhelm me. Specifically, I am watching Much More Retro, a station that airs music videos from the 1980s and 1990s. That way, I am able to indulge my own guilty pleasures such as Glass Tiger, the Thompson Twins and INXS. (Don't bother to suggest that I need treatment. I am in complete denial.)

That's how I stumbled across this video:

I admit, I stared in horror for several minutes. What could this be? Dear God, is that Corey Hart? GACK, it's the guy from Loverboy!

Then Bruce Cockburn appeared on the screen. That was when I realized that this is apparently the Canadian version of We Are The World. And wouldn't you know, it is distinctively Canadian. No need for sets! Just paint a room brown, rent a couple of microphones and let Joni Mitchell vamp it up. Buy a few seconds of footage from the CBC and you're in business!

Perhaps the blueberry princess has a professional comment about this phenomenon, but this video shows an example of a disturbing trend I keep seeing on American Idol: people who think that it is a good idea to put a finger in their ears when they sing. I can only guess that they do this because they see it on TV. If Neil Young covers his ears when he sings, that must be the way to do it! I've also seen Jessica Simpson do this just before I quickly change the channel. Are these people so delusional that they actually think they are wearing earphones with a backing track? Or have they completely missed the point?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Lazy Sunday

Big Time Sensuality

I understand that you've been through a lot with the humour-impairment test, so I thought you might like to relax.

Now, I expect you all to act like adults. I know this is probably one of the sexiest videos you've ever seen, but that is no reason to rip off your clothes and act like an animal. Some might say that I bear some responsibility here and that I should not post videos that would lead to this type of behaviour. To these people I say Please proceed directly to the test below this post.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A test in two parts: Part 1

Humour impairment is a pernicious illness. The worst part is that, like HPV, a person can have it and not know. YOU could have it.

I'll just let you think about that for a minute.

It's worse than I thought. I think we all need to get tested. Fortunately, the test is easy and almost painless.

The first thing I want you to do is to click over to the Uriel blog and re-read the first post.

Go on. This is important.

Everyone back? OK. Now, I want you to think about what your reaction was, and I want you to use the comments box to explain how you felt. I will get you started with a few examples:

I am horrified. What a disgusting thing to do. Only a terrible person would make fun of people's religious beliefs just because they make no sense.

HAHAHAHAHAHA. That is hilarious. Those guys make no sense!

You are totally right. I am going to lobby my elected representatives right away to keep the influenza vaccine out of public schools.

Go ahead. Use the comments box. I'll meet you in the next post.

A test in two parts: Part 2

Welcome back.

You did leave a comment, right? At the very least, you thought about what your reaction was, right?

Now, for the results:

Some people think Uriel is funny. Others think she is mean and unnecessarily targets vulnerable people just because of their religious beliefs, all for cheap laughs.

If you fall into either category, congratulations! You are not humour impaired, because you at least understood that the Uriel character is supposed to be funny and that I do not actually believe these things.

Sadly, more than a few of you have failed. Some of you are already making a mental note to start picketing influenza clinics, and others are wondering how you could have known me all these years without realizing that I am a crazy person.

I really do not know how to help you, but I've come up with a few ideas:

  • I could label all of my attempts at humour THIS IS A JOKE.
  • I could provide closed captioning for the humour impaired, like this: Only God can decide what's divine. He tells me what he thinks, so you can trust my interpretation. GOD DOES NOT ACTUALLY TALK TO ME. I AM MAKING FUN OF PEOPLE WHO SAY THEY KNOW WHAT GOD THINKS AND THAT HE CONVENIENTLY AGREES WITH THEM.
  • I could make people answer a skill-testing question before they can get into the blog, like the questions at the beginning of Leisure Suit Larry.
I am willing to accept other suggestions.


I shouldn't have posted the video just below this one without any explanation, but I am such a geek that I got hugely excited and wanted to make sure my mom saw the video. (This is true.)

The people in the video are not real. This is a combination of a YouTube show and an alternate-reality game (ARG). Steve and I have been watching it for months. We've even parodied it from time to time:

A Video Response
Steve, How Could You?
What's Up With That?

Bree and Daniel are on the run from a secret organization called the Order and their enforcement arm, OpAphid. We don't know, but we think that stands for Operation Analyze, Protect, Hinder, Infiltrate, Destroy. Op wants Bree to do a secret ceremony. She refused to do the ceremony back in October and has been in hiding ever since. Nobody knows what the ceremony is, but it seems like it has something to do with blood, because Bree was on a weird diet and getting Epogen shots back in the fall (Epogen is an anemia drug). Nobody knows why they want Bree so badly, but it is clear that there is something special about her -- they cannot just start over with someone else. Bree's dad was murdered in a parking lot, although he wasn't really her dad and her mom wasn't really her mom: they were both agents of the Order. (We don't know any more than this.) Gemma, the Op agent who was pretending to be Bree's friend, was revealed to be living in California (NOT England) and was also shot, this time by a mysterious figure named Brother, who is working with Tachyon, the secret agent who is trying to bring the entire Order down. Bree and Daniel spent some time living in an abandoned building and then went to live with Jonas, a fellow with tons of money whose parents died under mysterious circumstances. One evening, Daniel went bowling and lost his fake ID. Naturally, Op found it and used it to stake out the bowling alley and kidnap Daniel a few days later. I posted the next video here on the blog: the one that showed Daniel drugged and brainwashed, urging Bree to do the ceremony. Bree decided to trade herself for Daniel and to go through with the ceremony, leading to the video in the post below this one.

Whew! Good to know that you all understand. Now you can help me work on puzzles like:

  • What is the nature of the ceremony? What will it accomplish for the Order?
  • Why is Bree so special?
  • Who is Tachyon? Did her sister go through the ceremony 20 years ago? If so, what happened when her entire family disappeared?
  • Who is Jonas? What happened to his parents?
  • Where is Bree's mother?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

For the Lonelygirl fans

Michael's a vlogger

Girls With Low Self-Esteem

I know I've come clean about not being a celebrity, but I can't help myself. I long for the spotlight. I want everyone to think about me all the time. I, I, I, I, I.

So far this week, I have made the following efforts to increase my celebrity factor:

  • Started a rumour about my relationship with a male former co-worker, hoping to gain Hilton-level fame. ("Glen and I are no longer friends. He knows why.") Result: Nobody believed me. One person asked who Paris Hilton is.
  • Ordered a mocha, no whip, extra foam, and drank it in a coffee shop near the window, hoping to end up in a Stars: They're Just Like Us! photo spread. Result: There were no cameras anywhere in sight. I was recognised, but Amy is not a member of the paparazzi, as far as I know.
  • Flashed my appendectomy scar, hoping to cash in on the trend Britney Spears set (I don't have a C-section scar). Result: Part of my abdomen is frostbitten. Nobody noticed: they were all hurrying to get out of the cold.
  • Allowed myself to be seen in public with a variety of lawyers, hoping to start a rumour that I had been arrested like Nicole Richie. Result: People assumed that I was working.
  • Did not drink any alcohol, hoping that my sobriety would be noticed and commented on, leading to comparisons with Lindsay Lohan. Result: Nobody noticed: they were all drunk.
This is not going well. I may have to revive my campaign to become a Girls Gone Wild girl.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What's in my MP3 Player?

Yes, it has been a lousy week. Thanks for asking.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


OK, so I've been found out.

I am going to tell you now, before you read it in The Washington Post and the media starts crawling all over it. (In my industry, this is called "getting ahead of the story".) Don't be surprised if Larry King wants to interview you.

Here goes.

I do not actually believe all of the things I write about on this blog.

And -- this is hard to admit -- some of the things I write about are complete fabrications.

Yes, I have been caught in my own web of lies.

This is probably hard to accept, after I have lied about so many things, but I am going to come clean about a few important matters.

So now you know.

Many people have suspected this, but nobody was ever able to prove it. Damn those investigative journalists! Why did they have to turn their piercing gaze to me? Are they jealous of my success? I think that must be it.

In all seriousness: This is a personal blog. You ought to know me. If you think I'm joking in a post, I'm probably joking. And no, I don't mean you any harm.

Also on a serious note: Come on, people! Don't set up a blog and then ignore it. It's like nobody understands what commitment is anymore.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


I had a nice conversation with a reporter this morning.

There was a factual error on the news. Not a huge one, and not something that would have been obvious to the average Joe, but an error nonetheless.

I called the newsreader.

Now, these situations are fraught with peril. You see, reporters pride themselves on getting facts right. You would think that this would make them anxious to correct errors. You would be wrong. This type of conversation usually ends in an argument: the reporter will try to convince you that you are wrong and he is right, but if he is wrong, it is your fault for misleading him. (None of this is a joke.)

So I was a little hesitant to call. Still, I thought it was important.

I called the newsreader and introduced myself. She knows who I am: we've had a friendly professional relationship for several years now. I have a little routine that I use in these situations. It boils down to this:

  • Be cheerful and polite.
  • Never say "You got it wrong". Instead, say something like this: "There is a factual error in the story about dogs. The error is the part where you described the process for putting the animals down. We don't actually shoot them in the middle of the street. Instead, a vet injects them with a drug that stops their hearts."
  • Don't ask for a retraction unless the mistake is really serious. Reporters get upset when you suggest that you want a retraction. They take it personally, and it gets them in trouble with their bosses. Instead, ask the reporter to make sure the error doesn't end up in future stories.
This only works when you don't call about every little thing or act like reporters shouldn't cover dissenting opinions.

I am really pleased to say that this call went well and the error did not appear in the next newscast. Knowing how newsrooms work, I am fairly sure that the newsreader did not write this particular story and had no idea that there was a mistake in it.

When Jayson Blair was caught plagiarizing and making up details in the New York Times, there was a lot of shock among journalists. In particular, I remember that they could not believe that none of the people in the stories had ever complained. You see, all of the people who were featured in the stories knew they had never talked to a New York Times reporter. They knew that details were wrong. They knew he was a fake. And nobody ever called the editor.

Journalists couldn't believe this. Their industry was all about facts! People are supposed to call to correct errors! How could this have happened?

I had gone over to the dark side by then, and didn't have the heart to tell my former colleagues the awful truth when they talked about this: Nobody believes you anyway. They expect you to get things wrong. They don't call to complain because they don't expect anything better from you. When they do call to complain, you try to convince them that THEY are the ones who got it wrong.

I remember reading about a family (Jessica Lynch's family, I think) who read about themselves in the Times and laughed about how completely wrong the story was: it contained made-up quotes and invented details about what their house supposedly looked like. They later told the Times that they thought this was normal for reporters, so they didn't think there would be any point in complaining.

I like most reporters. I really do. And it was nice to have a conversation instead of an argument about keeping the news accurate. This must be why I like the CBC.

Everyone wants a piece of me

Glen and I were talking about a new building at his university. I asked what it was going to look like, so he showed me the sketches.

I did not think that the design was particularly attractive, and I gave him a link to a virtual tour of my school, the University of King's College in Halifax. That's when I realized that the school is using a photo of me to appeal to potential students. I can't blame them; I am pretty hot, but I wasn't aware of this particular advertising campaign. That's me in the front row, fourth from the left. The girl who is second from the right, with the long curly hair, was my roommate in 1995. Our friend Matt is right behind me, in the gray sweater. Our friend Kevin is just over his left shoulder.

I assumed they would have taken a new picture sometime in the past twelve years, but maybe this is the best picture they had. Now that I think about it, that's likely. After all, it's probably the only picture they have of me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Greetings, godless sodomites:

Yes, it's been a while, and we have been hard at work here in the true remnant. In the middle of your life's journey, you may find yourself lost in a dark wood. That must really be awful for you. I, of course, am high on the Spirit.

I've been alerted to a terrifying poem called the Divine Comedy. Yes, DIVINE. What arrogance. Only God can decide what's divine. (He tells me what he thinks, so you can trust my interpretation.) Anyway, beyond this repugnant title, I am particularly disturbed by the fact that in this poem, not all of the godless sinners are in hell, where they belong. No, some of them are just OUTSIDE hell, in a vestibule of some type. I think you can see that it is time for some serious lobby work. (LMK-i-A's note: HAHAHAHAHA.)

This is particularly relevant now, as our governments consider providing the cervical-cancer vaccine to schoolchildren. As I think we all know, this vaccine changes children from virtuous angels into whores. I have already discussed the reasons why rubber gloves and safety equipment are leading us to hell. But now I think that compared with the destruction that vaccines have brought upon us, rubber gloves might just send people to Limbo instead. I am so horrified that I can barely type, but I will push through my anguish for the good of the saved. If one of the faithful were to be swayed, I don't know if I could stand the agony. Of course, I am secure in the knowledge that this agony would be much less than what you all are going to have to deal with in hell, so I'm sure I'll manage. But didn't you feel sorry for me? I sure did.

These radical doctors have held our society hostage for far too long. Did you know that they now vaccinate INFANTS? Yes! They do this against the child's will. Parents are subjected to scare tactics like threats that their kids won't be allowed into school. Meanwhile, so-called "public-health nurses" are injecting children with substances that will protect them against diseases like:

  • HPV, which causes cancer of the cervix and penis. PERVERTS! Anyone who has HPV probably deserves to get cancer. I definitely won't be vaccinating my kids against it. There's such a thing as God's punishment, you know.
  • Influenza, which causes respiratory complications and death. PERVERTS! Cover your mouth when you cough. Wash your hands a lot. See how easy that was? If you get the vaccine, you will think you are safe, and you will probably go around licking doorknobs.
  • Tetanus, which kills more than half of the people who get it. PERVERTS! What are you doing with cuts on your body, anyway? Cover your wounds. Then you won't have to worry about tetanus. God just told me that this is his punishment for people who step on rusty nails. It's GOD'S WILL, folks.
  • Meningitis, which causes kidney damage, paralysis, scars and death. PERVERTS! What, are you drinking other people's spit or something? Here in the true remnant, we never share water bottles. That's because we don't want to have to get this vaccine -- we are sure that if we got the shot, we would turn into whacked-out freaks with spit fetishes. We would probably think that we were safe, and we all know what happens when people think they're safe.
You disgust me. Not that this is anything new.

Monday, February 05, 2007


With the lights out it's less dangerous

Before I begin, please allow me to send an emergency message. This post will push David Hasselhoff off the front page. I know, I know: This is hard to accept. You might want to keep a bag handy in case you start to hyperventilate from the panic. However, all is not lost. You can still see OOGA-CHAKA-CHAKA through the archives or (my personal choice) by bookmarking the page. That way, the Hassel is close at hand whenever you need him.

On to today's topic: I am a dirty, dirty girl in the bedroom.

Okay, that's not totally true, but "messy, messy girl" doesn't grab your attention in the same way. If you came in through a search engine, prepare to be very, very disappointed.

I cannot fall asleep without reading. When I'm done with my book or magazine, I leave it on the floor. And no, I do not pick it up again in the morning and place it carefully on the bookshelf. I have piles of reading material all over my house, and the messiest pile of all is the one next to my side of the bed. As my adoring fans, I thought you might be interested in seeing what I have been reading lately. (I am also auctioning off a coffee date, with the proceeds going to charity. I'm sure eBay is not set up to handle this type of massive celebrity auction, but it's for the CHILDREN, for Pete's sake.)

  • Bad News, by Tom Fenton
  • Six issues of Time Canada: Feb 5, Jan 29, Jan 22, Jan 15, Dec 25, Dec 18
  • The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
  • Vinyl Cafe Unplugged, by Stuart McLean
  • The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
  • Two issues of Vanity Fair: February, January
  • One issue of Canadian Geographic: January/February
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by JK Rowling
  • Why Darwin Matters, by Michael Shermer (click over to the philosopher king's blog for more from Dr. Shermer)
  • Seven issues of The Wittenburg Door (that's not a typo): May/June 2003, July/August 2002, November/December 2001, May/June 2000, March/April 1994, September/October 1993, February/March 1984
  • One issue of Discover: February
  • The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
  •'s What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7, by Emerson Spartz et al.
  • Seven issues of Newsweek: Feb 5, Jan 29, Jan 22, Jan 15, Jan 8, Jan 1, Dec 18
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by JK Rowling
I really need to tidy up around here. This is worse than I thought. I didn't realize that I had so many magazines on the floor.

I love magazines, especially newsmagazines. They provide an in-depth look at an issue and are able to follow a story over several days. Space is precious, so they don't do stories just to fill a news hole.

Time and Newsweek come every week, and we have a few science and history magazines that come every month. Last week I got a free copy of Maclean's (the Canadian newsweekly) but wouldn't you know, it is the issue with a 12-year-old dressed like a prostitute on the cover. Naturally, the accompanying article has a lot of hand-wringing about this terrible, terrible phenomenon. Do they think I'm stupid?

I bought a subscription to Vanity Fair about six months ago, but am not sure if I will renew. They have excellent articles and have been breaking a lot of news lately (considering that they are a monthly, this is really good) but MAN, does their magazine ever stink. And when I say it stinks, I mean it literally stinks. And I am not one of those morons who uses the word "literally" to mean "figuratively". It smells like Cosmo or one of those trash magazines that has no purpose but to make women feel bad about themselves. And it has so many ads I can barely find the stories, especially after a few hits from the Bailey's bottle. I think I might have to go back to ripping out all of the pages that have ads on both sides: this has the effect of cutting the weight of the mag roughly in half, helps me find the stories, gets rid of the stinky pages and is very satisfying.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

It was ME that fell

I've spent the past few hours looking for a way to embed a clip into this post, but have been unsuccessful. You are going to have to click this link and then press play on the new screen.

Go on. What, do you think I just put in links because I like the HTML code?

We all went to this movie by mistake when my cousins visited us in Montreal. They thought it was a different movie: a Google search tells me they probably thought it was Flight of the Navigator.

They were wrong. This is another movie nobody's ever heard of. You might think that I am some sort of art-house movie snob. Trust me, this is not the case -- I have watched The Phantom Menace dozens of times.

I think my parents, Nate and Matt may remember this movie. Ben was way too young. As I recall, he learned to say "duck" as we were driving to the cinema, because we had squeezed nine people into a station wagon with six seat belts, so three of us were in the back. When anyone saw les gendarmes, they would yell DUCK! and the three of us in the back would collapse to the floor so we wouldn't be seen. (Yes, we were hardened criminals.) Ben was probably about 18 months old, and he thought this was hilarious: duckduckduckduckduckduck.

Helping people to talk to each other in ways they understand

In a broad sense, my industry is called the "communications" business. This is the word on my business cards. It is also the name of most university courses that teach unsuspecting 20-year-olds to do what I do.

The communications business is a pretty broad one, and it includes jobs that, at first glance, might not seem similar.

  1. Journalist: a person who finds and reports news. This is really a "job family", as they say in the human-resources business: reporters, editors, producers, photojournalists and so on.
  2. Writer: a person who writes fiction or nonfiction. Some newspaper columnists are writers or diarists rather than journalists. This does not make them bad, just different.
  3. Public-Relations Officer: a person who helps a company or organization develop a public persona. A subset of this is "media relations", which is more specific but is still part of keeping your public image. These people are often writers. Others are experts in another field (say, women's rights) and work as spokespeople for an organization in addition to a totally different job.
  4. Marketing Officer: a person who sells a product, service or idea. Increasingly, this includes "social marketing", which uses marketing techniques to change behaviour. These people are sometimes writers, but they usually have a graphic-design or sales background.
  5. Publicist: a person who maintains the image of individual clients, like celebrities. This can be difficult if you have a client who, for example, insists on being photographed without underwear.
You may be thinking Hey, that's what I do. Welcome! Unless you are a particularly unlucky member of category 4 or 5, you are probably not a liar.

I hate liars. And I hate idiots. And I hate idiotic people who tell lies for the sole purpose of selling something to other idiots.

Which brings me to my main point.

Steve turned on the shopping channel today (why, I'll never know) and the losers who work for the network were trying to sell a projection TV with a 100-inch screen. Basically, it was one of those projectors they use in elementary schools, with a pull-down sheet as the screen. The cost was in the thousands of dollars.

I continued to mop the floor and ignore their stupid banter, until one of those idiots said something that has to be the stupidest thing that has ever been said on the shopping channel:

"Imagine a family huddled around a 32-inch TV."

OK, this is just too much. (I can already hear the philosopher king screaming about his 10-inch screen with rabbit ears.) We have a 32-inch screen, and we have never once needed to huddle around it.

I can't stand the constant sales pitches that tell me that whatever I have is not good enough. First, Colgate tells me that my vibrating toothbrush is not good enough and I need a sonic toothbrush that beeps after two minutes. I disagree. Then Mr. Clean tells me that my sponges are not good enough and I need a Magic Eraser. I disagree. Then Cold-FX tells me that my immune system is not good enough and I need to take pills every day. I disagree.

In fact, every day I am bombarded with ads that tell me my eyelashes, butt, breasts and hair are not good enough. The one thing that advertisers have not tried to make me feel inadequate about was my TV screen, and now it appears that that is not good enough, either. We did not realize how horrible we are for keeping such a tiny TV. I mean, we have to huddle around it, for Pete's sake! Where's my credit card? I need a screen the side of the wall!

If I ever consider becoming a marketer, I expect someone to smack me upside the head and remind me of this.

Post #300: Alternate Universe

There is another blog called "Steve & Megan". If you came here to look for the other guy, you're in the wrong place. The other blog is basically the Bizarro World of my blog.

The other Steve & Megan

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What's in my MP3 Player?

My parents had this song on tape when I was much, much younger. I still like it.

I have one really clear memory related to this song: my parents dancing to it in the middle of the dining room while I sat a few feet away on our old couch. (Couches are not usually design-friendly, and this was one of the worst: as I recall, it was covered with tight red plastic loops, the type you might see in industrial carpets. If you fell asleep on this couch, you would wake up with hundreds of tiny lines on your face. My mom got a snazzier couch when we moved to Canada.)

Anyway, like I said, my parents were dancing to this song. I couldn't have that, so I got up, squeezed in between them and danced along.

My son is about the same age now, and he does the same thing.

Writing this blog has made me realize that many of my memories from that time in my life are nothing more than flashes -- a second here, a second there -- and that many of them are set to music. I don't remember what happened when the music stopped, and I have no context for the memory itself.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Kicking at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight

Today’s episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Free communications advice.

This post is not about abuse of the English language. This post is about how to position yourself to respond to an offensive situation. I usually don’t give away free communications advice, but I am going to make an exception today.

Let’s imagine that you are an activist, lobby or local group with a mandate to make something better. I dunno, let’s say you lobby on behalf of a local river. You want to keep it clean, so the fish, wildlife and plants can be safe and healthy.

Your goal is always going to be to keep the public aware of your issue, so they can put pressure on the decision-makers to keep the river clean. You do this by establishing your own credibility and then the credibility of your message.

This is a balancing act. You see, the public doesn’t REALLY worry too much about whether the river is clean. They leave that to you. They know you’ll let them know if there’s a real problem. Most of the time, they worry about their own jobs and families, not the river. They’ll pay attention to the river when you sound the alarm, but the rest of the time they expect you to keep an eye on things and do the worrying for them.

Now, let’s imagine that you discover something alarming. A company is dumping waste into the river. Naturally, you’re outraged, and you sound the alarm, knowing that the public will also be outraged.

Here’s where the balancing act comes in. You can’t be too over-the-top when you sound the alarm. You can’t say that the waste is radioactive when it’s not, or claim that other companies are doing the same thing when they’re not, or that the problem has been going on for a long time when it hasn’t been. You want to avoid all the hyperbole and focus on the real issue: It’s bad to dump waste in the river.

When you tell the public about this problem, you want their reaction to be Yeah, that’s awful. You do not, under any circumstances, want their reaction to be Wait, it’s not that bad. This will be the reaction if you start screaming that the waste is radioactive: the public will see through your hysteria and automatically move to the other side of the seesaw. You want to be closer to the middle and to take a position that people will think is reasonable.

You also want the public to identify with your position. This means you’ll want to present your concerns as being reasonable and rational for any member of the public. You won’t want to say that people who visit the river every day are so upset they can’t function, because most people don’t visit the river every day and they’re suspicious of people who get so upset they really can’t function. Of course, the two or three people who do visit every day might be part of your overall strategy, but you want to give the public a chance to identify with people who are affected in ways that are less horrific.

These missteps will get you on the front page of the newspaper, but they won’t give you any credibility with the public. Remember that reporters like sound bites, and that “This might have been happening for five years!” plays better on the news than “This has been happening for five days!”. But you’re not playing to the cameras. You’re playing to the public. The reporter doesn’t really care about your issue anyway; she’s just trying to fill a news hole with the most exciting story possible. She gets kudos from her boss for dragging these extreme statements out of you, but she’ll move on to some other issue tomorrow. Meanwhile, you have a much bigger goal: You want the river to be clean. You can only do this by establishing long-term credibility with the public.

Of course, I’ve made up this issue, but I think these general guidelines can be used for a wide variety of other issues.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

It's true, I love Cher

Sorry, Glen. I can't help it.

Smoking is like carrying around a salt lick laced with cyanide

Apparently High Strung is not universally loved.

Entertainment Weekly


Just my luck: it's not available on DVD, so I will probably never see it again.

I'm not a troublemaker. I'm a bearer of bad news.

There's a difference, you see. A troublemaker makes trouble. A bearer of bad news just tells you about the trouble that already exists.

People at work get nervous when they see me coming. This is because I often say things like "Yeah, your project just self-destructed and took out an entire block, and there are body parts everywhere, and now you have to explain it to a panel of angry activists, and your interview with CBC is in two hours."

Okay, so I don't often say things EXACTLY like that. Usually we have to call CBC back within one hour.

The point is, even in this fictional worst-case scenario, I did not actually CAUSE any of the trouble.

Remember this the next time I wreck your day. It's better to get it all over at once.

So we found this hotel. It was a place I knew well.

I have been a bit worried about Glen's taste in music. So far, he has revealed that he likes Rick Astley, Anne Murray, Whitesnake, the Scissor Sisters, and a list of campy bubblegum artists I don't even recognize. That's how bad it is.

However, I definitely approve of his latest pick. I LOVE Heart. I listen to Barracuda when I'm happy and Alone when I'm sad. I keep Heart in permanent rotation on my computer at work so my extreme mood swings have an appropriate soundtrack.

[UPDATED: I have removed the back part of this post, as it was unfocused. I am trying to keep to one topic per post.]