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Friday, August 31, 2007

This is a joke, right?

A few days ago, I may have given the impression that only one of our city councilors is ridiculous. I would like to confirm that this is by no means a problem restricted to expense statements.

I could barely get through this morning's paper because I was so infuriated that the citizens of Name of Town Withheld have elected such silly people to represent us. In the past, they've suggested that real-estate developers should be encouraged to build new subdivisions that don't have driveways. Their thinking was that people should be able to decide whether they want driveways. I am all for the free market, but that was just dumb. Now it's getting worse.

Councilor Paul Falvo has been pushing the idea of a spitting bylaw for several weeks. I agree that spitting is disgusting and that there's far too much saliva downtown. However, I'm not sure how enforceable this type of bylaw would be. I admit that I haven't given the matter much thought, but it seems like a waste of effort for very little benefit.

Councilor Lydia Bardak is also against the bylaw, but for a different reason. She believes that this type of law would unfairly target homeless people. She also points out that spitting is not a criminal act. Boy, this really helps. We should review all city bylaws to make sure that none of them would apply to homeless people. Also, city bylaws should only cover things that are already covered under the Criminal Code.

Our old friend Councilor Kevin Kennedy thinks a spitting bylaw is easy to mock, and he's against it. Instead, he is suggesting that the city should set up public toilets to keep people from peeing and pooping on the sidewalks. Another fabulous idea.

But the best suggestion of all comes from Councilor Shelagh Montgomery, who wants a new bylaw to keep people from idling their cars. We already have an anti-idling bylaw that kicks in after 20 minutes, but Councilor Montgomery wants to cut this to three minutes. She says the 20-minute rule is unenforceable. The municipal-enforcement manager disagrees, but really, what does he know? Three minutes it is, then! She wants to move on this right away. It is great to know that we have a city council that is so dedicated to really really stupid ideas.

As Steve will attest, I do not like to idle our vehicles: it doesn't really warm up the engine and it wastes gas. However, I can hardly wait to see Councilor Montgomery's proposed bylaw. It probably will not include any penalties; rather, people who idle their vehicles will be encouraged to seek counseling. If there are penalties, there will probably be a sliding scale based on income. People who earn more money will get heavy fines and a whip-lashing to their lower backs. People who live in their cars will get an earnest talking-to and a fistful of cash to show city council's support. They're the ones who really NEED the money, you see. Don't you know how expensive gasoline is?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

You ask, I answer

Reader-Submitted Question: I don't really get blogs. Yours is the first one I've ever read. What, you just write things down and post them on the Internet? And then anybody at all can come and read it?

Well, yes. When you put it that way, it does sound a little weird.

I'm a writer, and we all think this is normal. I write something. Then I have the audacity to think that everybody will want to read it, so I publish it. What, that's weird?

I have to admit that I do not like most blogs. They are best when they are focused, personal, and updated frequently. By my own standards, I am not a great blogger. This blog is not particularly focused; although I have a few running features, there is no real theme except "me". I think that people who come here every day probably have a good sense of who I am and what my demons are, even though I am passive-aggressive and speak in code. On the other hand, the Uriel blog is focused but rarely updated -- but come on! I can't possibly summon that much anger on a daily basis.

Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this

Every American Idol season has a show that features the final contestants singing a schmaltzy ballad about how great it is to be THEM, RIGHT NOW. The song always has a really clever double meaning: it could be about falling in love OR it could be about winning American Idol. This is why they pay Diane Warren the big bucks.

I was relieved to see that the America's Got Talent finale dispensed with this format. Instead, David Hasselhoff got to sing the ballad. By the end, I had real tears in my eyes. That's how moving the performance was.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Yes, I do believe hell has frozen over

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: Leave Name of Paper Withheld alone. They're actually doing their jobs for once.

You might want to bookmark this post, because it's a bit unusual. You see, I'm about to defend Name of Paper Withheld. This doesn't happen often.

The paper has taken some criticism for pointing out that one of our city councilors is -- how shall I put it? -- ridiculous. Now, I'm glad that people feel free to criticise the paper, because that's part of democracy, but in this case I think the paper's in the right.

Councilor Kevin Kennedy and I tend to be on the opposite ends of the political scale. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for sustainable living. I personally wouldn't have voted for Mr. Kennedy or half of the yahoos on city council, but they were elected fairly and now represent me and all of my neighbours.

During the Association of Communities meeting a few months ago, Mr. Kennedy spent $2,859.66, more than any other city councilor. He vowed that when he travelled to Calgary for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities meeting this summer, he would save money AND greenhouse-gas emissions. Yes, you are allowed to snicker.

At the time, I suggested to Steve that if Mr. Kennedy really wanted to save money and greenhouse-gas emissions, he could have stayed away from the meeting entirely. I still doubt that we really needed to send seven councilors to it. However, our elected leaders are not ready to make that kind of sacrifice in the name of saving money. Miss a meeting in a city with malls? It would be easier to just cut wages at the swimming pool!

Mr. Kennedy announced that he would take the bus and stay in a hostel, saving tons of tax money. We later found out that he had no real plans for getting home, so he ended up hitchhiking back. Total cost: $600. Meanwhile, the other councilors bought plane tickets during a seat sale at a price of $450-500. Mr. Kennedy's total costs were $2,393.99. This was indeed less than the average cost of $2,438.

Name of Paper Withheld covered the story in what I thought was a pretty fair way, although I cannot vouch for its accuracy. However, some people were not amused. They felt it was mean to pick on a poor city councilor.

Sorry, but Mr. Kennedy is a public figure, and he set himself up for it. I do not like it when the newspaper picks on average Joes, but elected representatives need to be held accountable. Normally, I don't like it when expense statements are picked over, either, but considering all of the grand pronouncements about saving money and the planet, it was appropriate.

So write this down, because it might not happen again for a long time: Good job, Name of Paper Withheld. Your critics are wrong.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What am I missing here?

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: I'm standing here with...HAHAHAHAHA!!!

In the past six months or so, my humour-impaired readers have either developed a sense of humour or decided to stop asking me if I am serious all the time. I am not sure which it is, but I suspect that they are still afflicted with this pernicious ailment and have simply gotten to know me a bit better by reading this blog. Also, they don't like it when I make fun of them, because, as I mentioned earlier, they are humour impaired.

I am making a direct appeal to those readers today.

What...the funny about this video? I don't get it. What is it that makes you crumple into tears of laughter? Why is this video viral on YouTube?

I found out about this through The Washington Post, which called this video "a 17-second masterpiece of comic triviality". Hmmm. I don't get it. Where's the humour?

Turtle Boy is apparently hilarious, but to me it just looks like another live hit on a local news program. It goes on every day. Don't these people watch the news?

This sort of thing happens when an event is scheduled during the newscast. I don't mean that the event organizers planned to hold it as the same time as the local news; usually they didn't even think about the timing. It's a local fair, a concert, a sale at Reitman's...really, it doesn't matter what it is. The news producer decides to cover it -- while it's still happening! How exciting! Talk about live and late-breaking!

A live hit requires a small crew at the site: the reporter, the camera guy, and a techie to get the feed to the studio at just the right time. Although the techie usually does a great job of linking the reporter to the studio, the timing of the event is usually off: it's unlikely that anything exciting will actually happen during the minute or so that the group will be broadcasting live. In fact, the point of a live hit is not to show something exciting that's happening. Anything exciting should be filmed and used in a packaged story. God forbid something would happen during the live hit -- some moron reporter would be talking over the real news! I can picture it now: "And the atomic bomb is about to drop over Hiroshima. Our sources say it should be any minute now. Well, it's not happening yet, so let me tell you more about it. A single weapon can destroy an entire city. This will be the first time this type of weapon has ever been used. This is historic stuff, folks. What's that? Oh, our sources are telling us the bomb has just been dropped. See that mushroom cloud?"

So it's up to the reporter to "wrangle a guest" to be interviewed. It could be the event organizer, a local celebrity, or a cute kid. The point of the interview is not to provide any real information to the public, it's to remind the audience that the news crew is RIGHT THERE. Usually, the guest says nothing of any value. Often, he will freeze -- this is live TV, after all -- and say something really dumb that has nothing to do with the topic at hand. Like "I like turtles".

Can someone explain to me why this clip is funnier than the stuff that airs every night of the week? I just don't get it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The only show I watch

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For Megan, from Steve


What. The. Fuck???

UPDATED NOV. 4: Welcome! I seem to be getting a lot of hits to this page. There's a whole blog here, and most of it's not about domestic discipline. I'm not sure how you got here, but please feel free to look around.

I was surfing the Internet the other day and had the distinct pleasure (or not) of stumbling across a website for practitioners of "Christian Domestic Discipline" (CDD).

No, it's NOT a fetish site. It's for people who are sick and tired of finding nothing but porn every time they search the Interweb for information about wife-beating. I thought it was a parody site at first, especially when I saw they were selling crotchless bloomers, but apparently those are intended to make the beatings easier on the man. No need to wait for your wife to drop her underwear if she's wearing those!

I couldn't pull myself away. I kept reading in horror. You probably thought that hitting women was family violence, but boy oh boy, were you ever wrong. It's called "non-consensual CDD". These guys are against that. The wife has to submit to it freely, even if she's hurt or scared. You see, if the woman agrees to the beating, it's totally OK. Those other sickos who beat their wives without consent are the real problem.

There's even a list of frequently-asked questions for men. They include questions about whether women really need to be beaten to tears (Answer: Yes, because it humbles women), if it's good to listen to what women say (Answer: No, because women already have plenty of girlfriends to listen to them), and what to do if the beatings don't help the problem (Answer: Beat her again, of course!).

In the interest of transparency and all that Web 2.0 stuff, these guys have linked to blogs by women who are doing this. If I could figure out where they live, I would call the police to rescue them. This is truly awful stuff.

Lydia Russell is upset because some visitors to her site have offered help to get out of her abusive marriage. Others have told her she is going to hell. I have to say that this is probably not the best way to help a victim of family violence. If you go over there, please don't say anything like that to her.

Lydia and her husband have put a few rules in place:

  1. She can ask for a beating if she is feeling guilty about something.
  2. She has to ask for a beating every night before 9 pm.
  3. She cannot change her mind about getting beaten.
  4. If she does not ask for a beating, her husband will beat her anyway, and then she will be required to ask for two beatings the next day.
  5. She has to trust that he will beat her as hard as he thinks she needs it.
  6. Her husband will decide how much recovery time she gets after each beating. If she selfishly wants more time, she will get a second beating.
  7. She has to do what he asks her to do when he asks her to do it. Otherwise, you guessed it, she gets another beating.
This is causing problems, because:

  1. She does not want to be beaten. Just when she knows she needs it the most, she remembers how much it hurts.
  2. She does not always want to do what he tells her to do, and sometimes wants to wait a minute or so before she does it.
  3. Sometimes she wonders if he really needs to beat her as hard as he does. Other times she thinks she needs to be beaten harder.
  4. For a while, the beatings were just another part of the evening routine. She wants them to be more than that.
Debbie Lee, on the other hand, is struggling with a weight problem and really wants to weigh 140 pounds. I would like to recommend the SELF Challenge instead of what she is currently doing: getting beaten every time she eats more than 1800 calories in a day or doesn't lose weight in a week. Her husband walks her to the scale and she tracks her weight to the tenth of a pound.

Debbie's blog also details beatings for the following misdemeanors:

  1. Burning a pan on the stove.
  2. Accidentally turning on the stove while cleaning her in-laws' house.
  3. "Disrespecting" her husband. I have no idea what that means.
Fortunately, at least in Debbie's mind, she deserves every beating she's ever gotten. These beatings leave her sore but not bruised the next day. Therefore, there's nothing wrong with them. (I seem to recall that Bill Sampson was almost never bruised during his daily beatings in Saudi Arabia. That was probably OK, too, especially since he was also being punished for mistakes.)

A few readers have described their own weight-loss efforts and suggested that it might be easier if there were no beatings involved. They have experienced weeks of no weight loss, even when they have stayed on the diet. Debbie does not agree.

I think I might throw up. Both women have female readers who have left comments about their own need for beatings: Sometimes they forget to log off the computer! They don't set reminders on their cell phones! What, do you expect their husbands to just forgive them for mistakes? Then there's this gem from someone named Will: "Your husband is so lucky to have a wife who understands when she need discipline from his belt. My fiance has some understanding, too, but she is still far too outspoken. I will continue to be patient with her as I teach her to be submissive one spanking at a time."

UPDATED: More about CDD

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Congratulations, Nate and Michelle

I really, really wish I could be there today. If I could have made it work, I would have been there a week ago.

Unfortunately, I am not going to show up at the last minute and surprise everyone. I'd like to do that, but it won't happen.

I think it's best that I stop here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

You ask, I answer

Reader-Submitted Question: How out of it WERE you as a teenager? ABBA? Showtunes? It never occurred to you that any of that was worth a teensy bit of thought?

About a month ago I drank much too much Newfie screech within a short amount of time, which is why I started to compare my life to Degrassi.

is a Canadian TV show about high-school kids in a Toronto suburb, and it's been on the air in various forms for about twenty years. I don't know if anyone in the States can watch it at all. The old shows used to air on network TV, so I would catch the show from time to time when I was living in Dexter. I still like to watch the reruns every once in a while, although I think by now I've probably seen all of them.

The new show has been on for about five years and is apparently a huge hit with teenage girls. I could probably have figured that out by myself, but my theory was confirmed on YouTube, where I found too many photo montages to count. You know what I'm talking about: slideshows or video clips set to angst-filled music. I am not a big fan of Evanescence, but trust me, if I was, there would be plenty of videos to choose from. I don't think there are ANY Degrassi videos on YouTube that don't feature a caterwauling female singer with black smeared around her eyes. You Yanks will have to settle for this:

Degrassi is nothing like my high school. I only catch it every few months, but I've seen enough to know that its characters talk frankly about problems in their lives. They swap condom advice and share their feelings about crises in their families. Sometimes they screw up big time, but don't get caught. I, on the other hand, went to a school where you could get shunned for changing your hair colour. (This actually happened to a friend of mine.) We kept lots of secrets, even from our best friends.

I cannot imagine asking any of my high-school friends what type of birth control they were using; such things were not discussed unless there was plenty of alcohol involved, and even then it would be in the proper context: "So...been up on the track lately?" (Cue riotous laughter.) Gay people did not exist. Yes, I see the irony.

I really liked my high school while I was there, but I didn't realise how much it slotted people into tiny boxes and punished them if they ever showed who they really were. It wasn't that none of these things were happening, but we all pretended they weren't real. I don't recognise any of my teenage experiences in Degrassi.

So...yes, I was that out of it. Thanks for your question. Now I'm depressed.

Rory? Is that you?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

An interesting turn of events

I've been going to bed early for the past couple of weeks. The days have felt very long, and I'm too tired to stay up past nine or so.

It's too bad, because I missed this appearance on the Colbert Report a few days ago. It certainly inspired Steve: he came running into the bedroom and said he wanted to buy Dr. Shermer's book. Fortunately, I already own it, so it was in the pile next to my side of the bed.

Steve does not usually read books; he is more of an Internet guy. In fact, this is the first time he's ever wanted to buy a book based on a television interview. I am also a big fan of the Internet, but I have never been able to get to sleep without reading, and laptops aren't great for that. I subscribe to a bunch of magazines so I always have a constant stream of reading material, but I like to watch the Colbert Report because he usually interviews an author with interesting things to say. (There's something odd about the fact that the only late-night shows that feature people with ideas are the ones on Comedy Central.)

Really, I should subscribe to Dr. Shermer's magazine. I'm sort of a fan. I'm almost wishing I hadn't told Steve that I owned the book, because he took it out of town with him. That means it's not available for ME to read, and of course it's all about me.

My family may be familiar with the good doctor from his appearance on the philosopher king's blog a few months ago. Please note that I do not recommend watching the linked video unless you are desperate to kill two hours and don't mind listening to a convicted felon explain why his bizarre religious beliefs are better science than real science: you know, the kind that scientists do. I do not have much time for idiots on this scale, especially idiots who create fictitious credentials for themselves. (Sample argument: "There is one little thing you haven't explained. Therefore, my alternative theory wins by default even though there is absolutely no evidence for it.")

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who woulda thunk it?

It looks like the feed is working, so on to regular business.

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: What? We don't make mistakes! Like we were saying, the prime minister is actually a space alien...

This will probably come as no surprise to my readers, but I am a big fan of the few media analysts out there. We don't have any in Canada (the right-wing blogosphere doesn't count) but Jack Shafer of Slate is one of my favourites.

Shafer's recent column is about research into the number of errors in newspaper stories. This is shocking news to journalists, but no surprise to anyone else. Yesterday, Gene Weingarten discussed quote inaccuracies in his weekly chat on

This got me thinking. Please allow me to speak directly to journalists on behalf of readers (the rest of you might want to avert your eyes briefly):


That felt good.

Most publications have a "Corrections" section. I read it every time I read a hard copy of any newspaper or magazine, because it is the funniest part of any publication. The section basically exists to pat the editor on the back: "Well, we got this one tiny thing wrong yesterday, but everything else was totally true!" There is almost never anything of any substance in it. They will fess up to spelling someone's name wrong or misidentifying someone in a photo, but not to getting all of the facts wrong.

Broadcast journalists, now, almost NEVER admit to getting anything wrong. There is no "corrections" section of a newscast. I'm not sure if this is better or worse. On one hand, at least they are not pretending that their mistakes are limited to misspelling a name; on the other hand, they are not even acknowledging their minor errors. In seven years of living here, I have only heard one honest-to-goodness correction on the local news. I don't think anyone would suggest that there has only been one error in all that time.

You see, factual errors are embarrassing to reporters. They don't want to admit that they get things wrong. I might suggest that the errors are far more embarrassing to the people they cover, but when you're dealing with the media, it's all about THEM. There are no "people", only "stories" to make editors happy. A really great (but inaccurate) story can lead to a promotion. Who cares if some regular Joe gets hurt along the way? Corrections make the reporter look bad!

Every few years a reporter will be caught making up stories (Jayson Blair being the most recent high-profile example). Journalists express shock, and the paper's editors are confused. If the stories were made up, why didn't anyone complain? You see, editors believe that unless someone calls to complain, the story is entirely accurate. When you call to complain, they will insist that you prove that they made a mistake. Then they will blame you for the error: you must have misled them!

This is entirely backwards. It shouldn't be up to you to prove that the reporter's crazy ideas are wrong. It should be up to the reporter to prove that he's right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Anyone out there?

Feed users? Are you still there?

Attention, feed users

I'm about to muck around with the feed. Let me know if something goes wonky.

If you read my posts by coming to the blog instead of using a feed, ignore this post.


I might (MIGHT) have found someone who is even sexier than David Hasselhoff. I didn't think it was possible, either, but Craig is super hot. There's nothing more awesome than a man with a pussy that stares into my very soul.

I really, really, really need a fluffy orange cat.

Does David know about this? The only thing that could possibly be better would be David in his tight leather pants, shirtless, stroking

Excuse me. I need to get a glass of water.

Welcome, Cute with Chris fans. If you like what you see here, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed. You may also be interested in:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Okay, pervs

I can TOTALLY SEE YOU. I'm not sure whether I should be more grossed out that you are searching my blog for the phrase "wife 'sex addict'" or that you actually found that phrase here on Prudence

Sunglasses at night

Glen's leaving today, so I spent part of yesterday evening at a farewell get-together around the corner from my house. The host is a good friend of his and a former co-worker of mine from my CBC days.

CBC divides its operations into "regions", meaning "not Toronto". CBC North has reporters in six locations across this vast land, and I worked at the station here in town for a short time before heading further north.

Name of Town Withheld is its own little Toronto, by which I mean that everyone who's not from there hates everyone who is from there. I will soon lose my ability to say this, because I've now been living in this town about the same amount of time as I lived Up There. I was never really from anywhere, to be honest; I've moved too often to be able to say I have a real hometown.

It's odd, because I never saw people from the station here in town as "people from Name Of Town Withheld". My former co-worker thought this was funny, but it's actually a compliment, like telling someone he doesn't act like a guy from Toronto. People from Name of Town Withheld would show up in town complaining about the dust, the prices and the state of their hotel rooms. They would always be wearing weird clothes, like shiny shoes. And they would always think they were extremely important and totally understood life Up There.

Folks from the station never acted that way. I was usually happy to see them, because they would show up to fix some technical problem with our station or to wave the MotherCorp flag. They would wear jeans and seemed to have a sense of humour about life Up There. I liked that. They also usually had behind-the-scenes gossip to share, which was always fun.

My first experience with a lot of people from Name of Town Withheld came in 2003, just before I moved here. It actually made me re-think my plans to move. I was in a really pretty town a few hundred miles south of Up There for a meeting. There were a ton of delegates from Name of Town Withheld, and I did not like them at all. I wasn't sure if it was because they were awful as individuals or because there were so many of them that they formed a critical mass of awfulness. They acted like City People roughing it in a Tiny Town.

What I remember most of all was that they wore their sunglasses on their foreheads. Not up on the tops of their heads, but on their foreheads, just above their eyebrows. I thought this was really, really weird. A person who did that would be laughed out of Up There. The sunglasses kept falling down, and they would have to continually re-adjust them to keep looking cool. I felt very out of place.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Nate's wedding

Saturday, August 18, 2007

For the Capitalist

Friday, August 17, 2007

So you're blue, but I can't take a chance on a chick like you

I've seen this entire video. It's at least an hour long, but if you've seen this clip, you've seen it all. If you are ever forced to watch the whole thing, I suggest you drink heavily before you turn on the TV. I'm pretty sure that's how I made it through -- I don't remember, really, but I'm just going to play the odds here.

I have listened to a LOT of ABBA in my life, more than the average person, I would think. There are several reasons for this, but the biggest one is that they were particularly popular with the boys I hung out with in high school. In retrospect, this should have given me pause, but Bay Roberts was not a place that encouraged that type of earnest thought.

This was the mid-nineties, and people listened to these old-fashioned things called "compact disks" that had to be purchased in stores using money. It was a crazy system: you should look it up some day. There were plenty of ABBA CDs to go around, so we were never far from Freida and Bjorn and whatever the other guys' names were. Of course, depending on where we were, a person might have to shuffle through the Miss Saigon and Phantom of the Opera soundtracks, the Celine Dion collection or the Bjork tribute albums, but we were guaranteed to have plenty of ABBA on hand no matter what.

Man, I am BLIND.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


How rude of me

I continually forget that many (most?) of my readers did not come of age in the early 1990s. I apologise for the last video if you didn't get it. I suppose if you aren't familiar with the original, or if, say, you are convinced that I'm an atheist burning a path to hell, you might think I was making a religious joke. I need to stop making vague references to bands half of my readers have never heard of. (I did this on Valentine's Day, too, but I thought everyone would have heard of Nirvana. Sorry.)

Here's the original:

The Gregorian guys didn't even change it all that much.

Metallica was pretty hot in 1992, at least with the people I hung out with. I was in ninth grade and was living with my maternal grandmother in what turned out to be a really bad idea for all concerned.

We lived around the corner from my friend Crystal and not far from two sophomoric sophomores named Billy and Jeremy. For the life of me, I can't remember their last names, but it is not relevant to this discussion. They were huge Metallica fans, and I suppose that's why I can't imagine going through life without being exposed to these guys: Sleep with one eye open, gripping your pillow tight! (Hmmm. Perhaps you guys weren't missing much, after all.)

Before that year, I'd lived in outport Newfoundland or with my other grandparents, who lived in a much more rural part of Dexter. Well, all of Dexter is rural, but my other grandparents lived at the end of a discontinued road, out by the lake. My maternal grandmother lived in what I suppose you could call the downtown, near the shoe shop. It was the first chance I really had to spend time with friends on weekends or during the evenings. We used to hang out on the road near Crystal's house and do...well, not much, really. There was lots of REM, lots of Metallica and lots of Pearl Jam, though. (Please tell me you guys have heard of Pearl Jam. You have, right?)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

These guys crack me up

They call themselves "Gregorian", but if I remember my Sacred Music classes correctly, this is closer to Anglican chant because it's in English. Don't quote me on this, but I seem to recall that neither type of chant usually includes musical instruments.

Elect Amy Hacala

My friend Amy is running for public office. Well, she's already an elected official at the local level, but she has now set her sights higher and is running in the territorial election.

Take a look at her site. It's great: she has to be the most transparent candidate so far. I love the fact that she has a platform and is clear about her vision for the territory.

Go, Amy, go!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My favourite protest song

Monday, August 13, 2007

I've got a fever and the only cure is MORE COWBELL

Yes, I am a Saturday Night Live fan. I've seen at least a bit of the show every Saturday night that I was near a television since 1991, which is still my favourite season. Every September, I struggle through getting to know a new cast, and I read the newspaper reviews that announce that SNL is horrible now and was much, much better five years earlier (it is almost as if they do not read five-year-old articles in their own papers).

I like Saturday Night Live because each week offers new possibilities. If the host's any good at all, the show will play to his strengths and will be unique: I know I'll see something I wouldn't have seen anywhere else. If the host's lousy, I simply go to bed. I can save time by figuring out who the host is in advance. If it's an athlete, I don't bother with the opening credits. I still don't understand why the bookers think athletes can do sketch comedy, but they've been booking these guys for years so obviously there's a reason.

Over the years, I've become less impressed by the musical guests. This is at least partly because I do not like boy bands, but it's also because the guests themselves seem uninterested in their own music. Barring an Ashlee-Simpson-style mishap (which was even more enjoyable live than on YouTube), I can look forward to three and a half minutes of some moron standing there mumbling into a microphone, playing the same three chords over and over, and looking bored. I blame this guy:

(Yes, that's Phil Collins playing drums.)

This sort of thing makes lousy musicians think they can pull off the same trick. They play a few notes over and over and think they've got a song. If the great guitarists can do it, why not everyone else?

And so last weekend we found ourselves watching Beck sing a song that was so boring I can't even remember it. The best part was that one member of his backup band appeared to be on crystal meth and was flailing around. At one point he pulled out a cowbell and started banging on it. Unfortunately -- and you aspiring musicians should write this down -- if you want to use cowbell in your live shows, you really should bang on it near a microphone. Otherwise, nobody will be able to hear it and all of your efforts will be for nothing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Happy birthday, Matt

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Uncle Bruce makes my day


Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: You know my editor's forcing me to ask this, right?

A few days ago, I had a truly awful conversation with a reporter.

REPORTER: We heard that the jail was hit by lightning.

ME: No, a transformer was knocked out very briefly. The back-up generator kicked in right away.

REPORTER: So the power didn't go out?

ME: No.

REPORTER: Not even for a little while?

ME: There might have been a flicker as the lights came back on.

REPORTER: What do you mean?

ME: Have you ever been in a building when a generator kicks in? There's a flicker as the power goes out, then everything comes back on right away.

REPORTER: So I guess the power was only out for a few seconds.

ME: Less than that. Half a second, maybe, if that. It wouldn't even have been noticeable. We have a pretty amazing generator.

REPORTER: My editor says I have to do a story about this. Why do you have such a powerful generator?

ME: (I started to laugh openly at this point.) Because it's a jail.

REPORTER: How long have you had it? When did you realise that you needed it?

ME: (I continued to laugh.) Are you serious? Is it that slow of a news day? Really, it wasn't noticeable.

Naturally, I was quoted in the next day's paper, 1) saying that the jail had indeed been hit by lightning, and 2) bragging about the amazing generator. Fortunately, I still have a sense of humour about all of this. Before I get started, I will confirm that jails do indeed have back-up generators, as do hospitals, large stores, and many other buildings that need to keep the power on for any number of reasons. In this new-media world, it's important to break this kind of exciting news on the Internet.

In the world of journalism, reporters are at the bottom of the heap. The editor has total control, and in a small media organization there is nobody to appeal to. A reporter who's been around for a while can work his way up through the pile, but new guys don't even have a chance. They are ordered to do certain stories, and they must deliver. They usually don't dare to tell the editor that his great ideas are not really any good.

Think how exciting it would be if the jail really HAD been hit by lightning! That would be a great cover photo -- naturally, it would have to be a photo illustration created on a computer, but I can totally see it already. It's pitch black outside, but the scene is starkly illuminated by the single bolt of lightning that is running straight from the sky into the jail. The building has been electrified and is literally glowing. Inside, all of the inmates look up in shock and horror as the lights go down. Then their faces light up as the electric locks pop open. The inmates run off into the night, leaving the guards to chase them on foot over the tundra.

What a GREAT story! Thwarted only by the amazing back-up generator and the fact that the jail was not actually hit by lightning!

Reporters are paid to find great stories. They DREAM of finding great stories. Unfortunately, life is not usually quite so interesting. Life is full of intricacies and yes-buts and it's-a-bit-more-complicated-than-thats. These do not play so well on the evening news. The editor needs to deliver a certain number of eyeballs to advertisers, so he's always looking for something to draw people in. Reporters with a few years of experience are usually allowed to find their own stories, but a newbie can be forced to "chase" whatever the editor thinks might have happened. These reporters are usually embarrassed when they call: they know their questions are amazingly stupid and they can't believe they are being forced to ask them. Often, they will make it very clear that they do not want to ask these questions.

Some of my recent favourites from the last few years (covering several employers/clients):

  • Is my employer splitting in half? Someone thinks we're getting rid of furniture, so obviously we're splitting. (Answer: No. And we're not getting rid of furniture.)
  • If it's smoky outside, what should people do if the smoke bothers them? (Answer: Stay inside with the windows closed.)
  • Have we made a deal with a multi-national corporation that will affect everyone in Canada either directly or indirectly? (Answer: No. If we make that sort of deal, we'll be excited enough to let you know.)
My dear readers, I'm curious: Do you get similar questions? Do reporters ever call you, mutter an apology, and ask if your CEO is an alien who's trying to take over the province through a combination of gum disease and plantar warts?

Friday, August 10, 2007

You know that ghost is me

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hughie misses Rory

Trading spaces

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Free communications advice to CBC management

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My hair is like a flock of goats

(Somehow I remember that being a compliment. Perhaps there's a problem with the translation.)

I've been growing my hair out for almost a year. This has been a long ride, and my hair is still not even long enough to put in a ponytail. (I started with very short, spiky hair.)

Fortunately, my mom has introduced me to a website that can motivate me through the dark times. Call it the SELF Challenge for hair, except it's Clairol. I am guessing that they consider it a marketing tool, but really, it's just plain fun.

First, you need a photo of yourself. I don't take pictures of myself, so I pulled this screenshot off my latest vlog:
I'm not getting ready to kiss you; I'm in mid-sentence as usual.

As you can see, my current hair colour is pretty boring. Also, the style is not going to get me on Jay Leno any time soon. This is where Clairol can help. I can imagine myself as a redheaded porn star:
Hot diggity, this could be all I need to jump-start my career as a Hoffette! But there are other choices, too. For example, all-over hair colour is so 90s. Today's hair design is all about highlights and lowlights:
Until now, I've never seen the value of maintaining twelve different shades of red in my hair. But now Clairol has opened my eyes and shown me how truly hot I could be.

There's a lot at stake. If I don't maintain an age-appropriate number of colours in my hair, I might as well give in and get Newfoundland Mom Hair:
Yeah, I think we can all agree that that's not a great idea. But you know what I think MIGHT be coming back in style? Perms.
I actually did have hair like this when I was 13. (I was super hot.)

You are OURS. We OWN you.

Today's episode of Little Miss Know-it-All: How NOT to set up a blogging policy.

It's funny that I'm about to criticise CBC for its new blogging policy “guideline document.” CBC employees have been asking for some direction about blogging for quite some time now. When none came, a few of them proposed the CBC Blogging Manifesto. They signed their names (well, except "Ouimet", who blogs under a pseudonym because as management, he'd be fired if anyone finds out who he is). I don't know everyone on the list, but I respect those I do know. I thought the manifesto was a great start, but essentially forgot about it when nothing seemed to come of it.

Well, there's a new policy “guideline document” that's been posted to the Web. My comments are in bold text.

Personal Blogging – Guidelines for CBC/Radio-Canada Employees

As the internet becomes an even more important part of people’s lives, the popularity of blogging will increase. Blogging is becoming a form of public conversation on the internet in which CBC employees may wish to take part.

True! I agree with this. That last sentence is a bit clunky -- I would have reworded it -- but I agree with the sentiment. Usually "Internet" is capitalized, but still, this isn't bad.

These guidelines apply to any personal blogging or other self-publishing such as podcasting by CBC/Radio-Canada employees if the content clearly associates them with CBC/Radio-Canada. They apply not only to CBC/Radio-Canada journalists but to any corporation employee.

I think I need some clarification on what it means to clearly associate yourself with CBC. There's a difference between running an
official blog and running a personal blog that occasionally mentions where you work. I've got over 600 posts. This blog isn't about my work, but work's a big part of my life. I don't think I've ever named my current employer, mostly because it's not interesting or important, but I've mentioned projects from time to time. I've also been pretty clear that I'm in the communications business. Have I "clearly associated" myself with anyone? Actually, I think the only employer I've ever mentioned by name is the CBC itself.

Hmmm. ANY employee? Well, that cuts out any confusion about who they expect to follow this, but I'm hesitant to apply journalistic standards to janitors, set designers and PR people, especially when they're, um, NOT AT WORK.

When bloggers clearly identify themselves as CBC/Radio-Canada employees, they are expected to behave in a way that is consistent with our journalistic philosophy, editorial values and corporate policies.

I would agree with this if it said "When bloggers clearly identify themselves as blogging on behalf of CBC/Radio-Canada...". This is sort of like your office's dress code. Your boss can tell you that a ripped T-shirt's not acceptable for the office, but you can wear the same shirt to the store even if the checkout clerk knows where you work.

Such blogging should be done on an employee’s own time, posted through a personal e-mail address and not channeled through CBC/Radio-Canada’s e-mail system.

I agree with this, although in practice, it really shouldn't matter if someone occasionally blogs at his desk over his lunch hour. I think this is trying to say the same thing as those annoying Technology Policies that really boil down to "don't waste too much time at work, OK?". Your personal blog should use your personal e-mail address, not your work e-mail. Work time is for work. That sounds reasonable.

These blogs are expected to adhere to the principles outlined in CBC/Radio-Canada Human Resources policies regarding Outside Work, Advocacy and Opinion, Conflict of Interest and the Code of Conduct.

Excellent. Yes, CBC already has several policies for employee conduct that appear to be working just fine.

To start and maintain a blog of this kind, you need your supervisor’s approval.

Whoa. What kind? This comes right after the bit about adhering to existing policies, so Little Miss Know-it-All assumes that that's what this sentence refers to. You still need your supervisor's approval if you're playing it safe?

The blog cannot advocate for a group or a cause, or express partisan political opinion. It should also avoid controversial subjects or contain material that could bring CBC/Radio-Canada into disrepute.

Yikes. That's awfully vague. What's a group? Does a quilting bee count? Is family violence a "cause"? "Partisan political opinion" is vague too -- clearly, campaigning for a federal party is not on, but what about advocating on behalf of Jill Carroll or Alan Johnston?

CBC/Radio-Canada material such as pre-interviews, interviews, research, etc. created or developed while doing your job is the property of CBC/Radio-Canada and can only be used with your supervisor’s permission.

Boy, that sounds reasonable...wait a minute, what's a "pre-interview"? And what's "research"? Those things can be pretty fluid when you work for CBC. You do tons of stuff that never makes it to air. You talk to lots of people about ideas that aren't good enough to fit the "someone doing something for a reason" rule. This can be a formal taped interview that never goes anywhere, or it can be a quick conversation in the coffee shop.

Program blogs or other “official” CBC publications are not addressed here and can only be designed and launched with the approval of the appropriate supervisor. Blogs or websites which do not identify the bloggers as a CBC/Radio-Canada employee, do not discuss CBC/Radio-Canada and are purely about personal matters would normally fall outside these guidelines.

Well, I certainly hope so!

If you are uncertain about any of this, please have a conversation with your supervisor to clear it up.

This is indeed the best way to end a policy “guideline document” like this one. However, the standard way to deal with this is to talk to supervisors first to make sure they actually CAN answer questions. It's a good idea to talk to staff first, too, instead of just dropping something like this on them.

This is far too vague to be of any use at all. It could include just about anyone who works for CBC and blogs about anything. I'm guessing that's the point: cast the net as wide as possible so you always have a
policy “guideline document” to point to when your staff piss you off. In real life, there is no way anyone will be enforcing these rules. No manager has time to monitor the Internet on top of regular programming.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Feel it on my fingertips, hear it on my window pane

The rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested

A reader asked about my demographics compared to Uriel's, so I will elaborate:

Here are the last 100 hits on Uriel's blog. There's a definite cluster near New England; you can't see it on this map, but I can tell that many of these visitors are coming from universities: Yale, Salem State and some educational facility in Winchester. Apart from that cluster, all parts of the States appear to be represented: Flint, Michigan; Tarpon Springs, Florida; Woodland, California. She has a few readers in Canada: Penticton (hmmm), Brandon, Napanee. Across the Atlantic, you can see visitors from the Netherlands, Lithuania, Poland and England. Near the bottom right: Australia, the Philippines and Fiji.

Now, my readership is not nearly as eclectic:

I've cut out the other parts of the world because, let's face it, nobody from there is interested in anything I have to say. I have several readers who share the same URL (for example, everyone who uses a CBC computer is represented by that dot over Ottawa, no matter where they work) and several readers in the same town (Name of Town Withheld, Victoria, Toronto, Edmonton) who also share dots. I do not have many American visitors other than my immediate family: although they are loyal readers, I don't appear to have caught on south of the border. Apparently my brand of grammar analysis and David Hasselhoff worship is not valued internationally in the age of Dancing With The Stars.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends

Reader-Submitted Question: Is Uriel a friend of yours? Why is he (she?) the only one who gets a little "Updated" note?

Uriel is not really a friend of mine. Little Miss Know-it-All and I, however, are very close. I have had sexual relations with her husband.

I have very few friends in real life, and I don't have room for a friend like Uriel. However, I do spend a lot of time thinking about what she thinks:

  • Is she a racist?
  • What does she think of Stockwell Day?
  • How often does she vandalize Wikipedia?
A friend of mine says that I am much more like Uriel than I would like to admit. I'm not sure that this is right, but it's true that I often don't have to wonder what she would think: I automatically know. For example, she's against safety equipment because she thinks it makes people careless. She's in favour of picket lines and court actions, but only because she knows that if she takes the kind of violent action against the government that she'd like to take, she will be arrested and her opportunities for preaching will be limited. Well, Uriel doesn't preach so much as angrily judge people who disagree with her.

Uriel only gets a special "Updated" note because she used to be allowed to write here on this blog, so some of my readers are still interested in what she's doing. She has her own blog now, which is good. She has attracted her own audience over there, one that's not quite as interested in grammar or videos of Michael as the people you'll find here. She has a very diverse group of readers from all over the world, but mostly the United States. My readers, on the other hand, are mostly Canadians: I never have visitors from outside North America unless I've been linked on another blog.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

CBC is dumber than I thought

It is getting so bad, maybe I should start calling them Name of Broadcaster Withheld as the ultimate insult.

They want to set policies for employees' blogs. Not the official CBC blog, which broke the story, but personal blogs maintained by staff. And not just Peter Mansbridge and the people who you could say are the public face of the MotherCorp, but all staff. Now, any media organization as big as CBC has a ton of staff who have nothing to do with journalism (out of respect, I will not make a snarky joke here) but who pay invoices, answer phones, and generally are just everyday folks with jobs. CBC wants to make these non-journalists conform to CBC editorial values in their blogs.

It's a good thing I don't work for CBC anymore, so they have no control over what I say here on my personal blog that is neither reviewed nor controlled by my employer or anyone else: You guys are a bunch of morons. You discovered this nifty thing called the Internet and decided you wanted to use it as a "platform". You even tried to hitch your star to Facebook and still have mud (afterbirth?) on your faces. Now you want to control what your employees say in their free time. Good luck.

CBC doesn't need a separate policy about blogs. No employer does. Most large companies already have broad policies that use general terms to describe what employees can talk about. This is not that difficult. There are only two principles:

  1. Employees can say what they want about public issues.
  2. However, they can't use their jobs to give their personal opinions added weight.
Now, was that hard? I didn't think so.

You've probably already spotted the difficulty here. There's a world of difference between a file clerk's opinions about caribou hunting and the education minister's assistant's opinions about school space. (I am going to ignore the obvious no-nos like nurses blogging about patients in ways that identify people.) It's true that this is a sliding scale, and I always tell people to err on the side of caution. Well, it isn't really a scale so much as a two-dimensional chart.

First, the content of your comments matters. If you are speaking publicly about issues you deal directly with at work, it can confuse people. They won't be sure whether your statements carry the extra punch that would come if your employer was saying these things through you. In fact, they will often assume that you are speaking on behalf of your employer. I usually don't recommend that people become vocal about their personal opinions about work because of this potential for confusion.

Second, the forum of your comments matters. There is a big difference between talking to a friend at your house and giving a presentation to the prime minister in the House of Commons. Personal blogs are closer to the "friend's house" end of the scale for two reasons: they have limited readership and they are obviously not approved by the employer. By their very nature, they have limited credibility and have no support from anyone other than the writer. They don't pretend to speak on behalf of anyone else or to repeat any organization's talking points. That's what makes them, uh, personal blogs. (Duh.)

CBC is so terrified about the first part that they are proposing to upend the second part. Ironically, this will have the opposite effect they are hoping for. A blog that has your supervisor's stamp of approval becomes an official extension of your work. For an employer, there could be nothing worse than imagining that employees' random musings about mullets, photos of their kids and Twitter statuses could be considered official communications from head office.

This is so obvious that I can't believe CBC would actually want to approve anyone's blog. I read a lot of personal blogs, and no employer would ever want to be associated with any of them. Employees are people: they have personal lives and they like to write about the things that are important to them. Which makes the CBC look better: a page full of press releases or an honest blog about the ups and downs of working there?

You would think that the CBC would know this. They always say they're looking for "honesty" and "real people" instead of talking heads. Now I see that when it comes to their own employees, they can't wait to squash anything that's different.

UPDATED: Esther Enkin, acting CBC Editor-in-Chief, tries to make this better (HAHAHAHAHA):

Hi all: Just to set the record straight –the guidelines Tod refers to are just that - guidelines. Policies need to be approved by the Board.

As the digital world continues to expand, we are trying to provide guidance for CBC staff that is consistent with existing practices and ensure the same high ethical and quality standards that are hallmarks of CBC.
This particular set of guidelines is consistent with existing practice re outside work or publication - just as one must do now when publishing in traditional media.
As for this being “unsigned”, Jon Dube, a Director at sent this to his staff recently. In the accompanying note he said these guidelines came from the Editor in chief’s office. Not really anonymous.
As with all guidelines, there is always room for discussion.

Esther Enkin
Acting Editor in Chief

Friday, August 03, 2007

Happy birthday, Ben

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweet Child O' Mine

A reader pointed me to a story about penalties for parents when children die in cars.

I have to admit that this was always a fear of mine. I used to live much further north (yes, that is possible), and it would be easy for a baby to freeze to death during most of the year if left alone in a car. These parents almost never mean to hurt their kids; they are simply distracted and forget that there's another person in the back seat. When driving alone with Michael, I would keep up a steady monologue, partly so I wouldn't forget that he was there: "Hey look, it's the northern store! I'm really hungry, aren't you? We'll go there in a few minutes and get some bagels. Do you think they have any without mould on them? You'll have to help me check. Yes, I'll get you some seaweed, too."

This terrifying story reminded me of something funny, and I will spread it around to keep my loyal readers from getting too depressed. I'm certain I saw this when it was a news story, but those disappear from the InterWeb and are replaced with your standard-issue urban legends, so I can only refer to this link as (shoddy) proof that I didn't make the whole thing up. The people who run that website are using the story as proof that angels protect people (I wonder what Uriel would have to say about this idea), but I prefer to think of it as proof that men are, underneath it all, morons.

One Mother's Day (yes!) a man decided to go for a drive with his two children. He placed the baby's car seat on the roof of his car while he helped the older child with her seat belt. Then he got into the car and drove away. During the ride, he noticed an odd sound, which is when the baby seat came flying off the roof and landed in the middle of the highway. Don't worry; the baby wasn't hurt, and neither was the man, at least until he told his wife this story. My favourite part is that he did not notice that he had only 50% of his children with him, but he did notice that his car was making a funny noise.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hide your heart under the bed and lock your secret door

Yesterday evening I wanted to throw something at the radio, but for once, it was not because my journalism standards are higher than those of people who are actually in the profession.

It was because of an interview with a local woman who wanted to talk about the shame she’d felt after having a certain medical procedure. You see, she’d been pregnant, and always intended to do things a certain way, but later changed her mind. She felt a deep sense of shame and her family was disappointed in her. In fact, she was afraid to tell her family, and this was clearly a reasonable feeling considering their reaction.

She’d had an epidural.


It’s official: There is no decision a woman can make about her reproductive health that others will not feel free to judge her for.

No kids? She’s selfish!

One kid? She’s still selfish, and she probably hates children!

Three or more kids? She’s irresponsible and possibly a sex addict!

She uses the pill? She’s definitely a sex addict!

She’s had her tubes tied? She’s short-sighted and stupid!

She doesn’t want to use hormonal contraception? Stay away! She’s a lefty and will probably preach at you about putting Birkenstocks in your vermicomposter!

This is a new one. I didn’t realize that women were being guilt-tripped out of having epidurals. Well, I knew that there is an anti-painkiller movement, but hearing women talk openly about the shame they felt after taking the drugs is new for me.

This is the last straw. I’ve put up with the talk about working moms (we are selfish!) and stay-at-home-moms (they are just begging for everyone to hate them!) for years. It seems that women just can’t win. I’ve read a lot of profiles of women: they often mention that so-and-so has a fabulous career EVEN THOUGH she has kids. Oddly enough, I have never ever read a profile of a man that talked about the many things he has accomplished EVEN THOUGH he has kids. These stories almost never show the man packing lunches, attending soccer games or doing anything that would normally be expected of a mother. If this information is included, it is there to demonstrate that he is such an angel that he has taken on both parental roles (perhaps his wife has died).

I have an idea. Let’s set a new standard for men. They should have to go through surgery without anesthetic. Those who think the pain is too much for them should feel ashamed of themselves because they’re not “man” enough. Also, they should have their reproductive choices scrutinized so they can be judged accordingly. Finally, they should be made responsible for all parental duties and (again) judged accordingly. If they are late for work because the kids had to be dropped off at school, it should be noted on their personnel files. They should be passed over for promotions because they might not be available for free overtime during soccer practice. If they do make themselves available, they should be known as selfish jerks who don’t care about their families. This will do for a start. I’m sure we can come up with other standards as we go along.