Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect my actual opinions.

October 26, 2004

Sony can suck it

(But before I go into the sordid details, everyone say thanks to Shaun Hatton for making me a very nifty half-a-maple-leaf "favicon," which you can see in your browser's address bar right now. At least, you can if you're using a proper browser. If you're still using IE, or anything based on it, you need to pull yourself together. Thanks Shaun!)

Am I especially irritable at the moment, or has the concept of making customers happy completely gone by the wayside?

I sat down an hour ago to put new music on my minidiscs in preparation for my trip, and realized that since I reinstalled Windows a few weeks ago, I had to put the Sony software back on my computer. So I looked for the CD and, naturally, couldn't find it. "Never mind," I thought to myself, "I'll just pop to the Sony site and download it."

So I popped to the Sony site, headed for their download page, and clicked the link for the SonicStageInstaller program. It downloaded, I ran the program, and a message appears. "The updater cannot run because the original software is not installed." Ah. I returned to the site and inspected things more closely: in fact, it is just an update. So I scroll down. They're all just updates. Confused, puzzled and confounded I clicked on the "Live Chat Customer Support" link and shortly was talking with Anthony_.

Me: Hello Anthony_. How do you suggest I obtain SonicStage, since I've mislaid the original disc?

Anthony_: I'm sorry to know your situation.

Me: Okay. So where can I get it from? As you know, without that software I can't record to the minidiscs, rendering my expensive player somewhat useless.

Anthony_: The software is not available for download. But you can purchase a new CD from the customer support page.

Me: Um. In order to use the player which I already bought from Sony, I have to pay Sony more money for another CD? When I have no other options, because Sony decided to use proprietary software to record to the discs and didn't provide an audio-in jack on this model? And won't let anyone else write software to do the job, because it claims "ownership" of the system? How is this even remotely acceptable?

Anthony_: Because Sony supplies original software with the equipment, the software is not available for download.

Me: I see. I must say I don't remember seeing a warning in the manual saying "IF YOU LOSE THIS CD YOU WILL BE SCREWED." Is there one? What you're basically telling me is that my minidisc player is now next to worthless unless I fork out yet more money to Sony, and that Sony really doesn't give a rat's ass about its customers. Right?

Anthony_: The software CD is not covered under warranty.

Me: Right.

Anthony_: Do you have any more questions? I would be glad to help you.

Me: Yes I do. To which brainiac would I address a letter of complaint regarding Sony's arrogant and blatant disregard for its customers? Whom can I inform I'm never buying another Sony product ever again?

Anthony_: You may address your letter to: Office of the President, Manager of Customer Satisfaction, Sony Electronics, 1 Sony Drive, Mail Drop 138, Park Ridge, New Jersey 07656.

Me: Manager of Customer Satisfaction? Well, he's doing a great job. Thanks, Anthony_.

Anthony_: You are welcome.

I mean for fuck's sake. What is it with these people? So that's a big fuck you to Sony -- I'm currently downloading your precious software from Shareaza. I'll remember this next time I'm buying some consumer electronics. And to the strangely stilted Anthony_, I can only recommend you find a less tight-assed employer, because you just know you're going to be replaced by a robot one day.

October 25, 2004

Not at all frustrating

Phone: Hello! Bonjour! You've reached Rogers Wireless. Pour le service en francais, dit "francais."

Me: ...

Phone: For your convenience and so that we could fire a whole bunch of people who never did anything wrong except trust us and are now probably sleeping under bridges or might be dead we don't really care, and also in order that we may infuriate you to the point of ruining your entire week, we have introduced a new automated help system. Please say the telephone number associated with your account, starting with the area code.

Me: Five one nine seven four... shit, wait, that's my home number.

Phone: I heard "nine one nine eleven two seven eight six four three two one blast-off." Is that right?

Me: No.

Phone: Great! Please hold.

Me: ...

Phone: We were unable to locate an account associated with that telephone number. Did you say "nine one nine eleven two seven eight six four three two one blast-off"?

Me: No.

Phone: My mistake. Please say the telephone number associated with your account. Again.

Me: Five one nine five five five four zero one three.

Phone: I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Please say the telephone number associated with your account. I'll pay attention this time, I promise.

Me: Types number using keypad

Phone: Thanks! I'm now accessing that account.

Me: Sigh.

Phone: Now you can say what you'd like help with. For example, for help with general information, say "general information." Though to be honest it doesn't really matter, because whatever you say I'm going to give you general information anyway. Go ahead! Try it!

Me: Er... Roaming?

Phone: You have accessed the general information section of our automated system. To--


Phone: I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Did you want general information?

Me: NO!

Phone: My mistake. What did you want help with today?


Phone: You have accessed the general in--

Me: NO! Operator?

Phone: I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Could you try saying it again, only this time in a Canadian accent? Maybe that'll work.

Me: I waaaaant to taaaalk to a hooooman.

Phone: Haha! That was terrible! I can't believe you degraded yourself like that. And I still don't understand. Do you want to hang up really hard, punch the wall repeatedly and then write an angry letter to whichever dangerously short-sighted recipient of the Special Olympics "everyone's a winner!" medal decided to install a voice-activated system in one of the most multicultural nations on earth?

Me: Yes. You fucking computerized asshole. I cannot even begin to describe how much I loathe you and everything you represent.

Phone: Great! You have accessed the general...

Repeat until sun explodes.

October 24, 2004

To-do list

I'm finally getting my shit together in preparation for my vacation working trip States-side on Thursday. Things I have left to do:

  • Make sure I can log in to my email account while I'm away
  • Copy Telephone Numbers and other Important Details into my Notebook in case I drop my Phone in the Toilet
  • Print itinerary and e-ticket from Expedia site
  • Call insurance company about missing email
  • Do more programming work! Gah!
  • Find out if I can get back into Canada without a permanent resident card. This one's fairly urgent
  • Book one-hour flight from Phoenix to Vegas (it's US$7 more than taking a nine-hour bus ride. Is anyone really that poor? Work another hour at McDonald's. Mow someone's lawn. I mean, come on)
  • Figure out how I'm going to get from my house to Toronto airport for 5am. I sincerely hope I don't have to get there the night before and sit in the departure lounge for ten hours... Update: Ack. I'll have to take the latest bus to Toronto the day before, getting me to the Bay St station at 10:45pm. I then take the subway to Kipling, and the "Airport Rocket" bus from there to the airport. I should arrive by about midnight. Hey, a five-hour wait's not so bad. No, really, it isn't. It'll be great. I can talk to people and drink a lot of coffee
  • Load up a few minidiscs with MP3s
  • Buy a sleeping bag
  • Research three of the five stories I'll be doing, and prepare questions
  • Finalize arrangements with the people I'm meeting in San Francisco so that I know what day I'm meeting whom
  • Find all my clothes (all of them, scattered variously around the house) and wash what needs washing, and figure out what I'm going to take, and decide if I need to visit a cheap-ass clothes store to pick up some cheap-ass clothes
  • Pay my cell bill
  • Find out if I can still use my phone "overseas," which should be the case because I paid a security deposit last time I went away
  • Get my ass in gear, basically


October 23, 2004

Massaging the one-eyed monk

A certain person, whose name I won't reveal in order to spare him embarrassment, told me earlier today that he has a slightly painful knee. When I enquired as to why this might be, he said the only reason he can think of is that he'd just spent five hours on his knees on a hardwood floor masturbating.

After mopping up the coffee I'd just dribbled into my lap I asked him why he'd done such a thing and this led, rather inevitably, into a discussion on various techniques for male self-pleasure.

This person, apparently, finds it easier to "finish," as it were, when he's on his knees, though one would think that after five hours it shouldn't be all that difficult in any position. He expressed astonishment that I'd never tried that particular bodily configuration while arguing with Henry Longfellow, and I explained it had never even occurred to me.

Then he told me about one friend of his who likes to discipline his soldier in the kitchen, and then dishonorably discharge into the garbage can. Another friend likes to wait until late at night, when everyone else is in bed, before lying on the kitchen floor and doing the pork sword jiggle with all his might. One night as he was thus engaged his wife, whom he thought was safely asleep in bed, walked into the kitchen. "What the hell are you doing??" she asked, naturally a tad taken aback to find her husband in hand-to-hand combat with the purple stormtrooper in such a patently inappropriate location. "I'm trying to have a wank," explained the man a trifle hotly. One can only imagine how the scene developed from there.

Anyway, all this led me to thinking that there's much more to jackin' the beanstalk than I'd previously suspected. "Do perhaps my readers, being deviants all, have a story to share?" I wondered to myself. Well? Do you? I invite you to take advantage of the anonymous comment facility. (Women too -- this is an equal-opportunity, er, opportunity.) Go on... You know you want to.

October 22, 2004

New and improved

Yes! In what is undoubtedly the blog event of the year, I finally customized my template. Please let me know what you think! In-depth critiques so far:

  • "I don't like the blue." - my wife.
  • "I like it! Even the blue." - Shaun, whom I now owe $20 (though he said on MSN that I need to increase the padding around the left-hand column, so maybe only $10).
  • "Actually, I REALLY like it." - Anonymous, though I suspect it was la vache sur une colline, in whose honor this entry is titled.
  • "Still don't like the blue." - my wife. But then she asks: "Does having readership validation of blog layout, ummm, actually validate something beyond everyone else's visual and spatial colour preferences? Surely it's the content that matters!" Well, yes, the content matters. But a blog is, after all, a form of publishing. Very few book publishers say "Screw the readers! As long as you, the designer, like it, that's all that matters." If my new design was greeted with universal condemnation and exclamations of disgust then I'd change it...
  • "I don't like the blue either. It's feminine bordering upon - dare I say - gay." - Anonymous, aka Dave Smith, who used to be a friend of mine. It's not gay, it's subtle and subdued. Damnit. This blue is turning out to be a bit controversial.

You can do better than that, I'm sure, so comment already.

Legislation needed

And it's not very often I say that.

Imagine for a moment, if you'd be so kind, a world in which subscribers to Verizon Wireless couldn't call subscribers to T-Mobile, or anyone using Bell Atlantic. Imagine if I couldn't call someone with service from Fido because I subscribe to Rogers Wireless. Imagine if, in order to talk to all your friends, you had to subscribe to every single different phone company. That would be ridiculous, right? Of course it would. So in that case, why do I have to have MSN Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and ICQ installed on my laptop in order to be able to chat with everyone I know?

How is this situation even tolerable? Why aren't we rising up en masse and demanding they fix on a single, standardized system? It wouldn't take all that much effort, not compared to the hoops the phone companies had to jump through so that everything just worked the way we want it.

Why don't they do this? Because Microsoft wants to boast that it has this many millions of customers, and so does Yahoo!, and so does AOL. They all want to deliver their ads to their customers. Well, fine. They could still do that. Here's a radical concept: they could compete for customers! Instead of the situation right now where I pick the one or two different chat programs based on which ones most of my friends use, I could pick the piece of software I like the most. The one that doesn't crash, the one that supports video and audio and file transfers seamlessly and without fuckups because of firewalls and routers, and does these things on my Mac, not just my PC. Maybe that would be Microsoft's chat program, or maybe it would be Yahoo!'s. The winner of the Ross race would get to deliver their ads directly to my eyeballs, and I would get to chat with all my friends regardless of what piece of software they happen to use. You know, kinda like email, and phones, and pretty much everything else we use to communicate.

As it is, right now, I use Adium on my Mac, which supports all these chat systems in one program (similar to Trillian for Windows). This works, up to a point, but it doesn't do much beyond basic chatting. No file transfers (if people try to send me files it often crashes, which is a lot of fun), no video, no audio, no games, none of the things that make the proper clients cool. In fact if I want to play tic-tac-toe with someone on MSN I have to switch over to my PC, because even Microsoft's official Mac version doesn't support that stuff either. It sucks, basically.

So I say it's time to force these bastards into comformity. They do it to us often enough. Outlook Express users wouldn't tolerate only being able to send email to other Outlook Express users, so why do we put up with it when it comes to instant messaging?

Call your representatives. Demand legislation. I would, but I'm, you know, kinda busy. Chatting.

October 21, 2004

Snap snap

So having found my video camera I trotted merrily off to the photography store and traded it in for a new digital camera (my old one, you'll recall if you've been committing my blog to memory, was destroyed with malice aforethought by my eldest and my dog. The former has apologized, the latter is entirely unrepentant). After much research I decided upon a Canon PowerShot A75.

It's got a ton of features (1.8" 110,000-pixel LCD screen, which I use constantly; a fully manual mode; advanced white balance control; the same image processor found in their $10k+ models; are you still reading this?; nine-point intelligent autofocus, focus lock and manual focus; aperture stops from 2.8 to 8.0; ISO 50, 100, 200 and 400 equivalent sensitivity; you surely can't really be enjoying this, can you?; shutter speeds from 15 to 1/2000th seconds; fast 3x optical zoom; orientation detection; okay, this is getting ridiculous -- why are you still here, you weirdo?; metal body for extra robustness; er, hole in bottom for tripod; exquisitely crafted battery compartment; indentation for right thumb; I'm going to stop now) and was attractively priced at C$299 (did I really just say "attractively priced"?). With the video camera as a trade-in I paid only $49 for it, and then the woman presented me with a coupon for $15 off a memory card, so I got 256mb of CompactFlash for $45 as well. I walked out a very happy me.

Sure, it's only 3.2mp, but that's just about good enough for decent 8x10s and, let's face it, who really needs more resolution than that? (When I have enough money to buy a 6.3mp Digital Rebel I'll be singing a different tune, of course, but that's significantly in the future, to put it mildly.)

So there you have it. I can now take pictures while I'm away. Huzzah.

October 20, 2004


You know what annoys me more than anything else? Is it religious genocide? Is it world hunger? Is it the AIDS epidemic? No. It's looking for something and not being able to find it.

It happens once a month or so. I'll need something, and it's not immediately at hand, so I'll look on my desk (because there are a lot of things on my desk, some of them even work-related), and not find it. Then I'll look in various drawers, and not find it. My ire increasing I'll begin stalking around various rooms, opening cupboards, lifting magazines and cushions, and not find it. With every step I take on this frustrating quest my anger level will rise until I'm literally shaking with fury over whichever godforesaken item I'm seeking. I'll start cursing at myself, the location I'm searching, family members, and, eventually, innocent passers-by until I'm almost foaming at the mouth. If things go on long enough I will cease to care what damage I might cause in my search. I'll pick up boxes of fine china and shake them in case I recognize the distinctive sound of that particular item (say, a USB cable or a pencil eraser) within. I'll throw things (usually other peoples' things, it must be admitted) on the floor. I'll treat with reckless disregard anything standing between me and that pack of batteries that I know is around here somewhere. I will, irrationally, return to places I've already devastated, just in case I missed it the first time around. This will only serve to increase my anger when the gravy boat isn't in fact there, because I knew already that it wasn't and just wasted yet another few minutes and, quite possibly, broke something else looking for it.

Things get worse once I've ransacked all the most likely locations and have to move on to more obscure locales. I'll go up to the bedrooms looking for a shovel. I'll go to the shed to look for that floppy disc. This makes no sense, but I do it anyway, because by this point my apoplexy has reached critical level. If you attached an anger-o-meter to me at that point, an alarm would shriek and it would begin to emit smoke. At this juncture I am, more or less, a bull at Pamplona, charging around in stupid wild-eyed rage with no idea where I'm going, knowing only that somewhere, somewhere, for fuck sake is that elusive Christmas tree stand I saw only like a month ago goddamnit while I was looking for something else, infuriated into near brain death by everything and anything in my path.

Then I'll lose my mind completely. My face will become a contorted picture of purple insanity, and I'll start rifling through places not even physically able to hide whatever I'm looking for: I'll look for my bike helmet in an empty cookie tin, or lift up bedcovers in case that spare DVD player is underneath. I'll stomp around, twitching and jerking like the alien in Men in Black, hovering dangerously on the brink of suffering a fatal aneurism. I'll check in the bath, in the toilet cistern, in the liquor cabinet (I once discovered the iron in there after a mere 55 minutes of looking in more logical places. Yes, the clothes iron. In the liquor cabinet. That was not a happy day).

Eventually my brain will, by some sort of clever self-preservation reflex, recognize that I'm just seconds away from becoming irreperably and homicidally deranged, and will leave me suddenly bereft of the frantic energy that has seized me for the last hour. I will fall to the floor with a sudden gasp, curl myself into the foetal position and commence gentle sobbing. This will last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, after which I will rise, drained and useless, and stagger to the nearest chair, where I will sit for an indeterminate amount of time until a lightning bolt of inspiration strikes me. It's in the cupboard under the stairs in the basement! That's where it's always been! And I'll rush down to look. And it won't be there. And then I'll shoot myself in the head, live on national television, as a warning to anyone considering buying a house with more than one room.

Today I have been looking for my video camera, which I need to sell in order to raise money for a digital camera, which I need to buy to replace my existing digital camera, which my eldest step-daughter and my dog conspired together to break. I will find it. No, I will. It's in a black and red case, and it's either in the office or the basement. Or possibly upstairs. Or it might be in one of the composters in the back yard. I haven't looked in those yet, but I think I will right now. I'll keep you posted.

Update: I found the packaging it originally came in, but not the actual camera. It was underneath a bedsheet in a box underneath two other boxes at the far side of a three-deep stack of boxes in the basement. Naturally.

Update 2: OMG I found it. It was in a box next to the box with the packaging in it, along with other things I've not even seen in about three years. I should've looked there to begin with. I'm such a fool. Now I just need to find the power adapter...

Update 3: I found the power adapter too. In a different box in a different room on a different level of the house. I think it might be time to revisit our strategy of keeping things in boxes on top of other boxes. Well, that wasn't so bad. It only took four hours.

October 19, 2004

He who dares, moos

While we drove home from dropping our youngest off at school today I was listening to the radio (105.3 Kool FM, in case you want to tune in one day). On the show they had a call-in -- an organized call-in, there was nothing spontaneous about it -- from a man who can moo really well. Is this the level to which our culture has sunk? Of all the people in the area they could've invited onto the show, it was a guy who's dedicated a significant amount of time to learning how to emulate one of the stupidest creatures in existence? This is now what passes for public discourse? I may be depressed about this for the rest of the week.

To top it off, the SUV in front of us had a license plate that said "WE DARE." Do you? Really? Congratulations. What is it that you dare to do, exactly? You dare to drive around in a vehicle more or less equivalent to a car in terms of ruggedness, capacity and reliability, which nevertheless gets about 13 miles-per-gallon, is more liable to tip over and cost you ten grand more than a car would? Gosh. You're so daring. Or is it that you dared to pay money to have a license plate on your vehicle that is immediately memorable, so that if you do happen to pull an illegal manouver in your SUV (and, let's face it, you're more likely to than someone driving a proper vehicle) every single witness will be able instantly to recall your plate for the cops? Or is it that you dare to be, well, kinda stupid? I think that's it, isn't it, hmmm? It's okay. I won't tell anyone.

October 18, 2004

Absorb me

Is it me who's self-absorbed, or is it everyone?

When a woman tells her husband that she hasn't loved him for over a year, whose fault is that? Is he so self-absorbed that he didn't notice, or is she so self-absorbed that there was nothing to notice? Is that how we all spend our time on this planet, so busy gazing at our navels that we don't notice the wall until our heads connect with it?

I know I'm self-absorbed. I know that. What would happen if I spent as much time thinking about other people as I do about myself? When you get right down to it, what is it that makes my feelings more important than other peoples'? Sure, they're mine, and I'm the one feeling them. Presumably that's why self-absorption is the natural state, and why we hero-worship those who truly and consistently subjugate their own desires and needs to those of other people.

But what makes me so special, and what makes you so special, that we're willing to hurt the feelings of others in order to gain for ourselves? What kind of world would it be if everyone gave priority to each other instead of themselves, if everyone were a Mother Theresa? Would it be a utopia, or would it be an infinitely drawn-out version of the dance we perform with a held-open door? After you. No, really, after you. Just fucking go already.

Without self-absorption would we even still be here? Probably not. Nature frowns on altruism, with very few exceptions. Then why is altruism held in such high regard? Taken to extremes it would mean the end of our species, if the strong didn't overwhelm the weak, if the smart didn't overrule the stupid. We'd become weaker and stupider with every generation until we destroyed ourselves. Why then do we raise the altruistic above the selfish? They're damaging our chances in nature's game of dice.

What an unfocused post.

October 15, 2004

EU countries vote US "most charitable nation"

By Ross Thomas

The United States was declared the winner of the Europe-wide first annual "Most Charitable Nation on Earth" competition yesterday.

The US won the multinational competition in a landslide, beating second-place Sweden by ten votes from the 30-member panel.

"We extend our hearty congratulations to the people of the United States," said the MCNE Committee spokesman Jacques Ferenti. "This kind of overwhelming result is indicative of the degree of respect for American altruism felt all around Europe."

The judges cited the 2000 election of President George W. Bush as a major factor in their decision.

"It's heartwarming to see that in America, that bastion of capitalistic selfishness, a special person can be elected president," said Hazmi Ahmed, a member of the awards committee.

The judges said that, in their opinion, the citizens of none of the other countries considered would allow a mentally deficient individual to become head of state.

"That just shows you what kind people Americans are," said Ferenti. "Mr Bush is clearly not really suitable for the job -- not really suitable for any job, if we're honest -- but they permit him to rise to the very top of their political system. It's touching."

The American public should be commended, read the MCNE press release, for its kind-hearted gesture in not only tolerating the election of a "patently intellectually subnormal human being," but actively encouraging it by voting for him in large numbers.

One of those Bush voters expressed delight that her altruism has finally been recognized.

"I thought it was sweet that a guy who's more or less on the same cerebral level as a wolverine still had ambitions for the most important job in the world," said Margaret Baxter, 49, of Tampa Bay, Fla. "That's really why I voted for him. You have to encourage people like that. Even retards should dream."

"Sorry, I mean differently able people," she added.

Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee who was defeated by Bush in a nail-biting 68-day-long race to the finish four years ago, said he is pleased to have played a small part in the American nation's receiving this honor.

"When I wrote the first draft of my final concession speech I included a part about it, which I subsequently removed," he said. "It went something like: 'While I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it, and am pleased that a man who would lose a battle of wits with that guy from Rainman, a man who can barely dress himself, a man with the slightest grasp of the English language or, indeed, any concept more complex than sitting motionless for hours in a soft chair while singing gently to himself, finally overcame the shameful discrimination experienced by all such woefully imbecilic creatures and was able to assume control of the most powerful country on the planet.' Something like that."

President Bush was unable coherently to comment yesterday.

October 14, 2004


So I was thinking (I'm always thinking, you know, it's amazing) about Spanish the other day, and particularly about Spanish punctuation. The problem with wanting to think about Spanish punctuation is that I know about three words of Spanish and have absolutely no idea at all when it comes to grammar and structure. Needless to say, this didn't stop me.

What interested me in particular is the way that, in Spanish, questions are bracketed on both sides by punctuation marks. At the beginning there is an upside down question mark, and at the end, a normal one. For example: ¿What's your point, exactly?

My point is coming. Have patience. Okay, so I can see the logic in that. It makes perfectly clear which part of the text is a question, it prepares the reader to be quizzed. But here's what I don't get: they do the same thing with exclamation points. ¡Why, I do exclaim!, he exclaimed.

Yes, the same rationale applies: clarity, preparation. But can't it also ruin the surprise, as far as humor goes? I mean, sometimes the funniest things are the least expected. Doesn't this practice make impossible a very useful grammatical construct, which is to begin a sentence with an appearance of seriousness, and then crack a joke at the end -- a sort of written bait and switch? Isn't that initial inverted exclamation point like a big flashing sign that says Warning! This next part might be humorous!?

Perhaps the very concept of something that's suprisingly funny doesn't exist in Spanish. Or maybe I'm talking out of my ass. Anyone care to elucidate me via a comment?

October 12, 2004


Hello! Long time no speak. Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Q. Where have you been?
    A. I've been organizing a trip to California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona to do stories for newspapers and magazines in an attempt to kickstart my freelance journalism career. Then I was away for the weekend. Yesterday and today I was writing a story about when my brother and I traveled through Europe together (his version, of dubious veracity, is here). Happy?
  • Q. Not really.
    A. Is that a question?
  • Q. No, and that's not an answer.
    A. Shut up.
  • Q. Okay. So what stories are you going to be doing?
    A. That's confidential. However, I can tell you that one of them is a travel piece in which the National Post is interested. I'm writing it on spec for them, but it's better than nothing.
  • Q. What does "on spec" mean?
    A. It means they haven't actually commissioned it, but they want me to write it for them and if it's good they'll buy it.
  • Q. What does "commissioned" mean?
    A. It means they agree up front to buy the story when it's completed, whether it's any good or not. Generally an editor won't commission a piece from someone they don't already know -- they'll ask for it to be done on spec.
  • Q. What does "on spec" mean, again?
    A. Shut up.
  • Q. Okay. Where did you go this weekend?
    A. I went to my parents-in-laws' place for Thanksgiving. It's sort of near Owen Sound, Ontario.
  • Q. Thanksgiving is in November, dumbass.
    A. Not in Canada, dumbass. Americans call it Columbus Day, even though all he actually did was kinda sail around for a while, saying things like "Hey, I bet that's Tokyo," and then took off again with some potatoes. Or something.
  • Q. Potatoes? What the hell are you talking about?
    A. Not sure. Ask Dan Quayle.
  • Q. Where does the expression "fruitless" come from? What does an absence of delicious juicy carbohydrates have to do with anything?
    A. "Fruitless" is a compound of two words, "fruit" and "less."
  • Q. Thanks, but that wasn't much of an answer.
    A. Demanding much? Alright. "Fruit" comes from the Latin "frui," meaning "to enjoy." Thus, fruitless means "without enjoyment." Except it doesn't. It means "without success," as in MC Hammer's career.
  • Q. I see. What's he doing now anyway?
    A. MC Hammer (real name: Michael Colin Hammer) was last seen struggling frantically to free himself from what everyone told him was far too big a pair of pants.
  • Q. Surely the media would've tracked that story? Also, it wasn't very funny.
    A. Sure, it's easy to criticize. You tell a joke, then. Go on.
  • Q. Okay. Let's see. Did you hear the one about when the priest, the rapist and the pedophile walked into the bar?
    A. ...and that was just the first guy. Yeah, a priest told it at Denis Leary's roast at the Friar's Club. Way to come up with your own material, schmuck. See? Not so easy, is it?
  • Q. I suppose not. So how long are you going to be away for?
    A. Right now it looks like from the 28th to the 11th or 12th.
  • Q. That's a long time.
    A. Not really. I'm doing five or six stories in that time, so it's not all that long if you think about it.
  • Q. True. Is this just a vacation, then?
    A. Absolutely not! I resent the suggestion. It'll be very hard work, and a lot of travel. Travel is tiring.
  • Q. If you say so, buddy. Are you going to be "moblogging" as you travel around?
    A. I plan on it. How often I update will depend on how often I find "wireless hotspots," where I can sit and drink coffee and blog.
  • Q. Sounds suspiciously like a vacation to me.
    A. I refuse to answer any more questions.
  • Q. Oh, just one more. Go on. You'll like it.
    A. Okay okay. One.
  • Q. Why is it that you had pizza and Pepsi for supper tonight when you're supposed to be on a low-carb diet, you fat bastard?
    A. Get out.
  • Q. Righto.
    A. The nerve of some people.

October 05, 2004

Vice-Presidential debate - LIVEBLOG

9:00pm - Here they come! Both look dapper. This should be interesting!

9:08pm - Hey, CSI is on.

October 04, 2004

Kerry, Bush in hi-tech war of words

By Ross Thomas

Election debates entered a new hi-tech arena Thursday, with both candidates employing sophisticated electronic devices to help them in their verbal spar, halfacanuck can exclusively reveal.

President Bush was in constant contact with advisor Karl Rove via a "completely-in-canal" FM radio earpiece, invisible to the naked eye, admitted Rove yesterday following a storm of controversy in the blogosphere.

"It was a very good idea," said Rove at the press conference, "because George sometimes gets a little confused when speaking, thinking or moving around. It allowed me to prompt him, get him back on track, and I think that helped him get his message across better to the American people."

But the device was not as effective as it could have been, he said, because of the portable radio-jamming equipment Democratic nominee John Kerry employed during the debate.

"When [Kerry] got to the podium and I saw him pull something out of his pocket I was like, 'Uh oh,'" said Rove. "I knew right away what it was."

The jamming device, small enough to fit inside an interior jacket pocket, interfered with the radio transmission between Rove and Bush.

"It wasn't 100 per cent successful," said Kerry advisor John Sasso, "because we had to kinda guess the frequency they were using beforehand, but it did disrupt the transmission on numerous occasions."

Bush's performance is understandable, said debate moderator Jim Lehrer, now that the use of the hi-tech gizmos has been revealed.

"He stuttered quite a bit, stammered, blinked, brayed," said Lehrer this morning in a telephone interview. "He stumbled, murmured, gulped, faltered. In parts he was unusually lucid, and then suddenly he'd lose his train of thought and just gaze around for up to five minutes. This is entirely consistent with an intermittently working radio feed."

About 40 minutes into the debate Bush seemed to address Rove directly when, with plenty of time remaining, Bush stopped mid-sentence and demanded to be allowed to finish.

"Yeah, he sort of let the cat out of the bag there," said a red-faced Rove. "I was a bit annoyed, but we had a talk afterwards and now he understands he mustn't actually talk back to me during the debate. At least, I think he does."

Rove plans to use the earpiece again in the next Bush-Kerry debate on Oct 8, but will employ a modified version in tomorrow night's vice-presidential debate.

"We have a special kind of earpiece for [Vice-President Dick] Cheney," he said in a rare moment of candidness, "which is hooked up to an audio loop of a voice actress impersonating Dick's mother saying, 'I'll wash your mouth out with soap, You kiss me with that mouth?, I'll wash your mouth out with soap,' and so on."

He said tests have shown the recording to be effective in controlling Cheney's "regrettable Tourette's-like outbursts."