Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brick Walls, New Beginnings

"Is it possible that there are no coincidences?"
- Signs, 2002

An excellent question, and one that I am beginning to think can be answered in the affirmative.  I would assert that not only is it possible, that it is entirely probable.  How am I so sure?  Another good question, and one whose answer relies more on a gut feel than empirical fact.  A gut feel, and some happenings that would otherwise be dismissed as benign, had I not been paying attention.  They are:

  • Reading an article written by sports columnist Bob McKenzie
  • Befriending an old public school acquaintance on Facebook
  • Watching Kevin Smith perform at Kitchener's Centre in the Square
  • Reading a Chazz Writes blog post written after he saw that same Kevin Smith show in Kitchener
  • A friend and co-worker from another lifetime offers to do me a favour

"The brick walls are there to let us show how badly we want something"
- Randy Pausch, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

I stumbled upon the above YouTube video in one of the most unlikely ways, but given that hindsight has a tendency to be 20/20 maybe it wasn't so unlikely after all.


I was reading one of my favourite sports columnists Bob McKenzie about the non-passing of the hockey legend Pat Burns.  Typically when a person continues to live on day after day this isn't column-worthy material, but this case was unique.  The media had falsely reported that Pat Burns had finally succumbed to cancer - again.  That was a whole story unto itself, and Bob did a remarkable job of spinning the tale, but as he did he mentioned Randy Pausch's lecture and trusting that Mr. McKenzie would not lead me astray I watched it.  I watched it in complete awe, and one particular moment jumped right out of the screen at me.  It was the moment where he emphasized the quote above and added, "(Because) the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough".

The next day I wrote that quote on my white board at work.  Begging people to ask me of its origin just so I could point them to Randy's lecture and hope that they ask themselves what it is they want so badly that they would tear down a brick wall.

I've been flirting with the idea of writing a proper story for quite a while but years and years have passed and I keep staring at the wall.

"It's been great for me and essentially, I am the audience"
- Billie Mintz

I then befriended an old school acquaintance on Facebook, Billie Mintz.  When I was in grade 3 Billie kicked my Batman lunch box down the sidewalk.  He's an artist now, composing music, writing commercials, shooting movies - and he's really damn good.

I wrote a fake commercial once and even got some rough footage shot with the help of a friend but I never edited the raw footage and the files are who-knows-where on my computer now.  That was years ago, and I keep staring at the wall.

"Go where the puck is going to be"
- Walter Gretzky (father of Wayne), by way of Kevin Smith

I am a big Wayne Gretzky fan.  I consider him to be the greatest hockey player of all time. and as it turns out, I am not alone in my admiration for Wayne.

My wife was starting out the window at work one day and over the shoulder of her co-worker she sees a sign for a Kevin Smith appearance at Kitchener's Centre in the Square (smodcast episode #144 recaps his gig).  She calls me immediately and within minutes I had secured seats for the Q&A session to take place two days before our 11th anniversary.  Now poop jokes aren't exactly on the list of anniversary presents (possibly for something like the 61st, but certainly not the 11th), but you can't go wrong with laughter to bring a couple closer together, and there was definitely lots of laughter.

I have been a Kevin Smith fan since Clerks, and while I am by no stretch of the imagination a Die Hard fan (pseudo inside joke there for anyone at the show), I do keep up on his career, and genuinely admire and respect how he has built his brand - and done so on his own terms.  Who else could make a movie and pay for it entirely on credit cards?  Kevin Fucking Smith.  That's who.

I used to write content for a trivia-based video game. I used to keep a notebook with all my ideas in it.  I took a screen writing course once and even mapped out a few rough ideas.  I own two books on screen writing by Syd Field, both of which are covered in dust.  On occasion I'll stare at them just sitting there on the wall.

"Develop your craft and work on your dream"
- Robert Chute

Until a few minutes ago I don't even know this guy's name, only that he did a blog post after seeing the same Kevin Smith show that I did and his Twitter account is @RChazzChute - and he's a writer.  His post outlines some of the many things he took away from the show and was somewhat amazed that Robert wrote about many of the same thoughts that had popped into my head throughout the course of the show and in the hours and days that followed.

Kevin replied to Robert's post and that spawned a follow-up post in which he writes, "An Evening with Kevin Smith really was an eye-opener and course correction for me and I’m already working away on that. (I hope some of you stick around or swing by once in a while to see my progress.)"  This is significant to me because those could have easily been my words had I not been stuck on my couch, sitting there, passive.... staring at the wall.

"If you ever want me to read something, just let me know"
- A Friend

Robert also writes in his Kevin Smith retrospective, "Don't give the critics too much credit, especially when they make you feel bad about yourself or decrease art’s productivity." and "Make friends".

A former colleague and friend just got back from a month long vacation to Australia.  We were catching up on Facebook, chatting away when I asked her, "So now what?"  She's in-between jobs, getting married soon, and selling a house.  She's thinking about moving to France, which is not surprising as she's always struck me as someone who follows her dreams and is undaunted by the obstructions life can sometimes put in your way.

She asked me if I had done any more writing and I said, "Not really, but I'm thinking about it", and I had every intention of telling her the story you have just read, but I had to go read books to my wonderful daughter and I didn't get the chance.  Before I signed off though she managed to type, "If you ever want me to read something, just let me know".

"How's your writing going?"
- Another Friend

A dinner with some long-time friends happened yesterday and right before dessert that's what Trevor asked me.  I gave him the Cole's Notes version of the Kevin Smith show and the subsequent blog post by Robert.

Today I dusted off Syd Field's "The Foundations of Screenwriting", found my old ideas book, ignored the TV shows recored on my DVR, created a new Twitter account (@potatochipmath), email address (potatochipmath@gmail.com), found a quiet spot in the basement, and wrote this.

Wall?  What wall?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Allergy Update #2

OK, so I'm back with another update on the Registered Holistic Allergist and related treatment.  I went back for another reversal, this time for dust and pets and other dirt-type things (last time we reversed a whole whack of grasses pollens and such).  To top it all off I brought my deathly-allergic-to-peanuts son with me.

We get the son out of the way as it was his first visit.  To say that this was the moment I really started to think "this is total horse shit" is a gross understatement.

First, let's go over The Test:

Place your thumb and ring finger on your dominant hand together tip to tip.  Have the allergist then try to pull your fingers apart.  If this is difficult, then everything is as expected.  Now do this with your hand palm down on the top of your head.  You should get the same result as with no hand on your head.  Oh yeah by the way, you can't have anything in your pockets, no cell phone or iPod nearby, and for crying out loud don't cross your legs.  OK, now flip your hand over so the palm is up and the back of your hand is touching the top of your head.  Apparently this draws "energy" away from your other arm and makes it easier to pull your fingers apart.  That's the baseline.  I shit you not.  Now, holding your fingers together as mentioned, hold up a vile of "energy" (that represents whatever it is you're allergic to, or having problems with) to your forearm that's attached to the hand with the fingers together.  If it's easy to pull your fingers apart, your sensitive/allergic to it.  The easier it is, the more sensitive or allergic you are. If it's difficult (like it was with palm down on your head or no hand on your head at all), then you're good.  Repeat for a few hundred things.

Don't ask me how they mirror the "energy" for all this stuff.  She was unable to tell me how it works, only that they order the vials and they come labeled: ragweed, grass, insomnia (yes, they have one for this), stress (yes, this too), etc...

So because my son is so small and just a kid they do the test with me as the proxy.  I hold his right hand with my left hand and hold my finger tips together (thumb to ring finger) and he holds up a vial to his neck (not sure why.  I asked and she told me it was because it was a location central to his energy or some crap like that).  Then they do the test on me.

Here's the best part: Their test came back with him only slightly allergic to peanut and peanut products.  In fact, it barely registered.  It was awesome.  They had absolutely no explanation for it.  Keep in mind that I have personally called an ambulance for my son as I watched his face swell up like a balloon after he simply touched peanut putter to his face.  Keep in mind that I had a scratch test done for nuts and other food products done and peanuts reacted so severely that the doctor had a script for an Epi Pen in my hand before he was done testing the kid for other stuff.  So, for the holistic allergist to come up with the result they came up with, well let's just say I'm leaning toward this being nonsense at best and a freaking swindle at worst.

Now this is where I went from simply skeptical to downright offended that they described this as Science in my presence (and on their website).  You see, I had a loonie in my pocket (that's a dollar coin for you non-Canadians out there) and my swipe card from work on my belt AND my son was wearing his Epi Pen pouch around his waist.  So, all that was affecting the energy and that's why the result was off.  So, I took care of all these energy bungling things and had them do the test over again.  Same result.  No explanation.  Anyhow, we continued because we were already there and it was a bugger of a drive out.  Of course, if this does happen to work I will care less how or why it works and just be thankful it does (don't look a gift horse in the mouth and all that jazz).

But what bugged me the most was that any result that was expected was irrefutable proof that it worked but every result that was not expected was explained away with some lame ass excuse, and that's NOT science.  Science is a special discipline in that regardless of the results, all of them count.  A result that disproves your hypothesis is just as valid (most of the time more valid) as one that proves it, and as a scientist you have the obligation to count ALL the results, regardless of how right or wrong they make you look.

At any rate, the kid gets his treatment (peanut allergy reversal #1 of 4) and I get "re-tested" for a few things and then have my reversal done.  But then, I start to begin to fight a cold, and it was hard to tell if I'm sneezing and have a scratchy throat because of my allergies or because of that.  Felt like a little bit of both...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

If You Ignore Them Will They Just Go Away?

A short but important rant concerning Canadian politics.  You have been warned.

With another election undoubtedly in the works at some point (it has been almost 2 whole years since our last one, you know), and with the Rick Mercer show back on the air for a new season, my thoughts are with the poor people of Quebec and how 51% of them at election time are barraged by propaganda attacking Canada and promoting sovereignty under the guise of "Quebec interests".  Well, last time I checked the whole purpose of a federal election was to put together the best government for the whole country and not just one part of it, no matter how "distinct" that part happens to be.  In fact, some would argue (myself included) that allowing a party with separatist intentions to participate in a nationally held election is nothing short of treason. 

So this brings me to the following....

Question: 
Is there any way to keep the Bloc from participating in the next federal election (outside of actually running candidates)?

Answer?
For starters, I was thinking that the network(s) carrying the next debate could impose a restriction which would look something like this:

"Participation in the debate limited to only recognised Canadian political parties running candidates in 185 of the 308 ridings AND in 7 of the 13 provinces and territories AND who received at least 5% of the vote in the last federal election."

The numbers above were not picked out of thin air; they were well thought through.  185 of the 308 seats represents the percentage of eligible Canadians who actually voted (around 60% - terribly low) and more than 50% of the provinces and territories.  The 5% of the popular vote keeps fringe groups from getting in simply by running a Marxist Christian Communist Marijuana Party member in each riding.  

Based on the last election the next national debate would then have the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens.  Still do the debates in French and English - those are both our official languages - but only discuss issues important nationally, without the noise and clutter of Gilles Douch-eppe barking in the wings the whole time.

In addition, the media could just ignore the Bloc completely.  No questions.  No press coverage.  Nothing.  Like the petulant, whiny, good-for-nothing, little brat ruining a perfectly good recess; when ignored for long enough they have a tendency to just go away.

This could work, no?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

It's True

 I have assisted Penn & Teller on stage with their act (the "Mofo, the Psychic Gorilla" bit) at the Royal Alexandra theater in Toronto, Ontario.

Allergy Update

So it's been a while since the "treatment" for my allergies; with 36 pain-in-the-ass allergens reversed I can safely say I don't have a clue if it worked.  I would like to think that since there are roughly 100 other things that I am still allergic to that have not been reversed that I'm not going to all of a sudden start feeling like a million bucks and get to throw my antihistamine in the trash.  So what to do?

Well, I am covered for $500 on my health insurance for this type of thing, and I've already kicked in over $100 getting the tests and first treatment, so I think I'll keep going back (at $40 or $60 a pop or something) until I'm out of coverage and we'll see what happens.  Then, I'll get a traditional allergist to test me for all that stuff again (using the scratch test - which is pretty darn effective in terms of identifying allergens) and then we'll know!

So, along with that, I'm going to get the Holistic Allergist to reverse my son's deadly peanut allergy.  He has a traditional allergist appointment to get re-tested in November so I'd like to see if she can work her magic on my kid.  Even if he can have his allergy reduced to a sensitivity it would make a huge difference.  He's only 4, and having him carry around Epi Pens and be constantly worried about cross contamination in foods is not much fun.

So, off to book some appointments and see what happens.  I'll keep you posted :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Holistic Mackerel Batman!

Fact about Me: 
I am either allergic or have intolerances to many many many MANY things:  trees, grasses, pollens, dust, mold, cats,dogs, horses, weeds, dairy, and shellfish (the latter being an anaphylactic reaction causing death in about 15 minutes).  For the non-food-related allergies I have tried allergy shots, and after 2 years the results were only mildly noticeable so from April to October I pop an antihistamine every morning with my glass of orange juice.

So What?
Several weeks ago my mother-in-law commented on how she hadn't blown her nose in quite a while.  On the surface it seemed like a very strange thing to just say randomly, but if you know Heather you know that there's often a long history of internal dialog that precedes random comments such as that one.

It turns out that she went to visit a Registered Holistic Allergist who in one session rid her of all those pesky allergies.  Ordinarily I would have scoffed at the entire notion, but Heather happens to be a Registered Nurse and has been involved in the medical field for longer than I've been alive.  She's seen it all, and heard about even more when it comes to health care and treatment of everything from cuts and bruises to brain trauma, so when she endorses something I tend to listen.

So my wife convinces me to to see the same person and this past Friday afternoon I went in for my tests and first treatment, and I was skeptical.  Very skeptical.  They "test" you by having you hold your fingers together (thumb and ring finger on your dominant hand) and the Allergist tries to pull them apart.  This is the baseline.  Then they do the same thing with your other hand palm down on the top of your head, then with the palm up on the top of your head (this one makes it easier to pull your fingers apart due to the way the energy in your body aligns).

Then, you place a small vile of liquid against your forearm (of the arm with the fingers touching) and the Allergist tries to pull your fingers apart again.  If you're intolerant (or allergic) to the substance it's easier to pull your fingers apart.  The easier it is the more intolerant you are.

The vile doesn't actually contain the substance, just an energy representation of the substance though, the thought being that in the presence of this energy that your body thinks is harmful it tries to fight against it and hence, takes away from the energy you're using to keep your fingers together.

So we do this for a couple hundred substances and much to my surprise, without being told which substances were which, this system indicates that I have a ton of allergies - and all of them confirmed by a traditional scratch test (plus a few others)!

Despite the "hocus pocus" nature of the test I'm beginning to be convinced.  It's one of those things that unless you experience it for yourself you'll probably file it under "yeah, right" and pay no attention.  The remedy for these intolerances is even more New Age voodoo than I can adequately describe (though I will try).

They place the vile of each substance to which you have an intolerance on a metal plate on a machine that looks like it's from some war-era torture device with knobs and buttons and a couple wires coming out of it, one of which has what looks like a silver anal probe on the end.  Then, as you hold the anal probe the other end (which looks like something you'd find on the end of a stereo cable) is placed on several acupressure points on your body while a very small current is pumped into you (5 microamp, and they don't place it near your heart - just in case).

When you're done (about 20 seconds per pressure point, and they do about 13 or 14 spots) you re-do the "test" for the intolerances you were just "cured" of.

This is where it gets really freaky.  Let's take weeds, pollens, grass, and ragweed - my arch nemeses for most of the spring and summer.  Prior to the treatment, when holding a vile of one of these things to my arm I could barely keep my fingers together, the Allergist pulling them apart with ease.  After the treatment however, she couldn't get my fingers to come apart at all.

So what, you say?  That's a far cry from not suffering from allergies, right?  Well that's what I say too.  Only the strange thing is that the next morning (less than 12 hours after the treatment) I did NOT take an allergy pill and then I went golfing and cut my lawn, two activities that would normally render me sneezing and blowing my nose, and rubbing my red, itchy eyes (sometimes even after taking an antihistamine!)  Only this time I barely had a sniffle.  My throat, which would normally be all scratchy, was fine.

Later that night, and subsequently this morning I found that I was sniffly and my eyes were slightly itchy, but not nearly bad enough to warrant complaining (or taking an allergy pill).  So far I have attributed this to other allergens in my house that I have not received treatment for, which is evidenced by the feeling of no allergies whatsoever when I am in the backyard (near those things for which I have been treated) but some symptoms when I am on the couch (where the cats hang out all the time and where dust gets into the cushions).

So, I'm going to give it a couple weeks and see how it goes. I'm going up to the beach where the grassy allergens are normally bad, and where there are no cats and dust (my mother is a freaky OCD cleaner so the cottage is normally spotless) and I'm not going to take any antihistamines and we'll see.  If I feel my symptoms have greatly improved then I'm going back to get the rest of my stuff treated (especially dairy and shellfish) and I'm taking my son (who is allergic to peanuts) and my mother (who has fibromyalgia).  Then, it's off to the "regular" Allergist to get my scratch tests done again (and my son's) to see what they come up with.

I'll keep a posting progress as there is some to report.  For those near KW, Woodstock, London; here is the link to the place I went to: http://www.insideu.ca

Corn

Have you ever cut the kernels off an entire cob of corn?  Those of you who have elderly parents/grandparents or small children may have done this before.  Well I did this the other day for my son who was having an unusually hard time eating his corn on the cob and I noticed something.  The amount of corn that was cut off the cob far exceeded the amount of corn that one would normally put on their plate if they were to just cook some corn from a can (or frozen, or whatever).  Far exceeded.  And I normally eat at least one and half cobs with a typical dinner.  I'm either getting far more than my daily allotment of grains (side note: corn is not a vegetable(?)) or I have to seriously rethink my idea of a "portion".

Monday, May 31, 2010

Driving Me Crazy

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the best driver in the world: I rarely check my blind spot, I travel at high rates of speed, I enjoy breaking quickly, I can't park to save my life and I am the poster-boy for road rage.

That being said I am still less of a threat on the road, and even a better driver, than way too many people out there with licenses.

There's the people who drive too slowly. Not the speed limit, but SLOWER. If it's a clear day and the roads are dry and you're on a highway you'd best be going within 5 of the speed limit. They say it can happen, but just once I'd actually like to see someone getting a ticket for going to slow.

Then there's the idiots who chuck cigarette butts out their window. This really has nothing to do with their driving ability, but it really annoys me.  Today someone cut me off and stopped short and tossed a butt out the window and it landed on my hood.  Sigh.

Let's not forget about the two lane highways occupied by two different cars both going the same speed. I'm not sure if the car in the fast lane just enjoys being an asshole or what, but these people should have a Volvo rammed where the sun don't shine. 

Lastly, there's the ever popular super-conscientious citizens. The people whose sole job on the road is for them to make sure you drive below the speed limit and come to a full stop at all the appropriate places. The purposefully drive so you can't pass them, they take EXTRA long at stops, they NEVER try to make the amber light, and don't even think about making the left as the light goes red. Nope, these people want to make sure that you follow all the rules, all the while you're just thinking of ways to run them off the road without them actually getting killed.

If I wasn't such a lazy ass, I'd walk.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Readability Be Damned

Back in March when my mother asked me what I wanted for my birthday I went onto http://chapters.indigo.ca and into the fiction section to see what I might like.

I initially gravitated to the new Chuck Klosterman book.  His first piece of fiction.  I had read a few of his books before (collections of essays, mostly true stories, and anecdotes) and read him online from time-to-time so I added that to my wish list (it's called "Downtown Owl", and I liked it).

Then, I started looking for crime novels, heist books, and other assorted who done it types.  In the new release section was a Don Delillo book that claimed to be about a filmmaker and a U.S. Government inside-the-war room fellow.  In grade eleven I read this book "White Noise" by Don Delillo.  All I can tell you about it today is that I think it ended with the main character in a grocery store but I vaguely remember liking it.  I put his new one on my wish list as well.  It was titled "Point Omega".

It sucked.

It's not just that it was a slow moving book.  It never really got started.  It was only a hundred or so pages, but honestly it could have done with another hundred more just so that the really good story lines actually had time to develop.

In my non-expert opinion it was just poorly written, and I can't even begin to describe how much I now loathe the comma.  This is what this awful book has done to me.  I can't even look at a comma now without feeling sick to my stomach.

It began with sentences with so many commas I could barely keep track, kept with that theme for a while, continued to overuse them, and finished, finally, with a few pages of disjointed thoughts, separated, of course, by many commas, presumably to promote something I can only describe as "punctuation epilepsy".

The only advice I can give is to avoid reading this book.  That, and Don Delillo should read "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" by Lynn Truss and pay careful attention to the chapter on the comma (assuming for a minute that a hugely successful author of dozens of novels, short stories and plays can take advice from a blathering blog hack like myself).

Potato Chip Update!

Quick update on my potato chip situation.  The math just got better!!

The discount blue bag chips are back to their regular 2 for $5 price and my reliable favourites have now dropped in price by $0.70 now making them only $0.50 more than the cheap ones - and totally worth every penny.

I am pleased.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Steakatarian

So when Alexander started eating real food he was very particular about eating meat, probably because he didn't have his molars yet and it was very difficult to chew.  Avery has never shared those concerns.  She'll eat steak any day of the week.  One day we were all sitting at the dinner table eating a steak dinner with steamed broccoli and potatoes and Alexander was being fussy about the meat.  Jodi puts more broccoli on his plate and comments, "Our little vegetarian."

Upon hearing this, Avery, head buried in her plate and her elbows up and flapping like a Dodo bird looks up with a mouth full of beef and another piece on her fork and says, "Not me.  I'm a steakatarian!"   She routinely eats 8oz of steak in a sitting and asks for more.  Daddy's little girl.

Which brings us to...

The Top 5 Steaks I've Ever Eaten:

  1. Merlot (Ottawa, Ontario)
    Thick and juicy with a subtle onion and cheese crust on top.... absolutely perfect
  2. Charcoal Steak House (Kitchener, Ontario)
    Was half way through it before I realized I was cutting it with the dull side of my butter knife
  3. Le Papillon (Toronto, Ontario)
    Not known for their steak, but cooked perfectly, nice and tender... I licked my plate clean
  4. Planet Fusion (Kitchener, Ontario - now closed)
    Great steak. Thick and perfectly cooked.  Wonderful flavour.  The service was the best we've ever had, so that may have helped too :)
  5. My House (Cambridge, Ontario)
    My neighbour bought some steaks from the Shriners and we cooked them up on the BBQ one night.  Absolutely great steak for home cookin' and the great company just added to the whole steak experience

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Entirely Too Digital

OK, you know you're too immersed in a digital world when you're doing something that has been done manually for centuries - and can only be done manually - and your brain tries to behave as if it's sitting in front of the computer.  This just happened to me:

I was putting away my laundry and a t-shirt which was folded (perfectly, of course) dropped off the top of the pile as I walked to my dresser.  This amazingly folded article of clothing became unraveled and started to tumble to the floor.  No word of a lie, my brain thought "CTRL - Z".

(for those of you who aren't familiar with the term, it's a keyboard shortcut - pressing the "Ctrl" key at the same time as "z" - that performs a very special action: UNDO)

It's True

I have scored a game winning goal at Maple Leaf Gardens (and as it turns out I have the same goals per game average at MLG as Wayne Gretzky)

I'm #4

And the score sheet from that momentous occasion:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Would You Like Fries With That?


This post seems more relevant today than when it was first written over 5 years ago.  This is for a couple of reasons: 1) I now live back in Cambridge where part of this took place, and 2) something happened at Tim Horton's that made my jaw drop and laugh out loud at the same time.  I'll explain at the end of the rant.
---------------
I don't want to sound condescending or elitist, but really, what does it take to be an employee at a fast food drive through? College diploma? University degree? Heartbeat? Tom Vu seminar attendance receipt?

"A lot of your friends will tell you, 'Don't come to the seminar. It's a get-rich-quick plan.' Well, tell them, It is a get-rich-quick plan because life is too short to get rich slow." 
- Tom Vu, 1990

I can understand that they may not be able to hear through the state-of-the-art sound system provided, but what's wrong with clarifying an order if they are having trouble hearing? Would that not be a better idea than just throwing anything in a bag then waving good bye and smiling.

I mention this only because for about 40th time I had a Tim Horton's drive-through screw up my order. I used to think it was just this one store I went to all the time in Cambridge
(seriously, people would go out of their way to come to this place just so they could get a first hand glimpse of how inept they were - one employee actually asked me how to make TEA!!!)
but as it turns out, it's not limited to that one place and it's not limited to Tim Horton's either. McDonald's and Wendy's do a pretty nice job of pooching the order quite regularly. Don't even get me started on Taco Bell.

OK, you got me started on Taco Bell...

Recently I picked up some food for the kids and the babysitter. I asked for an extra order of fries, was asked if I wanted more fries, confirmed I wanted more fries, asked if it was just one fries, confirmed it was just one fries, asked if I wanted anything else, declined anything else, was asked at the pay window if I was the guy who ordered the extra fries, confirmed I was the guy who ordered the extra fries, was asked if the pop was in fact a Sprite, confirmed that I did request a Sprite, had my pop spilled on me as it was passed from the window, drove away with a wet crotch and a bag full of food, got home, and then dished out everything to the hungry hoard.

No extra fries.

Even though Taco Bell couldn't have done anything worse in this instance, I'd have to say that the good 'ole drop-outs at Timmy's have got the World's Worst Drive-Through Service Championship Belt hanging proudly in the back room. Black 1 sugar does not mean double double. Tea with nothing in it does not mean hot chocolate. When I get to the window, an apple freaking fritter is not, "What kind of doughnut was that again? Oh sorry, we're out of apple fritters".

If eating all this fast food crap isn't killing you (which it most definitely is), try going to the drive-through. At the very least you're guaranteed higher blood pressure and a Boston creme instead of a honey glazed.


---------------

After a moment of reflection...

Two words: Minimum wage teenagers.

It's either the minimum wage teenager or the recent immigrant who has 3 PhD's that for some reason the stupid Canadian Government refuses to recognize. Either way I'm getting a coffee for a buck fifty and a doughnut for a buck and a quarter served to me in my car by someone making next to nothing who's probably been shagging this crap all morning for jerks like me.

Without the minimum wage doughnut slingers I'd have to drink the crap they have at work and there would be more punk-ass kids crowding up the streets and higher taxes. OK, I'm not sure about those last two points, but for sure I'd be drinking crappier coffee.

So, check the order before you leave the window. Check it again, and then politely thank the fine people behind the window when after the third try they finally get the order right. If they nail it on the first go, then thank them extra nicely. If it happens that way a few times in a row, then go in for a change and tell their manager how much you appreciate it.
---------------
So what happened today?

I was in line at the Timmy's and when I get called up to the counter I am served by a lady who has been working at Tim's for something like 10 years.  He's the happiest, energetic, optimistic, most polite Tim Horton's employee I have ever met.  She can't remember my name yet (I moved out of town for 5 years) but she clearly recognizes me as I've been in the store a lot lately.  It's "Roll Up the Rim to Win" time!

As I pass her my free donut cup from the coffee I had a few days ago says something to the extent of, "Can someone please get this gentleman his free donut?"

To which I replied, "Sure beats giving these guys [Tim Horton's] any more money.  They have enough already."

And then very subtly under her breath in a deeper tone than she normally speaks - and instantaneously after I made my comment - she says, "You fucking got that right".  And then she looks up at me, eyes wide and jaw open, as if she could not believe what just happened.  Well I'll tell you what happened: Her inside voice finally got out.  After 10 years of slogging crappy coffee and sugary pastries my comment finally hit the right nerve and she (sort of) snapped.

It was awesome.

Homage to the Movie "High Fidelity"

Best 5 Albums of All Time:

(please feel free to disagree, though take note that you're probably wrong)
  1. "Joshua Tree" - U2
  2. "Shakespeare My Butt" - Lowest of the Low
  3. "McLaren Furnace Room" - The Watchmen
  4. "4" - Led Zeppelin
  5. "Moving Pictures" - Rush
...and if they had genitalia they'd have frozen their nuts off

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So You're Going to Have an Enema...

This is something that actually happened to me. I'm not making any of this up, but I might be making it a tad funnier that it actually was at the time. It's 100% true.

It's a story in three parts - best told in person - but if I don't write this down now I may forget all the details that make it so wonderfully entertaining. It should be read quickly as that's how it's supposed to be told. Imagine lots of funny faces and arm waiving.

This is also the longest post in the history of Blogger. You have been warned.



Part I - Preparation

I had been having stomach troubles for a while and my doctor decided it was time to go in. My options were this. 1) Camera tube down throat. 2) Camera tube up ass. 3) Enema & X-Rays with Barium milk shake & X-Rays. After much deliberation we decided the least invasive route would be option 3.

"So", I said to my doctor, "I've heard the term before, but what exactly is involved with all this anyway?". Now my doctor being not the best with bedside manner responded rather coldly, "Well, first you drink this barium - a lot of it - and then they rock you around, and take some x-rays. Then once that's all settled, about a month later, you go in and they stick a 1/4" surgical tube up your ass and pump you full of more barium, rock you around a bit, pump air into your lower intestine and take some more x-rays. Then you shit cement for a few days."

At least he was honest.

Well, the barium milk shake was a piece of cake. That is, if you can muscle down the sickest drink ever imagined. It was like something out of Fear Factor, only my life might actually depend on this so you have to do it. It sucked big time, but it didn't even suck a fraction of the amount that the rest did.

So after a month of waiting they finally tell me that the "Upper GI" turned up nothing and now it was time for IT. They sent me one of those little pamphlets labeled "Enemas" and it had lovely little pictures in it and very detailed medical text on what to expect and what it was all about and what they could find. Very educational and also a complete and total piece of shit lie.

Before you go in for this procedure you have to be um.... clean. Not clean in the porn star sort of way with the boys as slick as marbles, but clean as in a digestive track that's void of anything - including liquid, and especially food. So I go to the pharmacy to get "the kit". It's a lovely 3-step program designed to cleanse your inner self. In retrospect, this was nothing at all like the Yoga I had originally hoped it would be.

Step 0: The Fasting
Yes, there's a step zero. Any of you who've taken Thermodynamics would know that. Anyway, step zero is to eat nothing for a day, drink only clear chicken broth and water. The next morning it's only water, lunch more water, then before bed on that day nothing until after the procedure. Seeing as I was 6' 2" and only 140 lbs at the time, I was actually worried about not eating for that long. More on the weight loss later.

Step 1: The Pills
These are little pills - white - that you swallow in the morning. They did essentially nothing. To this day I wonder if they just had them so that the kit could contain three steps instead of just two.

Step 2: The Drink
So I'm at work on the 2nd day and I'm hungry as hell. All I've had to eat for more than a day is water and chicken broth and those three stupid pills that did nothing. At lunch time I read the box for "the drink". It says that I should drink it all down as quickly as I can and that I should "expect a strong reaction in 3 or 4 hours." What the hell does that mean? I mean I know what it means, but they can't pin it down any better than that?

So I drink this vile stuff. Granted, it was way better than drinking barium, but it still was really shitty. It was the most concentrated, carbonated, lemon juice I've ever had. About 2 hours later my friend happens by my cube and reads the box. He says to me, "If their margin of error is 1 hour, what if the reaction time happens in 2 to 3 hours instead of 3 to 4?"

Oh shit. I hate it when people other than me make so much sense. I packed up my stuff immediately and headed home, in what had to the the worst rain storm I've ever seen in my life. I start my 1986 Cutlass and it gives me a really hard time. It does not like rain very much at all. I wasn't even out of the parking lot when it happened. The strong reaction was upon me, and it was pissed!

Wanting home field advantage, I put the pedal to the ground. It's normally a 10 minute drive to home from work - I planned to do it in 4. I took the most direct route home and basically broke every motor law there is for the province of Ontario with the exception of not stopping for a school bus (thankfully it was mid-day and kids were still in school). Now I get to my street, or rather the one right before mine and I see a huge puddle in the road from the rain. Not wanting to get stuck in it I floored it. I'm doing 90 in a 40 now and am not even thinking about losing my license, killing someone, or killing myself. I just need to get home. Now.

I hit the puddle and my car almost comes to a screeching halt as a wall of water 20 feet high sprays on either side of me. I felt like Moses. Then, my car sputtered. Oh no. It coughed and slowed down. Oh no. The tachometer plummeted to zero rpm. Oh no!!!!! I instantly invented a new swear word (something like jesusfuckingchristholyshitfuckgoddamnasslickinghellbitch). I put the pedal to the floor, turned the ignition and punched my dashboard with my other hand and the damn thing started and took off like a rocket. I now believe in God.

I park in the handicap spot in front of my building. I didn't have a permit, but if any situation warranted this violation I'm guessing it was this one. Plus, that was pretty much the only law I hadn't broken in the last 6 minutes and I didn't want to ruin a perfect streak. I run up the stairs three at a time and I get to my floor and I run. Like. Hell. I round the corner and there's someone in the hallway standing right in front of my door. With a giant roll of carpet for the hallway.

You have got to be freaking kidding me! I start screaming bloody murder at this poor immigrant-looking fellow. "Fucking move asshole! Get out of the way! Away from my fucking door you carpet laying piece of shit! Move!!!". I've never seen such a small man move such a big roll of carpet so fast in my life.

I open my door and leave it wide open (no time to close it) and get to the bathroom and have a seat. My pants hit the floor at the exact time my body decided to imitate a fucking space shuttle launch. And it was loud. And my doors were open. And there was a little Indian man out in my hallway with a big roll of carpet crushing him to death. I did not care. Not one bit.

It ended quickly.

I got up, washed up and weighed myself. I had just lost 5 pounds. I'm not joking in the least. Five pounds in 1/10th of a second. That has to be some sort of record. I go to close my door (to the hallway outside) and there's the little Indian man. He's looking at me like I just jumped off the coroners table and shook his hand. I apologized profusely but he just kept staring at me with these huge, brown, terrified eyes.

So, moving along with the story, I managed to get a few glasses of water into me to calm down and then I moved my car (no ticket!). My wife gets home around 6:00 and says to me, "Why did the carpet guy practically run away from me just now?". Had I not been so dehydrated I would have certainly peed myself.

Which brings us to...

Step 3: The Pill
This is just one pill. It's about the size of a small torpedo for a submarine. It's wrapped in foil with big letters on it "DO NOT SWALLOW". Fuck.

My wife reads out the instructions and, the trooper that she is, asks if I need any help. Seriously, I'm now in love with her more than I ever have been because I can guarantee you I would not have been offering to help her. Maybe I'm just funny like that.

The package said I had to "sit tight" for 15 minutes! As if I could sit down. I managed to do a dance around the apartment until the clock struck the appropriate hour. Then it began. I hadn't eaten anything in over a day. Hadn't drank in hours, and yet I've never needed a seat belt for my toilet more than I did right now. At least the worst part was over. Or so I thought...



OK, well that pretty much sums up PART I. Stay tuned for PART II ("The Procedure") and PART III ("The Aftermath").

Do the Math

Wandering through the grocery store I felt this overwhelming desire to buy potato chips. Sea salt and malt vinegar to be precise.  There's one particular brand of these particular chips that I quite enjoy, and as I passed them in the aisle I tossed two bags into my basket not taking into consideration the impulsiveness of the future purchase let alone the cost.  A few more steps down the unusually shiny sort-of-white grocery store floor, and on the left, was a collection of little yellow signs obnoxiously proclaiming "4 for $5" right below a whole shelf of blue chip bags of the usual variety of flavours: Regular, BBQ, and Salt & Vinegar.  Sea salt and malt vinegar!

I stopped dead in my tracks, which seems kind of dramatic now that I've written it down but it's also exactly what happened.  I looked down at my basket.  Confused.  Not that I had any real reason to be confused, they were just chips, and the particular brand I had come to enjoy had always been a fine choice in the past.  But at this moment I looked back to my right and checked the price of these well-known salt and vinegary crunchy treats.  Just to keep the math simple, let's round down by $0.09 and say they were $3.50 a bag.  In a split second (or two) the calculations were complete.  The chips in my possession at this moment were almost 3 times the cost of these mysterious blue discount chips.  Three times!

It was right then that I had a revelation.  Minimally, it was a nifty bit of insight (considering I was standing in a grocery store somewhere between the chips and pretzels).  I was ready to spend almost 3 times as much for chips, that in all likelihood, were not 3 times as satisfying as the competing brand.   For a potato chip to be 3 times better than another potato chip it would have to be a really freaking awesome potato chip.  It's a potato chip for heaven's sake, we're not talking about HD TV or the Mars Rover.

In of itself this revelation is not that startling, but what occurred to me was that there was likely a whole host of things out there, bigger things, important things, for which I was unnecessarily paying considerably more (either in monetary costs or other less tangible forms).  Further to this, I was certain that I was not alone in this regard.  People EVERYWHERE were (figuratively, and in some cases literally) buying chips 3 times as expensive as they needed to be ALL THE TIME.

For some reason this seemed utterly unacceptable.  Something had to be done.  But what?  Well for starters I put back my usual brand of chips and bought 4 bags of the discount chips.  Two bags of the salt & vinegar and one bag each of "regular" and BBQ.  Before I left the parking lot I had already cracked open a bag of the bargain S&V and you know what?

They sucked.

In the chip makers defense, they were definitely more than 1/3 as good as the other brand, but not quite half.  My regular brand was priced at $3.59 and I was convinced that this was an inflated number.  This was just an arbitrarily assigned cost the chip company came up with (actually, it was probably based on millions of dollars in market research in an attempt to find out just how much they could charge and still have loads of people buy the damn chips).  So, I just as arbitrarily assigned a bag value of $1.74 to the chips I just purchased for $1.25 each.

By my math I thought I had just received a deal.  Not much of one, but a deal nonetheless.  I paid 49 cents less for my chips than I thought they were worth.  The only problem was they still sucked.  So really, I didn't get a deal at all.  I just paid $5.00 for 2 bags of chips that I didn't really like and 2 bags of chips I didn't really want when I could have spend only $2.18 more for 2 bags of chips I would have really enjoyed.  I drove home very disappointed with my trip to the grocery store and was mildly depressed that I would now have to eat all these shitty/unwanted chips (crappy or not, it would seem wasteful).

The moral of the story? Something about getting what you pay for, or at the very least appreciating the value in the things you already know you enjoy.  That, or I just proved bus stop advertising works.

Wanna buy some chips? Three bags for 5 bucks.