Monday, December 28, 2015

One Word

One word. 

One word can make all the difference. 

In stark contrast to the more more more approach of National Novel Writing month, I am going to round out December with a post that will focus on summing it the hell up. Here are fifty questions to which I will respond using only one word: 

1. Where is your cell phone? Couch

2. Your significant other? Genius

3. Your hair? Thinning

4. Your mother? Loving

5. Your father? Wise

6. Your favourite? Kids

7. Your dream last night? Obscure

8. Your favourite drink? Grapes

9. Your dream/goal? Retirement

10. What room you are in? Living

11. Your hobby? Lounging

12. Your fear? Drowning

13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happy

14. Where were you last night? Home

15. Something that you are not? Alone

16. Muffins? Sometimes

17. Wish list item? Sleep

18. Where you grew up? Thornhill

19. Last thing you did? Write

20. What are you wearing? Comfort

21. Your TV? Flat

22. Your pets? Annoying

23. Friends? Plethora

24. Your life? Incomparable

25. Your mood? Introspective

26. Missing someone? Yes

27. First Car? Gutless

28. Something you usually wear but aren't? Watch

29. Your favourite store? Hardware

30. Your favourite colour? Green
31. Best book you've ever read? Mockingbird

32. Your hero? Avery

33. When is the last time you laughed? Recently

34. Last time you cried? October

35. Preferred flavor of gum? Mint

36. One place that you go to over and over? Facebook

37. One person who emails you regularly? Spammers

38. Favourite place to eat (cheap)? Mozy's

39. Favourite place to eat (pricey)? Keg

40. One goal in life? Longevity

41. Favourite movie? Tarantino

42. What is your worst habit? Laziness

43. Desired superpower? Teleportation

44. Your favourite food? Steak

45. Favourite Band/Musician? Watchmen

46. Favourite veggie/fruit? Oranges

47. Your driving style? Bad

48. What is special in your bedroom? Love

49. Own or rent? Own


50. Who will comment on this? Nobody

~ Andrew

Friday, December 18, 2015

Twenty-five Things

Twenty-five things about me:

  1. I am quite fond of art
  2. Red wine is my alcoholic beverage of choice (Malbec, Shiraz, Cab - in that order)
  3. I have only fired a pistol on one occasion and will never own a gun of any kind - ever
  4. I believe intelligent life exists (or existed) elsewhere in the Universe
  5. If I don't like a book I won't finish it. Halfway is the tipping point for most
  6. I haven't had cable in two years but still enjoy watching shows (thank god for Netflix)
  7. I played reasonably competitive hockey until I was 16, but was a third or fourth liner at best (I was a great skater though)
  8. It wasn't until 2012 that I started to consider myself a writer
  9. I once provided trivia content for a home video game system
  10. My daughter and I were both baptized by the same Anglican minister, at two different churches, 22 years and 100km apart
  11. I am at peace with the fact that there are some questions that seem like they cannot be answered, and encouraged by the fact that it does not stop many others from trying to answer them
  12. In the tenth grade I received an award for achieving the highest Math mark out of 400 students in my year
  13. I can juggle
  14. I accidentally lit myself on fire and ended up in "The Darwin Awards III, Survival of the Fittest" (a dubious distinction, but a distinction none the less)
  15. I was a teacher's assistant for behavioral English as a Second Language kids between the ages of eight and ten. The teacher spoke seven languages
  16. I used to drive the student safety van at the University of Waterloo
  17. I started smoking in 1987 at age 13, was up to a pack a day by the time I left high school, and quit for good (cold turkey) on March 8th, 1998
  18. For various weddings, I have been a: bus boy, bartender, usher, groomsman, master of ceremonies, and groom
  19. I will not wear a hat when seated at a table for a meal - not even after golf
  20. For three years in school, I played the trumpet (and sucked at it)
  21. I almost failed typing class in high school, but last clocked myself at 80 words per minute
  22. I tend to win a lot of radio contests, with one of the biggest being $500 from best buy and one of the coolest being getting to be "Concert Promoter" for a day and meet Nine Inch Nails and take 7 friends to the show
  23. I enter a lot of hockey pools every year (regular season and playoffs) but have only won money in a few
  24. I received a swimming badge at summer camp - with a full wrist to shoulder cast on my left arm. The duct tape marks (from the garbage bag over-the-cast "solution") on my shoulder took weeks to heal
  25. March 13, May 19, June 14, and November 6 are days that mean a lot to me

~ Andrew

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Proud Papa

I'm going to take this opportunity to write about how awesome my kids are.

I realize that most parents say this about their kids and many of them are right. All of them should be blogging about it. Kids who are awesome and do awesome things deserve to be praised from the highest mountains. So here's my story about a weekend that my kids turned from ordinary to extraordinary in a span of less than twenty-four hours.

For those who don't know, I have two children with my wife of sixteen years: a 13-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. Through some weird nickname wormhole, these two fine little humans are affectionately referred to as "Pants" and "Dude", which are actually short for "Princess Pants" and "Doodle", which were actually short for "Princess Paloney Baloney" and "Mister Doodle" (he was 10 lb 9 oz when he was born and when you're that big they call you Mister).

Anyhow, they're great kids, but unlike a lot of other kids I know neither of them are crazy interested in competitively doing things. Pants stopped figure skating right before it got really serious (phew!) and Dude had shown only mild interest in such things - until bowling, that is (the funny thing is that we were calling him Dude before he started bowling).

Now we're calling him The Dude.

This is his third year of 5-pin bowling. For the uninitiated, 5-pin bowling is done with a smaller ball (with no holes in it) and there are, appropriately, five pins which are arranged in a wide "V" shape. Unlike 10-bin bowling where each pin is worth one, in 5-pin the head pin is worth 5, the two beside it are each worth 3, and the two end pins are each worth 2. You get to bowl three balls per frame (instead of two), with the same strike and spare rules as in 10-pin (i.e. your strike counts all pins plus the next two balls with your spare counting all pins plus your next ball). A perfect game is 450.

Dude's best score is 221 but his average is sitting around 127, which is pretty good for a 9-year-old playing with kids a year older than he is (Bantam age bracket is 7-10). This past weekend Dude went to his regular bowling league game on Saturday while Pants and I were hanging with a friend of mine (more on that later). Turns out he qualified to compete in the Zone Championships the next day at some lanes one city over (20 minutes or so by car). So, Sunday morning my wife packed him up and got him registered. Before he left he said to me, "I feel like I'm going to have a good day." 

Understatement of the year, kid.

With nine frames done in his first game he was below average by enough that it wasn't looking too good. Then, in the tenth frame he bowled three strikes in a row for his first ever turkey (that's what you call three strikes in a row in bowling) for a 160. His second game was a 171, followed by a 147 and a consistent 148. After four games he was 92 pins up on the next boy but fatigue started to set in and he rounded out his first five-game set with the only one below his average, carding a 124. His average over the five games was 150.

Even with the sub-par last game, his lead held up and he was crowed the Bantam Boys (Singles) Zone Champion earning him a spot at the Provincial Championships on March 6. We couldn't be more thrilled. He keeps asking when he can watch the movie The Big Lebowski. If he wins provincials I just might let him.

"The medal doesn't say first place, but I won, and it's gold, so that's okay." - The Dude

The Dude Abides



Remember how I mentioned Pants and I were hanging with a friend of mine on Saturday while Dude was bowling? Well, this friend is a super rad guy named Jim. Aside from being an all 'round good guy, Jim is also musically inclined. He plays guitar, bass, a little keyboard, and taught himself to play the harmonica the other day - just because. Jim and I played in a little coffee shop trio called Argyle Speedo with our friend Steph a while back. It was fun. I like writing lyrics to stuff Jim creates, though they tend to be on the depressing side, whereas Jim's wheelhouse tends toward happy fun stuff.

Anyway, Jim was taking an art sabbatical and spending all his non-sleeping time at Kwartzlab and wanted me to hang with him and create stuff one day. I asked if Pants could join us because she recently picked up her guitar for the first time in well over a year (with only 8 months of lessons under her belt) and I thought it would be cool for her to experience the creation of art for no other reason than to create art. Jim being Jim thought this was a top shelf idea and on Saturday around 10:30 in the morning Pants and I met him at the lab. He was upstairs shooting footage for a vlog and had an array of recording equipment and instruments lying around.

We just fiddled with instruments for a bit, with Jim and Avery randomly strumming stuff and me trying to figure out the cajon drum box. After a couple hours of playing some John Lennon, Vance Joy, Axis of Awesome and other random stuff we grabbed a sandwich.

After lunch, we got out the trusty "How to Write a Hit Song" cheat sheets and Avery picked a major key and a chord progression and just started strumming, Jim got the harmonica out and started playing his brand new mouth organ, and I started banging on the cajon. A couple minutes later it sounded like a song.

I was mentioning that I only wrote sad lyrics and this song needed words. Avery, rather shyly, mumbled something. I went to write it down and she was hesitant to repeat it. After some coaxing I got her to give me the line.
"I'd walk backwards to the moon if it meant I could see you smile"
I encouraged her to get more out and Jim reminded us that it didn't have to rhyme. We played off the action "walk". What else can you do? Run, jump, leap...
"I'd somersault into outer space if you'd talk to me for a while" 
There was discussion on how to properly spell "somersault", which distracted Jim from the rhyming. And so it went until we had two short verses of four lines each.
I'd walk backward to the moon
If it meant I could see you smile
I'd somersault into outer space
If you'd talk to me for a while
I'd hang upside down from the clouds
To see your sparkling eyes
I'd hold onto you for some amount of time
If we didn't have to say goodbye
Against the music it was starting to sound even more like a song. It was a song! It was a song that needed a chorus, so back to the cheat sheet we went. Once we had chords we liked for it Jim played around with it a bit and we got working on the lyrics for the chorus.

We tried a few things and scratched out most of them, and with Jim singing them out loud while tinkering with strum patterns we landed on the following:
Backwards somersaults upside down
Holding onto you
Wishing time would come around
So I can stay with you 
Ink will fade
But memories last
Memories last
Ink will fade
But memories last
Forever
We gave it a run through and decided to play around with the order of things, stitching it together thusly:
Verse 1
Chorus
Verse 2
Harmonica Solo
Chorus
Last Half of Chorus
With Avery and I singing, me on the cajone, and Jim on his guitar we gave it a spin and it sounded pretty good. Did I mention that there were other people in the lab working on various things? This made me feel a bit self-conscious and I thought it would make Pants clam up for sure, but it wasn't a problem. She was so focused on this song that the room may as well have been empty.

Jim then did a track just with guitar and then the harmonica solo and then Pants was up for the first vocal track. Jim said it would be weird listening with the headphones and singing into a mic but Pants, who hasn't had a single voice lesson, wasn't properly warmed up, and had only sung the lyrics a few times stepped up and gave it a whirl. A little off key and a little screw up on the second verse, she plowed through and got the job done!

Then, it was my turn. Jim was right about singing with headphones on into a mic. I found it really weird and after one verse immediately needed a do over. Second time through, a little off key and with the same screw up (not on purpose) on the second verse we were done.

Pants gave the second verse another shot and improved it a little, then Jim put the bass line on it (or maybe he did that earlier, I can't remember) and crammed it all into his magic music making app and there was a real life MP3 to show for the day's efforts. Time had run out and Pants and I had to get going, so there wasn't the opportunity to do any of the vocal tracks over again. This concerned Pants at first but Jim and I explained that most songs she listens to have had hours and hours of recording and editing. She spent probably 8 minutes, as a first timer no less, laying this track down.

Jim has a great saying: Perfect is the enemy of done.

We got into the car and Pants looked over at me with a big smile on her face.

"That was the most fun I've ever had. I can't believe I just wrote and recorded a song!"

Jim did a bit of editing on the song and asked if I'd ask Pants if she was okay with the song being put out into the world. She said yes, and I could not have been more proud. I made sure she knew it, too. It takes some serious intestinal fortitude to put anything that you know isn't perfect out into the world, let alone to do that and have all the additional pressures of being a teenage girl and wanting to fit in and be cool. Plus, the internet can be a cruel place.

After she agreed, she looked at me with a smidgen of doubt. I told her that no, it wasn't perfect and we all made mistakes, but it was a first cut of something wonderful and if anyone wants to give her grief over it that she can tell them to stuff it.

Expect a version done by Woot Suit Riot soon, as well as improved vocal tracks from Avery and I at some point, but for now here it is...

Ink Will Fade by Princess Pants, Andrew and Jim:



~ Andrew

Friday, December 4, 2015

Americans Welcome

Americans, you may want to sit down for this. Are you sitting? No, please. Sit down. This is serious. Ready? Okay, here it goes: Your country is broken.

"We can fix it!"

No, sorry, you cannot. You're terribly broken. Gangrene is has set in and it's bad.

"How can this be?"

Good question. I first noticed it back in 1990 when you bombed the living hell out of Iraq (to depose a dictator the U.S. helped put in power). Five years later it was the Oklahoma City bombing - an act of domestic terrorism I could hardly fathom. Four years after that came Columbine. That one really stood out. Then another war with Iraq (this time over weapons of mass destruction which we now know for certain was just a cover up to finish the job daddy couldn't do a decade ago). Sandy HookThe religious right. Rampant racism, misogyny, class warfare... The list goes on and on (and on and on and on...) Oh, and every single level of government AND your Supreme Court is bought and paid for.

"But..."

The overwhelming response to all of this? Absolutely nothing, unless you count pithy memes on the Internet.

"But lots of people care. We want to change. We CAN change."

Nope. I don't think you can. If you were capable of change you would have a Congress that looks a lot different than what it looks like today.

All that red has you blue

"There has to be something that can be done. Come on, doc, throw us a bone here."


Well...

"Yes, please, tell us!"

If gangrene gets too bad there's only one thing to do.

"Please, tell us, what is it?"

Amputate.

Meme

There's some good news, though.

"Well, there'd better be some good news. Has anyone ever told you your bedside manner sucks?"

I'm sorry, That's very un-Canadian. But onto the good news. Remember 1812? Specifically, the war.

"Yes, we kicked your lily asses."

Well, there's some debate on how that ended, and we did torch Washington (which is actually the reason the White House is painted white - to cover up the fact that we burned the fuck out of it) but that's neither here nor there.

The deal with the War of 1812 was this: North America was being colonized at a phenomenal rate and you guys wanted a bunch of "British" land and decided to come take it. We were all like, screw that, and fought you back. It's way more complicated, of course. We can't ignore the genocide of millions of indigenous peoples made in the name of "progress" (hence, the quotes around "British" land). But, the whitewashed history books will sum it up into a battle for the stuff between the 40th and 54th parallels with the resulting borders ending up looking more or less like they do now.

Size matters and we're way bigger than you are

"So, what's your point?"

Well, I propose we annex a slice of the northern United States. Literally cut it out and stitch it onto the south end of Canada. Not quite as far down as the 40th parallel, but close enough. Everyone living in those areas would either stick around and live in a country that's not batshit crazy or get the hell out of Dodge and head South.

"If a bunch of Americans start migrating south, won't that crowd up everywhere below the 40th parallel?"

Nope, because we'd open up the new border to accept American refugees from the south too! Call it a citizenship swap. Batshit crazy? South of 40. Not Batshit crazy? North of 40. We're already bringing in a metric tonne of Syrians and have a pretty good track record with this sort of humanitarian peacekeeping shit. Okay, we had a really dark period there from 2006 until very recently, but we've fixed that problem and we're just about good as new.

"Would you take whole states or just cut a swath across the top all nice and straight?"

We'll take whole states and make a straightish line. We'll assume control of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming (reluctantly), both Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin (Go Packers!), Michigan, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Now THAT'S a nice looking map

In tribute to the native peoples who were slaughtered, we'll immediately rename two states south of Ontario "Lower East Saskatchewan" and "Lower East Saskatchewan South" - maybe New Hampshire and New York but we can sort that out later. We'll also talk about renaming some of the others once everyone gets settled.
"What about Alaska and Hawaii?"

OMG, I completely forgot about them! We'll take those too, but only under the condition that Sarah Palin gets the hell out of Alaska and Barack Obama becomes Premier of Hawaii (Canadian version). Also, Bernie Sanders gets to be Prime Minister after Justin Trudeau.

"This could work."

Don't worry, this will be epic. Canada will absolutely OWN potatoes, maple syrup (even more than it does now), wheat (tonnes of fucking wheat, so much wheat), marijuana (even more than it does now), cheese, and whatever the hell Wyoming is good for.

"You know, this idea is actually kind of good."

I know!

"One question: why do you keep using the word 'tonne'? Isn't it 'ton'?"

Oh, that. It's metric. You'll have to start using a system of measurement that's used in every country except the United States, Liberia, and Myanmar. It's actually quite easy to...

"Screw that. No deal. [mumbling] And you think we're batshit crazy? Metric system. Pfft."

Aw man, this sucks. What am I supposed to do with this flag?

New Canadian flag

~ Andrew