Sunday, February 25, 2007

Radio fun on a Saturday morning

Joe and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 7:30 on a Saturday morning and walked in the freezing cold down to the CBC Building to be part of the live studio audience of GO!, one of my favourite radio shows. When I wake up early on a Saturday morning (9am), I like to listen in on Brent Bambury and his nerdy cool brand of fun.

After being seated in a studio about 20 minutes before going to air, we were warmed up by Brent Bambury with trivia and prizes. Other audience members won books and Canada Reads bags by answering questions like 'Who was the first host of Canada Reads?' and 'Which panelist failed to show up in support of his book?". I won a GO! do-rag by correctly identifying Cher's song, "Believe". I don't think I was the only person in the audience who recognized Cher's hit song. Rather, I was the only audience member desperate enough for a prize to acknowledge it.

The audience seemed mostly made up of the 20 to 30 something University-educated demographic. Joe and I got great seats that were somewhat hampered by our proximity to a pair of insolent artsy teenagers. It was somewhat laughable to overhear their clumsy attempt to coerce Brent Bambury into having their band on GO! They were obviously fans of the house band that day, Spiral Beach, whose members, being between the ages of 17 and 20, also displayed an impertinent precocity of their own. The band's three male members were vitually clones with their identical mop tops and artfully frayed white t-shirts and jeans, and their music seemed like a New Wave regurgitation. You know you've become old and cynical when the know-it-all bravado of youth grates on your nerves and you are comforted by the fact that they will soon be humbled by the realization that it has all been done before.

We were not given advance notice on who the guests would be this week but I knew we had come to the right show when I spotted Scott Thompson, formerly of The Kids in the Hall, one of CBC's best programming decisions.

It turns out that Scott had been asked along with theatre actor Jean Yoon, MP Olivia Chow and a GO! resident contributor, whose name escapes me, to participate in "Canada Skims...Magazines!" Scott hilariously defended the celebrity tabloid, OK! Canada, because "Canadians need more low culture in their lives." Olivia Chow touted Gardening Life and the GO! guy presented LouLou. In the end, Jean Yoon was victorious with Shameless, a feminist indie mag; a predictable result on a CBC show.

Before leaving, I couldn't resist approaching Scott Thompson and expressing my love for him, which Scott took very well. Then I asked Joe to take a photo of us. In retrospect, I wish I could have proven to Scott how much I loved him and The Kids in the Hall by using obscure punchlines like:
  • Andrew Dice Clay is not the new Lenny Bruce. You are!
  • I had the pear dream again.
  • Godspeed thee through Texas, faggot!

That last one might have gotten me in trouble, though, if Scott had a bad memory. The moral of the story is: always have catch phrases ready for rapid fire recitation, or if you are a comic book enthusiast, issue numbers and obscure plot details.

The whole GO! experience was fun and totally worth the free ticket, obnoxious teenagers notwithstanding.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chit chat fodder...gone wild!

I no longer experience the heady thrills of Reading Week, which is taking place right now at the educational institute that I work for. Instead, I provide random bits of information from my former customs broker that will make anyone look interesting and "in the know" at foam parties down in Florida.

Cactus with chicken, cactus with beef
A global network of agricultural research centres is warning that famines lie ahead unless new crop strains adapted to a warmer future are developed. New forecasts say warming will shrink South Asia's wheat area by half and there are now plans to accelerate efforts aimed at developing new strains of staple crops including maize, wheat, rice and sorghum. The most significant impact of climate change on agriculture is changes in rainfall. Increasing temperatures can also affect crops. Photosynthesis slows down as the thermometer rises, which also slows the plants' growth and capacity to reproduce.

Public Edutainment
A new British science textbook for schools claims that polar bears eat penguins, even though they live in separate hemispheres.

Private Edutainment
It is estimated that last Christmas, parents spent a small fortune on high-technology toys that claim to lift the intelligence of their young. The world-wide market for "edutainment" toys reached US$1.7-billion in 2005 and could total $5.5-billion by 2010. Other studies say that more than 50-per cent of all money lavished on toys during the holiday season was spent on preschool products that purport to enhance specific motor skills.

Motion sickness is the new cachet
In another first for the Gulf emirate of Dubai where the world's tallest skyscraper is now being built, plans have been unveiled to construct a 30-floor building that moves with the power of the sun to become the only rotating residential structure on the planet. Solar energy will be stored and used to drive the rotation mechanism to provide 360-degree views to every resident moving 52-degrees in 24 hours. A Dubai developer has also announced plans to build a new Russian city on 17,800 hectares near Moscow at a cost of US$11-billion.

Porn pipe fulfils all needs
A third of British Internet users watch less television once they have broadband, while 27-per cent read fewer national newspapers and almost a fifth switch off their radios according to new research. The picture is similar across France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., highlighting the threat posed by the web to traditional media. This same survey shows that Britons pay less for mobile phone, TV and internet services than their counterparts in Europe and the U.S.

Magnets for trouble
Experts are now warning that newer types of fridge magnets could be a killer of those with weak hearts. A stronger type of magnet used in many new commercial products can interfere with pacemakers and implanted heart devices with deadly consequences. The culprits are very strong magnets made from neodymium-boron which have only recently become available and are being used in computer hard drives, headphones and hi-fi speakers, as well as toys and jewellery.

Global warming provides seafood buffet
Russian trawlers are being built to exploit the Arctic seas opened up as the sea ice shrinks as a result of global warming. Industrial trawlers are already mopping up new fisheries stimulated by the lack of summer ice. Inuit communities on the east side of Greenland have banned all outside fishing for shrimp stocks that are growing in the absence of summer ice and have decided to exploit them themselves.

Watering eyes on the rise
With 42-inch flat-panel TVs flying off US retailers' shelves now that prices have dropped below US$1,000, experts predict that the 72-inch TV will be the norm by 2009 at a cost of around $3,000. An old 34-inch tube TV used to weigh around 90 kilograms: a 57-inch flat-panel LCD TV weighs only 55 kilograms.

Screw the electric car
The world's oil supply won't begin to run out for at least another 24 years, contrary to some theories that suggest production has already peaked and supply is now in a terminal decline. The Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates remaining global supply at 3.74-trillion barrels compared with 1.2-trillion estimates by other theorists.

68% of workers chillax on the job
In a recent survey, 32-per cent of U.S. workers polled admitted to calling in sick when they felt well at least once a year and 10 per cent said they do it three or more times a year. The most popular motivator for missing work was the need to relax cited by 48-per cent of workers. For another 24-per cent it was a chance to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All you need is love

Lock the door, light some candles and turn your speakers on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wal-Mart greeter punched in face

The headline intrigued me so I read the rest of the Toronto Star article (excerpts below):
A Wal-Mart greeter in Vaughan was punched in the face after she tried to stop a shoplifter with a cart full of baby formula, York Region police say.

"The greeter grabbed the cart and pushed it back. He failed to respond to her and then punched her in the face," said Det. Bruce Rowlandson. The man then fled the store.

The greeter was taken to hospital with minor facial injuries.
The injured Wal-Mart greeter will probably get nothing for her trouble except maybe a letter of thanks from the CEO or a $10 gift certificate. And if she takes a few days off to tend to her sore face, she probably won't get paid.

In fact, if that Wal-Mart greeter had been given a chance to think about her lacklustre wages, the absence of health benefits, and how easily she could be replaced by a robot right before her encounter with the shoplifter, she probably would have been charged with manslaughter.

PS Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Take this job and...

It is such a cliché to hate your job. I have spent my adult life trying to avoid saying things like "Mondays, eh?" and "Thank God It's Friday" and yet, I still have my fair share of stupid boss stories.

My current boss is reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada, or so I'm told by friends I relay my anecdotes to. One of her chief characteristics is the need to micromanage then complain that she shouldn't be bothered about every little detail. Inconsistencies in her priorities is also a source of stress; use of the office printer requires her approval but withdrawing $12 from her account does not. Needless to say, I'm on the lookout for better prospects.

In the meantime, a trip down memory lane:
  • In one of my previous jobs in which I laid out a publication using QuarkXPress, I liked listening to the radio to pass the time. The quality of my work was not affected by my listening to CBC Radio One - a work friendly radio station. My co-workers were not affected either. Yet, my boss stopped by one day and stated, "I don't listen to the radio when I'm working and I don't think anyone who works for me should either." This is the same man who decided to take a golf vacation instead of training me during my first week of employment then complained when I was not familiar with office procedure.
  • While working as a counsellor for a day camp, I contracted bronchitis and was pretty much bed ridden for a week. While I experienced severe headaches, fever, and non-stop coughing, my boss called me to beg me to come in on the Friday to work for "a few hours". I refused on the basis that my commute via public transit took four hours and that I was still sick and contagious. My boss demonstrated her spite on Monday when she failed to ask about my health and proceeded to place me in a camp with six year olds. For three weeks, I tried not to spew disease into their adorable little faces.
  • This same boss did not have the balls to stop some of my fellow counsellors from ending their contracts early to go on holiday before school started. Instead, she held a meeting where she put the decision in the hands of the remaining counsellors, such as myself, who would be stuck with clean up duty. Faced with my pleading co-workers, who had already booked vacations with their families, was I supposed to heartlessly hand them mops then work side by side with their simmering resentment towards me? Never before had I felt more like Cinderella in those last weeks as my vindictive boss found an endless list of things to do before she would let us enjoy the last few days of August.
  • During my first week at my current position, my boss threw a major funding application, which was due in about a month, in my lap. Never having dealt with this sort of project, or claimed to have any knowledge of it, I struggled along. A highlight of this hopeless endeavor was the following exchange:

Me: How do I tell the difference between a refereed and non-refereed contribution? All your Presentations (Peer-reviewed) and Invited Lectures are listed together.

Boss: Just use common sense. Obviously an Invited lecture is not peer-reviewed.

Eventually, a PhD student was hired to take the project out of my shaking hands.

I am pretty sure my work experiences are easily trumped by many out there. While watching the Office Space scenes where the employees are forced to argue why they should not be laid off, I laughed heartily because it was quite amusing. My mother, however, cackled in a way that I had never heard before then said bitterly, "That's exactly what is happening in my workplace." She survived 25 years+ in an environment that I would have quitted from in the first week.

Feel free to share some of your delightful anecdotes! TGIF!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Flame on!

A refugee board has determined that Alvaro Antonio Orozco has no basis for his refugee claim because he is "not gay enough". Orozco ran away from an alcoholic and abusive father at the age of 12 then made his way from his native Nicaragua to Texas where he lived in a Christian group home. Orozco made the move to Toronto in January 2005 after hearing that Canada supported gay rights.

As Orozco faces possible deportation next Tuesday, he may find little to smile about. Yet, I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of this case. The judge bases her decision on the fact that Orozco did not have any same sex relationships during his six year in the US. But who in their right mind is going to have sex with another man while living in a Christian group home in Texas? Has this judge seen the ending of Brokeback Mountain?

I am not sure what Orozco could have done to prove his homosexuality to the refugee judge. Perhaps he should have:
  • participated in some homemade gay porn (though many straight men do gay porn for the money)
  • exhibited better fashion sense
  • shown a limper wrist
  • stated that he preferred tacos to sausages

Whether he is truly gay or not, the fact is that Orozco is at risk of getting assaulted or even killed if he returns to Nicaruaga now, a country where sodomy is illegal. His case has made the headlines and, in all probability, his own father is watching the news and sharpening his knife. Unlike the judge, homophobes looking to have some fun will readily accept that Orozco is speaking the truth. On the basis of Orozco's future appointment with violence back in Nicaruaga, we should probably let him stay in Canada.

Less pressing but just as ridiculous: the story of Susan Lawrence, the Ontario woman who was about to be evicted from her own house because an imposter had obtained a mortgage on her home without her knowledge. The criminals who did this are obviously despicable but much more unsettling were the facts that:

  • Maple Trust decided to punish an innocent woman for the money they lost
  • the Ontario Courts sat back and shrugged their shoulders before Lawrence appealed

I applaud Lawrence for not dousing her house in gasoline, setting it on fire and cackling, "If I can't have it, no one can!"