Friday, June 30, 2006

57 Channels and nothing on ..........

We just replaced our digital cable TV box. The other one had gone a bit wonky and would freeze when you tried to display the online guide and choose a movie or channel. After months of living without all the extra features, JB finally took it back to one of our providers local stores. They immediately replaced it. No questions asked. Which leads us to believe there were numerous issues with these boxes as it is normally not that easy to return or exchange anything these days.

JB set it all up two nights ago and we are really happy with the great picture quality and the fact we can now freely change channels without having to reboot the box due to the screen freezing.

Last night I was working away on the computer while JB sat on the sofa flipping and flipping and flipping and then quipped "We have all these channels back and there is nothing on worth watching" I shot back "you could always just turn the TV off!" I found it hilarious that we now have all our gajillion channels back yet an hour later JB was still sitting there dozing off with the remote in hand and some lame show on. At least TV these days works as a great sleep enhancer.

Quote of the day:

I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills
With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills
Man came by to hook up my cable TV
We settled in for the night my baby and me
We switched 'round and 'round 'til half-past dawn
There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

Well now home entertainment was my baby's wish
So I hopped into town for a satellite dish
I tied it to the top of my Japanese car
I came home and I pointed it out into the stars
A message came back from the great beyond
There's fifty-seven channels and nothin' on

Well we might'a made some friends with some billionaires
We might'a got all nice and friendly
If we'd made it upstairs
All I got was a note that said "Bye-bye John
Our love is fifty-seven channels and nothin' on"

So I bought a .44 magnum it was solid steel cast
And in the blessed name of Elvis well I just let it blast
'Til my TV lay in pieces there at my feet
And they busted me for disturbin' the almighty peace
Judge said "What you got in your defense son?"
"Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on"
I can see by your eyes friend you're just about gone
Fifty-seven channels and nothin' on...
Fifty-seven channels and nothin'

Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, June 29, 2006

New Frontier

New Frontier - Donald Fagen

Although I am not a huge fan of music videos. This is one of my favorite videos. I remember when it came out in the 1980's. This was when music videos were in their infancy and we were all glued to "MuchMusic" here in Toronto. I remember watching the channel religiously so I could watch all the latest videos to the popular 80's songs and everyone was sucked in to watching the latest merging of Television and Music.

I always felt this video was a bit more artistic and relevant to the song as opposed to some of the other videos that came out at the same time. I love the 1950's references and old style animation. After seeing Donald Fagen live, here in Toronto at Massey Hall a few months ago. I was reminded of the video when Donald Fagen did a great live version of this song. I kept mentioning to JB that he should try and find/view this video if possible as it is mildly amusing and plus you get to hear a great song. Well, JB found it for me on "Youtube" and sent me the link this morning. It is a video that I could watch over and over again. Perhaps because I love the song so much it naturally makes the video more enjoyable for me.

I love Donald Fagen whether his solo career/albums or his work with partner Walter Becker as the group Steely Dan. "New Frontier" is definitely one of my favorite Fagen songs. It is from his "Nightfly" Album which has quite a few good tunes on it.

Enjoy the tune...

Quote of the day:

"We cannot expect the Americans to jump from Capitalism to Communism, but we can assist their elected leaders in giving Americans small doses of Socialism, until they suddenly awake to find they have Communism."
- Nikita Kruschev, Premiere of the former Soviet Union, 3-1/2 months before his first visit to the United States.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Don't blow it - good planets are hard to find

Just realized it has been a while since I last posted. Glad to see I have not incurred the rath of any Michael Bolton fans out there......

JB and I have been discussing the possibility of trading in our GM(General Mess, see Chevrolet blog for the ongoing saga) and getting a new set of wheels. In light of the fact that both of us play golf and JB also plays baseball we require more than a Mini Cooper or other such small vehicle. After admonishing all of our friends who purchased Jeeps or SUV's due to their gas guzzling, environmental killing tendencies. I felt I had to put my money where my mouth is and look for a larger vehicle or SUV that is a hybrid. I cannot support any car company that is not forward thinking enough to manufacture a hybrid in this day and age.

I am 100% positive that our next vehicle purchase will be a hybrid. I am currently looking into the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Which leads me to the million dollar question or $1000 question...... What do I get as a consumer in the Province of Ontario if I purchase a Hybrid?

I recently read an article in Common Dreams about the amazing incentives south of the border being afforded to consumers who purchase hybrid vehicles. They range from tax rebates of $3000 coupled with additional incentives from employers which range in the $2000 to $3000 mark. Typically a Hybrid model costs anywhere from $5000 to $10,000 more. Numerous Corporations and State Governments are assisting in offsetting this cost for their employees and citizens. In Boston, the Bank of America Corporation provides employees with a $3000 incentive to purchase a hybrid car and that is on top of the proposed $2000 tax rebate that their governor plans to back. This more than offsets the difference in price between a conventional vehicle and a hybrid. In the City of New Haven, hybrid owners can park for free at all parking meters. Google Corporation offers $5000 to employees who purchase a hybrid.

What do I receive as a citizen of Ontario, Canada? ..... A partial rebate of up to $1000 off the sales tax. Wow, way to go Canada! You do me proud! I am embarrassed. We talk and talk about our wonderful country and how much better it is then the US but apparently we are not as great as the US when it comes to wanting to stop polluting our air and looking for alternatives to the ongoing massive fuel consumption that happens here in North America. Only three Provinces in Canada even offer any sort of incentive at all for a hybrid purchase. British Columbia, PEI and Ontario are the three Provinces.

Honestly, I wish that I did not need a vehicle at all but my employer is moving our department to a newly acquired facility. Moving us from our downtown location to a location north of the city. As I live in the city, it currently takes me a maximum of 20 mins to get here if I take the public transit system. Getting to the new location via public transit would take me well over an hour and would involve taking the subway and at least two or three buses. It is unbelievably complicated to get to this location by public transit. This leaves me no alternative other than to drive each day as it would appear that this city and province are never going to put the money into building a half decent public transit system which addressed the urban sprawl this City has experienced over the past 10 to 15 years. So, I will still get the hybrid vehicle despite the lack of incentives from my government. I will be asking my employer about incentives for employees who purchase hybrid vehicles in our next employee forum about "the big move". Doubt I will get anything. I should just be happy I have a well paying job. Makes me sad that not everyone wants to be part of the solution, it would appear. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying I am the equivalent of Dr. Albert Schweitzer or some of the other noble stewards of the planet but I do want to try and limit my own personal green house emissions.

I will be starting my letter and phone campaign very shortly to try and get better incentives for those who want to make a difference no matter how small as lets face it we are still buying gas for these hybrids but does Toronto or Canada for that matter really want to be outdone by our friends to the south.

Quote for today:

Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?
~Pierre Troubetzkoy

Thursday, June 22, 2006

We are Siamese if you please......

I was doing my usual searching for something on the internet and then ending up somewhere else. I stumbled across someone's music website when I was actually looking for an engineering site. I was about to hit my back button when at the bottom of the gents site he had a banner stating "Siamese Kittens". Now, those who have known me or my family for quite sometime know we always had Siamese cats. They were the only type of cat my Mother liked or would allow us to have as they had shorter hair and great personalities. Those who have owned a Siamese know how able they are to communicate like no other. The Siamese voice is legendary. They speak both with their voice and with their body. They are the quintessential "people" cat, for they love to be in your lap, on your bed, at your table. The Siamese cat originated from Thailand, formerly known as Siam. These cats were held in such high esteem in their native country that no one except the King and members of the royal family were permitted to own them. They were originally known as Royal points.

Intrigued by the "Siamese Kitten" banner I decided to click on it where I was taken to a full page of photos of this gents two new kittens. I instantly fell in love with these two little characters named "Mull' and "Iona". The names made me chuckle as these two Siamese cats have the most Scottish names you could ever choose. Usually Siamese owners give their cats oriental or exotic names our first Siamese was named "Ming" after the Chinese Empero Ming (my mums choice of name). When Ming passed away our next Siamese was called "Mischa" (after the cellist Mischa Maisky, my choice). My sister's two Siamese were named after the gods Mars and Atlas.

The photos of these two cuties reminded me how much I missed having a "meezer" in the house and I immediately wanted to leave my desk and go and purchase two Siamese kittens but I was snapped back into the reality of JB's deathly allergic reaction to cats. I sent him the photo's, in a sad attempt to hook him on the cute factor and perhaps make him forget he would end up in the hospital with a severe asthma attack. It didn't work. He was definitely sold on how cute they were and then said "sorry babe,can't live with them"

I will just have to view the photos on line for my "meezer" fix.

Quote for Today:

"People who belong to Siamese cats must make up their minds to do a good deal of waiting upon them."
Compton Mackenzie

Monday, June 19, 2006

Quite "Frank"-ly Mr. Bolton you can't sing!!!

The Frank Sinatra photo will make sense in a few minutes.

I would like to know who the individual is who suggested that Michael Bolton should have a career. His version of the classic Otis Redding tune "(Sittin' on the)Dock of the Bay" is like nails on a blackboard to me and don't even get JB started on the subject. JB, is a huge Otis fan. Bolton destroys the song and if you hear even a second of the song you have to immediately go and put on Otis singing the song to erase all memory of the musical car crash you just experienced.

Not content with destroying the great R&B classics. Somebody, back in 1998, seems to have given Mr. Bolton the idea that he would be a great Opera singer. As someone who grew up around singers particularly those who sang Opera, I felt this was a travesty. It made me sick that this non-talent was able to infiltrate the Opera world and get an album produced when there are operatic geniuses slogging away to make it in the Opera world for little to no money. His Opera album was called "My Secret Passion-The Arias" where Mr. Bolton tackles beloved and famous opera arias such as "Nessun Dorma" and "Una Furtiva Lagrima" all arias I grew up listening to the greats sing on my parents records or live at the Opera. To hear Jussi Bjorling, Enrico Caruso, Nicolai Gedda, Benjamino Gigli sing these arias, which they were born to sing, is a beautiful thing. These arias are not easy to sing, they take years for tenors to master. To hear Michael Bolton sing them is painful, its sacrilegious. This guy should not be allowed within 200 metres of an opera house.

I sat down with my coffee and cereal this morning and flipped the TV to the Today show only to hear the perky morning host squeal with excitement "Today's Summer Concert series is excited to have Michael Bolton here in New York. He will be singing from his new album "Bolton Swings Sinatra" .......HUH?????? Well, I sat there with my mouth agape took a swig of coffee thought "what tha f---k" and decided to go on my blog and express my anger rather than kicking in the TV set. While typing away I had Mr. Bolton in the background murdering the Sinatra classic "That's Life" Come one! Is nothing sacred? Who does this guy think he is? How arrogant is he? He can't sing Frank. Frank had a very specific sound, very specific tone, he had a good voice, great annunciation. Back in his prime, he was the equivalent of the Beatles. In the 1940's he had throngs of screaming fans, usually girls from the ages of 12 to 18. He had to have police escorts to his concerts. My Mother and my Aunt Sheila, as teens in Glasgow, were part of the Frank fan club. My Mother told me her and Aunt Sheila would sit and play Frank over and over on the record player when they got home from school.

What I find even more galling is that after singing/trying to sing "That's Life" the perky hosts speaks to Michael about why he wanted to do this album and he mentioned all kinds of crap and rhetoric and something about meeting Sammy Cahn as if this somehow makes him one of the Frank inner circle. Sammy Cahn was a great American songwriter who penned quite a few of the Frank hits. He penned "All the Way", "Love and Marriage", "High Hopes", "Come Fly with me" all songs which YOU CAN'T SING, Mr. Bolton. Mr Cahn died at the age of 80 in 1993 which leads me to wonder where and when Mr. Bolton would have had such indepth conversations with Mr. Kahn about singing Frank tunes.

At the moment Mr. Bolton is now screeching "New York, New York" and it is horrible. He is just screaming the lyrics. Where has Mr. Bolton been? Does he not know we already have some great singers who can deftly and respectfully record the great Frank standards. There is the new Canadian singing sensation Matt Dusk who actually sounds like a crooner. As well Canadian singer Michael Buble, who has the right tone and voice for Frank songs and of course the great Harry Connick Jr (starring on Broadway at the moment in "The Pajama Game") who also does a wonderful job of any Frank tune he decides to tackle. These three gentlemen have the look, have the talent and have the voices and you can tell they respect these songs and have practiced this style for many years.

Go away Mr. Bolton, yes you have sold 56 million albums, which is a scary enough thought and your constant "dabbling" in musical styles that don't suit your voice is painful for those of us that love opera, love Frank and love Otis. You are not going to gain new fans. Fans of Frank and Otis are not going to become fans of yours just because you have done a version of these classics. Perhaps you are just jumping on the Rod Stewart bandwagon. As it would appear Rod Stewart has had great success with his latest foray into the "Great American Songbook". It will be interesting to see what the volume of sales will be for this latest foray for Mr. Bolton before he has to jump on to another bandwagon to sell records.

End of rant.......I feel so much better now as I listen to Michael Buble singing "Feelin Good" courtesy of his website. This is a newer song but recorded with lot's of fat horns to sound like the great Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle Capitol Records recordings from the 1950's.

Two Quote's for today:

The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work.

Emile Zola

May you live to be 100 and may the last voice you hear be mine.

Frank Sinatra

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Big Snit (Le P'tit Chaos)

This blog is more for my sister or anyone else for that matter who loves and remembers the National Film Board of Canada's 1985 Oscar nominated animated short "The Big Snit"

I was in another room tonight and the TV was on nearby and I heard the familiar line "You're always shaking your eyes out!!" I knew immediately that it could be only one thing and nothing else other than "The Big Snit"...It then made me remember how much my sister used to laugh her ass off at this film, particularly that line. "The Big Snit" is a classic Canadian animated short about a couple who sit down to play a friendly game of scrabble. When the husband has trouble putting words together (he is stuck with seven letter e's), the wife leaves to vacuum the bathroom from floor to ceiling. The husband falls asleep during an announcement on the TV by a radiated-skeleton of a newscaster that a nuclear war has begun. He does, however, wake in time to see the outside world in mayhem, but mistakes it for a passing parade. He then slides back over to the Scrabble board attempting to eye his wife's letters but is caught before the deed is done. Bickering soon ensues, and gradually swells, parallel to the madness outside their window, into an apocalypse of their own. Many hurtful words are said to each other and the wife begins to cry inconsolably. The husband feeling bad glances over at a photo of the couple when they were younger. He then remembers the one thing that will make his wife happy. The accordian. He gets out his accordian and begins to play her a serenade (really badly played) this returns calm and the husband and wife are in bliss once again. They step outside their front door, two souls holding hands together, unaware that the world has come to an end.

My sister used to love this film and I vaguely remember it being played before first run screenings of hollywood flicks in the movie theatres here. They don't seem to do this anymore. I remember seeing many good NFB animated shorts before seeing a feature film presentation. Now we have to endure loud annoying commercials geared at 17 year olds. Kind of sad we don't support our National Film Board and the Canadian short film makers. I would much rather see someones art and support it rather than be forced to watch a loud obnoxious ad for cologne or some flavoured water.

Quote of the day:

A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.

Andre Maurois
French author (1885 - 1967)

Hot Child in the City..........

Well, it's the weekend and I am certainly not running wild or running pretty, as Nick Gilder sang....It's too hot to move.

We made tentative plans to play golf today but as the weather pixie to your right shows it's DAMN HOT. Not sure if the weather pixie also shows the humidex but it was 38 degrees today with the humidex. So, instead, we went to the St. Lawrence Market to pick up some chicken and meat to BBQ this weekend as ya gotta cook outdoors in this heat rather than heat up the house with the stove. Before heading home we decided to go in to Fionn McCools Irish Pub and sit in the air conditioning, have a beer and watch the USA play Italy in the World cup. There was a loud, obnoxious American sitting at the next table who clearly is a footie newcomer as each time the ref called a foul against America he would scream "where's the blood" at the downed Italian player. I think he was confusing the game with extreme fighting or something? After him constantly repeating this each time a player was carded or fouled, JB finally yelled "Buddy, it's a soccer game not a hockey game"

McCools is one of many, many, many Irish pubs in Toronto. It is down in the Historic Market district and they have a large patio outside but it was too hot to sit outside. As the photo shows it is really trying to be an Irish pub. As their website states "Fionns was built in Ireland and brought across the Sea and reassembled here in Toronto. Drop in to experience the tradition and heritage of Ireland, a pint or 2, live East Coast Celtic music and some great Craic." The food is quite good at this pub and thank god they revamped the menu and lost the cheesy "irish" names for the food like "Yer man's Salmon pie" or "Me Ma's Meatloaf". I had a Hoegaarden instead of my usual Guinness. When this heat comes in I have to stop drinking Guinness until the fall when the cooler weather comes in. Guinness and 38 degrees outside aren't a good combination for me. We left just at the half, as JB was growing tired of listening to the "All American Boy" beside us. It is that time of year where we are a bit overwhelemed with tourists coming up from south of the border. I don't like to USA bash and the majority of the toursists that come here in the summer are fine but there always seems to be those loud, obnoxious ones that come up with all the rest of them.

Quote of the day:

"Americans are benevolently ignorant about Canada, while Canadians are malevolently well informed about the United States"

Friday, June 16, 2006

You are an obsession, you are my obsession........

Everyone remember that 80's ditty by Animotion "Obsession"????... Well, those of you who know me well know I am a bit of a foodie (everyone is whispering under their breath "understatement of the century") I love good food, good wine and good scotch. At times I will crave something and have to have it everyday no matter what. I went on a bit of a chicken florentine binge a couple of months ago where poor JB had chicken florentine in a white wine parmesan cream sauce on fresh linguine at least once or twice a week whether he wanted it or not. Not to mention my recent blog about Empire Biscuits.

I have always been fairly adept in the kitchen. I started cooking and baking at a very young age and also took classes at the George Brown Culinary School here in Toronto. For a while I had my own catering/bakery business with my sister's room mate Ang for a while.

Anyway, my newest food/drink obsession is two beverages...

Beverage Number 1:

The Starbucks Green Tea Latte... I first tried one while JB and I were in Florida a few months ago. It's green tea powder mixed up by the barrista with steamed milk. My sister scared me earlier in the year by reminding me how much fat is actually in the Grande Lattes et al from Starbucks so I now have one every day but ask for non fat. I have now become a cliche Starbucks customer and can rhyme off "Grande Non Fat Green Tea Latte" as fast as a hummingbird can flap it's wings.....I literally have to have one everyday. I either plan my route to work to ensure I pass the Starbucks on the corner across from our office towers or if I take a cab in, I say to the driver "uh, excuse me cabbie, can you just stop here at the Starbucks and I will walk the rest of the way"

Beverage Number 2:

Cognac and Tonic water.... YES! believe it or not this tastes good and with the summer heat coming in this is the most refreshing drink I have tried in a long time. I am not usually a fan of mixed drinks other than a classic, very dry, gin martini or maybe Pimm's in the really hot weather. I kind of stopped trying to order Pimms in bars here in TO as the last time I did, the bartender looked at me like I had four heads, asked what it was. I then pointed to a lonely looking bottle of Pimms on a shelf behind the bar. The guy had to get on a chair to get it and then had to wipe off 6 inches of dust off the bottle!!!! If I feel like a Pimm's, I keep a bottle at home and mix with ginger ale and an extra shot of gin with some lime, lemon and cucumbers sliced in it. But I digress....this latest drink is an amazing taste combination. It's one part cognac, two parts tonic water, lots of ice and a lemon slice. Man oh man it tastes good. It is not for those who like sickly sweet drinks, it is a bit bitter which I love.

Quote of the day:

"If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I'm against it.

But if you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against winter chill, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I'm for it.

This is my position, and I will not compromise !".
- A Congressman's response about his attitude toward whiskey.

"You know... there was another important game on last night....."

I don't think anyone at our Company got any work done for the 90 or so minutes when T&T played England. The second floor cafeteria was full of people, many wearing their T&T red shirts and I did see quite a few England supporter shirts in the crowd. There were some great plays and some exciting attempts by T&T to score a goal. To be fair that first goal was a nice goal and I found myself thinking "if Crouch wasn't 6ft 9in perhaps that pass from Beckham would not have allowed him to jump up and make contact with the ball and head the ball in to the net"

One woman at our lunch table today, clearly miffed by all the attention everyone was giving to the world cup reminded us all in a whiny tone "you know there was a great hockey game on last night did everyone forget about the Stanley Cup" I think I pissed her off even more when I said "oh ya, I forgot, who won last night anyway" This clearly shocked her and she admonished me with a "you mean you don't know" I think she wants to try and revoke my Canadian citizenship!

I used to watch hockey quite a bit and Hockey Night in Canada was always on in our house on a Saturday night. When we were small my Mum would put out potato chips and dip and we could stay up late and watch hockey with our Dad. Unfortunately, sometime during the last 10 years the game has changed into a game I just can't watch regularly, never mind the fact that they have sold out to the US and the NHL is loaded up with teams in States like North Carolina and Arizona and Florida where they don't know a blue line from a hole in the ground. Seriously, why is there a team in Tampa Bay, Florida or in Arizona for godsake... They don't know hockey, it's HOT down there, it's just not their game. All these teams mean the elimination rounds now take forever and it's June and we are still not finished with the Stanley Cup playoffs. When I was a kid the Stanley Cup was over and done with by late April!! ....

I will unfailingly support Canada during Olympic hockey. The Olympic rules seem to change the play of game back to one that I, exciting and not a lot of fighting with goon players. Hockey is definitely Canada's game. It is part of our identity. My sisters blog today reminded me how important the game is for Canadians particularly if they are far from home. She spent the morning at the Maple Leaf Pub in Tokyo watching the hockey game with 9 other Hockey fans.

So, let's go Edmonton...keep the cup in Canada!

What time is the Trinidad vs Paraguay game on???

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Remember what happened the last time David took on Goliath....??????

With its team facing up to England in Thursdays World Cup clash in Nuremberg, Trinidad and Tobago is the little Caribbean country on everybody's lips - especially if they don't want to support England.

In one of my previous blogs I had mentioned the hoopla in the UK because the majority of Scots are rooting for T&T as no fewer than six of the Soca Warriors play for Scottish clubs - hence The Scottish First Minister's professed interest in supporting them. The appropriately named forward Jason Scotland plays for St Johnstone and formerly played with Dundee United; defender Marvin Andrews, doubtful for Thursdays game with a recurring knee injury, plays for Glasgow Rangers, and has spent time with both Livingston and Raith Rovers; "Little Magician" Russell Latapy plays for Falkirk and has also been with Dundee United, Rangers and Hibs; midfielder Densill Theobald also plays for Falkirk; while forward Colin Samuell is another Dundee United man. Defender Brent Sancho, currently with the English team Gillingham, also used to play in Dundee, at Dens Park, where goalkeeper Kelvin Jack still plies his trade with the Dark Blues. This seems to have upset quite a few people in England including quite a few politicians. Uh, what did they expect?

I for one am rooting for T&T not only because of their affiliation with all the Scottish clubs but because they are supposed to be such underdogs (remember Cameroon a few world cups ago??). The SOCA Warriors have already played against powerhouse Sweden and held them to a 0 - 0 draw playing a man short for most of the game, due to Avery John being red carded.

At work we have large Plasma screens set up in our Cafeteria and the play by play is being piped in over the speaker system that usually plays boring, mind numbing, CHFI easy listening crap which we normally have to listen to while waiting in line for our coffee or lunch. I imagine I will have to get down to our second floor cafeteria early to get a view of one of the screens. Come on!! it's world cup...who is working during these matches...Okay, I do admit I worked quite hard and went to a few meetings today while the Football power houses of Tunisia and Saudi Arabia were playing today and while Spain was demolishing Ukraine 4-0 but tomorrow afternoon I will be trying to catch as much of the SOCA Warriors and rooting for them in their quest to beat the English......

Quote for today:

I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures.

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

To err is human: To forgive, canine

The photo says it all...."Peace and Quiet on the Golf Course"

I decided for my own sanity that I had to take a complete break from work so....I booked last Friday off and gave myself an extra long weekend. Our GM (General MESS) Malibu was fixed in time for Friday morning (see previous blog about Chevrolet for the ongoing saga) and is roadworthy again. My blackberry was left on my bedside table and did not go with me the entire weekend, which is VERY unusual for me.

I picked JB up at his office at noon and we played 18 holes at Dentonia a City of Toronto course which is quite challenging. We went home and BBQ'd. On Saturday I watched world cup soccer in the morning. JB and I then headed down to the St. Lawrence Market to pick up some fresh Tuna steaks to BBQ on Sunday. We then headed over to the Rogers Centre as JB had tickets for us to see the Toronto Blue Jays play against the Detroit Tigers. We had great seats, only 20 rows back from behind home plate but alas we lost. The next day this prompted my brother to quip "you should stop going to those games because every time you go they lose" which does appear to be true. If JB goes with his boss or for a work related function they seem to win.

Sunday we played golf in the morning. It was my weekly lesson with Paul, the golf pro at Royal Woodbine. JB has since joined myself, and my two girlfriends for our lessons with Paul, who is a tough but patient teacher. After a solid work out from our swing practise, JB and I picked up some beer and went home sat out on the back patio, vegged out all afternoon and BBq'd our Tuna steak for dinner.....

As mentioned the delicious fresh tuna steaks were purchased at the St.Lawrence Market. We are very lucky here in Toronto to have the St. Lawrence Market. It was rated one of the best 25 markets in the world by Food and Wine magazine. It is a Toronto landmark and has been around since the early 1800's. I along with many Torontonians grew up going down to the market. My parents would take us down on a Saturday morning and I still go to the same butcher that my parents went to going back to the 1960's. My Dad would get us all a peameal bacon sandwich, and we would all munch our sandwiches while walking around the market to the various vendors. On a Saturday morning there are still long line ups at the same vendor that sells fresh peameal on a bun. My Dad would usually pick up a bag of fresh mussels and when we got home he would steam them in a big black pot and we would eat them for lunch. We would usually eat the mussels with some nice fresh bread and fresh creamy butter just bought from the cheese vendor across from the fish monger.

The market is a tradition for many Torontonians, it is part of their Saturday routine. JB and I usually go every Saturday, we go to the butcher, olympic cheese (where you can purchase any kind of cheese you need) and the fish monger for fresh salmon and tuna steaks. We then head downstairs to our favorite veggie vendor. Every Torontonian has their own favorite vendor within the Market, that they frequent. The historic market district is loaded with pubs, restaurants and shops. In the summer all the pubs set up their patios with umbrellas so all can enjoy a beer while sitting in the sun.

The area around the market always has something going on and this past weekend was no exception. JB and I parked in our usual lot, noticed barricades on the streets and vendor stands set up along Front Street leading into the Market area. I said to JB " is it rib fest already?" JB responded "It can't be rib fest, rib fest is always on Fathers Day weekend" We got up to Front Street turned right to head to the market and we started noticing a hell of a lot of dogs! Dogs of all kinds, big dogs, little dogs, dogs in costumes, dogs in baby carriages (guess their owners didn't want their dog to get tired). Stalls were set up all along Front Street and they seemed to be selling only dog related wares. JB and I felt oddly out of place as we walked through all these dogs and dog owners to get to the entrance of the market. We seemed to be the only two people sans a dog! We looked around and eventually saw the banner announcing "WOOFSTOCK" yes, you heard me correctly "WOOFSTOCK" Apparently, the historic St. Lawrence Market District is the new home for this "dog festival" There was a "doggie day care" so that dog owners visiting the show could leave their dog in the day care area and go shopping in the Market. There were doggie competitions, doggie fashion shows. It was a bit scary to say the least.

Don't get me wrong, I love dogs like crazy but some of their owners are a bit whacko if you ask me. I have never understood the need to dress a dog up in a feather boa, a frilly frock or a bonnet. Never mind how ridiculous those oversized sunglasses look on a poor pooch. I often wonder what the hell the dog is thinking. Even worse my mind starts heading down the "There are people in this world who are starving and being slaughtered and some knob in Toronto has a chihuahua dressed up like a hells angel biker with a leather costume that probably cost the equivalent of what some poor family in Sudan would pay for a 6 month supply of food" road....

I guess Samuel Butler expressed it best:

"The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself too."

- Samuel Butler

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

From the Devil to Colonol Klink to Goethe to Schubert to Glasgow and back again

My mind works in mysterious ways at times and the internet only encourages it more! I end up going on some whacky and wild circuitous rides sometimes.

I was reading my sister's blog today as she was discussing the whole June 6, 2006 or 6-6-6, devil, Satan,evil business. While reading her blog, I was distracted by someone sending me an SMS asking me what the score is in the Stanley Cup play off hockey game. Then someone else SMS'd me to ask if I was busy at work today...I wanted to reply "yes, i have to catch up on all my paperwork as lately our department has become anal about documentation and I feel like a clerk in the Third Riech" but employers have the ability to check SMS.

My Third Reich comment then got me thinking about a funny joke that someone sent me years ago about how the English language was going to be slowly changed and we would all start speaking English with a German accent similar to Colonol Klink. As I found the joke so amusing at the time I thought I would do a search on google to see if I could find it again but I couldn't remember the exact title of the joke. I vaguely remember the words Konsens English or Konsenz English. Determined, I kept typing variations I typed in Konig by accident which then took me to a page about the mythical Erlkönig(the evil Elf King who appears to people before they die). The website included the famous poem by Goethe called "Der Erlkönig" the Erl King...

Reading "Der Erlkönig" again got me thinking about my Mother and Grandfather. My Grandfather was a great singer who sometimes sang with the Glasgow Opera back in the 1940's and 1950's. He was a wonderful,bass baritone who sounded similar to the baritone of today Bryn Terfel. My Grandfather specialized in Schubert Leider and I loved to hear him sing "Die Forelle" a famous Goethe poem set to Schubert music about a trout.

My Mother, who was also an excellent singer,would have loads of recordings of Baritones singing Schubert Leider as I am sure it helped her not miss Grandpa so much as we lived in Canada and my Grandparents lived in Glasgow their entire lives. I would grow up listening to recordings of all the great Baritones singing Schubert, Verdi, Mozart. When we would visit my Grandparents, in Glasgow, my Grandfather would burst into song at any time of the day and I would always ask him to sing "Die Forelle" (the trout) and "Der Erlkönig" which were my two favorite Schubert Leider recordings.

Now, "Der Erlkönig", is regarded as extremely challenging to perform due to the vocal characterization required of the vocalist as well as due to its difficult accompaniment, involving the playing of rapidly repeated chords and octaves to create the effect of drama and urgency indicated in the poetry. The way the singer has to change his voice to represent the different characters in the poem make it very entertaining but exciting and terrifying for a child.

The poem is about a father riding on his horse with his sick, dying, child in his arms, riding like the wind to get the child help and the child begins to see the Erlkönig riding along with them. The Erlkönig begins to taunt and try and entice the child "You lovely child, come, go with me! So many lovely games I will play with you. Some colorful flowers are by the shore." My Grandfather used to change his voice to sound more sinister when singing the lines for the Erlkönig. With the piano rapidly playing octaves in triplets to simulate the horse's galloping, as a kid I would hope against hope that this poor man would get this kid help and get him out of the evil clutches of the Erlkönig. My heart would be racing at the lines sung in German "Now father, now father, he's seizing my arm. Elf-king has done me a cruel harm." Near the very end of the piece the music slows down and the piano stops before the finale, "In seinen Armen das Kind war tot." or "In his arms, the child was dead." The piece then ends with two dramatic chords at which point I would be balling my eyes out as yet again this poor child had died. When I gew up my Mother told me that she used to find it amusing that I would be so emotional about the song. She told me that she used to have the same reaction when she was small and would scream at my Grandfather "why is the ErlKing taking away the little boy, why can't his father save him" This of course would interrupt my Grandfather who was practising this song while his cousin Joe would be playing the piano accompaniment.

It's just so weird how you start out thinking about one thing, get on the internet and end up having a vivid flashback about a very specific memory from your childhood.

Now for something truly bizarre...see what two men in lab coats, 500 Mentos and 200 litres of diet coke can produce... Mentos and Coke Experiment

See, there goes my mind wandering again.......

Monday, June 05, 2006

"Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Ride my Chevrolet"

Well, apparently ZZTop had better luck with their Chevrolet than JB and I have with ours.

I am using today's blog as a cathartic rant on the downfall of the once powerful North American Auto Manufacturer based on the litany of repairs we have had to have done to our Chevrolet Malibu I really have to shake my head and ask "what happened????"

Thinking back I remember photos from the late 1950's of my parents with their big "Yank Tanks", usually a really reliable Chevrolet model of some type. Then on into the 1960's and 1970's Dad always bought Chev's or Fords. He had a 1962 Impala that lasted him for years with nary a problem. They were a solid North American manufacturer. Where did it all go so wrong?

Back in 2001/2 I felt my next new vehicle purchase should support the domestic North American manufacturers coupled with the fact they were offering a great deal at 0% financing, I felt confident purchasing a domestic vehicle. After driving and owning a Japanese car for almost 13 years by 2002 I decided I should replace "Grace" the ol' 1988 Honda Prelude. I immediately thought I would just go get another Honda but this time felt we needed a sedan as the Prelude was sporty and hard for guests to get in and out of if in the back seat. I looked at the V6 Accord and looked for a comparable North American Sedan. After some thought we purchased a brand spanking new Chevrolet Malibu loaded with all the extras including leather interior,sun roof, V6 engine, alloy wheels etc etc.

In December of 2001 we picked up our 2002 Malibu. The first 6 mos with this car were great, then one morning I got in the car and noticed the gear shift indicator had dropped down out of site.I thought that's an odd thing to happen and when we took the car to the dealer for its regular oil change, they fixed it without incidence. Then 3 mos later we needed a major brake repair. Then 6 months later we needed another brake repair. Then the steering column started rattling on and off, took it back and they took the column out did some repair and it seemed fine. Then more brake jobs and then at the 2 1/2 year mark the front end started making noises. Took it back to the dealer and we were informed that the car needed new struts. Four weeks after getting the new struts, the front end noise returned so, we took it back to the dealer and we were told that the front bushings needed replaced. I questioned replacing front bushings on a car just over 2 years old and was assured it would all be covered by warranty as if that made it okay.

About three months after the warranty had expired, and about a week before JB and I were planning a road trip to Chicago...I noticed a loud, strange humming/grinding noise coming from the front end and to boot the windshield wipers just stopped working at the same time! So, JB stopped in at the GM dealer near his office as we felt we should get it checked out and I really didn't want to embark on a 9 hour drive to Chicago with that sort of front end noise. Now JB at the best of times is not what I would call mechanically inclined when it comes to vehicles, so when the dealer told him that we needed new front wheel hubs his response was "oh, okay" he then called me with the news "hey babe, just dropped off the car, they say we need new front wheel hubs" Upon hearing this news, I believe I let out a scream so loud and so high pitched that only dogs within a 50 mile radius could hear me (remember the scene in "Splash where Darryl Hannah speaks in her own language and all the TV screens explode)........Trying to stay calm, I said to JB "uh, so what else did they say?" His response "oh, we need a new circuit board for the windshield wipers so I told them to go ahead with the work but I am afraid to tell you the total cost..." I sighed "just tell me".....JB told me the quote was $1800.00. I asked JB for the name and number of the "service assistant" as I wanted to call them and ask a few questions. Now, women and auto mechanics do not have a great relationship at the best of times. Most mechanics just automatically assume that women know nothing about cars. Having grown up in a family with a Mother and Brother who love classic cars and with a Mechanical Engineer for a father, you tend to learn a thing or two about cars and how they work! This always gets me startled looks from mechanics who try to snow me into a repair I don't need.

JB, knowing my temper cautioned me and said "don't be too hard on him, he is a nice kid and he is just the service rep" I called up the young chap at the dealer/service centre and started questioning how a car that was just 3 years old with less than 50k on it would need new wheel hubs. I then listed off the litany of other things that had gone wrong with the car. The Service Assistant seemed shocked that I would know all the mechanical terms and remember everything that was repaired on the car and offered me the answer they must give to stupid people "well, these things tend to go and I can assure you we are not doing any work that isn't necessary" to which I replied "Ya, front wheel hubs go on cars that are 10 years old NOT a 3 year old car!" The only rebuttal this poor doltz could come back with was "well, I have the exact same model as you ma'am and I have not had any of these problems" to which I responded "that's very nice for you but how does that affect MY life $1800 later!!!!!" I then got the "your husband already told us to go ahead with the work"

Instead of "debating" any further with the poor doltz on the phone, I calmly asked him who the Regional General Manager was for GM in this area. He proceeded to give me a 1 800 number. I said " I don't want a 1 800 number. I want a name" He did not have one. Undaunted, I discussed with JB that day and suggested we draft a letter to the President of GM Canada. We wrote a letter listing our concerns and we sent it by registered mail. We listed all of the repairs we have had to have done to our car since purchase and we had requested that they reimburse us for this latest repair which was $1500, as the car was just 3 mos out of the warranty and we found it incredible that a car with such little mileage should need new wheel hubs.

It has been over a year since we sent that letter, and we followed up with two e mails and another letter sent by registered mail. To date not one single soul from General Motors has even acknowledged our letters or our existence as a customer.

The reason for above rant...JB and I planned a nice weekend. On Saturday we planned on doing our regular grocery shopping, get a few more things from the Garden Centre. On Sunday we were going to drive up north to Midland to play golf and then stop in the town of Creemore and visit GRex (JB's Mum) as well as his sister and her husband and the kiddies........

To quote Robbie Burns "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley"

Saturday morning JB and I were sitting having coffee and he said "I will go move the car closer to the house" I heard him leave and then 10 mins later he came back in to the house and we had the following exchange:

JB (yelling up the stairs) "Uh, car won't start"

JMack (feeling the blood vessels on the side of her head start to throb and reaching for her Zantac due to the sudden burning in her chest) "what's that you say? "

JB (sighing) "Car WON'T start!"

JMack (thinking non mechanically inclined JB probably flooded it and it's probably just damp from all the rain) "let me go try it"

JMack (returning after 10 mins of trying to get car engine to spark and turn over) "it's not getting the gas, not sparking. Maybe battery is dead or worse the alternator better call roadside for a boost"

Well, roadside came and tried to boost the car and even with a boost it would not start. Damned if I would let this ruin our weekend and damned if I was going to give up a tee time on what was expected to be a nice sunny Sunday afternoon. I marched down the road and walked along St. Clair to the rental car place all the while the rain just pounding down non stop and swearing under my breath "this is just f---g great, goddamn piece of s---t car" Got to the rental place and all they had left was a PT Cruiser (any port in the storm) Rented the car. I then asked my Brother if one of his friends with a tow truck could tow the car to his mechanic friend Pat. I knew on a weekend it would be tough to do this all short notice, so I rented the car until today, Monday.

Well, thanks to Bro and his connections we got the car towed up to Pat's today and they have determined that the car will not start because the ignition system is worn out and the chip is not recognizing the key thus invoking the anti theft system to kick in and the anti theft system believes someone is trying to steal the car. What the anti theft system does is stops any gas from getting through thus stopping the car from being able to start.

Now, on the one hand I am actually ecstatic that SOMETHING actually does work in this goddamn car but on the other hand, I now am looking at having to replace the entire ignition system and keys which will be about $400 or more.

Morale of the story:

When you debate with yourself on whether to buy domestic or stick with Japanese. When you sit and mull over purchasing a nice V6 Accord but then decide GM is offering 0% financing and isn't it better to support the domestic manufacturer DON'T because that loyalty to the Domestic Manufacturer is NOT returned to you as a customer. They don't give a flying rat's ass about you. If they did they would not offer a substandard product with no support or customer service. THAT's how much respect GM has for you as a customer.

Comdey bit for today....I leave you with a HILARIOUS re-vamp of the preview for the Movie "The Ten Commandments" It is too funny!

Friday, June 02, 2006

“Share that with the Dalai Lama, jack ass!”

Well it's Friday and it's been a fairly stressful week and when I am stressed I have certain things I have to have around me that make my life less stressful. Humour is very important in reducing stress. On my desktop, at work, I have a downloaded MP3 of William Shatner sing/talking the Pulp song "Common People" which always makes me laugh my ass off. I then find myself thinking about the wit and wisdom of Vince Vaughn. Usually, I visualize him delivering one of his hilarious and oh so quotable lines from one of his comedies. From “You’re so money” to “Earmuffs” to “Lock it up!”, his lines have changed the way we converse. There is no actor who is quoted as much as Vince Vaughn. I absolutely love the guy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, for your Friday afternoon entertainment....Mr Vince Vaughn!

Vince Vaughn On: Honesty (Swingers)

“There’s nothing wrong with letting the girls know that you’re money and that you want to party.”

Vince Vaughn On: Playing The Odds (Old School)

“Well why don’t you give me your number in case anything happens to my wife.”

Vince Vaughn On: Getting Lucky (Dodgeball)

VV: “There’s someone out there for everybody.”

Owen: “You think?”

VV: “Absolutely. In some cases, there’s two somebody’s for one person. I like to call that “the jackpot”.”

Vince Vaughn On: Gun Control (Swingers)

“People get carjacked.”

VV: “Who’s gonna carjack your fuckin’ K-Car? He’s right Sue you don’t need to carry a gat!”

Vince Vaughn On: Breaking Stereotypes (Wedding Crashers)

Owen Wilson: “Don’t waste your time on girls with hats. They tend to be very proper.”

VV: “Yeah? Well, the proper girl in the hat just eye-fucked the shit out of me.”

Vince Vaughn On: Exploration (Old School)

“Well, Columbus wasn’t looking for America, my man, but that turned out to be pretty okay for everyone.”

Vince Vaughn On: Enemies (Anchorman)

“I hate you, Ron Burgundy! I hate you! But damn, if I don’t respect you.”

Vince Vaughn On: Spirituality (Wedding Crashers)

VV: “Do you know what that awareness is, Gloria?”

Gloria Cleary: “What?”

VV: “That we’re all one. That separateness is an illusion, and that I’m one with everyone - with the Prime Minister of England, and my cousin Harry, you and me, the fat kid from ‘What’s Happening,’ the Olsen twins, Natalie Portman, the guy who wrote ‘Catcher in the Rye,’ Nat King Cole, Carrot Top, Jay-Z, Weird Al Yankovic, Harry Potter, if he existed, the whore on the street corner, your mother. We’re all one.”

Vince Vaughn On: Marriage (Old School)

“Alright, let me be the first to say congratulations. You get one vagina for the rest of your life. Real smart, Frank. Way to work it through.”

Vince Vaughn On: Bad Language (Old School)

Luke Wilson: “I’ve had a hell of a day and even worse week. And all I want to do is get some fucking sleep.”

VV: “Whoa. Whoa. Why the F-ing? Why in front of the kid? All ya gotta do is say “earmuffs” to him, and you can say anything, “Fuck, shit, bitch.”

Frank the Tank: “Cock. Balls.”

VV: “I’m just trying to make a point, Frank. You don’t have to celebrate it.”

Vince Vaughn On: Family Life (Old School)

“I have a wife and kids. Do I seem like a happy guy to you, Frank?”

Vince Vaughn On: Death (Old School)

“Don’t beat yourself up over this, Mitch. It’s not your fault. Dammit, Blue was old. That’s what old people do. They die.”

Vince Vaughn On: Getting Older (Be Cool)

“Nice ass won’t get you through your whole life. Once you turn thirty you better have a personality.”

Vince Vaughn On: Body Art (Wedding Crashers)

“Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.”

Vince Vaughn On: Helping Friends (Wedding Crashers)

“A friend in need is a pest.”

Vince Vaughn On: Being a Good Wingman (Swingers)

“Look at this, OK? I want you to remember this face. This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy.”

Vince Vaughn On: Giving A Friend Some Confidence (Swingers)

“I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet. You’re not sure where he’s coming from. Okay? You’re a bad man. You’re a bad man, Mikey. You’re a bad man, bad man.”

Vince Vaughn On: Betrayal (Wedding Crashers)

“I hope you flip your bike over and knock your two front teeth out! You selfish son of a bitch! You leave me in the trenches taking grenades, John!”

Thursday, June 01, 2006


As one of the few female Ops Managers in my organization I find it incredible that in the year 2006, my Director (the only female Director in Operations) and I still encounter the old "boys club" mentality. At times it becomes mentally and physically exhausting. My Director sighed and said to me today "I am so weary of this crap" Don't get me wrong our Company in general is a model of respect and dignity and non gender bias but our particular department/organization of Operations/Engineering still has a long way to go!

I have been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of days as we have had to deal with quite a few projects and network outages in the past month that have not gone well of late. This has forced me to make some unpopular decisions albeit correct decisions but not popular with the Engineering ranks who it would appear wish that I would just go away or just can't get over the fact that I, a mere woman can and will hold up their projects. It is to be expected to become somewhat of an unpopular individual with some groups when you cancel work that affects a 14 million dollar project. Typically, as the lone female on a conference call that is made up of all men who have been in the organization for years and years they really are in denial of the fact that new people have joined their ranks and we are women and we are NOT going anywhere, no matter how hard you make it for us. When I question things (which is my job) or suggest we do something differently to ensure our customers are impacted in the least possible way, I am dismissed with comments or e mails with suggestions such as "you need to further explain your decision as we need to make an informed decision before canceling such work" This comment has been made to me a few times in the past three weeks by one individual in particular and my response is always "you insult me by suggesting that my decision is not informed" which then gets the shocked mock hurt response of "that is not what I said or meant" OF COURSE it is what you said or meant because YOU JUST SAID IT!

My two favorite comments of this week are "this is very complex and there are many scenarios which you don't understand and we can't possibly come up with to test" to which I respond "uh, why haven't you thought of them, I have and I suggest you start coming up with a few" And "well technically we can do this" as if I am some token female who was dropped into this job with no technical experience when actually I have been working in Operations for the past 8 years many as a Network Specialist. I always respond with "technically we can do anything we want, don't we have to also assess the risk of performing this "technical" work" and I always feel like adding on "but what would i know, i am only a girl!"

I have been wondering of late, if a man were in my chair, would he have to go through this crap. Would he have to continually battle shit like this. The answer is "NO!!" He would be given kudos for making these decisions. He would be labeled as someone who is "decisive", "confident" and "thorough", "great to work with", "always thinking of the customer"

The only thing saving my sanity at this point is that my own techs who work for me, my Director and many of my male colleagues agree with me and I have my past decisions as proof of my decision making ability. It is just that small group of insecure "men" who cannot deal with the fact that their little enclosed world is changing.... So, yes I am weary and at times I really get tired of fighting and being the "trailblazer" for other women but I will continue fight on because bottom line, the assholes are outnumbered by the all of the sane and competent people that I do work with. Male and female alike.

My mood coupled with the crappy weather this afternoon has me humming the song "Stormy Weather" At the moment it is pissing down rain and I have the "female trailblazer" blues.

As one of the lines in the song "Stormy Weather" says :

"Stormy weather
Just can't get my poor self together
I'm weary all the time"

This also got me thinking about what is the best version of this song. Everyone loves the Lena Horne version or the Judy Garland version but I have to say my favorite recording of "Stormy Weather" is by Etta James. Etta doesn't sound all soft and sad and weak and depressed over her situation as most versions sound. Not Etta, she sounds confident and pissed off. I love it!