Saturday, September 19, 2009

Levantine vs. Lunchpail: Round 1

I've been on a Middle Eastern/Levantine/Mediterranean kick lately.

I don't know if it was because of the Ouzo I've been drinking lately or side-effect of all those bloody Donairs I've eaten over the last week, but I've spontaneously developed a taste for Arabic music.

I have the odd Arabic piece in my music collection, but it's not enough. Today, I craved more. So, off to the music store I went. I did what I always do when I'm interested in a hitherto unknown variety of music - looked for a "Various Artists" sampler.

I found what I wanted in The Rough Guide to Arabic Cafe

It's a pretty good sampler (as samplers go), but after listening to it a couple of times this morning, I felt I needed more.

So, off to Into The Music to see what I could find.

Long story short, I spent waaaaaay more money than I intended (which cuts into my Ouzo and Donair funding), but walked out with a few gems: Two albums by Rabih Abou-Khalil (Yara and The Sultan's Picnic), and one entitled "Claude Challe presents Near Eastern Lounge: The R.E.G. Project" which was my favourite of the bunch.

(Also picked up a couple of Skinny Puppy and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult albums, too, but they're largely irrelevant to this story)

Near Eastern Lounge blends traditional Near-Eastern/Levantine music with contemporary electronic music, and the result is absolutely mindblowing. Follow this link for an example.

Suffice it to say, I am absolutely in love with this album - so much so that I listened to it on my patio this evening, while enjoying a nice cigar and cold glass of Ouzo.

Not six songs in, I hear someone open my back gate. I took a peek, and saw that it was one of the knuckle-dragging low-forehead types from one of the moderate-turnover rental houses down and across the back lane.

He lumbers into my yard (uninvited, I might add), looks at me, points to that magic box what makes noise my cd player and grunts "That your radio?"

"Yes," I replied as civilly as I could, "That my radio. What you want?"

He stared at me for a second, not quite realizing that I'm making fun of him. When his train of thought finally boards and leaves the station, he shouts, "Turn that fucking (racial epithet for Pakistani) shit off!"

I looked at him and said calmly, "It's not Pakistani, it's Lebanese."

"Same shit," was the wise response, "Turn that shit off!"

I wondered if this guy took Geography in school. Hell, I wonder if this guy even went to school... but no time for speculation...

"Fuck off," I yelled, "and get the fuck out of my yard!" I've been through similar situations before, and have learned (through the courts, I might add) not to threaten - or resort to - violence, so I chose my words carefully.

He grunted something, then tried to push past me to get at my cd player. I resisted the urge to punch him in the throat or grind my drinking glass into his face - instead, I put my arm out and blocked his passage.

"Listen up, caveman," I said, "If you wanted me to turn it down, you just had to ask. Maybe even use the word 'Please'."

"What the fuck?" he said defensively, "I did ask you!"

"No, you ordered me," I clarified, "and NOBODY orders me around on my own fucking property. Now take a hike before I call the fucking cops."

"For what?!" he screamed.

"Trespassing," I said, "and I could have you charged with attempted theft, and possibly assault for trying to shove me."

He swore a couple of times, made a couple of monosyllabic comments, slammed my gate, and left. I poured myself another glass of Ouzo and picked up where I left off. The two hours that followed were markedly uneventful.

Thus ends the first day of my two-week vacation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

... causing undue stress on the topography of the Province of Manitoba

I've been noticing that I seem to be slowing down lately.

I come home from my usual walkabouts sweaty and out of breath, when ordinarily I wouldn't even break a sweat. A walk to my corner store can wear me out on a bad day. I seem to be feeling the heat more than normal as well...

I noticed yesterday, as I was getting ready for my friend's dad's funeral, that neither my suit jacket nor dress pants fit. "Must have shrunk 'em in the wash..." I thought. Took me a second to remember - I always had these dry-cleaned...

The long-and-short of it is: I'm getting fat.

Three years ago, when I was promoted from Warehouse Manager to Inside Sales, I weighed 180lbs. After three years at a desk job, I'm tipping the scales at 225lbs.

Forty-five fucking pounds in three years.

I mentioned the weight gain to my pal "Miz P" while walking back from a Sandbox outing, and her jaw dropped... and further still when I mentioned my hypertension...

At that point, I told myself I'd "look into" dieting.

Monday, it became less an option and more a necessity. Monday, I found out that the aforementioned friend's dad had been felled by a massive heart attack.

This got me thinking. Many of the men in my family, some of whom were overweight (but not obese per se), have died from some form of heart trouble - heart attacks, strokes, angina, arrythmia, etc, and heart disease and Diabetes run in my dad's family... so I have a rather large incentive to get my weight (and my health) in proper order.

Guess I've finally opened my eyes. Knee-jerk reaction? You bet. But better safe than sorry.

The diet started Monday, the fitness regimen starts tomorrow at the company golf tournament (not taking a cart!).

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Summer That Wasn't

So, it's September.

The mornings are getting colder, the coffee's tasting better, and my morning bus is crammed with school kids (Red River College students mostly).

With only three weeks left until Autumn, the question I'm hearing from everyone is "Where did Summer go?"

Summer's gone, kids. Dead and buried. Lament not the untimely passing of the season (in other words, quit your fuckin' whining!).

In addition to the near-constant whining, I'm getting sick of people playing "Armchair Meteorologist". We have an unseasonably cool, wet summer and all of a sudden everyone's a climate change expert. Please.

Let us embrace the coming of Autumn.

Speaking of summer being over, I thought I'd take a bit to reflect on my time away from the blogosphere. All things considered, I had a pretty productive summer despite my financial problems (no mad money = no mad science).

To recap:

Microwave Gun: My fascination with directed-energy weapons (yes, it's supposed to be hyphenated) came to a head when I discovered plans for a cheap microwave gun (aka maser). Of course, these "plans" didn't include any sort of safety precautions for the user, and failed to take into consideration that the gun's target might actually be moving. So, I started tweaking the design (on paper, CSIS, on paper) and came up with a vastly improved design that could be built rather inexpensively (comparatively speaking) using a 10000 watt commercial microwave oven available on eBay.

Unfortunately, my secret weapon was not to be. Funny thing about microwaves... they reflect off of metal. In order to penetrate metal (and further increase the destructive power of my "North End WMD") I'd need to combine the microwave energy with charged particles (say, hydrogen), which is a bit beyond my capabilities at present. So, as it stands, I'd have one heck of an anti-personnel weapon, but it'd be essentially useless against anything else... The project withered on the vine.

Shortwave Radio: I ordered a new radio, a Redsun RP2100, and have been having a blast listening to a number of stations my little Kchibo KK-9803 can't pick up (such as Radio Damascus), or picks up weakly (such as Deutsche Welle). The sound from the RP2100 is phenomenal, and can literally fill a room... and a neighbourhood, much to my neighbours' chagrin. Then again, I imagine they're getting used to such things by now. I can't tell you how many weird looks I get while listening to Radio Havana Cuba or Radio Damascus as I do my yardwork...

I also picked up a couple of add-ons for the RP2100 - a SSB (single side band) decoder, which lets me listen in to Ham traffic (et cetera) , and a DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale) adapter, which lets me listen to digital shortwave broadcasts. Fun fun fun. Gotta do something when you have no internet at home. Been taking my smaller SW radio (the aforementioned Kchibo KK-9803) with me a lot (when I'm out for a walk, sitting around at The Forks, etc) too. What can I say, I'm hooked!

Computers: Believe it or not, I took a break from computers in general. Instead, I opted to spend the few nice (and some of the not-so-nice) days we had outdoors, fishing, chasing women, or walking around the park. Of course, I needed something to do on the rainy & miserable days, so I spent a little bit of time resurrecting Cinq, my Sun Ultra 5 workstation that had previously died a death that can only be described as "spectacularily horrible". Removed what was left of the PSU, replaced with one that was salvaged from a (blarg) Windows PC, and threw in a new hard drive. Runs like a champ.

Women: Spent a bit of time chasing women. Caught a couple. Threw 'em back.

Speakeasy: No work was done on the Speakeasy. No money for tools or materials. Work is slated to begin in the spring when I will have money.

Alcohol: Surprisingly, I took a break from my usual experimentations in this regard (and mixed drinks in general). I did try a few new beers, but nothing that'll make it into regular rotation. Ended up sticking with my usual Gulden Draak, Guinness, Erdinger, and/or Paulaner.

Career: Was asked to contribute to no less than three fledgling magazines! Not mentioning names (yet) as nothing's been finalized, but if all goes well, I'll be a published writer again. Not quitting the day job just yet, though...

It's been a busy month-and-a-half. Summer has come and gone, and I'm looking forward to a great Autumn. I'm looking forward to blogging semi-regularily as well.

Incidentally, there may be a surprise coming in the next couple of months... but we'll deal with that when the time comes :)