Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, et cetera...

Merry Christmas to all my friends and hangers-on in the blogosphere!

In the spirit of the season, I give you the following (non-returnable) gift.

(Click "Save As..." if you're having trouble downloading the file natively)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

RIP Vaclav Havel


Another of my heroes is gone.

Czech playwright-cum-dissident-cum-president has succumbed to respiratory problems and passed away at home this morning.

More to follow later today...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Introducing... WinnipegZoom!

Here's some good news... It appears Winnipeg has a new online forum, WinnipegZoom!

Former New Winnipeg member Munchkinguy has started a forum of his own to fill the gap (such as it was) left when the New Winnipeg forum closed its doors.

Please give WinnipegZoom a look, the forum can be found here.

I've joined under my original alias "conceitedjerk", and hope to help Munchkinguy build up the WinnipegZoom community.  Although I don't know how much time I'll have to spend there, you can bet I'll be good for a few comments...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Books: The Last Chapter..?

Just caught this on one of my new favourite blogs.

If you have an interest in books or printed material in general (as I do), I'd encourage you to check it out.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How long until they bring guns..?

Just caught this via my newsfeed:

Woman pepper-sprays Black Friday shoppers

This reminded me of a similar incident that happened a couple of years ago.

I don't know about you, but this behaviour absolutely sickens me.  I mean, when is that Blu-Ray player, iPhone, or LCD screen worth more than a person's life or safety?

Society needs a good kick in the ass.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Biting the Hand that Rocks the Boat, or Kids These Days...

Usually, I know better than to wade into stupid arguments.

But this time, I felt I had to say something.  I needed to set him straight.

Outside of his pot-smoking, "stick it to the man" world of anarcho-punk, nobody else got it.  Somehow I just didn't understand how I was merely a tool helping Big Business and The Government in their efforts to keep the free-thinking, morally justified poor man down.

I grabbed him by the lapels of his uniform jean jacket (emblazoned with the requisite slogans and band logos) and said, "Don't give me any of your sass, kid.  I was you before you were you!".

"You're a slave!", The Kid hissed, "You're a slave controlled by the corporations."

"What the Hell are you talking about?" asked the man.

"The corporations, man!  They own you!" The Kid continued, "They control what you listen to, what you buy, what you think, and they do it through the mass media."

"Uh huh," the man said, half-amused and half-skeptical.

"And you don't even realize it!" The Kid's venom flowed, "You're gorging at the trough of Consumerism, fattened up by the Capitalists until you can be sold for slaughter for their profit!"

"Uh huh," said the man again, skepticism turning to annoyance.

"They control the flow of information!  They keep you sated, dumb, and dependent," continued The Kid's diatribe, "You can't live without their processed foods, their time-wasting 'entertainment products', their oil, and their cheap mass-produced electronic goods.  Without a steady supply of their crap, you'd wither and die!"

"Listen, kid..." the man interrupted.

"Don't you 'Listen, kid' me," The Kid screamed, "I don't need no automaton talking down to me!  Grow some balls and start thinking for yourself!"

The man turned away in disgust and walked away.

"Don't come crying to me," The Kid hollered after him, "to come bail you out when the world goes to Hell!"

That Kid was me.  The man (as opposed to The Man) was anyone unfortunate enough to talk politics with me.

In the early 90s, I was a holy terror.  I'd just hit my twenties, and had a profoundly negative world view... formed by the megabytes of poorly-spelled, gramatically atrocious Anarchy textfiles I'd read from BBSes and uucp/usenet groups at the time (home internet was still a couple of years away), and shaped by the same anarcho-punk music I listened to at the time.  I was also (along with 400+ coworkers) laid off from my job at a local farm equipment manufacturer due to business climate and politics due to foreign ownership, which really didn't help my mindset.

In my (now-admittedly) warped view, both The Government and The People were simultaneously being controlled by The Corporations and played against each other.  The People were kept in their place via the mass media, dulling our minds with vacuous TV, music, and movies, and fuelling the economy by keeping us hooked on cheap, mass-produced, disposable consumer goods.  The Corporations used their Government lackeys to swat us back down should we stand up to them, and would lobby The Government to approve whichever unsafe practice or chemical they needed for whatever reason.

Yeah, I was that far-gone (and got worse when we got an internet account via the University of Manitoba).  Thankfully, I stopped short of wearing a tinfoil hat and living in fear of foreign intelligence services.

But, we all have to grow up sometime.  After finding a new job and being forced to take anger management courses after a series of... events, my world view did eventually soften.  The world isn't quite so bad, and people aren't the mindless sheep the "enlightened few" make them out to be.


I relayed that message to my young counterpart from the intro to this post.

"Mindless sheep," I told him, "wouldn't have overthrown their dictators in the Arab Spring.  They wouldn't be Occupying Wall Streets worldwide.  They wouldn't be protesting Tar Sands and oil pipelines.  Even the most, as you put it, brainwashed, among us know we have the power to change our situations.  I have only to point to these recent examples."

"Huh," he said, as he began to realize.

"As for consumerism, have you ever heard the phrase Voting with your feet?" I asked, "Voting with your wallet?"

He nodded in the affirmative.

"After a while, people get sick of planned obsolescence. After replacing their broken DVD player for the nth time, people will begin to look at better quality models." I told him, "The same holds true with most consumer goods."

"And after getting so many defective goods back," I continued, "the retailers stop carrying them if they're no longer profitable."

"I see," he said.

"And as for your dreaded Conservatives?" I smiled, "They're only in power because, realistically, there wasn't anyone else to vote for... the other parties were either full of newly-appointed and inexperienced members, or were self-destructing."

It was sinking in, so I gave him the only piece of advice I'm qualified to give, "It's alright to fight, but know why you're fighting, and whom.  Ignore the spin and commentary, focus on the issues.  Get it?"

"Yes," he replied.

"I'm glad," I smiled, "but never stop questioning."

He smiled and walked away.

I smiled, knowing I've come full circle... in the immortal words of Johnny Rico, "We're the old men, Ace!"

Which reminds me, I vaguely remember planning a tongue-in-cheek series about the New World Order years ago... perhaps it's time I picked up where I left off..?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Strictly Commercial

If you have a wide enough monitor, you'll notice an advertisement for a friend's business along the right-hand column of the blog (those of you with smaller monitors and/or lower resolutions will need to scroll to your right).

If you're one of the RV set, you may want to visit their site and post it somewhere handy in your vehicle... they offer mobile service, and you just never know when you'll need help!

Now, this sets a precedent.  I'm all about supporting local and independent businesses, and one way I can help would be to offer up some of my unused side-column space for advertising purposes (listed alphabetically).

If you own a local business and are interested in advertising here, feel free to drop me a line (remove the AAARGH! from the address before sending).

In the interest of community-mindedness, I work strictly on the barter system.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Tale of Entitlement (Part Three)

Part Two is here

The following is a true story I just made up.

Jill dropped me off at work at precisely 7am the following morning.  I had no messages in my voice mail, and no emails.  While putting the coffee on, I unlocked the door to the shipping area... which is something I don't normally do, given that we open at 8am.

While keeping my eyes and ears open for activity, I set about my morning routine.  As I was running through my backorder report, I heard scurrying in the direction of the shipping area.  So, I walked back to see what was up.

"Hello?" I inquired.

"Hi Shaun," said a voice, "I'm here for my parts!"

I recognized the voice, but not the face.

"Parts?" I asked.

Cust:  Yes.  I'm Jimbob from Turnip Brothers.

CJ:  Oh!  Sure, follow me.

I led him to my desk, and handed him the box.

Cust:  I figured I'd better come myself to pick 'em up.  Can't afford any mistakes today.

CJ: No worries, I fully understand.  I apologize for the mixup yesterday, I don't know what was up with the courier... Shit, I waited until quarter to six last night.  Maybe they got busy over the afternoon..?

Cust:  I don't know, but it cost me twelve bucks per pick-up attempt.  I appreciated your call, though.

CJ:  Well, if you hear any more from them and we can't resolve the issue, let me know.  If it turns out we're partially responsible for the screw-up, we'll work something out with a freight credit to offset the cost.

Cust:  Great, thank you, and thanks for waiting around last night.

CJ: You're welcome.

At 8:30, I received an angry call.

CJ: Good morning, Moron Industries, Shaun speaking.

SP: (snottily) Hello Shaun, this is Frieda from Snailspace.  Our driver was there at 5:15pm last night and at 7:10 this morning to pick up a package and was told it wasn't ready.  And he was there twice yesterday and was told both times the package wasn't ready.  We'd appreciate it if you didn't waste our time!

CJ:  Well, Frieda, I'm glad you called.  While it's true that your driver left empty-handed once yesterday, he has not been back since.

SP: Well, that's not what my driver is telling me.

CJ: My dear, your driver is full of shit, to put it bluntly.  I myself waited here until quarter to six last night, and was here at 7 this morning.  I have not seen any of your drivers, and the parts were picked up by Jimbob from Turnip Brothers himself at ten after seven this morning.  Feel free to call Jim, he'll corroborate my story.

SP: I beg your pardon?  Turnip picked up?

CJ: Yes.  He couldn't wait for the parts, so he came down himself to pick them up.  In fact, he was here from 7:10 til 7:30 this morning, around the time you driver claims to have been here...

SP:  I see.  I'll have to call you back. (click)

Jim beat her to the punch, however...

CJ: Good morning, Moron Industries, Shaun speaking.

JB:  Hi Shaun, this is Jimbob at Turnip Brothers.

CJ: Ah, talked to Frieda, did you..?

JB:  Yeah, I set her straight.  I apologize if I snapped at you yesterday.

CJ: No problem, matey.  How could you have known?

JB:  True, but I'll be dealing with another courier company from here on in.

CJ:  Oh?

JB: Yes, if they're going to lie to me outright, and then try to charge me for pickup attempts they've never made, I'm done with them.

CJ:  Well, in their defense, I don't think it's them per se, just one of their drivers.

JB:  Maybe, but I can't afford to risk any more situations like this.  This could have cost us big.

CJ:  If I can be of any help, please let me know...

JB: Will do.

(to be concluded)

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Tale of Entitlement (Part Two)

Part One is here

The following is a true story I just made up.

Needless to say, Supertanker Steve was not impressed.  "What's the point of putting it out if we can't drink any?" he bellowed.

Our head shipper delivered his carefully rehearsed line, "That coffee is there as a courtesy to everyone, not just you.  You can have a cup, but don't be filling that bloody supertanker up here!"

"Fuck, you guys are a bunch of cheap fucks!" was Steve's well-reasoned response, "You can't afford a couple of pots of coffee?!"

He stormed out, forgetting his customer's package.

An hour later, I got an angry call from my customer.  Bear in mind I have no idea what has transpired.

CJ: Good afternoon, Moron Industries (fictional).  Shaun speaking, how may I help you?

Cust:  Where the Hell are my parts?

CJ: Who's speaking?

Cust:  Jimbob at Turnip Brothers.  <--- fictional

CJ: Oh!  Your order was ready...  I know Snailspace was here, I saw Steve at the counter.

Cust:  That's bullshit.  He said the order wasn't ready when he was there!

CJ: That's odd.  I'll find out and I'll call you back.

So, I walked across the building to our shipping department, to speak with the head shipper.  He told me what happened.  I patted him on the back, and phoned the customer to let him know.

CJ: Hi JB, It's Shaun.  I've gotten to the bottom of things.  Looks like your courier was here, but forgot your box.  Did you want to call him back, or shall we ship it out to you on our courier?

Cust: He told me it wasn't ready.

CJ: Well, our shipper assures me it was, and he's a straight-up kinda guy.  But, it's a "he-said, she-said" situation.  What would you like us to do?

Cust:  I'll see if I can get him back.

This was at 1pm.  At 4pm, Jimbob called back.

Cust:  What the Hell is wrong with you guys?  My driver was there AGAIN and said the order wasn't ready!  I need those parts!

CJ:  That's not right.  I saw the box sitting there with my own two eyes.  Something's wrong.  I'll get Shipping on the line.

Ken: Shipping, Ken speaking.

CJ:  Hi Kenny. I have Jimbob from Turnip Brothers on the line with us.  He's saying that Snailspace was by to pick up the box that they forgot the first time around, and were told it wasn't ready.  He's very upset.


Ken:  I've been back here all afternoon, and I haven't seen hide-nor-hair of Snailspace.  He's never been back!

CJ: And you're absolutely sure of this?  Maybe they sent another driver?  Did you take a bathroom break or anything?

Ken: No, I haven't left my area, and nobody from Snailspace or Turnip Brothers have been here.

CJ:  Well, Jim, I suggest you give Snailspace a call.  If they're coming back today, tell the driver to ask for me.  The box will be on my desk in the office.  There will be no mistakes or "he-said, she-said".

Five o'clock rolled around.  "Ahhh, Closing time," I thought.  Looking at my desk, I noticed Snailspace hadn't picked up.  I gave their office a quick call and got their machine.  Hmmm.

AM:  Thank you for calling Snailspace Courier Express Winnipeg.  Our office is currently closed.  Please call back between the hours of 7:30 am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.  Thank you for calling Snailspace. (click).

Crap.  I'd hoped they'd have an emergency or afterhours line.  So, I gave the customer a call, and got HIS machine.  I left him a message:

CJ: Hi JB, It's Shaun at Moron Industries.  It's currently 5pm on Thursday, and I haven't seen your courier.  I'll stick around for another half hour just in case he's running late, but I'd be prepared to give them a nasty call in the morning.  If you get this in the next few minutes, give me a call on my cell at ###-#### and I can drop the box off to you on my way home.

I ended up waiting until quarter to six, and nothing.  I prepared myself for the angry phone call in the morning.

(to be continued)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Packed In Mustard Sauce

Jillian and I bought a car back in June.

Up until then, the bus was our primary mode of transportation.  As a result, our errands (etc) had been eating far too much of our precious time, and the bus commute to her job was a 2.5 hour affair... if she was lucky enough to connect with the once-an-hour bus downtown (the only bus that got her anywhere near her job).

Which, as it turned out, was a big if.  Taking either of the three downtown buses from our area, Jill had a 3-4 minute window to connect with that bus... and it never failed:  there would always be a traffic snarl on the way downtown, or a construction holdup, or passenger needlessly taking up the driver's time.  Taking an earlier bus downtown meant waiting outside, in the dark and cold, for 45 minutes because nothing was open at 6:30 am.  At least twice a week, Jill ended up having to take a cab from downtown in order to make it to work on time.

My own commute was relatively worry-free.  I used to take the #77 from Leila and Salter to my job in St. James.  It was great, only had to take one bus!  Problem is, it took a bloody HOUR as it wound its way through the Maples, Tyndall Park, Keewatin, and the Logan Industrial Park.  On a clear summer day.  If Red River College was in session, the bus would be packed by the time I got on.  Which typically meant standing for the entire hour.  If it happened to be during the seven months we're covered in snow, transit time was that much longer due to road conditions.

I figured I'd find a better way, and started taking the #32 Express bus downtown, then catching a #19 Red River bus.  Took roughly an hour, and the ride downtown was great.  I'd get off at Main and McDermot, walk half a block to the stop at Main and Lombard, and catch a mostly empty #19.  A fair amount of people would get on at MEC, a fairer amount at Portage Place, and a fairer amount around the corner on Vaughan.  By the time we left the Vaughan stop, the bus was packed.  Packed like sardines in mustard sauce.  More and more people would get on as we travelled up Notre Dame, and since I was one of the first people on the bus... I'd be in my window seat, trapped like a rat.  Getting off at my stop on Dublin and Notre Dame meant first fighting past my seatmate, then the throng of people (and their backpacks) in the aisle.  More than once, the driver would pull away from the stop before I'd made it to the door... at which point he would angrily pull over to let me out.  Which was usually followed by an angry look as though it were my fault.  Sitting in one of the sideways, aisle-facing seats usually ended in me giving up my seat to the infirm, elderly, expectant mothers, or baby carriages.

The trip home was almost as bad, replacing the college kids with drunks, loudmouth ignorami, twice the baby carriages, and kids who've listened to far too much rap.

This was my daily routine for over fifteen years (since 1996).  Suffice it to say, I didn't put up a fight when Jillian suggested we look into buying a car.  I've done my part for the environment.

Like many other longtime transit riders, I put up with fare increase after fare increase as a necessary evil.  After all, something had to pay for service improvements like those cold glass boxes they optimistically refer to as "shelters", those new-fangled, low-riding "kneeling buses" that helped clog the bus aisles with baby carriages, yellow strips that the lower-functioning riders have no idea how to use,  and nice new digital displays at major stops to tell you exactly how late your bus is.  Now that's progress!

As cynical as that sounded, at least we knew we were getting something out of the deal.

Now I hear bus fares will be increased, after no consultation, another 25 cents a ride.  But this time, the increased revenue will be not be used to fund improvements to the existing system.  Rather, it will fund eventual rapid transit improvements that will not, in all likelihood, be finished in the remaining twenty years until I retire.

So glad we bought that car.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Free From Outside Influence

Most of my readers know I'm an "ideas man".

I typically have eight- or nine-hundred outlines, plans, plots, designs, schemes, and hare-brained ideas in my head (or in various stages of implementation) at any given time.  Some good (remodelling my house, garage, website), some... not (never completed my microwave gun or catapult).  A friend once remarked, "If you want to make a million bucks, grab the crumpled papers in Wheeler's trash!".

The problem I have is that I have far too many ideas for one man to (realistically) bring to reality.  What's useful?  What will work?  What will sell?   Has someone else already done it (and better)?  What's the estimated kill ratio?  And how to prioritize?

Usually, while I'm busy procrastinating, someone else comes up with exactly the same thing I'd dreamed up previously and makes it work... and sometimes it works well.  Which serves as a bit of vindication, by and large, but it's still a metaphoric kick in the nuts.  But enough whining, that's my problem to sort out.

On rare occasions, I'm inspired by something others are doing, and see a way I can expand upon it in my own particular way.

As an example, I was inspired by David Driedger's recent post on his blog The LAngside Times.  The idea of a "Five Minute Walk" in my own neighbourhood was especially appealing, what with my predilection for long walks (on and off the beach), and I thought I could combine that with my interests in photography, obsolete technology, and cartography... similar to what I did on a previous excursion.

Another example would be Cherenkov's recent post regarding  For those of you not in the know, is an online "magazine creator", basically the bastard offspring of a blogging client, social media site, web-crawler, and rss reader.  As I have mentioned before, my original career aspiration was that of a layout/paste-up artist in the publishing industry, so you can well imagine my initial pants-filling excitement upon seeing for the first time.

The excitement was short-lived, however.  After starting an account and fooling with it for a bit, the experience struck me as rather pointless... it was basically a prettied-up rss reader!  For those of us who already have blogs, it seemed rather redundant.  Until...

An idea hit me.  Why not combine the two ideas (the Five Minute Walk and  Yeah, start an online magazine dedicated to Five Minute Walks, starting with a few interested "takers" in Winnipeg, then perhaps branching out nationally or internationally..?

(scratches chin) Hmmmmm... 

Think it'd work?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Kildonan Park and Philosophy

CJ's note:  the following post was originally written 11/26/2009.  I found it in this blog's DRAFTS folder this evening while migrating posts from my other blog.  It amused me to read it, and I felt it deserved to be published... with a present-day postscript.

The weather's been nice this last week, hasn't it, folks?

Despite the fact I'm champing at the bit to go ice skating on the Red River (hurry up and snow, God damn it!), I've been taking advantage of the beautiful Autumn weather.

Late last week, my most recent ex-girlfriend and I grabbed a coffee after work, then went for a walk through Kildonan Park. It's been a couple of weeks since we went our separate ways, and after a cooling off period, we decided to remain friends. During our walk, we talked about the usual stuff - work, cats, travel, etc - and cracked a few jokes about the state of society in general. She's good that way.

Somewhere around the Witches' Hut the conversation took an interesting turn.

"Shaun," she asked, "What do you want out of life?"

Without hesitation, I answered, "A roof over my head, food on the table, and clean drinking water."

Somewhat taken aback, she asked, "That's it?"

"Well," I added, "adequate sanitation facilities would be nice."

"Again," she asked again, "is that it, Mr. Kaczynski?"

"Pretty much, yeah," I laughed, "maybe room to write my Manifesto, but after that, everything else is gravy."

"Seriously, that's it?" she asked, "Nothing else?"

"Well, you won't leave your husband, so what else would I want?" I quizzed.

"I don't know," she said, "World peace? An end to sectarian violence? Rapid transit?"

"You asked me what I wanted out of life," I clarified, "not what I'd wish for if the 'Djinni of the Lamp' granted me three wishes."

"Fair enough," she surrendered, "but let me rephrase: above and beyond your basic human rights, what would you want in life?"

"That's better!" I laughed, "But to be honest, there's not a lot I really want from life."

"Why not?" she asked

"I don't know," I replied, "I guess I just don't have any real need for anything else, so I've never really thought about it. I mean, I can grab a coffee when I want, take a walk through the park, the Forks, or the Exchange when I want. Hell, give me peace, quiet, a drink, and a cigar and I'm happy."

"Hmmm," she hummed, "I'm starting to realize why you're 36 and single."

"Which is it?" I laughingly inquired, "The smoking or the drinking?"

"It's the I, I, I, I, I, me, me, me, me," she replied, "You seem to value your freedom above all else."

"Huh?" I said, stopping dead in my tracks.

"Think about what you just said," she explained, "You basically said 'that you're happy because you can do whatever you want whenever you want', didn't you?

"Shit," I said, stunned, "I did say that, didn't I?"

"In a nutshell, yes," she smiled, "and at the back of your mind, you think getting married would put an end to that, don't you?"

"You're close," I said, impressed, "but you're off on one part of the equation."

"Which part is that?" she asked, giving me that 'you're not weaselling out of this one' look.

"That reasoning isn't at the back of my mind," I retorted, "but at the forefront!"

The preceding exchange happened in sometime in early November 2009, and was transcribed on 11/26/2009.  I never finished it, and the remaining bits of the conversation are lost to time.  But I do know how it ended.  She told me I'd never be truly happy until I dropped the me, me, me attitude.  I told her I was fighting fire with fire, happily pointing out that she was married the whole time we were dating (which is a tad selfish as well), and that my previous relationship ended when the girl described me as a "work-in-progress" to her girlfriends at a hen-party held in my own house.  I was so tired of women trying to mold me into what they wanted, that I decided to remain "selfishly single" from there on in.

Here we are, two years later, and everything has changed.  But let's back up a year.

I'd spent 2010 largely single.  I'd made a few dates here and there, but nobody held my interest for long.  I'd happily accepted the probability that I'd be single for the rest of my life.

But, as always, it didn't turn out that way.

In September, an estranged friend had become single.  We'd been chatting (and reconnecting) on Facebook, our blogs, and MSN for a few months, and when news broke about their break up, I messaged her to make sure she was alright.  She was.

We'd continued chatting over the next month, and eventually agreed to meet for coffee for the first time in eight years.  She was a Girl Guide leader, and they were on their cookie drive... so I asked her to put me down for three or four boxes.  We met for coffee at Polo Park that fateful night, under the pretext of selling me cookies, and ended up chatting for hours.

It had been great seeing her.  We agreed that we should do this more often, and we parted ways.

We chatted for a bit on Facebook afterwards, and a half hour in, she pulled the rug out from under me... by asking me out.

Jillian and I went for our first date (to see Avatar at Imax) in early November, had a whirlwind romance, and on December 23rd, 2010, I proposed.  She said YES.

We moved her into my house shortly after Christmas.

It's now a year later, and things couldn't be better.  Wedding plans are humming along (six more months!), the household is shaping up, we've renewed our faith in God, and we make each other happy (and other people sick).

If you were to ask me two years ago if I'd ever thought I'd be engaged to be married, I probably would have snickered.  It'd never happen.  Never in a million years!

So, to my unnamed ex-girlfriend in the first conversation, I say this:

You were right.

Jillian and CJ, Remembrance Day 2010

Drinking a C&S While Editing C&S

Now that Autumn is upon us and winter lurking in the nearby shadows, Jillian and I will be spending a lot more time at home.

This is great for a couple of reasons, most of which are irrelevant to this entry. Chiefly, it means we'll be spending more time making meals at home rather than dining out... we both like to fool around in the kitchen (and we like to cook, too). She's a good cook, and like me is prone to experimenting and tinkering with recipes.

As too many cooks spoil the soup, I've decided to leave the majority of the culinary artistry to her... so that I can concentrate on my one true passion: booze.

It has been a long time since I've written about my experiments with mixed drinks and, truth told, I rather miss it. So today, as we prepared to do the dishes, I walked over to the liquor cabinet so that I could fix myself a drink.

You may find this hard to believe, but I enjoy doing the dishes. When I was single, it was how I relaxed. Every Sunday afternoon shortly before 2pm, I'd fix myself a drink, then fire Nadia up so I could listen to my favourite internet radio show, Pepperland Spicerack, on I'd sit there for a couple of hours, washing my dishes and enjoying some good tunes while sipping whatever concoction I'd mixed.

Usually, that concoction would be one of a few standbys: French-style Pernod (1oz Pernod, 4oz water [or to taste]), my secret Martini recipe, a Vermouth Cassis, a Sazerac, or more often than not, a Campari & Soda. Social drinks, not the "wake-up-in-the-bathtub-with-a-black-eye-your-pants-on-backwards-and-your-shoes-on-the-wrong-feet-despite-having-drank-alone" variety.

Today, I decided on Campari & Soda... and today, I'm going to tell you how I make it.

First, a disclaimer: Campari isn't for everyone. It is the epitome of an acquired taste (much like Punt e Mes). It's a bitter herbal liquer that has a rather "floral" flavour. Upon sampling my drink at a company outing one year, my friend Darrin described Campari's flavour as "licking a Wizard air freshener". Which I thought was harsh... potpourri perhaps, but Wizard air freshener? Come on...

Anyway, if you've never tried Campari before, you may want to use a bit more soda and a bit less Campari, at least until you get used to it (usually around the third glass). The bitter taste will make some of you cringe.

Second, use fresh soda water. I have a soda siphon (aka seltzer bottle) and make my own seltzer water using Brita-filtered tap water and CO2 cartridges... this really is the best method (and the used cartridges can be recycled with gunpowder as explosive warheads for model rockets, if those horribly spelled textfiles I got from an obscure gopher site are to be believed!). If you'd rather not bother with making your ownsoda water, you can always buy it. It's usually with the bottled water at the store and dirt cheap. Try to use Sparkling Water over Club Soda if you can, and use a fresh bottle... flat Club Soda or Sparking Water will kill a cocktail.

Third, and I can't stress this enough, do not use ice. Ice will dilute the flavour. The trick is to use a pre-chilled highball glass to keep your drink cool. If you really must use ice, cut back proportionally on the amount of soda water you use. In fact, I'd recommend this approach to all mixed drinks.

Got all that? Good. Here's the ratio I prefer.

Pour 4oz Campari into your pre-chilled highball glass.
Fill the rest with soda water/seltzer.
Garnish with a slice of lemon, lime, or orange.

Simple, no?

100 1236

It'll take time to find a ratio you like, In Europe, they prefer a stronger mix, and in the US they seem to prefer a weaker mix and frequently use ice. If you like it, you may also want to try adding a dash of gin, orange flower water, and/or a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters to your drink... it really adds that je ne sais quoi.

Campari is (was?) also available in Europe in bottled form as "Campari Soda", using a rather iconic bottle. I have had the pleasure of drinking a bottled Campari Soda years ago and loved it. I still have one unopened bottle kicking around... if I can find it, I'll post a picture.

The above picture shows the finished product, a third of a bottle of Campari, and my soda siphon, along with a green bowl full of orange mush.

"What is that orange mush, Mr. Jerk?" you may ask.

I hear you ask. That, my friends, is a failed experiment.

Jillian, her mom, and I were in Gimli several times this past summer, and on one occasion we went to the "fancy" restaurant (whose name escapes me... Beachcomber?) in the resort. One of the dessert specials was a bowl of orange sorbet with an ounce of Campari drizzled over top.

Now, CJ likes his Campari as well as his sorbet, so of course this intrigued me. Unfortunately for me, I was on antibiotics and couldn't have any alcohol... so I committed this dessert to memory.

A couple of weeks ago, while I was battling a wicked cold, Jillian brought me a tub of orange sherbet to soothe my throat. I'd had a bit, but I made sure to save some of the sherbet so that I could make this dessert once I was off my cough medicine.

Today, while I was making myself a drink, I decided to make the dessert. My friends, I suffer so you don't have to.

Today I learned something the hard way... SHERBET AND SORBET ARE NOT THE SAME THING!

Sorbet, like Italian Ice, is made of frozen water and fruit. Sherbet is made of fruit and ice milk.

It tasted alright... at first. The flavour was nice, the sweet orange taste of the sherbet provided a nice counterbalance to the bitterness of the (straight) Campari. But the flavour got more and more muddled as the sherbet melted... ultimately tasting of lead. It was rather disgusting. I thought the milk was curdling right before my eyes!

Suffice it to say, I won't be doing that again. I will however try to find some real sorbet to see if I can make this work.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Oh, The Places I've Been...

So, I went for a little stroll today...

(CJ's note:  The interactive map is no longer available.  The provider went bankrupt years ago and took my work with it.  Not saved by either, before you ask.)

(Not) Pictured above:  My idea of "a little stroll".  Zoom in and pan around!

Truth told, I didn't walk the whole time... I took the #17 McGregor bus from the corner of Partridge and McGregor to McDermot and Adelaide.

The whole point of this excursion was to take a stroll with my GPS, snap a few pictures, have breakfast at Sal's sur L'Esplanade, and spend the rest of the day on the computer, putting together a humourous "Family Circus" follow-the-dotted-line map... well, as humorous as downtown Winnipeg can be at 7am on a Saturday (which is to say "not very").

Less humourous was the fact my bloody camera crapped out a few minutes in.  But, the show must go on, so I made sure my GPS was working and continued on my way.

I meandered through the Exchange district, north to the edge of Chinatown, east to Main St to avoid a drugged-up belligerent, down Main and back into the Exchange.  When I was done there, I headed to Portage Ave, up Fort to Graham, up Graham and across Main, the to the Forks.

I'd planned to stop at Sal's for breakfast and got there right on time for the doors to open at 8am... only to find they've changed their hours of operation a few weeks ago, and thus wouldn't open til 9am.  I thought to myself, "I'm not waiting another hour!" and continued on to the Forks proper.

After wandering the Forks for a bit, I headed towards Canwest Global Park.  From there, I headed along Waterfront Drive to Juba Park (where I saw a couple of artists and a group of joggers), and spent a bit of time relaxing there before heading back downtown.

All-in-all, it was a fun excursion, and I'm especially glad that my GPS recorded the entire thing (more on how in a later post).  I wanted to see if the taller buildings downtown would affect the GPS' satellite signal reception, but thankfully it worked like a charm.

I'm planning to take a stroll through Kildonan Park with Jillian tomorrow, and I'll be sure to bring the GPS and a working camera to record our hijinks... and we'll put our heads together to piece together that Family Circus homage.

So, I've returned to Blogger for good.

I've had it with Tripod's trademark "tits-on-a-bull" blog engine.  It requires too much in the way of HTML editing to do anything useful, whereas Blogger's engine is (almost) idiot-proof (and I'll finally be able to moblog from my smartphone!).  So on Blogger I will stay... insofar as blogging is concerned.  All my creative works will still be housed at the main site at

Please update your feed-readers and blogrolls so you don't miss any of my pointless crap.

I've migrated the previous years' worth of the aforementioned crap from the Tripod blog over to this one, and they pick up where I left off after my previous final post back in May 2010. These posts (thirty in total) will be prefaced with "migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/11".

It'll be like I never left!

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again..?

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Pulled the plug.

I'm tired of fighting with Tripod's blog engine, so I've moved the whole she-bang back to my "old" blog on Blogger.

Please update your RSS feeders, links and blogrolls.

My blog's relationship with Tripod is not unlike the lives of some of my friends.

They lived under their parents' roof until they spread their wings and flew away.  Sometimes things got a little too difficult, or perhaps they were lonely, and they ended up moving back home.

Eventually, they found the environment safe and familiar, but ultimately stifling and lacking in real freedom... so they left home again, usually for good.

And that's how I feel about Tripod's blog engine.  I liked the familiarity with Tripod and the fact I could have everything under one roof, but Blogger offered me a real chance to take things to the next level, so to speak.  So I spread my tiny wings and flew away...

... only to return a few years later.  I'd planned to bring everything back under one roof, but found the lack of features in Tripod's blog engine (specifically embedding objects and mail-to-blog) unforgivably stifling and restrictive.
I tried their other website building options, which promised point-and-click building of websites, but I didn't find them satisfactory.  So this morning, I decided to pack my bag(gage) up and head on back to Blogger.

The blog will probably remain there for good... unless I finally install Wordpress on my 1993-vintage Sparcstation IPX and sign up for co-location somewhere.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Tale of Entitlement (part one)

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

It's ten minutes 'til showtime.

As I sit at my desk, sipping my morning coffee, I'm reminded of a story.

So gather ye round, brothers and sisters, and I will spin for you a tale of entitlement.

The following is a true story I just made up. 

Our business moved to a new (bigger) location last year, after spending the previous couple of years in a perpetual state of overcrowding.  As business grew, so did our inventory, and we soon saw the need for bigger premises.

After several months of hunting, the boss decided on a building... right across the lane from our current location.  In addition to being roughly twice the size of our current location, it was also located on the front street.

Location, Location, Location

Being on a fairly high-traffic street, we predicted (correctly, as it turned out) our foot traffic/walk-in business would explode.  Thus, plans were made to increase the size of our showroom and counter sales area.

As we pride ourselves on making hoses et cetera "While You Wait", we decided to add a waiting area to the showroom, complete with comfy leather seats and a coffee pot.

Remembering the hassle it was to monitor and maintain the coffee maker in the showroom at our previous location, we decided to sign up with a coffee service.  They would provide us with an industrial coffeemaker and several urns, as well as delivering fresh coffee, sugar, and creamer every week.  All we had to do was make the coffee.

We placed an urn in our showroom/waiting area for customers, and one on the warehouse manager's desk fror staff.

This arrangement worked well for the most part, but a couple of weeks later, our head shipper asked if he could have an urn in the shipping/pickup area, so courier drivers and customers could have a cup.

This is where our story begins.

The coffee service was a hit, especially during the colder months.  The staff (myself included) loved it, as did our customers (especially the Hutterites).

But it really took off with the couriers.  I can appreciate what they do, and know it can be a bit of a hassle to stop for coffee when you're under the gun because of demanding customers (God forbid anyone should have to wait for anything these days).  But there are limits.

Most of the couriers were great.  They'd grab a cup and go.  The odd one would fill his travel mug.  But one driver stood out among the pack.

We call him Supertanker Steve.

"Steve" worked for a courier company contracted by one of our customers.  He was a nice enough guy, but could be a tad impatient and ornery at times.
Steve, as it turned out, had a nasty habit of filling his travel mug full of coffee whenever he visited.  This wasn't your average sized mug, either... it was one of those "Coffee Junkie" mugs that looked like it held at least a litre's worth!

One day, as I was heading out back to drop off a stack of orders to be filled, I ran into our head shipper... he was carrying his coffee urn and looked decidedly pissed off.

CJ: Hi Kenny, what's up?  You don't look too happy.

Ken: Mraugh!  Gotta fill the coffee up again.

CJ: Shit, it's only ten o'clock.  Are you thirsty or just tired?

Ken: It's that fucking Steve again.

CJ: Steve?

Ken: That driver for "Snailspace Express"  <--- fictional 

CJ: What's he done?

Ken:  He filled up his bloody big mug again.

CJ: What, like a travel mug?

Ken: It's one of those really big ones.
CJ: Oh, like those big ones that hold a litre or so?

Ken: Yeah.

CJ: That's pretty ignorant.  Does he do that often?

Ken:  Nearly everytime he's here.

CJ:  Wow.

Ken:  The shitty thing is, he wasn't even picking anything up here today!

CJ:  WHAT?!  So he was just here helping himself to some free coffee?!

Ken: Says it's cheaper than Horton's.  (CJ's Note:  There's a Tim Horton's location in our parking lot)

CJ:  That's pretty fucking selfish.  The coffee is there as a courtesy to all our couriers and customers, not solely for him.  Next time, cut him off at one regular sized cup.

Ken:  *sigh* I'll try...
To be continued...

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

WIP it, WIP it good.

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Preparations for Conceited Jerk Dot Com's Tenth Anniversary celebrations are coming along, albeit rather slowly.

With just under three months to go, I've been busy archiving old content from my various machines, and have managed to track down 80% of the old stuff.  The rest is lost to time (even couldn't help!)...

The real stumbling block is presentation.  It's no secret that I'm tired of Tripod's Blog Builder and its lack of features, and I have been equally disappointed with their other offerings such as the recently discontinued Webon and their new app "Zeeblio" - which would work insofar as creating a cohesive layout, but would eliminate the ability to comment directly on a post.

I've debated returning to Blogger, and have also considered running Wordpress, but there's apparently some issue running WP on Tripod's servers.

Soooooo... I'm gonna try redesigning the blog portions of my site using Joomla, failing that, I may have to bone up on my HTML and CSS and do things the old fashioned way, or it's back to Blogger I go.

As an aside, if you ever go to A&W, don't try to order a "Thirteenth-Cousin-Twice-Removed Burger".  They'll just look at you funny.  Ditto for asking how far back in the Burger Family Tree they go.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blog Action Day: I Was Hungry, and You Fed Me.

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

It's that time of the year where bloggers of all stripes write about a common theme in an attempt to raise awareness for a given topic.

Yes, it's Blog Action Day, and this year's topic is FOOD.

Food.  That which sustains us.

As I've mentioned once or twice, I've been attending church faithfully for the last few months.  I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and decided once and for all to join the church permanently... I started RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) classes two weeks ago, and am on my way to becoming a full-fledged Catholic.

This has come as a bit of a shock to a number of people, particularily people who "thought they knew me".

I was asked a number of similar questions: "You're an intelligent, logical guy who studied history, science, and human behaviour.  How can you believe a bunch of man-made hooey like religion?", "Man made God, not the other way around.  How can you let yourself be brainwashed by a bunch of drooling zealots?", and so forth.

Actually, it's because I studied these things that I turned to God.

I've spent the last twenty years, since I graduated High School, trying to find my place in the world.  To find the answers.

I've read books, attended classes, lectures and talks, watched programs and videos on many different subjects (history, humanities, psychology, sociology, "life science", etc), trying to find the whys and wherefores of the great mystery called Life.

Even after making a right pig of myself at the all-you-can eat buffet of knowledge, I was still left hungry.

I'd try to stave off the hunger by having a few snacks here and there, but it didn't stave it off for long.

After twenty years of searching, I'd found no satisfaction in material goods, money, or relative success any more than I found in my studies.

Then I met Jillian for the first time since 2002.  We reconnected, fell in love, and got engaged shortly before Christmas last year.  We often talked about starting a family, and decided that we'd want to raise the kids with some sort of faith.

I was game, so we made it a point to attend Mass at a nearby Catholic church (St. Anthony of Padua on Burrin Ave), Jill having been Catholic herself.

After hearing the pastor's homily, I realized I wasn't hungry anymore, despite only having had an appetizer.  So we returned the following Sunday... and the next... and the next, feeding my soul little by little, and getting to know (and genuinely care about) a few people in our community.

Here we are, nearly eight months later, and I am only too happy to say I'm no longer hungry.

Now that I'm well-fed, I've decided to learn the recipes, so that I may help to feed others.

Let me tell you a story.

One afternoon this summer, as I was heading home from work, a panhandler came up to me and asked for change.  He was a short aboriginal man, kind of rough looking (and a tad smelly to be honest).  I told him in a polite but ultimately firm voice that I had no change... (I did have change in reality, but I'd be damned if this smelly bum was getting any of it!).

He looked at me with sad eyes and said, "Oh. I'm kind of hungry, eh?"  before walking away.

"Oh yeah," I thought, "Here comes the guilt trip."

Then my bus came, and I mistakenly thought I'd seen the last of this guy.
That is, until he came to me in a half-dream that night.

I was lying in bed, not quite asleep but not quite awake, when the smelly bastard appeared to me in my head.

He was standing in front of me as he had earlier, with those same sad eyes... but something was different.  He was slowly changing.

His scruffy beard slowly started to thicken and he started to transform before my eyes... the stubble and dirt on his cheeks started to disappear and his hair began to untangle itself... his appearance transformed completely, going from filthy to immaculate, all the while staring at me with those sad, sad eyes.

I looked away in disbelief, and when I looked back, this smelly bum with the sad eyes had transformed into Jesus.

The Son of God was standing before me, looking upon me with those same sad eyes.

I woke up immediately, feeling a greater sorrow that I've ever felt in my life.  The dream seemed to be a stark reminder that Christ is in all of us... I felt like I'd failed Jesus by failing my fellow man.

The dream has haunted me since.

A few days later, I had another dream.

This time, Jillian and I were house sitting for our good friends Larry and Susan.  They'd had the good fortune to win a contest, and were able to take their children on a trip.

On a particularily wet and cold day, I was in their kitchen grabbing a glass of water when I heard a rustling noise out their back door.

I looked down and, at the foot of the door, was a wet black growling mass of black and brown fur, wailing and gnashing its teeth.  Its fur was standing on end, and it looked rail thin... it was writhing around and was in such a state that I couldn't tell what sort of animal it was.

I opened the door to let it in, but the animal wouldn't come in out of the rain and cold.

Taking pity on the poor thing, I grabbed a plate from the kitchen and took a large honey-garlic bratwurst I'd been saving out of the fridge.  I set the plate before the beast, and it immediately gobbled the sausage up.

Then, right before my eyes, the beast started to transform before my eyes, slowly drying out and growing fatter, until it turned into the most beautiful black Doberman pup I had ever seen.

It looked at me with these big soulful eyes... and said in a human voice, "I was hungry, and you fed me."

At which point I woke up.

Ever since I made the decision to convert to Catholicism, the name Wenceslas has been appearing to me all over the place... in books, music, even in webcomics.

Wenceslaswas the Duke of Bohemia, known for his generosity to the poor and hungry.  He was murdered by his brother Boleslaw, and is since venerated as a saint.

I've been seeing his name more and more, and took it (and my previous dreams) as a sign that I'm being called to be more generous to my fellow man, perhaps even to help feed the poor.

At Easter, when I've completed my RCIA program, I'll be Confirmed in the church, where we have the option of taking a Saint's name... I'll be taking the name of Wenceslas.

In a couple of years, once I've had a few lessons in the "kitchen" and learned all the "recipes",  I intend to help feed my fellow man spiritually by joining the RCIA program as an instructor, and physically by donating and volunteering my time, love, and whatever money we can spare.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Project Status: Hilarious!

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

I spent part of my lunch hour phoning various Winnipeg computer stores, in search of a particular item I need to help complete one of my projects...

Four out of five conversations went like this:

CSR: Good afternoon, (computer store), how may I help you?

CJ: Good afternoon, how are we doing today?

CSR, Not bad, thank you.  What can I do for you?

CJ: Well, I'm looking for an IDE DVD-ROM drive.

CSR: Well, we really only carry the burners.  Will that be alright?

CJ: Hmmm, it'll work, but I'm really only using it as a reader. What colours do you carry?

CSR: Colours?

CJ: Yeah, I'd prefer to have one that matches my case.

CSR: Oh, I get it.  Sure, what colour were you after?

CJ: Aged beige.

CSR: Aged Beige?!

CJ: Yes sir.

CSR: Er, I think we have darkish-gray/black or white in stock.

CJ: White?

CSR: Yes sir.

CJ: By "white", are you talking about that typical computer whitish-beige?

CSR: I guess so.  Is that not what you meant?

CJ: It's close, but no.

CSR: I've only ever seen these two colours, sir.  In fact I've never even heard of "aged beige".

CJ:  You knoooow... that sort of yellowy-beige colour that all beige computer parts become when left in the basement for an extended period of time?

CSR: *click*

Computer store people have no sense of humour.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Autoresponder: Out of Office

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Hello folks,

I'm taking a break from, well, everything until mid-November.

I've finallydecided to make some time for a few (real world, non-internet) projects I have in the works, which will keep me tied up for the next month or so.  I get to put my creative mind and design skills to good use in a real-world capacity, so I'm happy there!

In other news, I've left the Twitterverse.  Tired of it rather quickly.  The "important" people (and organizations) whose tweets I followed all have blogs or websites, so I'm not left out in the cold.

See you all after Remembrance Day.

PS: So... whattaya'll think of Art Deco?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taste the Rainbow

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Foodstuffs can lend themselves to fun.

Jillian and I headed to our local Safeway on the way home from work today, in order to pick up all the things we forgot to buy on our trip to Superstore on Monday.

It never fails.  Despite both of us taking household organization to a level the Third Reich would envy, and even with both of us keeping individual lists of groceries, we still manage to forget 25% of the things we went to the store to buy in the first place.

In our case, it's not such an ordeal.  Most of the things we went to buy are highly perishable goods (such as organic produce),  which we really should be buying the day we intend to use it.

Jill got me started on this whole organic thing and, despite not being the sort to hop on any particular bandwagon, after seeing positive results in my mood, I hopped on this particular bandwagon.

While we were at the store, I thought about what I'd like for the rest of the week's lunches.  I still had some back bacon left from Monday's excursion, a few tomatoes too, so I thought "Why not have BLTs for the next couple of days?"

Why not?

I bought some nice French bread and some cheese to accompany, and set about making my own BLT...

I laughed out loud when I realized the acronym BLT would need to be changed...

Lettuce, Gouda, Bacon, and Tomato.

God help me, I've just made an LGBT Sandwich!!

Taste the Rainbow, indeed!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Winnipeg Final Hurrah

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Looks like the date and time are set for the New Winnipeg Final Hurrah.

Gabriel/Munchkinguy has informed us that it'll be held at the downtown Tavern United, this Saturday between 1-4pm.

If you're on Facebook, the event can be found here:

Hope to see y'all there.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Feverish Fixing of Nadia, and Fun with Bluetooth

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

If you've been following my blogs for any amount of time, you'll have heard of Nadia.  In fact, if you've been following me for any amount of time, you're probably sick of hearing about Nadia!

For those just joining in, Nadia (named after British porn actress Andrea Spinks' stage name) is my oft-broken, thrice-resurrected, 1999-vintage Powerbook G3 "Lombard".  She's served as my main blogging/writing machine for years, and I've fixed/upgraded her so often I can field-strip her and reassemble her in my sleep.

Pictured: Andrea Spinks aka Nadia
her..?! Mmmmmm...

Apart from keeping Nadia operational, my only challenge is keeping her useful in the daily-changing world of computers and the web.  She works quite well, and I've only encountered a handful of problems using her on the "modern web".

Nadia runs Mac OS X 10.3.9, the last version supported without resorting to third-party installers like xpostfacto.  This unfortunately limits me to running older versions of Firefox or its derivatives, or older versions of Safari, both of which have trouble rendering certain web pages.  Facebook and Twitter are almost unuseable under these older browsers, but I have since discovered that the mobile versions of these sites work quite well... in fact, they work quite well on many of my older machines, even my ancient Powerbook 5300 running Netscape 4.8!

Another problem was slow loading of ad-laden webpages, but that was easily solved by using an ad-blocker plug-in for Firefox.

So, I was sitting in the living room yesterday morning, browsing eBay for some Lombard-compatible accessories... specifically a USB 1.1 Bluetooth adapter that I could use to sync Nadia to my Treo 650 smartphone.  To my chagrin, there wasn't much available that would be supported under 10.3.9.  I had a Belkin Bluetooth adapter from a previous laptop (the ill-fated iBludgeon) that I thought I might use, but Belkin's website stated that this particular model required OS X 10.4x and up.

After an hour of searching eBay and other Mac retailers online, I gave up.  Looking at the Belkin adapter on my desk, I said "Fuck it!" and plugged it into Nadia.

Nadia's hard drive churned... and the Bluetooth icon appeared onscreen. Hmmm... I went into Bluetooth Preferences, checked for nearby devices, and it found my smartphone sitting across the room.  Holy shit, it worked!

I spent the next hour poring over old Palm and Mac forum posts about syncing my Treo to a Mac running 10.3.9, and was rewarded with the ability to hotsync my phone to Nadia, exchange files (incl. MP3s) over Bluetooth, and even learned how to use my Treo as a (slllooowwww) wireless internet connection for my Mac.

"Shit," I figured, "if the Bluetooth module worked, why don't I try that 802.11g Cardbus wifi card I have in the lab?"

Why not?  I plugged it into Nadia, and it was immediately recognized natively as an Airport Extreme card... which allowed for a faster connection (in laymans' terms).

Wow.  Two for Two!

Also managed to locate Mac drivers so I could use Jill's HP printer/scanner/fax, but I'm getting bored so I'll move onto the fun part of the story.

Jimmy crack corn, and I don't care

So now I've been bitten by the blue-tail fly.  Much like a kid with a new toy, I was keen to see what else I could do, what sort of mischief awaited a mischievious guy such as myself when armed with newfound knowledge and a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone.

Truth told, not much... at first.  When Jill and I went out for breakfast & shopping, I was able to detect the cellphones and smartphones of people in the immediate vicinity.  Most had their phones secured, but there were a couple of people who still had the default Bluetooth password set (which is "0000", btw).  Wasn't able to do much poking around due to the dynamics involved in snooping while standing in line at Starbucks (it does look rather suspicious)... but I imagine I wouldn't be able to do much anyways, as most actions would have to be verified and accepted by the owner of the "target" phone.

Of course, I could research specific models of phones (like the LG520, which popped up a lot) for default passwords and security holes, but that sounds like it would require more effort than I'd care to expend on a once-in-a-blue-moon prank.  Figuring it'd be more trouble than it was worth, I all but gave up on Bluetooth-related fun.

Well, the universe is a funny place.  Jill and I headed home from our excursion, only to be held up by the 1pm northbound train on McGregor St. that passes through the neighbourhood each and every fucking Sunday.  Having nothing better to do whilst caught in traffic, I whipped out my phone and did a quick Bluetooth scan.

Didn't find anything on the first try, but the second scan yielded a handfree car kit...
Just for the proverbial shits & giggles, I tried to "pair" my Treo to the other car's handsfree.  Sure enough, the Treo prompted me for the device's password... I entered "0000" and was connected!

I knew I'd only be able to make a one-sided phone call at best, unless I wanted to shout into the other guy's car.  So, I dialled the one number I knew that wouldn't require voice communication.  Soon after, the number answered... the car's stereo muted, and over the car's speakers I heard:

Welcome to Telebus.  The current time is 12:55PM.  Please enter or say the five-digit stop number now.

Guy in car: What the fuck?!

(I enter 30215)

You have entered stop number 30215, Southbound McGregor at Belmont.  For current times, press or say "One".

Guy in car: (desperately fumbles with his phone) WHAT THE FUCK?!

(I press One)

Here are your schedules for today.  Route 17, McGregor.  First bus is at 1:01PM to Misericordia Health Center, Second bus is at...

At this point, my fellow motorist is a bit stressed.  He resorts to turning off his car completely to fix the problem.  Rather than risk his ire, I hang up my phone and turn Bluetooth off.

Figuring that was enough OBEXploitation fun for one day, I put the phone back in its holster, and the train passed soon after... traffic resumed.

I have resolved to learn more about Bluetooth and exploiting OBEX... seems to have so many more practical applications/prank potential than simple WIFI sniffing...

(This story may or may not be entirely hypothetical.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Final New Winnipeg Meetup: One Last Kick at the Cat

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Looks like we're gearing up for one last New Winnipeg Meetup!

NW member Munchkinguy emailed me the following this morning:

"I had hoped to organise a NewWinnipeg get-together in August, but NewWinnipeg seems to have closed down. I don't know how to contact a lot of people. I am trying to reach them but I don't know everyone's address."

So, let's get the ball rolling on this.  If you're a former New Winnipeg member and/or moderator and would like to have one final get together to reminisce about the good ol' days, for closure purposes, to exact revenge, or just to have a few drinks, drop Munchkinguy or myself a line, so we can find a suitable venue.

I can be reached at conceitedjerk@AAARGH!!!, and if you'd rather not deal with me,
Munchkinguy can be reached at munchkinguy@AAARGH!!!  (Remove the guttural screams from our email addresses to reply)

Also, if you have a blog of your own, please help spread the word to any other NW members.  Once we nail down the details, we'll probably start a Facebook page for the event.

See Also: Anybody Want a Peanut

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Goodbye, New Winnipeg

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

So, after eleven years, the New Winnipeg community is gone.  Dead.  Bereft of life.

I joined the forum sometime between 2006-07 (under my longtime handle "conceitedjerk") to nurture my burgeoning interest in urbanism and rapid transit, and to learn.  From the first moment, I was hooked.

At the time, the majority of my online discussions took place on the Usenet, which was like living in the Wild West... no central authority, general lawlessness, and prone to breaking out in shooting matches.

New Winnipeg was different... somewhat.  Sure, there were disagreements (and heated exchanges), but unlike the Usenet, there was a central authority... the moderators.  At New Winnipeg, the shooting matches were more like civilised duels, a gentlemanly pistols at dawn: the "Walk ten paces - turn - and fire"  variety as opposed to the "Draw, pard'ner" variety of the Usenet.

As a former sysop of a BBS, I knew that the moderators had a thankless task... maintaining order while still allowing free reign of ideas, flow of discussion, and freedom of speech.  Not an easy thing to do when discussing some of the most contentious issues facing the city (or country, or world).

Some of these issues were especially contentious, such as Rapid Transit (buses vs cars vs busways vs light rail vs subway), Cycling (drivers vs good cyclists vs bad cyclists vs pedestrians), Crime, Aboriginal issues, and most contentious of all... Winnipeg's North End.

There was never a shortage of opinion (good, bad, uninformed, or just plain fucked up) on any subject, and the mods did their best to keep us playing nice.  Sometimes, however, the best isn't good enough.
A few years ago, and event occurred which I've referred to as The Schism.

A discussion got particularily heated.  Words got ugly, names were called, feelings got hurt, mods got involved... the original discussion was forgotten, accusations were levelled at the forum's proprietor and his alleged multiple personalities, words got uglier, resulting in one of the more prolific (and popular) members receiving a ban from the forum.

As a result, a number of forum members went on "strike" in support of the banned member, and ultimately wound up starting their own forum... first on Google Groups, then onto a dedicated webforum called The Winnipeg Sandbox.

The number of people who left New Winnipeg to join the Sandbox (myself included) was small... but this small minority happened to be comprised of New Winnipeg's most prolific posters.

New Winnipeg weathered the storm for the most part, switching to a new forum software (phpBB) and loosening up the rules a bit more... but it was never really the same.  People left, mods moved on or quit, and the relative torrent of posts from pre-Schism days had been reduced to a small stream at best, a trickle at worst.

Now, this downturn can't be attributed to the Schism completely... far from it.  A number of forum members (and former members) shifted their focus to their own projects... many of us had our own blogs, some of us had regular columns/op-eds in real print media, and some even started radio shows.  Many of the people in my blogroll were members of New Winnipeg at some point.

New Winnipeg limped along for a couple of years until it was finally shut down, a shadow of its former self.

I'm a bit sad to see New Winnipeg go.

I interacted with a number of people on the forum over the years, some of whom would end up being some of my closest friends... friends with whom I interact outside of the Internet!  GASP! In real life and everything!

It was through New Winnipeg that I had some of the best moments of my life:

Being an Official Witness to The World's Longest Skating Chain (started by a discussion on NW)

Sharing a pizza downtown with a prominent local politician

Getting into a scrap with a guy downtown, only to find out two days later that it was one of my fellow NW members whom I respected.  We had a good laugh over that one! (apparently I fight dirty)

Being courted by no less than four media organizations (some big, some small) to write material for them.  (amounted to little - the money they offered sucked)

Having coffee with an up-and-coming Winnipeg musician who read my posts on NW and subsequently my blog.

And best of all, attending the New Winnipeg meet-ups and putting faces (and real names) to screen names.

My favourite was the (pre-Schism) meetup at Assiniboine Park!

It's too bad I missed the last meetup at the Tavern United a month or so ago... which turned out to be the LAST meetup ever.

Anyway, that's enough sentimentality for one morning.

Thank you to Alex Reid for starting New Winnipeg, the mods (past and present) for keeping it running, and all the posters who kept it interesting and entertaining.

And thanks to Grumpy Old Man, the former NW poster who started the Sandbox as an alternative to New Winnipeg.  Hopefully now we can see a Reformation of sorts...

I'd like to invite any and all former New Winnipeg members and staff to share their favourite and/or most memorable New Winnipeg moments in the comments field below.  I moderate all the comments, so keep it civil, eh?

see also: Old Chum

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baby names, or how to ensure your kids will need therapy later on in life.

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

As most of you know, Jillian and I are getting married next year.

Being the sort of people we are, we're already picking baby names for when the time comes... and being Catholic, we likely won't be stopping at one or two kids.

While picking names for the first four, I related an earlier story to Jill about a similar situation from a previous relationship...

About a decade ago, around the time I bought my house, my girlfriend at the time told me she was "possibly pregnant".

My reaction was an excited "Cool!  Let's pick out names!" (when it should have been "Are you sure?" and "Is it mine?", but that's another story).

It caught her off-guard at first, but she soon got into the spirit of the occasion.  She suggested a few names of a style that was en vogue (made-up Afro-American sounding names) which I immediately shot down.  I suggested a few, named after my favourite writers.

CJ: I'd love to have a son named Orwell Machiavelli!
FB: Orwell Machiavelli?
CJ: Yeah, it just screams intrigue and guile!
FB: I don't think I'd want my child known for inspiring intrigue and guile.
CJ: Well, neither did my parents at first...
FB: I like TeShawn.  It sounds nice.
CJ: Why?  We're not (black)!
FB: Hmph! Well, how about something Biblical? Like...
CJ (interrupting): Yeah, like Goliath Samson!
FB: Goliath Samson?!
CJ: Yeah!  And if it's a boy, I want to call him Lucifer Azrael!
FB (horrified): Oh my God!  You would call our daughter Goliath Samson?
CJ: Well, if she inherits your looks...
FB: Hey!
CJ: (laughs uncontrollably)
The rest of the conversation is largely unrepeatable.

So, while I'd still like to have a child named Orwell Machiavelli or Goliath Samson, I somehow doubt Jill would even entertain the idea.  We spent the better part of an evening talking about baby names, and this is what we came up with:

For boys, we liked "Shaun Ethan" (named for me and my cat), and "Raymond Lennon" (named after my dad and John Lennon).  I briefly entertained the idea of changing it to Lenin, but I didn't think it'd go over well...

For girls, we liked "Rachel Leah" (after a young girl at Jillian's work who passed away), and Siobhan Aisling (pronounced ShiVONN AshLEEN) 'cause it sounds like a good Irish name (me being part Northern Irish).

We've batted a few more names around as well, such as Padraig, Sarah, Judith, Bastian (after Bastian Schweinsteiger), et cetera, but we'll worry about that when the time comes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Introducing: Mobile CJ!

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Remember this from last week?

Those of you with the ability to read QR codes may already know, but for those of you who don't, Conceited Jerk Dot Com now has a mobile version entitled Mobile CJ!

As part of my site's upcoming Tenth Anniversary (and because I was bored), I added a mobile portion to the mess that is my site.  It will feature completely new content that will be completely separate from the main site.  Chances are, it'll be designed, updated, and maintained on my Palm Treo 650 smartphone as an experiment in mobile web design (unlike the main site, which is updated and maintained by whichever computer is on my desk at the moment).

I'd been pissing around with Amaya on my Linux box, trying to design a mobile template that would be the essence of the mobile site... something sleek and modern looking, yet wholly functional.  I've been visiting other mobile sites on my Treo, looking for ideas I could steal adopt, and I even turned to my usual design/architecture/art magazines for some sort of inspiration.

I came up with a few interesting ideas, but the end products were largely uninspiring.   After wracking my brain for a couple of hours, I suddenly remembered something I'd said on Twitter at random this morning...

"I have a strong urge to design something using a seriously unsound design philosophy. More fun that way."

It hit me like the proverbial tonne of bricks...I did something back in '02 that was probably one of the most spontaneously dumb things I've ever done... I grabbed a sheet of looseleaf and drew a title/menu page for my site, scanned it, image-mapped it, and threw it onto the web as my Anti-Webpage, in defiance of the millions of sites online that put eye-candy ahead of content.  It still gets comments to this day!

Based on that success (such as it was), I opted to retool the concept for the mobile web.  Since my target audience would be mobile users, the page would have to be formatted for small screens.  It wouldn't do to use a sheet of looseleaf for the design... no, I'd go with something more appropriate:  I grabbed one of the multitude of little 2.5" X 4" coil notepads people keep giving me, tore a page out, grabbed a pen, and went to town.

What the Hell, it worked once!

I opted for pictorial menu selections instead of plain ol' words in the margin this time.  Hopefully it's a bit more user-friendly.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We can rebuild him...we have the technology

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

We had a Hell of a scare on Friday.

My 13-year old cat, Ethin, was lethargic.  Now, Ethin isn't the most active cat to begin with (I swear, your average sloth is more mobile), but something was different with the way he was just lazing around.  He seemed off.

Then I noticed that he wasn't eating.

If you've ever met Ethin, you'll know this is very unlike him.  He will eat anything that even looks remotely edible (including, at one point, the quarter-round near his food dish) and come back for more.

I tried throughout the day to get him to eat, but he wouldn't eat much more than a few nibbles of dry food.  We gave him his insulin at his regular time, and checked him a few hours later.  His blood sugar was still pretty high, but not horribly so.

I told myself I'd get him to the vet first thing in the morning.

That changed pretty fast.

About an hour after taking his Insulin, Ethin started gagging.  He projectile vomited (probably a good three feet!) all over the living room carpet, then collapsed.  I rushed to pick him up, and the smell hit me... his vomit literally smelled like shit!

Now, it doesn't take a genius to know this is not a good sign, so I grabbed the phone book to find a vet (other than Pembina Animal Hospital) that was open at this hour (9pm).

I noticed Southglen Animal Hospital was open until midnight, and that they have NO emergency fee!
I called them up, they said they could squeeze Ethin in, so Jill and I fought to get Ethin into his carrier, then made the trip across town.

It was a good thing we went when we did.

The vet examined Ethin, and found that his blood sugar was pretty high.  She recommended doing bloodwork on him, and we agreed.  One Tim Hortons run later, we returned.  The vet told us that his blood sugars were high, his ketones were through the roof, and his potassium levels were rock bottom.  He was fighting off a severe infection (Ketonic Acetosis), and he'd need to be kept overnight and put on an IV to get his levels back to normal.

The vet called Saturday morning to say he was improving a bit, but his blood sugar was still really high, and he was still expelling ketones.  They wanted to keep him another day to monitor him.  We agreed.
Sunday morning, the vet called again, saying while he was doing much better, Ethin still wasn't quite ready to leave.  We were invited to come visit him, and we jumped at the chance.

Ethin was very happy to see us, and seemed as though he really wanted to get out of there.
We spoke to the vet, and he detailed everything they'd done, and what they were watching.  Ethin hadn't been expelling ketones in his urine since Saturday night, but they wanted to keep him one more night just to make sure his sugars were at an acceptable level.

We agreed, and he gave us a cost estimate.  It was very reasonable given the nature of his illness and the quality of care Ethin received.

Monday evening, after spending the day playing phone tag with the vet and my bank, Ethin was home and happy... much to the delight of the other felines in our house, who missed him terribly.  Ditto his adoptive parents.

Ethin is largely back to his old self.

Jillian and I would like to thank Drs. Sra, Bhandari, and Tait of Southglen Animal Hospital for the excellent care they gave Ethin, and for their positive, professional attitudes throughout.

We'd also like to thank our family and friends for their love, support (emotional and financial), and prayers during Ethin's ordeal.  Thank you.

Ethin's nickname has been "The Six-Million Dollar Cat" for a number of years.

He's a survivor.  Despite his docile, lethargic, and sweet personality, he's very tough.  In his thirteen years, he's suffered urinary tract infections,  kidney and liver problems, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (enlarging of the heart), chronic clinical constipation, rapid changes in weight (from 26 lbs to 9lbs, now stable at 13lbs), and, in the last few years, diabetes.

He's been written off by others, given slim chance after slim chance by previous veterinarians, but he always seems to pull through.

It hasn't always been easy, and has left me in debt on occasion (another reason I call him "Six-Million Dollar Cat"!), but as far as I'm concerned, he's worth it.  If there's even a slim hope of survival, Ethin (and our other cats) will get the best care he can get.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Never Let Your Magazine Run Dry

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

If there's one thing I love, it's print media.

And among the various forms of print media, magazines are my special passion (and not necessarily the kind with centerfolds!). So much so, that I have bought my weight (210#) in magazines some months.

I have a wide variety of interests, and it's not uncommon to see magazines on my coffee table spanning such diverse subjects as radio & communications, architecture & design, urbanism, computers, business, men's fashion, and current events.  It's fairly common to see foreign (language) magazines in the mix as well.

Being somewhat of a self-starter/DIY kinda guy, I have a special place in my heart for 'zines and independently-produced magazines.  A few years ago, while doing a quick Google search for distributors of independent 'zines (domestic and international), I came across Colophon.

Despite never being able to get to Luxembourg to visit (let alone attend the bi-annual Colophon symposium), I have contented myself with their online database of magazines (print, PDF, and... blog).  There is a veritable treasure-trove of magazines, some good, some... not.

Some of my favourites include new type/art/design mag Gratuitous Type,  Aussie design mag DQ, German-language UrbanSpacemag, and a plethora of magazines that didn't seem to last longer than a couple of issues.

Quality ranges from slick, polished glossies to things that look like they were scribbled with Crayolas.  
Have a quick look at their database, there's bound to be something you'll like.

Now, I told you all that so I could tell you this.

My original career choice (when I graduated in '91) was to be a commercial artist and layout designer/paste-up editor, but those plans fell through when Red River Community College (as it was then known) cancelled their Graphic Arts course that year.  The world had changed, and Desktop Publishing had become all the rage.  Not wanting to wait a year or so while the course was revamped or retooled (and under pressure to "go to school"), I opted to make a career out of my "other" interest, computers.

As a side note, my computer career (a tech support lackey for a major computer manufacturer) lasted all of 105 minutes.  After the fourth call, I asked my supervisor if all our callers were this stupid.  When she replied in the affirmative, I said my goodbyes.

I never truly gave up on my dream, however.  I have been an irregular contributor to a few magazines (print and... otherwise) since the mid-90s.  My most recent articles appeared in the first and last issues of computer hobbyist zine 300 Baud, and have had a few dozen articles appear elsewhere in a few other (also now defunct) publications as well.

I started Conceited Jerk Dot Com (originally titled "Welcome to the Darkest Corners of my Mind") as a move into the realm of digital publishing.  To that end, it's been an abject failure on the design front, something I am hoping to alleviate shortly...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good Lord, has it been THAT long?!

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Conceited Jerk Dot Com is approaching its tenth anniversary.

I'm shocked, too.  It means I've been posting this drivel for a bloody decade!

The site has had its ups-and-downs, extended periods of inactivity, a three-year hiatus while I shifted focus to Web 2.0, and a longer (concurrent) period where I just didn't give a shit.

But through it all, I've kept it going.  Largely out of sheer stubbornness, but also because I do (on rare occasions) have something meaningful to share.

On that note, I'm planning on doing something for the site's Tenth Anniversary on January 28th, 2012.  I have a few ideas of what I'd like to do (such as an updated version of my title page, which I've already redesigned for contemporary monitors!), but I'd also like to hear a few (realistic) suggestions from my friends, readers, and hangers-on... apart from suggestions such as "posting regularily", "coherent content", "sexy photos", and "shutting up/down completely", that is...

Drop me a line in person (Cherenkov, we gotta go for a beer!), in private, via email, via social media, or even here in the comments section.

Click here to see the site's humble 2002 beginnings!

Friday, May 6, 2011

"Don't Mess With Me, I Watch Ultimate Fighting!", and Alas, Poor Biebs...

(migrated from my Tripod blog on 11/05/2011)

Jillian and I were walking through our local mall yesterday afternoon, grabbing a few essentials for the week, when we saw the funniest thing we'd seen in some time.  A surly looking, heavily-tattooed fat man swagger-waddled out of the local mixed  martial arts fanshop, chest puffed out and glowering at passersby.

I  walked by him with a bemused smile on my face, which caused the man to  sneer a sneer that I swear said "I'm the toughest man in the mall,  because I shop at the local MMA fanboy shop!", and the equally-toned look he shot us was priceless.  At which point I burst out laughing.
The guy shot me another look, but otherwise just kept walking.

I'd  largely put the encounter out of my head.  But for some reason, it was  all I could think about during the commute this morning.

I have no idea why it amused me as much as it did.  I mean, as someone who studied martial arts (Kendo), I know the sheer amount of work and training these MMA fighters do, and the discipline they have. The very notion that this guy could be transformed from lardass to badass simply by wearing a Tapout shirt  and sweatpants is laugable...

Speaking of discipline, I realized how out of shape I really am.

About a month ago, I bought a call bell for our front counter at work.  Experience told me I should affix a sticker that read "Please ring bell ONCE for service", otherwise we'd have idiots hitting it a few dozen times to announce their presence.

With that in mind, I also made up a sign that read "Prices increase 5% with each additional ring" and slipped it under the bell.

It has worked so far, at least as far as our customers are concerned.  Staff, on the other hand...

One of our counter guys has a habit of ringing the damned thing and encourages others to do so as well, knowing how much it annoys us.  Today, it was our youngest member of staff's turn.

The lad, an 18 year old whom we'll call "Biebs", decided he wanted in on the joke.  After the first ring, I got up from my chair, walked out of my office and into the counter sales area, and saw Biebs giggling like a schoolgirl.

"Time to have me some fun," I thought...

"Biebs, we love ya and all that," I began my warning, "but if you ring that fucking bell again, I'm gonna stuff it into one of your smaller orifices!"

He reacted in mock horror, and I turned around to walk away, waiting to hear the bell.

Biebs didn't disappoint...  He rang the bell like an angry telegrapher on speed.

I ran over to the counter, grabbed the bell in my palm, and proceeded to chase the lad around the showroom.

Biebs was quick... a little too quick for 38 year-old CJ, so I figured I'd draw him into MY game.

After our first lap, I half-pretended to be out of breath.  Pulling a loonie from my pocket, I walked over to the vending machine to grab a Coke, as though I were signaling my defeat.

Our fellow coworkers (who'd put Biebs up to it and egged him on) laughed and started razzing me.  I smiled... all part of my plan.

Right on cue, Biebs ran over to me and smacked me upside the head.

"I'm younger and faster!" he giggled.  The guys all roared with laughter.

Obviously, young Biebs has never seen Fried Green Tomatoes.

As he trotted away, I bent down, grabbed the ends of the floormat he was running on, and pulled.

Poor Biebs went flying, landing on his face.

"Face it, kid," I mocked, "I'm older and have seen better cartoons!"

 At which point, the guys nearly all fell over laughing.  The boss, who was coming out to tell us to knock it off, bust a gut when he saw what had happened.

So, today Biebs learned a lesson about Tom and Jerry, and not to screw with people older, wiser, meaner, and better versed in cartoon hijinks than himself.