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.