Saturday, July 28, 2007

The dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Yesterday Ted said the dumbest thing I've ever heard come out of someone's mouth. What made it even dumber was that he heard this on CFRA, who apparently were presenting this "theory" as actual news, or as an actual possibility. He has got to stop listening to that right-wing nonsense. Ted is our morning traffic guy, and a guy who fills in on lots of shifts around the station. Everyone is on vacation next week with the exception of Robin Harper, Carly and myself, so you will hear Ted on in the evenings during Robin's shift, between 6 and midnight. Call in and tell him he's an idiot. Ted is one of those blowhards who likes to rage against the dirty hippies and their Global Warming conspiracy. He still tries to be environmental, but he sure hates the Al Gores of the world.

So yesterday we're talking about the Global Warming...why am I capitalizing that? I dunno. Anyway, he says that so much has been made about the scientists who have disproved global warming and their connections to oul companies and car companies and so forth. But what about the scientists who have proved global warming? Couldn't they be under the thumb of the powerful environmental lobby? Who's paying them off to say climate change exists! No one talks about this! There is so much money to be made in windmills and solar power, THOSE people are probably putting on the pressure to create a panic over climate change! Which is FAKE!

This might be the dumbest thing anyone has ever said to me. What? Sure, the Big Oil lobby in Washington and on Parliament Hill is influential, that's a given. But what about that insidious solar panel lobby? The deceptively strong windmill manufacturers? What kind of deceitful schemes are they running against the population at large? This might be the dumbest thing anyone has ever said, not just to me, but ever. In histry. Next to "that Adolf might be a decent president". Good lord! Do these idiots really believe that some guy building windmills in his basement has the kind of money to influence government proceedings? That the guy with the solar panel factory in his garage can wield sinister power over the House of Commons and the Senates? Good lord, the world is insane! So is Ted. Call and yell at him.

Kids these days...

Not only is it an excruciating task to walk seven hundred yards to school, but school is rough. First of all, school has no video games, and you might have to actually read. I took my girlfriend's mother and her 12-year-old to a campsite near Renfrew last week. And by campsite, I mean cottage with all the amenities. Electricity, running water, indoor plumbing...and so forth. When we got up there, there was a crisis! First of all, the TV got but four channels! And one was French! Secondly, the TV was SO old, that there was nowhere to plug in the video game system! I had to stop and stare. You brought your video games? For a one-week cottage holiday? Video games.

Yes, apparently, this week was all about "relaxation", and nothing is more relaxing than video games. And he HAD brought one book, he explained. I was curious as to how this differed from the routine he would have had were he at home. Well, he explained, this way I have to help cook meals, and I can go outside when I want to. You can help cook meals and go outside when you're at home, I said. In fact, I try to force you outside as often as possible, and I'd love it if you would make your own sandwich once in a while. Mmmm. But this was near water. OK fine. I suggested that I had several books in my car - Sophie's World, The Color Purple, a biography of Bo Belinnsky, and Felix Holt the Radical. I thought he might like to read Sophie's World or the Belinsky book (I wouldn't wish the other two on a twelve-year-old), but I was shouted down. Mostly by his grandma, who I guess thought Sophie's World might fill his head with unholy anti-Christian beliefs. Or something. So I was sent (by both of them, mind you) into Renfrew to purchase an adaptor that would allow a modern video game to be plugged into an ancient TV.

Had I been unable to find a Circuit City fairly quickly, I had a very real intention of hitting up a bookstore and coming back with an armload of reading material for a twelve-year-old for a week's time. But I found a Circuit City. So sixty dollars later, I return to the cottage, and there was much rejoicing. Not only had I delivered the video game system, but in the time I had been away, they discovered that one of the four channels on the TV was CTV, and Grandma would not miss her Canadian Idol. I tell you, camping isn't camping without Farley Flex, Sass Jordan and some karaoke.

I just returned home from picking them up today. As it turns out, they had barely touched the video game system at all. Although I was irritated that I had wasted sixty bucks, I was pleased that they hadn't spent the whole weekend playing Game Cube. Then I found out the reason was that the kid had been more involved with his Game Boy Advance, which is a hand-held video game system that runs on batteries. He had played this for SEVEN DAYS. What? I went to get a machine so that...ah, forget it. He had waded into the water up to his mid-thing, one time, and had discovered there were weeds out there. So he didn't go in again. He tried to read outside with Grandma for six minutes one day, but discovered he didn't really like the outdoors. He skipped stones for twenty minutes. That twenty minutes happened to be the exact time when I was there and the car was being loaded. Which meant the video game systems were packed up, and what was left to do? Well, skip stones. It's better than lifting stuff, I guess.

In the end, he and Grandma had played four games of crib, one game of something called Payday, lots of cards, and twenty games of Nintendo golf. He had read eight pages in his book, and he had beaten thrity-seven different Game Boy games. (Which means he believes he now needs thirty-seven new ones, since the old ones are now obsolete.) No dice. The thing is, he really is a fantastic kid. Easy-going, friendly, polite, smart and gets good grades. And it certainly isn't my place to force well-roundedness upon him. And he has recently taken up golf, which means I can finally do something with him that doesn't enrage me. Well, it does enrage me, but not the same way video games do. But God...a weekend full of Payday games and Nintendo - how very suburban in a country setting.

A rat done bit my sister Nell...and whitey's on the moon...

I think Gil Scott Heron said it best. I can't pay my doctor bills, but whitey's on the moon. The man raised my rent last year, because whitey's on the moon. In 1969, it seems that the sight of that American flag flying on the moon was such a momentous, inspirational, unifying sight, that everyone in the world were so wrapped up in how it was done that no one really questioned why it was done. If the government was spending billions of dollars on NASA so that astronauts could put a flag on the moon, was that really more important than fixing health care or improving standards of living? I really don't know, maybe it was. It was a decade before I was born. I really don't know.

But it seems to me that in the intervening years, the relevance and importance of NASA and space programs around the world has diminished considerably. What purpose is now served by sending astronauts into space? A billion dollars is spent, a shuttle goes up, and we find out if hamsters are more likely to drink Jack Daniels when they're weightless? I mean, what do they really do when they're up there? But the real indicator of the uselessness and wastefulness of the space program is the astronauts themselves. A story on Friday said that many astronauts have gone up into space drunk. How important can their work be if they go in drunk? Air traffic controllers, 911 operators, physiscists at particle accelerators, nuclear safety inspectors and astronauts. These are just some of the people we expect not to show up for work in the bag. They're work seems rather important, fairly dangerous, and complex. But...I guess not. Perhaps all the astronauts do now is sit back, push a button, and go.

Can you imagine puking in space? Hiding from a floating cloud of chunks for the weeks and months you are up there? Gross. But not as gross as the astronaut who put on a diaper and a disguise and drove hundreds of miles in order to attack a romantic rival. So, NASA now hires drunks AND lunatics. Super. I think I'll send my propert tax cheque...air mail special...to whitey on the moon.

At least we're not Americans...

Randall's last comment before the guys went on vacation was about this Champagne guy who managed to take ridiculous sums of money out of DND and made off with it. No one seemed to question the fact that he was making 60 grand a year, and building a 2-million dollar mansion. Private jets, homes in the tropics...no alarm bells or red flags go up. This in itself is staggering. If I showed up tomorrow at work in a Bentley, questions would be raised. I would be asked if I had begun drug dealing on the side, or if I had murdered an old lady for her inheritance. Come to think of it, they would question me if I showed up on a new bicycle - I don't make a lot of money!

But this isn't what bothers me about the whole thing. The thing that really sticks out for me is that Champagne didn't think he did anything wrong. He was saving the government a ton of money, and he figured those savings should be parcelled out to him as well. And were he in a private company, he would not necessarily be wrong. Companies DO reward this kind of management. And if he were doing the same job in, say, the States, it is entirely possible that he WOULD have been financially rewarded to the extent that he decided to reward himself. Had he been doing that job, there is a chance he would not have been a government employee at all. He may have been employed by Haliburton, and would have been in line for all those corporate bonuses.

This is why it's great to be Canadian. Not so much because a guy like Champagne is being punished, but because he works for the government, and as such, is subject to different regulations. In an ideal world, companies would be accountable on the same level as the government is here. Yes, the government is slow. Yes, they should have noticed this guy doing his thing several years earlier. But at least once they caught him, they were able to do something about it.

Food for thought...

Avril Lavigne's name, loosely translated from French into English, is April Wine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Golfing and beer. And babes and beer.

Tiffany's day was almost over. She was hopping down off the trampoline, her super-soaker empty and her shirt drenched. Arielle, on the other trampoline, was almost out of ammunition, at which point her day would be over as well. Tiffany is the newest member of our intern rock army, and this was her first Doc and Woody tournament. She turned to me as we walked back to the clubhouse at the Canadian.
"I lost something today", she said.
"Really? Cellphone?" was my reply.
"No, my self-respect."
"Welcome to the club." was my clever response.

The Doc and Woody tournament is glorious. It celebrates all that is politically incorrect, as well as everything that is laudable and virtuous. It has taken, at times permanently, the self-respect of some otherwise admirable young girls. It has taken, at times, my own self-respect, as I dress up in lingerie and perform lap dances for Mark Seabrooke. And it has given, year-in and year-out, a massive amount of money to the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, so that kids can get quality medical care. This is the dichotomy we live daily, the raison d'etre coupled with the savoir faire. And this year was no exception.

Banality and chaos reigned supreme, as the Carleton University cheerleaders provided the entertainment, the Garlic King provided the crazy, and the Canadian Golf and Country Club provided the golf. Having signed up and grabbed our carts, we were sent off with a cheer from the cheerleaders, pyramids and lifts and flips and all. They would meet us again at various holes, which was certainly a highlight. The guy cheerleaders must be strong, as they managed to get me up in the air for one of those lifts they perform so effortlessly with the 90-pound girls. The cart girls had a wonderful day, raking in the tips by the hundreds. Tina was a big hit. The boss's daughter, wearing some clothes about which I don't know if Dad approves. On the one hand, his revenues are increasing. On the other hand, his daughter is eye candy. Cassandra did very well too, with the bubbly personality and the mega-watt smile. Cassandra is actually an old friend of mine, the girl who got me started smoking many years ago. I complained to her bitterly about this all day, and tipped her very poorly.

I played abysmally, but I was carried by our sales team. Bruce and Greg are both better golfers than I am, and Al Jones, a former sales rep of ours, is quite good. I would hit the green on a par 3, feel really good about myself, and he would put his ten feet closer every time. This is why I hate best-ball tournaments. But none of it mattered, since there is no prize for actually winning the Doc and Woody tournament. At dinner, things went fast - silent auction, live auction, speech from CHEO's Kevin Keohane (who apparently did the same thing to Doc on the course - always slightly better), and we're done. I stuck around for a while, then called my girlfriend for a ride home. I said "I'm very tired, and I need to come home as soon as possible". She said "I will pick you up when I'm finished watching Hell's Kitchen". I sat by the front gate and cried until she showed up.

I am not blaming her for my illness the following day. It was entirely my fault. I had eaten two steaks for breakfast, three hamburgers for lunch, several sandwiches on the course and three helpings of ribs and chicken and beans for dinner. That, coupled with the heat, the late night, and of course the beer, conspired to come close to killing me the next day. I made it in to work, but I was so sick I could not even conceive of staying. Jen had driven me in, and she was adamant about waiting outside and forcing me to go home rather than trying to tough my way through the day. She really is looking out for my best interests. When Hell's Kitchen isn't on.

Of course, the guys said I was hungover. Fact is, I was truly sick. But the mocking of me all morning did the damage. I left the house at 6 last night to go grab some medicine and gingerale. The guy doing siding outside my house, Dependable Drew and his new siding, said "hey, are you really sick? You were just hungover, I heard it on the radio." This is what I get for abusing my body, I suppose.

Speaking of cage fighting...

I got an email this morning from a somewhat irate listener, who believed I had been downplaying Michael Vick's indictment on dog-fighting charges. I would like to state that this is not the case. I am against dog fighting. I find it barbaric and awful. I was merely stating that I like watching animals fight. Just this morning, I witnessed a crazy raccoon fight in my backyard at 2 a.m. There were four of them, scratching and biting each other. I thought it was pretty cool. Then I got worried, because I didn't want to see one of them die. Then I would have to get out the shovel, and deposit the carcass in a neighbour's yard, and that seemed like a lot of work...I also didn't want to see my dog, Muffin, the toy poodle, fight a raccoon. She wanted to go outside to urinate, and I said no. I let her pee in the house. She is too dumb to realize she can't chase away a raccoon, and she is too small not to be killed by one. I am against this.

The email went on to say that we were suggesting dog fighting wasn't so bad, simply because Michael Vick was a superstar and we wanted to see him continue to play. I disagree there as well. I think the only reason we're hearing about this is that Michael Vick IS a very big name. Does anyone who isn't a football fan know the name of Chris Henry? Pacman Jones? Rae Carruth? Rae Carruth was a Carolina Panthers receiver who was tried and convicted of murdering his pregnant girlfriend and unborn child. Chris Henry has been arrested for drunk driving, drug possession, driving without insurance, sex crimes, providing alcohol to minors, drunk driving, parole violation, assault, drunk driving, and more drug possession. He is serving an eight-game suspension, not because of his legal troubles, but because he violated the NFL's substance abuse policy twice. Pacman Jones is serving a one-year suspension after being arrested for assault, felony vandalism, breach of probation, public intoxication, misdemeanor assault (spitting in a woman's face - again), DUI, and two separate strip club shootings and attempted murders.

But not too many people know their names. They know Michael Vick, who certainly knew dog fighting was going on, and certainly participated in it, whether financially or otherwise. I believe this guy, much like most of the other sports superstars who end up with legal troubles (Ray Lewis, specifically) was hung out to dry by his friends. These guys have to know better. They have to think they're under a microscope at all times, and they ought to be smarter than they are. But I really don't think Vick was the ringleader, as many stories in the news have made him out to be. Many other stories have shown that he was merely a guy who told his buddies yeah, go ahead and use my place. I'm not there much anyway. Stupid, and certainly an unpleasant thing to be involved with, but not evil on the level of Rae Carruth.

The other point I was making is that if it weren't dogs, people wouldn't care half as much. We know dogs, we own dogs, and we couldn't conceive of them fighting to the death. I really like my dog, no matter how much I complain about her, and I couldn't imagine putting her in the ring for a fight to the death. Although, for that to be fair, she'd have to fight a chipmunk. I think the way to get away with things like this (not that it's any less despicable) is to use animals that are not dogs. Or move to a country where cockfighting is legal, and bullfighting is not only legal, it is glamourized! So, if you want to do it in North America, don't use dogs. Train some badgers, or some squirrels. No one would come after you, they would just think "that's weird" and move on.

As I continue to watch shark week, I realize I like fights in nature. There is nothing funnier to me than a couple of giant, fat, weird-looking elephant seals bashing each other over some female elephant seal, perhaps the ugliest trophy wife in all of nature. The loser limps away, the victor swims out into the sea to savour his victory and prepare for the female. And then he is eaten by a Great White. Hilarious!

Ages and ages of cages and cages.

I once swam with sharks on the Doc and Woody show. There was a shark tank that CHEZ was sponsoring at the Ex, and I got to go into it with some 9-10 foot nurse sharks and some 7-8 foot lemon sharks. The guy asked me if I wanted a cage or not. I said is there a difference, he said no. So I said no cage. But the manager of the Ex was uncomfortable with that idea, so they put the "cage" in. I felt safe. I was behind a cage. So I went underwater for a while, and gained some confidence, and reached through the bars to touch the sharks as they swam by. Unbeknownst to me, the guy who ran the shark tank was yelling at me. I was underwater - I couldn't hear anything. Apparently, I found out later, he was yelling "don't touch the grey ones! For the love of God, not the grey ones!" I couldn't hear. I stood up, pleased with myself, and was dragged out by the armpits very fast.

I went outside to look at the sharks. The "cage" was still in there. They had not moved it since I got out. I watched the sharks continue to swim around. They were turning around where the cage was, and then...they swam through the cage. Right through it, like it wasn't there! In point of fact, the cage was not built to stop the sharks. In point of fact, it was not even there to deter the sharks, it was there simply to give me more confidence and prevent me from soiling myself. Apparently, no one knows what kind of behaviour lemon sharks may exhibit if someone soils themselves in the water. Either way, I wasn't frightened, because this guy who was there with me does this every day. He wouldn't let me go in there if it wasn't safe, right? In the open ocean, however, I don't think I would do this without a cage.

I just grabbed the Discovery Channel's 20th anniversary Shark Week DVD box set, and I'm watching all this cool stuff - especially the Air Jaws segments, where the sharks in South Africa go completely airborne to snag a seal or two. In every episode of Shark Week documentaries, there is someone who goes into the water without a cage. This person usually gets bitten. I would use a cage. It IS the open ocean, and they ARE sharks. And then there are a few people who go down in actual cages, like Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws. And it suddenly occurred to me - there is something really cool sounding about the term "cage diver". In fact, "cage" anything sounds awesome!

A "cage diver" is bad-ass, because that cage is all that protects him from the fury of the man-eating shark! He's not some sissy Olympic diver, he's a CAGE diver! The cage fighter - also bad-ass. The term "cage fighter" is very descriptive. This time, the cage is there not to protect him from stuff, it's there to protect YOU from HIM. The "cage fighter" is a man whose violent fury cannot be contained, and if he was allowed to fight in the open, he would take out the first four rows simply because of his muscular build and sociopathic nature. He's not some sissy Ultimate fighter, he's a CAGE fighter! How about "cage dancers"? This time, the cage exists because this woman is too much sexy to be let loose in the establishment. She needs to be caged up so that pandemonium does not ensue. The cage also serves to protect her from the clients, who may be so overcome with the wild, crazy, caged heat, that they will attempt to get to her by any means necessary. Strippers? Please. They're cute. A CAGE dancer - that's smoldering!

So...I've decided that when I finally drop the "intern" tag, I will be known as Eric the Cage DJ. That way, I can be either terrifyingly dangerous, or disturbingly sexy, depending on the need!

Monday, July 23, 2007

The managerial ball gag and the self-evaluation Ben-Wa balls

Two more coporate aids for your next sales presentation:

The Self-Evaluation Ben-Wa Balls:
Sometimes you will be asked by your company to complete a self-evaluation questionnaire. You may ask yourself, "why would I evaluate myself? What purpose could this serve? If I am not doing well, someone comes by to tell me about it - shouldn't that person evaluate me instead?" And of course you are right. There is no actual "evaluation" purpose that is served here. What you are doing, instead, is some busy-work to ensure that you are continually flexing your office-task muscles. The theory being that if you are constantly practising your internet skills, your HR tasks, and other such minutiae, when the time comes to actually put these skills into practice for a legitimate reason, you are already powerful enough to contract your office-task muscles and complete the job that has been assigned to you. If you are not sure what Ben-Wa balls are, I suggest a google search. But don't do it at work, or you may be the unlucky recipient of a corporate donkey punch.

The Corporate Donkey Punch:
I know, I have used the word "corporate" twice. This is because the corporate donkey punch comes in conjunction with the corporate strap-on more often than not. You see, sometimes merely feeding you the business end of the strap-on is not enough for your employer. They must also add insult to injury. They have already come up with a paper-thin corporate excuse as to why they can't pay you what they know you deserve. This is the insertion of the strap-on. Then they say that they are worried about having to cut back in some areas, you know, let people go, but they want to keep YOU around. you are a good employee, you see. Just to be on the safe side, you will have more duties and fill other holes in the company. They phrase it as though you are getting a promotion, when really you are doing twice as much work. Without a raise. This is the donkey punch to the back of the head. Again, look it up on google.

The Managerial Ball Gag:
From time to time, you may be offered an actual promotion. Sometimes this seems like a good idea. However, it is another way to keep you subservient under the corporate umbrella. I once became "management" at a company. This meant a raise of thirty cents an hour, and I would be in charge of the other, "lesser" employees. At least, that's what they said. As it turns out, I DID get a thirty cent raise. But the real reason to make me management was that as a regular employee, I was one of the smarter ones, and I could see many instances of unfair or immoral business practices in this company. As management, I thought I could maybe have an effect on these practices. Not so. what it really meant was that I was no longer part of the union, and as such, had no one with whom I could file a grievance, either on my own behalf, or on the behalf of others. It also meant that I was no longer eligible for yearly pay raises, as were the unionized employees. So my thirty cent raise would remain unchanged - I would get 9 dollars an hour - for the rest of my life. Not only was I silenced in matters of morality, but I was also crammed into a position where I was stuck with the company in that position forever. I had to quit, because it is tough to be heard when you have a managerial ball gag reminding you that you are servile.

I hate the phone.

I hate the phone. I hate answering it, talking on it, checking my messages, dialing...everything about the phone irritates me. However, I do like it better than say, a blackberry or instant messaging. That is because you use IM with friends. Friends you can talk to on the phone. And your conversation could be blissfully short, say, six minutes, and it's done. If you have to type out everything, it distracts you from whatever else you're doing, like surfing porn, and it takes thirty minutes to get them off your computer. Why do people think just because your MSN Messenger is there, it must be used. You've technically finished your conversation an hour ago, but better keep writing, or they'll think I don't like them! I had Messenger for a week, four years ago. Every time I turned on the computer, eleven people would start messaging me. I would not have time to do any work at all. I would just scramble to answer everyone's stupid meaningless messages.

And another thing - this is what led to the proliferation of the lol and lmao and omg wtf on the net. If I have to type messages to forty people at once, I better cut down on my typing time. and by that I mean iihttmtfpao, ibcdomtt. And now, I catch myself using the word "message" as a verb in the previous paragraph! I'm one of THEM.

But now I think the phone may be a much worse device than even MSN messenger. I called Enbridge yesterday to find out why I kept getting credits on my Enbridge bill and rarely had to pay. It turns out that when I signed up for Enbridge, I sent in my void cheque, and got them to take it directly out of my bank account. But they kept sending me bills in the mail, bills which were basically identical to the ones I paid by cheque. So I was annoyed that they hadn't set up my automatic banking and I sent in my cheques dutifully. Well, it turns out they HAD set up my automatic payment, AND I sent in cheques, so I paid twice for my first three bills. Not really their fault (although maybe they COULD make it clear when sending a bill that it was to come out of my account, and not enclose a self-addressed return envelope for me to send a cheque in), but mostly my fault for not being on top of my own finances.

Oh right, the phone. So I call up Enbridge, and they have the automated system with it's various menus and options. Of course, none of the menu options is exactly what I'm looking for. Ten minutes later, I have got nowhere, and I am beginning to get frustrated. I hit a whole bunch of buttons at once. I hear this: "for a recorded message explaining why your Enbridge bill may seem higher than usual, press one". Isn't that the one time you really NEED to talk to a person? If all of a sudden I paid an extra hundred bucks to Enbridge, and I don't know why, is a recorded message going to satisfy me and make me go away? Maybe. And what's the idea here - "we know we screwed over a few thousand people with this billing, so they all have the same complaint. Let's save ourselves some work"? Perhaps. I assume this is the most common complaint, or this feature wouldn't exist.

I tried to find out what the message said, just out of curiosity, but I must have hit the wrong button. Or seventeen wrong buttons, as I was fairly angry by now. I did not hear the recorded "sorry we screwed you" message. I got a person! A real, honest-to-goodness person, who sounded even MORE detached and bored and uninteresting than the automated voice. It took me a while to distinguish between the two and to ascertain that this was a real woman and not a new menu that was simply voice-activated. She explained what happened in 41 seconds. I had been on the phone for 14 minutes. She asked if I would take a short survey after she had "resolved my issues". It was a survey where I could rate their service. I thought, super! I will let them know that they suck.

But the survey was not about their phone system. It was about the girl who I just talked to. Was she polite? Did she resolve my issue in a timely manner? Who cares whether she was good or not? The whole system is set up so that I never get through to talk to her anyway! Ten questions about the 41 seconds I spent talking to a person, ZERO questions about the fourteen minutes I spent hammering random buttons just to get to that person. God, I hate the phone. If only you could talk to Enbridge over MSN...lol.