Friday, August 10, 2007

More things that irritate me or puzzle me.

I thought of some more things I hate...I get on a roll...of anger...there is a street just off Island Park, just North of the Queensway. It is easy to go the wrong way on Island Park, and if you want to go South, toward Westgate shopping centre, you need to turn around. This street seems like the first place where it is easy to do so. It is also a very rich street, with embassies and mansions and so forth. So they have a lot of pull with the city, I imagine. Only after turning ONTO the dead-end street do you see a sign that says "No U-Turns". No U-Turns on a dead-end street. I guess they are annoyed at the thought of having cars near their perfectly-manicured lawns. So I complied with their regulations. I did NOT do a U-Turn. I did a three-point turn. And carried on.

There is a place near Falcon Ridge golf course and the Rideau Carleton Raceway where two fairly major roads intersect. The problem is that if you are on the road that is heading straight toward the golf course, and you are crossing this other road, you are not allowed to continue going straight. There is a sign that says "no going straight on this road". You have to turn right, and then it says no U-Turns. So...you end up at the airport, pay twelve bucks for parking, turn around in the parking lot, drive thirteen minutes BACK to that intersection, and now you are allowed to turn right, onto that same road you were just on. And there is absolutely NO REASON for it at all. Just some random suggestion, likely from some idiot city councillor, that this will fix some traffic problem no one has ever heard about. Ridiculous. If you're going to have this sign up, why did you even bother building the road?

I used to live on Flora, near the Glebe. Flora is a bizarre street, in that it is a one way street in both directions. At a certain intersection, it goes one way west, and one way east. So the only way to get onto Flora is to hit that intersection and drive from there. The street that connects to Flora at that point is a one-way street going south. And there is a stop sign. This is an intersection you can get to only one way. There is no chance at all of another car approaching from another direction. So what possible use could the stop sign be?

I hate it when magazines, like Rolling Stone, as I noticed recently, start their stories at the beginning of the magazine, and then finish that story on the back pages. Are you really so inept that you can't figure out how do do a magazine layout, and you need to just throw the scraps in at the end? It's really annoying to get into a story, then have to flip to the back of the magazine, then have to flip back to where you WERE in order to continue with the next story. And if you read cover-to-cover, by the time you get to the fifteen stories about which you have missed the ending, you've basically forgotten the thread, and you have to flip back to the story to regain it anyway. It's like one of those incredibly stupid Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books my friends used to love when I was a kid. God, those were stupid.

Condom dispensers in the bathrooms at shopping malls. I have seen some shopping malls where you can purchase all kinds of things from one dispenser, for a dollar apiece. You can buy one funny joke, one small amount of cologne, one breath mint, and one condom. And really, what more do you need on a date? All you really need to impress a girl is one decent knock-knock joke, some decent knock-off cologne, a knock-off breath freshener, and then BAM! It's condom time. Now, considering the fact that condoms cost 15 bucks for a box of twelve, shouldn't one worry about a condom that costs a buck in a washroom? It can't be that good, I imagine. But that's not what worries me. What puzzles me here is the idea that anyone would bring their date to the shopping mall. The only reason you would need a joke and a breath mint is if it is a first date. And the chances of you needing a condom on a first date are reduced dramatically when you have that first date at the mall.

So who's getting laid at the Gap? How many people go into Bikini Village and come out pregnant? I can't count how many times I've managed to have sex on the floor behind the sunglasses booth while mall patrons wonder where the shades girl is...the only thing more useless than condom dispensers in bathrooms in malls is condom dispensers in bathrooms in strip clubs. This says one of two things. Either, these guys are so deluded that they think they are charming this stripper enough to have sex with her, and we can make a few extra bucks, one loonie at a time with a condom machine in the bathroom. Or, it is saying, the one dollar you spend on a condom is just the beginning of the four hundred dollars you will spend in order to sleep with that stripper. But we don't condone prostitution. At all. None of our girls do that. Just purchase your condom, and go on to the bar down the road to see if you can score. These condoms are not for use HERE.

Last thing. I know people who will actually drive dozens of kilometres out of their way to ... hmm. OK, two more things. Why are all my spellchecks American? Why can't I write colour and neighbour without having spellcheck tell me I'm wrong? And my biggest peeve here is kilometre. Americans don't USE kilometres. They don't use litres. They use mils and gallons. So why do I have to spell it kilometer and liter in order to prevent the little red line from appearing under the word? It's not even their word! It's ours! Why do we then listen to their spelling? Can they just decide how to spell things that are uniquely Canadian? (Or British, I suppose.) Poutine is now spelled P-O-O-T-E-E-N, and Prime Minister is spelled O-U-R-B-I-T-C-H. Thank you, American spellcheck. You all are terrific neighbors.

OK. Last thing. I know people who will drive dozens of kilometres out of their way to find cheaper gas. People call us in the mornings, and say "gas is 88 cents in Winchester!" That's great, if you live in Winchester. But if you drive there to save 5 cents a litre (thank God I don't have spellcheck on this blog, or you'd be seeing all KINDS of red lines) you'd better be filling a battleship, or it isn't worth your while. What you are doing is merely exacerbating the problem by increasing your gas consumption, thereby helping to create an even more oil-dependant society, and thereby driving up prices. Just drive less, if you want to save money.

Most of life makes sense, I think. Perhaps that's why it's so glaring when it doesn't.

Things that irritate me.

I noticed something in the courthouse yesterday. Their bathrooms have automatic toilets. I hate automatic toilets. If they don't work, you have left a really offensive deposit for those who follow you. So you wave your foot around the sensor for a few minutes, and I finally kicked it, and it finally flushed. Then, they have automatic sinks, where you wave your hands around for a few minutes before water even comes out. Then it stops while you put soap on your hands, and then you have to wave your hands around again in order to get the water back. By then the soap is mostly gone. Then, they have push-button hand dryers. What? Isn't the whole idea behind the automatic stuff that you never have to touch anything with your hands? Thereby saving you from the people who don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom? Wo why bother having automatic anything if you're just going to have to touch stuff on your way out? And really, isn't the door handle the biggest holder of germs in the whole place? Why bother annoying people with automatic anything?

I noticed something at a parking lot on Kent street on Wednesday. You pull into the parking lot, take a ticket, then you drive less than two feet forward and hand the ticket to the parking lot attendant. He then takes your ticket, charges you the maximum anyway, and gives you a receipt to put in your window. The act of pushing the button and taking the ticket does not make the arm go up, there is nowhere to pay on the way out should the attendant be gone...and once they've left, the arms are just up anyway. Why am I wasting paper by taking a ticket, when I could just drive up to the attendant and pay the maximum anyway?

Outside the courthouse yesterday, there are signs that say "no smoking within nine metres of the door" or something like that. Then they have those butt-stops full of sand...right next to the door. If you want me to smoke nine metres away, and you want me to put out my smoke without bothering those near the door, put the butt-stops nine metres away! I like to think I am a resonably conscientious smoker. I don't smoke while I go through a drive-through. I make sure I smoke close to a garbage can on a golf course, for the most part, so I can throw my butt in the garbage rather than on the green. Or I will carry an empty pack to hold my butts until I find a garbage. But I am reasonably certain I was one of only three people all day who butted out on the ground then carried my butt to the ashtray, while 99 percent of smokers will just stomp it out and go in. Or, they will smoke right beside the ashtray anyway. This makes no sense.

I was at the Subway at Hazeldean Mall a few days ago. They give you your drink, and you go around the corner to their drink fountain to fill it up. There is a sign on the drink machine saying "no free refills". Well then, why let me fill up my own drink myself? Why not have your fountain behind the counter, fill it up for me, then you can police the no refills policy. If I'm doing it myself, I figure as long as I have my cup, I can go back as many times as I like. After all, I'm the one doing the work.

Just some things that bug me.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Justice at the speed of impatience.

So about nine months ago, one of our neighbours came over to our house because her boyfriend had attacked her. We called the cops, her sister called the cops, and many many cops showed up. The new law is that the woman is no longer in control of whether or not she presses charges. That means that as soon as the call is made, and the cops ascertain that spousal abuse has taken place, the cops file the charges against the abuser, and the whole thing is out of the woman's hands altogether. I think this is a good law, because it saves the victims from themselves. No longer might they have an incident where they are abused, and they decide not to press charges because they think they are dependant on the jerk who beats them. Great.

So this happened nine months ago. The court date for this wife beater was today. My girlfriend was one of the people called to testify. I was on vacation, and had nothing to do, so I went for moral support. The time of the trial was set for 9:30 this morning. I just got back an hour ago, at 7:00. PM. The victim, her sister, my girlfriend and I waited all damn day. Why do they even set a time for a court appointment if they have no intention of keeping it at all? Apparently, just like movie premieres, court rooms are overbooked, since the assumption is made that most cases will come to some sort of settlement before it goes to trial, and as such things will run smoothly. Well, if you have booked five cases into one courtroom, a room that can handle but three cases that day, you are assuming that two of those cases will be dealt with before you get there. But if they are not, there is no time for all the cases to be heard. And the victims and the accused involved, as well as all their witnesses and the cops who have to testify, and everyone else involved, will have to take yet another day off work a month from now when the case can actually be heard.

Now, if things DO get settled before the actual trial part begins, there was no point for any of the witnesses, even the victim, to show up. They can just go home, since there is nothing for them to do. They miss a day of work for nothing. Why can't this process be gone through with the accused at his own house, a week earlier? A month earlier? In this case, eight months earlier would have done fine. Or at the lawyer's office. Make him go there. Whatever! Why can't that process be worked out before everyone else turns their lives upside-down in order to show up at court? Furthermore, it was explained to us when we got there (at 8:30 - we were told to show up early) that the case that affected us would not be heard until much later, because there was a case with a higher priority than ours. This was because the accused in question in the other case was already incarcerated. That meant his case was more urgent, since if he was found to be innocent, then he could be let out of prison. Tha's fine too. I get it. Of course that guy should have priority over someone who is out free right now.

But then why give us a time at all? Why say that the court date is scheduled for such and such a date, at 9:30? Why not say "show up at 2:00, since that's the earliest your case will be heard". (They take a lunch break there from 12:30 - 2:00. An hour and a half lunch break? Only in our justice system.) So it's first come, first served, basically. If you really want your day in court to actually be your day in court, and not be remanded until six months from now, perhaps you should camp out on the steps of the courthouse starting at 9:00 the previous evening. You could hang out with that crazy lady at City Hall...it'd be good times.

The cop who was talking to us was great. Very friendly, very helpful, and keeping us updated as best he could. Now we're waiting for another court room to open up, and now we're waiting for a witness in the trial preceding ours to arrive by bus, so that one is delayed...he told us that if our case didn't begin until 3:00, it would not happen today, we would have to come back. The courts shut down at 4:30, you see. But wait where you are, because it could happen at any time. The four of us waited at the Victim Services desk or whatever it is for seven hours. SEVEN. We talked to the cops who had responded to the call, and they had been there as long as we had. They get paid time and a half for their days in court, so they aren't quite as badly off. Thank God I was on vacation.

Finally, at 3:45, we were hurried downstairs and into a court room. The victim was brought in to testify. The other two girls were there to testify as well, so they could not go in. But I could. So I went in to offer moral support to the victim, give her at least one friendly face in the room. It was just the accused, his parents, and all the lawyers. At first the lawyers tried to bar me from the room, since I might taint the proceedings if I told the other girls what had taken place. The judge basically said "who cares what they say after they testify. I have dinner on at home. Screw you." And I was allowed to stay. The poor victim, up there on the stand, was absolutely attacked by the lawyer for the defense. This lawyer was ripping into her, doing her very best to confuse the victim and catch her in a "lie". Of course, it was never a lie, it was just a misunderstanding. And how can one avoid misunderstanding a question like "when you walk down your stairs into your kitchen, and your right shoulder is facing the exterior window, and your left shoulder is facing the sink, and the freezer door is open, are you looking at the inside of the door or the outside?" What? Um...yes.

I'm thinking this is really bizarre questioning. I get it if this is a jury trial. I see this stuff all the time on the TV shows such as Law and Order and it's ilk. You need to make the jury believe that the victim is a shifty character. But this is in front of a judge. He got the job of Judge by being able to "judge" what was the truth and what was not, right? So why go out of your way to "discredit" some witness when the judge can see through all these stupid tactics? I don't know. And here's another thing. It has been NINE months since this abuse happened. How is the victim supposed to remember the exact words of the argument that sparked the violence? I had an argument with my girlfriend nine HOURS ago and I can't remember what it was about. How come it takes so damn long to go to court? Oh yeah - because even the cases that get settled without a trial still have a trial date set.

So the victim has testified, I have done my moral support thing, and I leave with her to join her outside for a smoke. The other two girls are staying there, because now it is their turn to testify. And the accused will be called up to the stand too, we figure. As we walked outside, the courthouse was absolutely deserted. It was a ghost town. There wasn't a single person in sight except the floor cleaner, and it was 4:30. We hadn't even finished our smoke when the other two girls came outside. The case was over. Charges had been dismissed. The accused was free to go. He had come out of the courtroom, unleashed a verbal tirade toward my girlfriend and the victim's sister, and celebrated his victory by attempting to kick down the door of the courthouse bathroom.

It seems that the other witnesses were unncessesary. Ther had been no reason to call them in at all. Of course, that does not mean that the one witness who failed to show up will not be prosecuted and fined (this WILL happen), but there was no reason for everyone else to miss work for the day. You see, there was a choice. Either the case could be delayed (it WAS 4:30, quitting time) and everyone could return in a month or so. OR, a decision could be reached right now, which would mean the judge would not have to come back in to the court again some other day for the same thing. So...it's dinnertime. You may go sir. Charges dismissed.

So the girl has no choice but to go to court for this, since the option to press charges is no longer hers. It is the cops. The cops have gone home as soon as 4:00 hit, and aren't even in the room. They are drinking beer on their time-and-a-half pay. The victim, who has not chosen on her own to press the charges, is forced to come to court because the charges have been pressed anyway. Then she has to look into the face of the man who beat her as she is attacked by a defense lawyer. Then, the judge says "yeah, yeah, yeah", and decides it's dinner time, so he bangs his gavel and we all go home. At no point is it mentioned that the accused has two prior convictions for spousal abuse. Not only that, but the fact that this was the time she finally called the cops, but of course it happened ten times before that, as I'm sure it almost always does, this can't be mentioned at all. We're talking about one day, not a pattern of abuse! Does this make ANY sense to anyone?

So...the choice is taken out of the hands of the victims in cases of spousal abuse. Why? To ensure that these scumbag human beings are actually brought to justice for these awful actions. And yet...if you get into court on the wrong day, with the wrong judge, at the wrong time, no one even listens to the victim anyway. You're done. The cops made sure that we knew there was a big difference between their jobs and those of the court, and they didn't seem too happy about it. Now I see why. They've created this new rule to help battered women as best they can, and the courts are doing everything they can to just sweep 'em along like some kind of bruised and broken assembly line. This woman waited nine months for a date. Then nine hours for a hearing. Then she was dismissed in nine minutes, for nothing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fat guys are alright.

I was watching Penn and Teller's show last night, and it was an episode where they were breaking down all these weight-loss myths. I have believed for a long time that there was very little correlation between weight and health, and it turns out...I'm right. Of course the whole weight-loss industry is more concerned with keeping people fat than it is with actually making them healthy. That way, they will spend more money trying to be less fat. Body Mass Index? A complete pile of crap. And every time someone comes up with a study that says that certain foods are harmful, we all jump on that study until it is proven to be completely false six months later. Then, we hang on to that fact until someone else proves that the original study was correct after all. And they're studies on the dumbest things. Like sesame seeds - healthy, or harmful? Who cares? Can anyone eat enough sesame seeds to find out?

No, I do not want to lose weight because I think my fat is affecting my health. In fact, I feel very healthy. I am considering quitting smoking because it is affecting my health. I trust those studies. Also, I feel that someday I may have to run a marathon. And until my girlfriend dumps me and I lose my sense of complacency, I'm fairly comfortable with my fat. And I'm not one of those guys who is naturally fat. I was the skinniest kid in school until second year university, and I had to make a concerted effort since then to gain the giant beer belly I currently sport.

This effort was concentrated on two things. Number one, I had to concentrate on only the most heavily deep fried foods, and those loaded with cheese. Number two, the complete cessation of all physical activity beyond the occasional walk to the beer store. It was only tonight that the lousiness of my diet became truly obvious to me. I went to my buddy Mark's house for dinner, and he is somewhat of a cook. In point of fact, he is a fantastic cook. But since I invited myself over, and he didn't have much time to prepare, we made do with a few appetizers and that was it. Mark has many allergies. In kindergarten, he was the only kid in class who had that peanut allergy we all hear about now. The rest of us used to think this was AWESOME. You could DIE if you eat peanuts? No WAY. That is the coolest thing EVER. Today, every fourth kid apparently has this allergy, and you can't even eat a peanut butter cookie and then kiss your kid on the cheek before sending her back to school after lunch.

So, heavily allergic to many many things, lactose intolerant, and frankly, a little lazy in the cooking department (not that I'm complaining Mark - I did invite myself over, after all). And yet, with a minimal effort, and a decent selection of decent ingredients, Mark managed to make a meal of tiny appetizers that was not only far healthier, but also far better tasting than anything I have made for myself in the last six months. I discovered that perhaps my main problem is not the fact that bacon is the tastiest thing on earth, it's also that I'm too lazy to learn to make things beyond bacon. Actually, I must take back an earlier statement. The Kraft dinner I made with the hot dogs that were wrapped in bacon that was then smothered in the hot sauce in the tiny packets I lifted from Taco Bell last week might have been slightly better than Mark's guacamole. But not his bruschetta.

Since I have been on vacation, I have eaten five plates of bacon nachos, four bacon and egg bagel sandwiches, five bacon and cheese hot dogs and eleven bacon cheeseburgers. Oh, and two meals of beef tacos. That's it. That's all I've eaten. I eat so much at one sitting that I don't need to eat again until ten hours later. This is mostly because I am used to doing so with work. I get up at 2, barbecue three or four burgers, and eat them all, because some days I can't eat again until noon. By then, I'm starving again, and I eat enough to last me until the next morning when I make my patented Kraft dinner spectacular. Yet Mark seems to be able to eat great food with very little difficulty. Frankly, his bruschetta was far easier to make than my bacon nachos. And far tastier. But then I would have to have garlic cloves, sea salt, weird tomatoes that aren't the colour of regular tomatoes, and by that I mean they weren't red...all kinds of ingredients that either need to be fresh, or need to be around. But I must say, I am reasonably inspired. It looks like I can add some variety to my diet while not losing the flavour I assumed came only from including bacon and cheese in everything.

Perhaps I will spend more time cooking, and less time smoking. That way my health will improve also. I just hope I don't end up losing any weight. At least, not on purpose.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

An interesting phenomenon

Now that I am on vacation, I can go to bed much later than my customary 6 p.m. This has benefits - I can now watch The Daily Show and the Colbert Report and the other fine late-night programming on which I normally miss out. It also has drawbacks - I am now awake for my girlfriend's Monday night girlfest where they watch reality TV and giggle. This is OK by me - I just take my glass of scotch, sit at the other end of the room, and read my books. But there is something very difficult about reading while Hell's Kitchen is on. I guess the TV reality gurus have perfected the most attention-grabbing formats for each of these shows. It is the same with America's Next Top Model, American Idol, The Bachelor, whatever. I simply can't concentrate on anything else while this is going on.

Which meant that last night I became a rather keen observer of women in their reality TV element. And for a moment, I had a real sense of deja vu. Because I realized that they all approach reality TV the same way me and my buddies approach sports. Last night, there was a tough choice to make. You see, it was the penultimate episode of Hell's Kitchen (which means I will have to sit through the ULTIMATE episode this time next week), but at the same exact time, the very last episode of Age of Love was on. For those of you who have been blissfully unaware of this show, as I was until last night, this is a "Bachelor" style show where Mark Philipoussis, a reasonably well-known tennis player, must decide between a bunch of women...but here's the CRAZY TWIST! He is in his thirties, but half the women are in their twenties, and half...their FORTIES! That's right, they're OLD. And the young ones are HOT. Which will he choose!

Imagine my surprise when the final epsiode of this show began airing and he had narrowed his selection to two and...one was from the 40s group and one from the 20s group! Boy, this just wouldn't be compelling reality TV if he had blown out the 40-year-olds right away, you better keep at least one around to the end. This woman was 48, so, ancient, but she looked fantastic nonetheless. And go figure! He chose the young, incredibly hot, 20-year-old! I love these shows. The idea is, apparently, that the guy in question can be the most homely, unappealing, boring individual alive, but that because it's a competition, the women who are competing will believe that they are in love with him instantly, and they will do whatever it takes to win his heart. They think they are competing to be the one who marries him, really they are competing to beat the other girls. Luckiest men in the world are the ones who get chosen to be the "bachelors". I mean, Flava Flav had girls competing to do all kinds of dirty things to him. And he looks like someone set his face on fire and put it out with a shovel.

But what I was witnessing from the girls was what was truly remarkable. First of all, they couldn't decide which show to watch. They had been following both since the beginning, so they were heavily invested in some of the characters

My girlfriend just phoned me to say she wants Bon Jovie tickets. Oh, life is sweet.

So they have developed an attachment to certain characters, especially on Hell's Kitchen. And this occurs to me as very similar to the way my friends and I develop attachments to a certain football team. You know when your buddies are over on a Sunday and there are two really good football games on, and you keep flipping between the two because you can't really decide which one is more important? Same thing with these two shows. They flip from one to the other, and they CHEER. They clap when that chef guy yells at the guy they hate. They yell their approval when the old lady makes a good impression on the tennis player's family. When the final ceremony takes place and he chooses his girl, they sit on the edge of their seats like we do when it's fourth-and-goal with two minutes left in the game. They eagerly anitcipate the winner of the cooking challenge with the same bated breath I reserve for a 55-yard field goal attempt.

One thing I will say for football though - no network that I'm aware of will wait for third down to be over, then as the ball is on the half-yard line and the play is about to begin, cut to commercial in order to heighten the tension and then come back to show you the actual play. This would make men angry, and we would stop watching. The girls, however, seem to take this as a matter of course. And they like it, too, because they will then have the opportunity, in the commercial break, to analyse the play. Where I would sit with my buddies questioning the wisdom of going play action from the half-yard line, the girls will talk about their shows, suggesting that maybe that girl shouldn't have said that thing to that guy's mother, and maybe that guy was coming on too strong in his attempt to win over the judges to his chicken and mushroom dish.

Whereas my buddies and I have had our own teams that we have rooted for since we were very young (I became a Packers fan when Jim McMahon went to Green Bay), the girls can't do that, since reality shows have a brand new crop of people for whom to root every year. But I notice that they act in a similar fashion to us when there is a football game between teams to which we are otherwise indifferent. For example, I have cheered against the Cowboys for years because I hated the fact that Emmitt Smith was considered as good as Barry Sanders, because I found Troy Aikman irritating, and because I hated Michael Irvin (although - after his Hall of Fame induction speech, I kind of like him again.) I dislike Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Deion Sanders because I never felt that they cared how their teams did, as long as they looked good. Well, the girls were cheering against the guy on Hell's Kitchen because they too felt that he was out for himself, and was not a good team player.

The other way we men cheer for teams when we have no vested interest in the game is that we pull for the underdog. When Indianapolis plays Houston, I pull for the Texans, simply because I think they would appreciate the victory far more than would the Colts. I like to see the little guy win. The girls are the same. They were all pulling for the older chick on the Heart of My Youngness or whatever program, because she was the underdog. Of course, it is reality TV, and the only thing real about the program was that he ended up picking the hotter girl. That was the beginning and the end of the reality on that one. But the girls felt very strongly that this older woman was more mature, and deserved this extremely boring and charmless tennis player more than the young one. This is also because they want to believe that true love is blind, and that the feelings of the heart are what matters more than the eye candy.

Which is fine, if you are working under the premise that these shows are actually about love, and not about viewer titillation. I kept quiet, preferring to engage in my socio-cultural observations than actually participating and mocking the shows themselves. I declined to point out that two of the girls in my house were the same age as the younger woman on the show, and as such wouldn't they want to feel like younger girls have something wonderful to offer as well - I felt my comments would be met with animosity, as an outsider into their little group for the next two weeks. I figured for them this would be like the day you're over at your buddy's house for Green Bay vs. Detroit, and you have the beer and the nachos going, and you're dissecting the play, and his girlfriend walks in and says "why did that guy just run away from the other guy?" and you have to explain that it is the final minute of the game, and it is more important to stop the clock than it is to get another five yards, and that when you go out of bounds the clock stops, but if you stay in it keeps going, and that's also why they spike the ball, and...anyway, it's like that I guess.