jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I went to the Rio to watch Mad Max: Fury Road - Black & Chrome edition. It was fun, and an interesting exercise, but ultimately didn't add anything to the original.



Basically, this is a black and white print of the movie. What I would have liked to see is more playing around with the techincal aspects. Increase or decrease the saturation/contrast/brightness to suit each scene. Play with the sound, maybe eliminate the dialog in place of subtitles (to make it the loudest silent movie ever, with just the explosions and music).

Another thing would be to include the occasional splash of colour - the red of blood in Max's IV. The green of the plants in the citadel. Doof Warrior's flames and some of the key explosions. Nux's eyes when he asks Capable to witness. I think this would have visually underlined key moments of the movie in a way mere black and white could not.

So I'm glad I went to see it, especially with [livejournal.com profile] garething at the Rio. Hell, there were Imortan Joe and Furiosa cosplayers there, which was fun.

Go see it? If you're a giant Fury Road fan. If you're thinking of buying it, and don't already have a copy, you might consider a version that includes both colour and Black & Chrome.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My brother killed himself yesterday. I'm still processing this. Mostly I'm sad for his family, who over the last twenty years got to know him far better than I ever did.

LJ - BillInThe70s.jpg
(The earliest picture of Bill that I have. Taken in the 70's I imagine)

We were never close, as I was seven years younger than him. We were never together at any age where we could really relate to each other. When I was old enough to want to hang around with my brother, he was of an age where it was deeply uncool to have your kid brother hanging around. I was an over-serious nerd, he was one of the kids who hung out with the bad crowd. That got so bad that my parents ended up sending him to live with family in Vancouver, where he straightened himself out. That sounds like some sort of weird military-school-exile-thing, but I'm pretty sure Bill was in on it, recognizing that he needed a clean break from the crowd. I remember shouting matches in the house, but not over that.

LJ - cadets.jpg
(Cadets. Bill is the one standing farthest to the right in the second row)

Due to his moving when I was a kid, we never got to know each other as young adults. He was living his life in Vancouver when I was in high school. He eventually moved back when I was in University.

We had different educations, life experiences, political views. He helped raise a family, and I'm a bachelor. But for all that I say we have nothing in common, it's not actually true.

We had similar senses of humour. Bill got most of my jokes and vice-versa. Mom and Dad certainly raised us in similar ways. We had a similar legacy from that. The values that were instilled on both of us were very strong.

LJ - Bill in Cadets.jpg
(This picture of Bill reacting to a sour note was taken by a Calgary Herald photographer. They were kind enough to send us a print, since I doubt we still have the actual newspaper anymore)

Later in life we bonded to a small extent over our shared burden - my sister. I grew to simply write-off her antics, but Bill took them more and more personally as time went on. Partly that was simply because he had a lot more contact with her growing up as well as when they were adults, but mostly it was because he was often the target of her BS.

LJ - BillMomDadAtExpo86.jpg
(Bill, Maxine, and Gordon Cyr. This was taken in Vancouver's Gastown during Expo86)

It wasn't until yesterday morning when my Aunt broke the news to me that I realized we shared one more thing: Depression. I'm guessing here, but if my brother felt he had to kill himself, then odds are he was depressed, and probably had been for a long time. I've been there, and I've felt the urge to kill myself. It got bad enough that I sought help for it. If only Bill had done that.

Depression lies. The worst lie that depression tells you is that there is no hope. Don't believe it. I'm living proof that you can, if not beat depression, at least negotiate a truce with it. I haven't thought seriously about suicide in years. My depressive incidents have become fewer and of shorter duration due to the mental tools I learned in therapy. And I know that there is help if I need it. My friends will support me and there are professionals out there who can help me.

If you are feeling suicidal, you can walk into any emergency room in this city and get help. "I'm thinking about killing myself" is what I told the triage nurse. It was the first step, and I'm glad I took it. I wish my brother had taken that step.

LJ - BillAndBeckyWedding.jpg
(Bill and his new bride Becky, at the Justice of the Peace office in the Palliser Hotel)

The last time I spoke to my brother was a year ago at the family Boxing day party. He left me a voice mail on my birthday, and I wish I'd done at least that much for him on his. Would it have mattered? Probably not, but who knows?

Right now, My brother's widow Becky is devastated. His children, Thor, Ruth, Russel, and Bill have had the carpet yanked out from under them. I am so very sad for them. I wish I had the words to help them through their grief, but that is beyond my ability.

http://www.mhfh.com/cyr-william-bill-randolf-2/
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I was out at the Calgary Farmers' Market yesterday with some friends, and I noticed when you walked into the NE entrance, there's a store off to the side selling a lot of tweed-based men's wear (according to the market's map, it's not actually a part of the market). They also appeared to be selling some random Christmas stuff in the White Christmas Village mode. Among the things they had was a mailbox.

Here's the thing though, it looked like the mailboxes that Canada Post uses in historical neighbourhoods. I.e. anachronistic, but still real. I had some postcards that I needed to drop, so I tossed them in the slot.

[livejournal.com profile] thebrucie watched this and said, "I don't think this is a real mailbox."

We look closer and at the bottom, below the very Canada Post-like list of pickup times, was a website URL (which I didn't commit to memory) indicating they make models, and that this wasn't real.

Once we realized this, there was some good nature ribbing about my throwing a pair of post cards away by accident. In my defence, it really did look real, and the store had placed this model in the lobby, rather than inside their store.

I tried to open it and failed, so I went into the store looking for an employee.

"How may I help you sir?"
"Do you guys own this mailbox?"
"Yes, we do."
"Well, I mistook it for a real one, and I need you to unlock it so I can grab the mail I just threw in by accident."
The fellow also tries to open it, initially failing. He then confessed that he wasn't sure if there was a key for the lock. He fiddled with it a little more and finally the door popped open. It wasn't locked (the keyhole was just for show), the magnet that held the door shut was just really powerful.

There, at the top of a pile of other mail, were my two postcards. I grabbed them and thanked the guy for his help. I left to walk into the market proper, looking back briefly to see the guy holding a big wad of mail in his hands and an expression of now-what-do-I-do on his face. I'm just happy I wasn't the only one who had done this. I do wonder how long that faux mailbox was sitting there though. It looked like at least twenty letters - all waiting patiently for a postie who was never going to come.

You'll be happy to know (especially if your name is Sue or Jenny) that the postcards made their way into a proper mailbox later that day.

*** One Week Later***

I wonder how much mail they found.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I decided to go to Las Vegas for my birthday. Or, more accurately, I decided to go see Postmodern Jukebox in concert in Vegas. The point of the trip was the concert, and I could have gone to another city (Chicago, say) just as easily. However, it had been a few years since I'd been to Las Vegas, and there were a few things I wanted to checkout aside from PMJ.

I booked a vacation package through Westjet that included decent flights (November 24th morning outbound and November 27th Evening inbound), and a room at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. I opted to upgrade my room to a one bedroom terrace, which was surprisingly inexpensive. For some reason, rooms have always been cheap in Vegas around my birthday (or as the Yanks call it, Thanksgiving).

Fun Fact, the Cosmopolitan does not have a 4th, 13th, of 40-49th floor. because superstition.
(My home away from home)

I normally don't need much in the way of a room. My requirements are basically a comfortable bed and a place to throw my stuff. However, one of the reasons why I choose a one bedroom suite was to entice my friends to come join me. If someone took me up on that, they'd have been able to skip the hotel room costs and just used a cot in the sitting area of the suite. No one took me up on that offer, though I'm confident several people thought seriously about it. Time and money did not line up though.

Almost all of City Centre is behind my tower - thats a lot of walking.
(The view south from my suite)

All that said, I really liked the room I got, even by myself, and I'd seriously consider getting it again in the future. The room was comfortable, roomy, had a nice soaker tub (allowing me to have my first bath in ages - fun fact, I have never had a bath in the house I've owned for twelve years), and the balcony was a nice treat. Just sitting outside enjoying a drink in the evening was a plus.

I could not see the fountains, unless I leaned over far enough to become a statistic.
(The view north from my suite)

Food

So I'm on Weight Watchers, and I've actually been following the program and losing weight. I decided that, while I wasn't going to be slavish to the program while I was away, I was going to go into the trip with a plan:

  1. My WW "week" ends on Thursday night and begins on Friday morning, So save all my bonus points from the week before for Thursday, and use all my bonus points for the next week right at the beginning, sticking within my daily points with no bonus after I return.
  2. Skip breakfast, since I was just going to sleep in anyway.
  3. No buffets.
  4. Two really good meals each day, from decent restaurants. If salad is a side option, choose it. As a wise woman once told me, salad may not be food, but it does help push the food through.
  5. One beer and one cocktails each day. I'm be by myself, so there's no reason to get drunk.
  6. No snacking between meals. I tend to pound back chocolates, treats, popcorn if I let myself.
As you can see, I wasn't a nightmare of deprivation. I figured while I wouldn't lose any weight, I wasn't going to gain any either.

I lost two pounds. And I wasn't hungry at all - I ate really well. So, some highlights:

  • Thursday lunch: The Earl of Sandwich's Holiday Turkey sandwich. It was American Thanksgiving after all. Plus I love that sandwich and only ever get to an EofS when I'm in Vegas.
  • Thursday supper: Holsteins at the Cosmopolitan. I had the Rising Sun burger. They also give free popcorn, which is one of those little flourishes that I love. Alas, I did not have one of their boozy milkshakes, which I imagine is one of those things you're supposed to do. Next time I'm there with a friend, we'll split one.
  • Friday lunch: Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan. The Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich. A really good take on one of the basics.
  • Friday supper: China Poblano at the Cosmopolitan. I opted for the tasting menu, which included a wide variety of the their menu. This was the best meal I had the whole trip. Highly recommended.
  • Saturday lunch: California Pizza Kitchen at the Park. These guys tried to kill me with kindness. First, they had that effusive service that I've noticed a lot of American restaurants have. Next, they had just opened, so they were trying to impress me. That meant free appetizers (bread/oil/vinegar, white corn guacamole and chips), that I didn't ask for in addition to the pizza (Sicilian) that was too big for me to finish. It worked, I recommended them on Facebook, and I'll recommend them to you, if you're in a social mood and in the neighbourhood.
  • Saturday supper: Culinary Dropout at the Hard Rock. Ribs. Very messy ribs.
  • Sunday Lunch: Left over pizza.
  • Sunday Supper: I returned to Holsteins for ahi sliders and a (non-alcoholic) milkshake.
  • Sunday's missed opportunity: I should have grabbed the fried rice from China Poblano for my flight home. I was going to, but changed my mind at the last minute. Naturally, there was no food service on my flight (it was bumpy enough that the pilot wouldn't let the flight attendants get out of their seats for an hour), and a guy two rows ahead of me had fried rice. Kicked myself there.
Pretty much everything I had was delicious. Holsteins is no better or worse than the other upscale burger joints. China Poblano was the stand out of all my meals.

Shows

I go to Vegas for the shows, and as I mentioned above, I went to see Postmodern Jukebox. That was on Saturday night. First, The Joint at the Hard Rock is a decent venue, and I had excellent seats, at least until the retired linebacker sat directly in front of me. This is probably some kind of seat karma since, I look like Shrek, and I've probably disturbed many a person's view in my lifetime. Mostly I just moved my head to the side, which no doubt caused a cascade of similar motions behind me.

And the show? It was a blast and I'm glad I went. The personal highlight was me white boy dancing to their version of My Heart Will Go On. Of note, I'm probably the only person - who is not a Celine Dion fan - that still loves that song. Don't judge me.



Mykal Kilgore, who sings the above version was the show's emcee. Scott Bradlee was there too, even though he doesn't really tour with the band. Best of all, Puddles made an appearance, and played Royals.

Stage full of talent.
(Postmodern Jukebox, during their encore)

Thursday night I went to see Pin Up with Claire Sinclair. I'm not sure how popular this show was, but I easily got half-price tickets (making the VIP section a mere $35), and the venue was maybe half full. I had a four-person table to myself about ten feet from the stage. Still, it was Thanksgiving Thursday, so I have no idea if that means more or less people than average.

The show was decent enough, but it's certainly no better than the other showgirl shows I've seen in Vegas (Jubilee, Fantasy, Crazy Horse Paris). Claire is certainly an attractive woman, and the four dancers were really good, but I think the show really belonged to Natalie, the singer. She's got a great set of pipes, and is certainly multi-talented. I wonder if she resents that she's holding up the show, and Ms. Sinclair gets top billing. Rounding out the show is the male side, one dancer, who does all the heavy lifting (literally), and a four piece band who played some fun retro tunes. There is no nudity - the closest is Claire in pasties and a thong - mostly the dancers are dressed in skimpy fashions from the forties to sixties, which is really the shows selling point. Note also, that Claire is only in about half the numbers. If you're looking for a more modern look, go see Fantasy. That said, I liked Pin Up, but I knew what I was getting before I paid for the ticket.

If you want some music, burlesque, singing, in an inexpensive venue, consider Pin Up. Join the Stratosphere's players club for half-off tickets first though.

Friday night I saw Jim Jefferies, the comic. If you've seen anything by him, it's probably his gun control routine. If you've seen anything more of him, you'll know he's ridiculously offensive. His last two shows are on Netflix. Check 'em out. But be aware, he's a little like a living Cards Against Humanity game - you will be offended. A lot of people walked out of the show.

Anyway, I really enjoyed it (right up until he went after Canadians - which I'll admit was spot on), and I think we got good value for our money. It's supposed to be a 90 minute show, but he was a wee bit drunk, and ended up going an hour over. I think the Mirage staff were a little pissed. He did a solid 30 minutes on the election/Trump, and it was really some stuff that I needed to hear. Politically, the world is still fucked - but it's nice to hear about it and laugh, rather than the huge amount of anger/frustration/worry I'd been having until then.

Miscellaneous

Went to the North Outlet mall and bought some clothing. This replaced the crappy clothing I deliberately abandoned in my hotel room.

I checked out the High Roller. That was fun, but try to get cheap tickets. It's basically a half an hour, once around, on a giant Ferris wheel, with a great view of the strip. I was there during the golden hour, so we got to see the sun set and the lights come on. Not a bad time to see it. I think, if I'm ever in Vegas with a big group again, we should try to do this and all get on the same car.

Going... up
(Before entering)

they should really simulcast the music over the PA system, rather than have us listen to the guy on the video
(View of the Bellagio fountains)

The benefit of riding during the golden hour
(Sunset from high above Las Vegas)

It lights up purr-ty
(after exiting)

I did a lot of gambling on this trip. First, because I enjoy it, and also because I collect chips. I checked out about seven casinos I'd never been to before. Luck was with me this time - I bet in the neighbourhood of $600 total (basically I staked $150/day), and overall I won $1100. Easily the best streak of good luck I've ever had. This paid for all my shows and meals.

Let the chips fall where they may
(A fraction of my winnings)

Conclusion

This was a good trip. It wasn't perfect - I could have stood with either a travelling companion and/or a bedroom companion, but that was not to be. It was a damn sight better than my last solo trip.

So why was this time better than that other time? I was just as alone, I did more-or-less the same things. The difference was that I wasn't sick as a dog, and not being sick as a dog, being alone wasn't triggering. I like not being triggered into a depression when I'm supposed to be having a good time. I came anticipating a good time, had a good time, and left happy and sated. That's the sign of a good vacation.

They do not care if you are a robot, they only care if your money is good.

So my burn out is gone, but I won't be back until I convince someone to go with me. That's been my habit the last few years: solo, group, solo, group... etc. I might drive down next summer. Take three weeks to go down to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, then back up the coast to Vancouver. Still very preliminary, but seems worth doing.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I like to imagine that it went down like this:

"B****, c***, s***, *assorted other slurs aimed at women*"
"Hey! That shit is not acceptable ever, and certainly not when I'm running for the leadership of a political party in the 21st century."
"Oh yeah?!? Well, if you're so thin skinned, why don't you just go over to the party of" *ptui* "respect and tolerance."
"Fine. I'll do that!"
Sandra Jansen has crossed the floor from the Progressive Conservatives (one of Alberta's two right-wing parties - don't let the "progressive" part fool you) to the New Democrats (Alberta's center-left party. Federally they're just plain left, but that doesn't really fly in Alberta, so they've softened some of their stances with regards to the oil and gas industry, hence center-left). She's cited the misogyny she faced while running for the party leadership as the cause. Which makes me wonder at this Damascene conversion, since it's not like they were particularly welcoming to women to start with. I imagine they're fine with women in the clubhouse, provided they never notice or bring up women's issues. I was especially taken with this quote from Jansen:

"The dog-whistle politics that I heard at the PC policy conference were chilling to me: eroding public education, taking away women’s reproductive rights and trying to out gay kids in schools," she said. "It was frightening to see that element."
To which I have to add, I guess you weren't paying attention over the last twenty years.

Forsetti's Justice makes the point that a lot of progressive ideas don't penetrate some people's bubble until it affects them personally. I wonder if that's what happened here.

Being more charitable, Jansen might be one of those people who recognize the problems with their party, but wants to work within it to change things. That happens a lot when there's a de facto one-party system in place, like the PCs had for forty years in Alberta. Ideological wars took place at the riding nomination level, since no one was ever going to elect anyone else. At least until 2015, when Alberta had a choice between the assholes and the losers, and opted for neither.

Was Jansen an in-party reformer, or simply blind to its faults until it affected her personally? I don't know, but I hope she gets a progressive-101 from some of her new caucus. I'm happy she's found a home in the New Democrats. It might be short lived though, since I expect the NDs to fall in the next election unless the price of oil doubles; and that's not exactly in their power to influence.

More generally, I was reminded of Belinda Stronach, another woman who left a right-wing party and moved leftward. And I thought to myself "I wonder if, when women cross the floor, if it's always left-ward. Could there be something about conservative parties that is toxic to women?" This matches my own bias, but I figured I'd better look it up.

There were a few who moved right-ward. In this century, there was only Lise St-Denis (A Layton-ND who crossed to the Liberals after Layton died), and Anne Cools, a liberal senator who moved to the PC party (they later kicked her out for disagreeing with Harper, make of that what you will) before settling as an independent.

Mostly, they stayed still, going to independent status due to disagreements with their own party, or they switch to new parties that are ideologically similar (PC to Wild Rose for example). Of the sixteen since 2000, ten basically didn't move, four moved to the left and two moved to the right. Going back to nineties, there were only four floor-crossers, and they all moved right. Huh. So much for my bias. Politics, and the individuals in them, are too complex to show-horn people into, men or women. Something I need to remind myself of, since stereotypes affect all of us.

Still, the PCs did treat Sandra Jansen horribly. I'd jump ship to if I got that sort of treatment, so I certainly don't hold it against her. I do hope she sees conservative politics for what it is now.

Inferno

Nov. 13th, 2016 04:59 pm
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Inferno was OK. If you've seen the other Dan Brown adaptaions (DaVinci Code, Angels and Demons), you'll know what to expect. Cambridge Semiotics professor (Tom Hanks) gets caught up in intrigue that only he can handle because it's all medieval puzzles. He's helped along the way by an attractive ingenue (Felicity Jones, this time around).

I may have seen this on the wrong week, because I was sympathetic to the villain's goals of kill all the humans.

Some problems: There's a big reveal that's telegraphed way too early. The redemption sub-plot needed to be set up way earlier. I wasn't too worried about the characters during the action bits, but I was worried about all that gunfire near irreplaceable artworks.

That said, the antagonists were decent, with a variety of different motivations, which made sense to them. The chase scenes were OK, and the climax wasn't too bad - I may crib from it in a future role-playing game.

If you liked the first two in the theatres, you'll like this one too. If not, wait until you can see it for free.

The Monarch

Nov. 9th, 2016 07:38 pm
jamesq: (Drunk)
While I was in Vancouver, [livejournal.com profile] othelianna showed me this awesome thrift store frequented by assorted props people. That being the case, it had some great finds. Hell, I could have bought a stuffed Cheetah.

One of the things I walked out with was a little ceramic booze bottle I've decided to add my collection:
Not a stuffed cheetah, because cheetahs never prosper

Naturally, the whisky is long gone (in the hands of props folk, this is to be expected). But I don't like having empty bottles in my collection, so I figured I'd just go to the liquor store and pick up a full-sized bottle of The Monarch and decant a bit of it into the little bottle. Turns out, that's a lot easier said than done, and discovering that lead me down a fascinating rabbit hole.

First, the Lambert Brothers were whisky merchants in Edinburgh from 1849 to 1993, actually incorporating in 1958. I'm not sure if they just had a liquor store, or if they were some kind of middlemen for the whisky trade. Given they had several varieties of blended whisky, I lean to the latter.

Despite not being around for over twenty years, you can still get full bottles of The Monarch. I saw two recent auctions where a full bottle went for £65, and $49 USD. If I really wanted one, I could get it, though this would mean sticking my toe into the world of liquor auctions.

I'm not really into devoting that much time to this. I might, if I were a whisky drinker, but I really lack the palette for that. I'll stick to rum.

So I figured I'd just buy a bottle of blended whisky. Only constraint: It had to be Scotch, and it had to be blended. I opted for a Dewar's White Label. Later, when doing more research, I found out that Dewar's (actually, Bacardi, who own the Dewar's brand), had a blended scotch called... The Monarch. The difference appears to be 3% and twice the money. So I have a whisky for the bottle. Not the whisky, or a namesake whisky, just a whisky.

About that bottle. It's a gorgeous single serving (or maybe two, it's in the neighbourhood of 50ml) stonewear bottle. And I found out that if you have one in perfect condition, you can sell it for £45! Taking a close look at mine, it's not perfect, but it is very nice. There's a fine lattice of tiny cracks in the enamel. Not that I plan on selling mine
- really, I just want to display it, and I feel that it should be displayed with booze in it.

Having acquired the bottle and the booze, I just need to decant some whisky - and maybe taste test it. ;) Last obstacle is the cork, which has dried up over the years (though it has a nice caramel scent to it). It's soaking in some hot water, and I'll see if it makes a seal tomorrow morning. Once it can, I'll be done.
jamesq: (Rage)
I woke up this morning to the news that Donald Trump is President-Elect.

Fuck.

I haven't looked at any news or opinion pieces about this yet, but I do have some thoughts.

The Blame

  • Voter suppression tactics in numerous states, aimed towards minorities.
  • The media, for trying to make the race "even", by weighing Trump's many many sins, against a lot of manufactured hearsay about Clinton. You hear people say "Crooked Hillary" enough, and you start to believe there's something to it, despite the lack of evidence. Now, the fact that Clinton lost will be cited as evidence that she must have been crooked.
  • The FBI. Seriously? WTF.
  • Third-party voters who think that voting is akin to some kind of consumer activity, rather than a civic duty.
  • Political tribesmen, who think that political parties are like the local sports team, and you have to root for them, because you've always rooted for them.
  • But most of all, I think we can blame the fact that there are simply a lot of misogynistic, racist, authoritarian assholes, and those people looked at Trump, warts and all, and said "I want him to be president".
Some random thoughts...

The Supreme Court is going to go conservative. The deciding vote is going to be a Trump nominee, and a lot of the Justices are getting old. Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg can last another four years, maybe not. Maybe Trump will nominate his sister.

Kiss goodbye to any progressive actions of the last eight years. I fully expect the Affordable Care Act to be effectively abolished in the next two years. Oh, maybe there'll be something called that, and there'll still be a requirement to buy health insurance; you just won't get anything for it. It'll be a tax payable to corporations.

Some pissant little country is going to get thrown up against the wall, just to show the world that Trump means business. I really hope it's not us.

That said, Trump is going to use the political machinery to go after his enemies, of which there are many, because he views anyone who disagrees with him, or makes fun of him, as the enemy. The difference between him and Nixon is that Nixon tried to keep it secret and got impeached for it. Trump will likely be quite open about it, and be praised for it.

I really feel sorry for the women who came forward about Trump's assaulting them. Maybe you'll have a case for immigrating to Canada based on persecution?

The Republican Party still can't stand the guy. They'll be fine with working with him, just like they were fine with voting for him, so long as he signs anything Paul Ryan puts on his desk. If he doesn't, I think they'll be happy to impeach him and get behind Pence. At no point will a fight between Trump and the Republican party mean a relaxation of their being awful to America.

Finally, I really did think "Do you want to write this? You could have jack-booted thugs coming to your door in a few years." Ultimately, I decided, what the hell - If things ever get that bad, they'll be plenty of things I've written over the years that will get me shot. It's too late to worry about that now.

Here's to hoping he's just a Berlusconi, and not a Mussolini.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
One of my coworkers brought in some fund-raising candy bars. You know, the boxes of chocolate-covered almonds that go for three bucks a box. There was half a dozen of them on the counter in our kitchen, along with a tip box for donations. This went on for several days. Every time I went into the kitchen, those six boxes of almonds sat there.

"Jeebus, my coworkers are a cheap bunch. I'd totally buy a box of chocolates, if I weren't being a good boy on Weight Watchers."

This morning when I came in, I saw the same tableau, as it had been for three days.

"Screw it", I said. I fished out twenty bucks, dumped it in the tip box, then proceeded to empty all six boxes into a large bowl, leaving it on the counter so people could help themselves. I went to my office feeling pretty good about that.

Later that morning, I walk into the kitchen to find that people had indeed helped themselves to the chocolates in the bowl. I also saw that all of the original boxes had been replaced with new boxes. The coworker apparently had more than the original six boxes, and was topping up the supply in the kitchen as needed. For all I know, he'd been selling them steady all week, and didn't need my help. D'oh!

Oh well, it's fundraising, and the almonds were enjoyed.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So I'm depressed. I'm not going to get into the why of it, for assorted good, personal, reasons. However, it does inform my mood as the evening approached.

It's Saturday, and I've been a reasonably good boy regarding Weight Watchers. I figured I'd splurge on calories. Looking up places to eat, I find out a new restaurant from the folks who made an earlier favourite of mine.

I get seated immediately, and that's when the waiting started. Five minutes. Ten minutes. My server comes by and finally takes my drink order. Three women come in and are seated at the table next to me. They order their drinks. My drink arrives. They order their food. Fifteen minutes. I silently resolve to leave if their food gets to their table before the server takes my food order. Twenty minutes. Twenty-five minutes. Server comes by and takes my order, walks it to the open kitchen, hands it in, grabs food and delivers it to the table with the three women. Now I'm more angry because I irrationally feel my opportunity to walk out in a snit has been stolen from me.

Did I mention I've been depressed? I get angry and snappy when I'm depressed. Also, I emit lime green energy and start referring to people as "insignificant fools" like a Disney villain.

Here's the thing with the server - It's not like they just vanished. No, they were giving really good service to everyone else in their section. It's like, if they saw that anyone else in their section needed anything at all, that would take priority over me.

I'm not sure why they decided that I was the necessary sacrifice to give everyone else good service. Maybe it was because I was a solo diner. Maybe it was because I was reading a book. Maybe it's because I'm a monster. I can't read their mind, so I don't know. All I do know is that I was singled out.

My food showed up in a reasonable amount of time, relative to my order. My meal was small, but good. Unfortunately, by this time I'm hangry. I wolf the sandwich down, and don't really get an opportunity to enjoy it to its fullest. Eating it does take the edge off my hunger. Under other circumstances, I'd have stuck around and burned a ton of points on carrot cake. Instead, I just wanted out of there.

Naturally, I paid my bill just as the owner showed up, removing the option of a quick getaway. I guess I could have lied to her, but I have a difficult time lying convincingly.
"How was the meal?"
"The food was delicious."
...
"and the service was awful."
Immediately concerned, she asked how. I give the quick version of the above. I get up from the table and grab my stuff to leave. I realize that, although I'm not raising my voice, I have the undivided attention of everyone nearby. And suddenly, I'm severely anxious.
"Let me make it up to you."
"Thanks, but I've already paid my bill." (I just want to go outside)
"I'm sure we can work something out"
"No thank you." (I don't want people watching me for another second. Nothing you can give me is worth that)
"It'll just be a moment for me to get a gift certificate"
"No, that won't be necessary." (I'm going to snap at you if I have to stay here another second with everyone staring, and you don't deserve that)
I break away and leave, seconds away from an anxiety attack.

Another reason for not wanting a gift certificate is that I want them to understand that I really am disappointed in the service, and I'm not just trying to scam a free meal.

Looking back, I was clearly angry about a lot more than this meal. Did my server really deserve the shit they no doubt got? Yeah, they did. I was prepared to have a quiet, pleasant meal, and then I got ignored in favour of everyone else. My observation skills weren't so impaired that I can't recognize a snubbing. Also, It's not like I started snapping at people before all this happened. I was quiet, polite, and I'm not a high-maintainence customer - I don't expect my servers to bend over backwards for me. My restaurant needs are small. None of that should translate to ok-with-being-ignored.

Will I go back? Yeah, I will. The food's too good to give up. But If I get that same server, I'm asking for someone else.

In the mean time, I have to work through my current depression flare-up.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I went to a Thanksgiving get together with my family yesterday. It was at my aunt's place, which is tiny, so we were mostly in the living room.

The TV was on CNN. There was only two stories on CNN that anyone cared about. Hurricane Matthew, and Donald Trump's "grab her by the pussy" tape. Specifically, Trump's "apology" about it that included his avowal that he was not going to quit the race under any circumstances.

"Oh god, yes. Please please please stay in the race. I can't wait to watch you singlehandedly destroy the Republican party, you misogynistic buffoon!", I say.

There's a pregnant pause in the room.

"Wow. This is really good turkey."
"Yes... and the stuffing is wonderful."
"I really like these devilled eggs."


And I think to myself. "Ok, don't discuss politics at Thanksgiving."

Later on, after everyone had left but me, my aunt brings it up and we have a laugh over it.

"There weren't any Trump supporters in the room were there?", I ask.
"Oh no. In fact, your cousins would have likely followed your rant with one of their own. They can't stand him."
"Good for them."


Alas, I have a bad habit of doing this. Sometimes it's when one of my pet rants gets poked. Sometimes I'm trying to be funny, and miscalculate into asshole. Still working on those.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I had an epiphany about school administrators and their faulty advice of "just ignore it" in reference to the relentless bullying I suffered in grade school. It came from two odd sources.

The first was an ongoing bullying of a friend's son in junior high school. This has resulted in actual arrests, and requests for transfer to another school, which was denied. Why would anyone deny that? It seems self evident to me that, if a kid is being bullied so bad that it's resulted in the bully being arrested, there's a real problem here.

(my own advice would be for the kid to respond with sufficient violence to put the bully into the hospital, preferably with injuries that will take a long time and therapy to treat. I recognize that this isn't the best advice, but it comes from my inner lizard, and it's one of the few topics I let my inner lizard express an opinion on. Also, this is a big part of why I will never have children. I am incapable of dealing with this sort of thing rationally)

The second source was a thread on Captain Awkward. One of the mods of the site wrote this:
What they teach in schools is “just ignore it.”
“Just ignore it” = “Just shut up about it.”
“Just shut up about it” = “Shady, irritating people getting away with no-good.”
I got Just Ignore It a lot. A lot! It was years before I could put my finger on why this was bad advice (Captain Awkward nails it though), but I always recognized that it was bad advice.

And now my epiphany: It's actually great advice.

Oh, not for me, and not for any other kid being bullied. It's great advice for school administrators. After all, if the kid isn't bitching to them, they don't have to do anything. Doesn't matter that they may be enduring abuse that will lead to a lifetime of mental problems. What a great idea for avoiding work and responsibility - and it makes the victim complicit in their own bullying.

Remember, to a teacher, all kids are temporary. If you can stall long enough, even the worst cases of bullying go away as the kids move to higher grades or graduate. It might take a whole term for bullying to become a problem. Then another year of stalling tactics like telling the kid to ignore it, or to tell the parents that there's nothing they can do. Year three (for a junior high, or high school kid), you can just say "well, they'll be going to a different school/graduating, and you don't want to disrupt them at this late point, and it'll all be over soon anyway, why make waves". Boom, problem resolves itself and you didn't have to do anything. It's a wonderfully banal sort of evil.

My actual advice? Don't let them get away with it. Fight. Escalate. Don't give up. Make them understand that you're not going away, and follow through. They're counting on you giving up.

And again, I am so glad I'm not a parent.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I sometimes wish there was some kind of class where young people are taught how to flirt/communicate desire/take a no or a yes positively. I'm not sure if sex ed is the right place for it, but I feel like it's something that the Scandinavian countries probably already do. Who knows.

What's prompting this is a reddit thread of guys who missed hints from gals who were interested in them. It's a little sad because I think that's a lot of missed happiness. In the Reddit thread, someone pointed out that this wouldn't be an issue if women weren't so coy about these things. And of course, they're coy for a damned good reason - being sexually forward carries significant risk. As the saying goes, when asking people out, men risk humiliation and rejection, women risk rape and murder. And of course, slut-shaming is still a thing.

Significantly, for all of life I have hung out among geeks and nerds - a fairly socially awkward bunch. It's not like the men were doing much pursuing either. Looking back on my days in Grey Mountain Holt, it was significant for the amount of relationships that were not happening. This was a group with a common interest that went from a club to basically being a primary social circle for many of the participants, with a roughly 50/50 split gender-wise, and everyone was in their late teens to early twenties. We should have been pairing off left, right, and centre. Relationships weren't nonexistent, but they were rare enough to be noted when they happened.

I certainly wasn't doing any asking. I generally went with the be funny, and hope I don't come off as obnoxious or creepy. Often I failed. Still, a few women expressed interest. Mostly, not women I was interested in. I had no idea how to pursue, what to do if I was pursued, or how to deflect unwanted pursuers in anything other than the most pathetic passive-agressive way. It was a cluster-fuck of suck.

Now most people manage to maneuver through this and learn what skills there are in late adolescence. Still, a lot of people don't, which is why I think it would be a useful topic to teach formally. There's some problems though, and I'm not sure how to address them.

First, the moot point that, if this course existed when I was younger, I would have avoided it, even if it would have done me a world of good. I avoided gym class throughout high school, mostly because there was a dance component and the thought of it left me a quivering anxious wreck. I eventually took a continuing education gyn course over summer so that I could graduate. I kept it secret from my parents. Hell, the idea of asking women out fills me with dread now, though I have worked up the courage to do it on rare occasions, never successfully.

Leaving aside my personal drama, the bigger issue is that such a course has the potential to be a shit show of patriarchy, slut-shaming, and misogyny. Would you trust your high school gym teacher to be able to teach this stuff without dropping into "Boys: get all the pussy you can or you're not a man. Girls: keep your filthy knees together"? Plus, being awkward in the course would be fodder for bullies.

Currently, there is such a hunger for this course, that Pick-up Artist (PUA) culture has begun providing it as a secondary reason for existing. Unfortunately, the few good ideas they have (hygiene, attractive presentation, make your desires known) is completely ruined by their awful philosophy (don't take no for an answer, pester women who are clearly not interested, lie, no such thing as date rape).

Maybe not having the course is a better idea? I like to think it's possible to come up with a decent lesson plan. I hope so, since trial and error isn't that great. Can't we do better than that?

I do know a person who teaches a lechery course in the SCA, which is basically a course in flirting. For a one hour class in how to be more gallant than goofus in an SCA setting, it's pretty good. I think that's as good a proof-of-concept for the idea as any. And as I said at the beginning, this sounds like the sort of thing that would be taught in Scandinavian schools.

I'm going to think on what I would have personally wanted out of such a course. That's a first step towards articulating how it work. Difficulty: That's going to be like trying to figure out what I think would make a good brain surgery class.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Jim Wright opined on Facebook that Donald Trump was going to win last night's presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. A few brief points:
  • He didn't want Trump to win. He's a progressive, and also has a brain in his head.
  • He was wrong.
Why did he think that? Because Presidential debates aren't really debates, they're opportunities to go over your talking points while simultaneously savaging your opponent - two things that Trump is allegedly good at. Debates of this sort are reality TV writ large, and Trump is a master at reality TV.

The logic of Trump-is-good-at-reality-TV, therefore, Trump-will-do-well-in-the-debates only holds if the first part is actually true. I'm not convinced. Certainly Trump is a popular reality TV show subject, and The Apprentice certainly did well enough. But was that Trump? My alternate hypothesis is that The Apprentice had a really good bunch of editors and producers who took the full stream of effluent that comes from Trump's mouth and selected the most entertaining/coherent bits. It would be like finding lost jewelry in the sewer. Possible, even likely, if you have enough sewer to search.

In his rallies, he has an audience that was preselected to be ideal. Hell, the audience literally attacked people who were present that were likely to be critical. That's the live audience equivalent of having good producers. If you can't control the output, control who has to listen to it.

In short, Trump isn't the talented one in this equation, his producers are.

Naturally, not having his producers be part of the debate means he had none of those advantages. Instead, he was dealing with a career politician with years of experience in rhetoric and dealing with hostile audiences. That the polls don't show a bigger beating really just reflects the ideological divide in America right now.

My prediction: the Trump team will release edited versions of the debates that will show their boss in a positive light. That these will be roundly criticized doesn't matter. The people criticizing aren't the target audience. I hope his editors are well-paid, though I doubt it.

--- post script ---

I wonder if Trump is starting to deal with dementia. The stream-of-consciousness rants, the denials of the lies he's told - maybe he really doesn't remember them. What if this isn't just his colossal ego - it's how dementia expresses itself among the loud and egotistical.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
It's funny how things set in your mind as a kid. To me, September 1st is the true beginning of the year, because that's the first day of school. Now, I've been at my current job as long as I was ever in school (and this isn't my first job after graduating), but it still feels that way.

So this is a day for new beginnings. first new beginning is something I've been putting off for months - I'm back on Weight Watchers. Sadly, that meant exposing my brain to the depression-inducing value that is my current weight. I've literally been avoiding this for that reason. well the verdict is in, I'm 17 pounds above "monster" and 8 pounds short of "jump off a bridge". Since suicide is not on my agenda, and not being a monster is, I guess that means I have to buckle down. And I'll do it right, since I've been half-assing it even when I was getting weighed in (I haven't sat through a meeting in years - pretty much since they shut down the early one that my favourite leader was at. I'm at my second favourite leader's meeting now.

Is there anything else I can start? Running, but that's not going to be until I can consistently walk 5K without any Plantar's pain. I can walk to work, and that's 3.5K, so I'm very nearly there. It will be nice to run again. The last time was last October. In Portland.

Unfucking my habitat is a perennial goal, which I'll be revisiting.

I think what I might do is go back to my letter grades.

Oh, and being less negative. The hard part here is that often means being less negative out loud, when it really should be at all. Still, I hope you all are a little forgiving on that front, since not beating myself up is actually really difficult.

Anyway, raise a glass to new beginnings.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I find I'm not missing SCA events. I'm certainly not missing council or tavern. Council because I found over the last few years that I kept butting heads with someone who's simply not worth the effort. Tavern because about half the time I'd go there, I'd find I wasn't actually talking to anyone, I was standing against the wall wondering what was wrong with me.

That sort of social isolation had a habit of happening to me at the big events too. Especially if they were "foreign" events, and I didn't know many people. I've never been that good at meeting people. I often joke that extroverts get to know more people in six months of the SCA than I got to know in six years.

One astonishing moment came when an SCA old-timer told me I was an old-timer, pointing out that I had been in the Society for (at the time) over 12 years. I couldn't deny his logic, so why did it still feel like I was new.

Lord knows I've got a ton of accomplishments in the SCA: Seneschal, first kingdom archery champ, only person to have the Brass of the Minotaur. I'm happy with all of those. But I know I'm never getting anything else. I no longer really serve, so I'm never going to be a Pelican. I'm not a combat archer, so I'm not going to be OGGS. I'm OK with that, because I'm not willing to go through that extra effort. And that's OK too.

None of this is really about the SCA really. I suspect any large social group would have the same problem. Lord knows there's people who've bent over backwards to include me - problem is those people are social butterflies.

"Hey, James! Come sit down!"
*brightening* "Sure."
"Oh, I just saw someone I need to talk to. I'll be right back."
*doesn't come right back*
Funny thing is, this weekend is the first event since stepping down as archery champ that I actually decided that doing nothing was better than going to the event. I haven't been to any events since stepping down, but all the others I actually had good reasons - visiting friends whom I never get to see, being on vacation, that sort of thing.

Aside: That it's an event requiring camping was another big factor. Just not up to camping this year. It's a recipe for back problems.

Related to all this is a weird thing I've noticed. Events that I don't go to? Social media suggests that those are all really good events. The sort that everyone raves about how they had an epically good time. The ones I go to never seem to have that kind of reaction. This is probably just confirmation bias on my part, but the impression is still there. I've had epically fun events, but not for a long time. I feel like I'm trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and everyone else has the knack but me.

A friend wrote:

"Sometimes we get engaged in certain activities or situations to satisfy a need, or benefit some aspect of ourselves. They become part of our routine, and may feel like they DO help out with whatever they're supposed to help out with. But then other needs arise or needs shift, or not enough spoons, and we realize that that thing we're doing is actually taking a toll."
Lots of wisdom there. For awhile, the SCA filled a need - or at least appeared to. Now, not so much. It's not that I'm having that need filled somewhere else, and I no longer need it. More that after thirteen years, I've come to the conclusion that that need probably isn't getting filled. My goal now is to attend events I want to attend, and not have it seem like a chore. It's been a chore for a long time now.

I am planning on attending some upcoming events. Baronial polling? Sure, I'll give my two cents. Hell, when it comes to my opinion, I'm happy to raise it from two cents to a whole dollar. Harvest Feast? Maybe - on the basis that I've never had a bad time at a Bitter End event. Samhain? Absolutely, if only to see a friend elevated to Laurel. After that, who knows.

And I'm going to keep shooting and supporting archery (I've agreed to run a Target Archery Marshal class next week). In fact, I may have solved my chronic injury issue tonight. That being the case, I'll be back semi-regularly.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My bike developed a flat on the way to work last week. This was the first time I'd used it since my trip. Managed to get halfway to work, then ended up walking the bike all the way back, and doing so angry because Shell has the poor taste to charge for air while simultaneously not having an air gauge you can borrow.

But I digress.

I wanted to switch the bike back to the original configuration without the Flykly Smart Wheel. I took it down to Bow Cycle and the charges kept adding up and up. By the time I'd left it with them, I was looking at $120 and not being too happy about it. Not necessarily rational, since I don't think they were ripping me off or anything. I just wasn't sure the bike was worth it.

They phoned me yesterday to say that they couldn't swap the original gear bak without a new, longer chain, and that that was going to cost another $40. I did a quick mental calculation and realized that the labour costs were now more than half the cost of an identical brand-new bike.

"Skip it. Just put the rear cargo rack on."

This morning, I got Gerry to drive me down to the shop so I could ride the bike back home, and he could take all the spare parts back in his car. It was a nice ride home. As predicted, I still had to push the bike up Home Road.

Will I get a second bike? Maybe next year. If I decide to get rid of the Flykly wheel, I'll just do it with a bike attached to it. In the meantime, it gets the commuting job done.

They only charged me $15 total for putting the rear rack on. Still, the only reason i had them do it was because I thought it required taking the rear wheel off. apparently, the Electra bikes already have points to attach a rack, and all you really need is a wrench and twenty minutes of time. I'd have known that if I'd bothered to read the instructions. Oh well, $15 was probably better than several months worth of procrastination.

And the flat rear tire? Apparently there was nothing wrong with it, and it held full pressure for the whole trip.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
On the left, a horrible example of religious oppression against women. On the right, a fairly typical wetsuit with a hood:

On the left, a horrible example of oppression.  On the right, a wetsuit.

I'm usually the first guy to call out religion for its oppression of women. And let's be clear, I think modesty dress codes, especially those that Muslims have, are at best, pointless bullshit and more often simply the systematic oppression of women. I don't like niqabs, burqas, and their ilk.

But you don't free women by stripping them. You certainly don't get them used to the idea that they can relax their religious dress codes by forcing them off the beach and back into ghetto-like enclaves. And that's the practical effect of these bans - it keeps Muslim families off the beach, because the message received isn't "secularism is a worthy goal, give it a try", it's "you are other, and we don't want you here". Nobody assimilates where they're not welcome.

The presence of a burqini on a woman should just mean "this woman wants to relax on the beach". Kicking them off the beach is a dick move. Maybe some women won't switch over from a burqini to more "western" swimwear. But if she's at the beach with her family, and the family isn't driven away, I bet her daughters will consider it as they grow older. Or maybe not - that's a valid option too.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
"Did you get a Banff park pass?"
"Yes. It's in the car if you want to borrow it. You know where the spare key is."
"Thanks, I feel the need for a road trip."
"Oh, and I mean you can borrow the pass, not my car."
"I have my own car. Otherwise I wouldn't be able to shuffle the bodies away from the house."
"Just so long as you don't go sullying my car with all that forensic evidence."
"Well, not since the last time. Oh, er... never mind."
"Meh. I got the car detailed last month. It's all good."
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Some statistics:
  • Nights: 17.
  • Beds: 11.
  • Estimated distance: 3847 Km.
  • Actual distance: 4258 Km.
  • Fills: 10.
  • Cost of gas: $297 CAD
  • Peanut M&Ms consumed: 85.
  • Depressive incidents: 0.
Overall, a good trip. It was relaxing and fun. I repeated a lot of components of earlier trips, but that's OK because I really didn't want to deal with any stress. I got to visit quite a few friends, including the ones I don't see despite living in the same goddamn city. There were plenty more I'd have like to have seen, or seen more of, but that's often the way these things go.

But it wasn't all wine and song.

I'm sad that I have to put in the effort to maintain all these relationships. I'd rather they were effortless, or that people would come visit me for a change. Still, that's not the fault of the people, it's simply the scourge of distance and finances. I have the time and wherewithal to make these trips, so it's up to me to go 99% of the way and count on everyone else to handle the last 1%.

Loneliness was a constant irritant. But I've long since accepted that I can't let the lack of a partner stop me from travelling. The alternative is to simply not go on trips. Plus, it's not like I'm any less lonely at home. When depression reared it's ugly head, that was usually why. On the plus side, my mental batteries were at peak charge, so all the anti-depression cognitive tools I've learned were easily wielded. No depression for me this trip. Just the occasional, "go away, demon, I don't have to put up with your shit today". Still, it would be nice to simply not be a depressive. Alas, it's not to be.

Well, I don't want to end this on a sour note. I really did enjoy myself, and I might do it again next year (though my travel plans might involve going somewhere farther - we'll see).

Oh, and I bought a bunch of stuff. Swag pictures ahead... )

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