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Not white privilege, but marital privilege or,

I picked up a Naloxone kit today. You can too, if you live in Ontario, for the price of about 15 minutes of training. People are literally dying on the streets. I think it's worth doing.

Last time I talked about privilege it was as a social phenomenon, the unwarranted credit I expect to get for being a hands-on (in a good sense) father. But there are other kinds of privilege (such as my white skin), and also economic privilege — of which I have not had much in my life, but some of which I am enjoying now, though to through little effort of my own.

Raven has found a position in the federal civil service, and as her (ahem) husband, I am reaping the benefits. Not just because she makes nearly twice my salary, but because — especially because! — I get to share in her "benefits" — those sometimes vital supplements to Canada's far-from perfect public health system.

In 2017 and 2018, I spent literally 10 percent of annual income on my health. Mostly dental work, but also drugs (medically necessary drugs, you cynical bastards!). This year, towards the end of July, Raven's benefits kicked in and suddenly I was paying for only 20% of my medication costs, and getting similarly discounted dental care. (Pity the dental bills were so much smaller this year! Well, not really, but you know what I mean.)

Anyway, the kicker came back in early January, when I had my biannual visit to my arthritis doctor. If you've forgotten, I am blessed with a case of psoriasis, for which I've been getting treated for the past 20 years or more. (By god but time flies. But I digress.)

At least, my symptoms have been getting treatment. Various ointments for the scaly skin over the years, with an increasing dosage of pain-killers (acetaminophen in recent years) to deal with something I didn't even know was a thing until five or six years ago: psoriatic arthritis! It seems that psoriasis is an auto-immune disorder that doesn't just attack one's skin, but can also go after one's joints (not to mention eyes, which thank god has not been a problem for me yet!).

Anyway, my doctor has been asking me at each visit whether I had private medical insurance. And for the first time, I was able to answer the question with an optimistic "Yes."

And so he introduced me to something called Otezla, a medication that costs thirteen thousand dollars a year. Yes, $13,000.00 per year, not $1,300.00.

You can imagine how my initial excitement at the prospect of a more effective medication quickly soured, when I calculated 20% of $13,000. Two thousand six hundred dollars per year would require some serious thinking, especially since there's a baby on the way.

But wait! quoth my doctor. What's your annual household income? I guessed it at around $85K and he said, "I'm pretty sure you'll qualify for a subsidy. Why don't I give your information to the company? They should call you within a couple of days."

Naturally, I said yes, and so it came to pass. A very friendly woman called me no more than three or four business days later, asked me a handful of questions, then told me that, yes, I qualified. They would send me a month's supply by courier, Raven's insurance paying for 80%, the drug company covering the rest. Young Geoffrey? Nada, nothing, zip, zilch.

And so far, now about three months into the experiment, it seems to be helping. A lot. My skin looks considerably better and my pains are so greatly reduced that I think I've taken only one pain-killer in the past ten days.

All of which is great for me, of course, but it sure as hell begs some questions.

  • Such as: Just what kind of profit margin does the drug company make on this medication? Presumably it's still making a profit on my prescription, despite the subsidy.

  • Such as: And how much (if any) public money went into the research and development of this drug?

  • And such as: Why are so many Canadians denied dental care, eye care and life-changing and -saving drugs in a wealthy nation that likes to brag about its "universal" public medical care?

  • And (lest we we forget): How is it possible that a country as poor as Cuba keeps its citizens at least as healthy as Canada's?

Of course, I am happy as hell with my privileged position here, but it only makes the fundamental injustice all the more clear.

I can't help but be reminded that an empoverished country like Cuba has a longer life-expectancy than the United States, and one comparable to Canada's. When comes the damned revolution, anyway?

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I don't remember for sure when I first realized that stories were written by actual people, by writers. Probably, it was a gradual process that led to my understanding that stories didn't just exist, like lakes or forests or mountains, but that they were made.

I do remember when I realized that television shows were also written by actual people. That came about when I found a paperback book, one that featured a colour photo of William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, wearing a harassed expression while up to his shoulders in tiny furry animals that us cognoscenti knew as tribbles.

That paperback carried the name of my favourite episode of Star Trek: The Trouble With Tribbles. The author was called David Gerrold, and the book was a memoir of sorts, the story of how Gerrold came to write the episode and what he learned during its production.

At the time — I'm going to guess it was 1974 or 1975, which would have made me nine or ten years old — I thought it was both a bravely honest and an insightful book, and it's been so long since then that I won't argue with my younger self. Certainly it was interesting enough the I happily found the wherewithal to purchase his follow-up, The World of Star Trek, and both books have a warm, if by now pretty vague place in my long-term memory.

What strikes me as strange, is that — though I read a few of his short stories because they were in an anthology or magazine I'd purchased anyway — I never sought out any of Gerrold's fiction. Considering that "The Trouble with Tribbles" still holds up as good television writing, and that it was an episode I'd loved as a kid, I can't really explain why I didn't, unless it was a bit of subconscious snobbery that saw television as a lesser order of literature than prose.

(If so, maybe I was actually displaying pretty good critical judgement; even the best television drama of those days — and well into the 21st century — was simply too formulaic to rival the best of literature. But I digress.)

In any case, a chance finding of an almost 40-year paperback has finally seen me sample Gerrold's fiction, a novel that nevertheless had its initial origin as a rejected proposal for an episode of Star Trek, a novel first published in 1972, then revised for a second lease on life in 1980.

And what an oddly dated novel it is.

I am sick of reviews that are almost entirely synopses, so I won't be providing you with one here. Suffice it to say that Yesterday's Children (now titled Star Hunt) is set in a far future remarkably similar to the Trek universe. Earth is the centre of a interstellar federation of sorts, called the United Systems. The US is involved in a long-running war that, if it is not losing, is certainly taking its toll, including maintaining as operational starships which are overdue for decommissioning.

Enter the USS Roger Burlingame, a decrepit warship with a demoralized, poorly-trained crew and a captain who spends most of his time in his cabin, leaving the day-to-day operations to First Officer Jon Korrie, an ambitious man who longs for combat and the glory of a successful kill.

An enemy ship is spotted, the Roger Burlingame gives chase and the game is on.

Yesterday's Children is a tightly-plotted story: a cat-and-mouse piece of military SF and a psychological mystery, as it gradually becomes clear that the enemy being chased might, or might not, be real. Until the very end, Gerrold keeps the reader wondering whether they are reading a straight-forward war story or a riff on The Caine Mutiny.

And on both those levels, it is a story pretty well-told.

But I said it is also a very dated novel, and it is. In the first place, the narrative voice and the psychological aspects echo not the 1970s, when the novel was written, but the 1940s and 1950s. With the elision of the very occasional "fuck", it would not have seemed out-of-place as a serial published in John W. Campbell's Astounding.

Jon Korrie is, or believes he is, a mentally superior human, an adept of something called psychonometrics, a hand-wavium which permits him to manipulate his crew (or to believe he is manipulating his crew) with cold calculations that can be brutal. Suffice it to say that I found psychonometrics about as plausible as Asimov's psychohistory: a conceit I could accept for the sake of the story, but not one I could believe was actually possible.

What is even more dated about Yesterday's Children (and something that I suspect would make it simply unreadable for a lot of readers under, say, 35) is that it includes not a single female character.

Granted that first world militaries of the 1970s were pretty much all-male, especially on-board the real-world equivalent of starships, but Gerrold cut his writer's teeth on Star Trek, so the idea that women might belong onboard a starship wasn't exactly unheard of in 1972, nevermind 1980, when then book was re-published in an updated edition. In 2019, it seems merely bizarre to read a novel in which women are simply absent.

Despite that absence, I enjoyed Yesterday's Children well enough. I wanted to find out what would happen next and whether or not Korrie was sane, but it's not a story that will stay with me over the long term. Even a week after I finished it, the details are fading fast.

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I scoffed at the Russiagate allegations from the moment the Clintonites began to claim they'd lost the election due to Trump colluding with Putin, if not before. The entire liberal/progressive wing of the mainstream American body politic had, I thought, lost its collective mind to a paranoid delusion.

How wrong I was, if the following leak is the real deal. I'll let you judge for yourself, but it is definitely required reading.

The Mueller Report

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There was a shooting on my street a few nights ago. Or rather, mornings. It happened around 07:30 on Monday, apparently, literally less than half a block from where we live in Ottawa's Centretown.

I slept right through it, and so did Raven, but she took a picture of the police cars protecting the block that had been roped off and I found that on my phone when I woke up a couple of hours later.

The cops were still there when I went to work (see photo, above) and were still there when I returned from work at around 02:00 the next morning. In fact, they were there when I went to work on Wednesday afternoon, though Raven reported that they had finally gone when she got home from work later on.

We since learned that the shots were fired at a house, and that one person was wounded. No one was killed.

In fact, it was a bad couple of days for gun violence here in Ottawa, with three separate shootings happening over a couple of days. But I am not here to write a treatise on why I am unsurprised that violent crime seems to be on an upswing 20 years after Mike Harris' government slashed welfare rates by 20% and generally led the charge of austerity in Ontario.

I am immediately interested in my reaction to such violence happening so close to home — literally close to home — and in my reaction to it, and Raven's reaction to it.

In short I didn't react. I was mildly curious, and vaguely hopeful that no one had been hurt or killed, but that was pretty much it. I wasn't frightened, nor was I suddenly worried that our neighbourhood was in any fundamental way changed for the worse.

Shit happens, as they say, and for once it had happened just up the street from me. From us.

Then, when I came in last night (early Wednesday morning), I saw that Raven had left out for my edification, a Crime Stoppers pamphlet, a small piece of blue paper with contact information for a social service agency offering crisis counselling and a double-sided, legal-size information sheet titled Neighbourhood Trauma: What to do when a violent or traumatic incident happens, offering advice and reassurance that it is okay to be upset. (See photo below.)

Three information sheets, delivered post-'traumatic event'

Which made me briefly wonder (and not for the first time), Is there something wrong with me? Should I be upset that someone was shot only a few doors away from where I live and while I slept?

As usual, I pretty quickly dismissed that worry. Like car accidents, violence does happen sometimes, and there is no logical reason to be more upset that it happened to occur in close physical proximity to me, than when it happens in the Byward Market or somewhere in Hintenburgh.

But then, I realized that, due to our schedules (Raven works 9-5, I work 14:00 to one or two in the morning, Monday through Thursday), we hadn't actually talked about what had happened.

Could it be that Raven was upset? Might she be dreaming of looking for counselling even as I warmed up the delicious home-made soup she'd left out for me? (The main meal — the last of our harvested Chinese vegetable Raven doesn't know the English name of, braised lotus root and a few slices of fried beef on a bed of rice (yes, she treats me well!) I would leave for breakfast. But I digress.)

So, when I had a few minutes to spare at work on Wednesday evening, I sent her a text asking if she had some time to talk.

She did, and I got quickly to the point. And as I'd expected (after almost nine years together I think I know her pretty well), she was no more upset or "traumatised" than I was. She almost laughed when I asked her, though she wished the CBC would do a better job of finding out the details of what happened, and why.

She did laugh, when I mentioned the word traumatised (which I see now isn't included in that info sheet; rather, it refers to a "traumatic event", but never mind that).

Point is: are we weird? In that sense? (We're definitely both kind of weird in other, not necessarily shared, senses.)

How have you reacted when a "traumatic event" has happened near you? Did you shrug your shoulders and ponder statistics as I did, or did you have a more visceral reaction?

Whether you did, or didn't, you should have a cookie for having read so far. The ones in the photo below contain chopped green onions in place of chocolate chips. And yet, they were delicious!

Raven made cookies and filled them with chopped green onions!

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Father and son relax after a long drive to Québec

The trip's MacGuffin — the whole reason I booked a day off work, booked a car and a room at l'Université de Laval, and bought a pass to the Festival d'été de Québec was to see Neil Young. All else was going to be gravy on that ageless rocker's poutine.

So I'm sure you can imagine that moment when ...

... I was three quarters through Montréal, bombing along the Met at maybe 25 kilometres per hour (and two hours from Ottawa, should I have decided to turn around), when I realized I had forgotten my god damned festival pass on my desk back in at home in Ottawa.

I was running on about four hours' sleep, my stomach was already rumbling, and I was halfway to my destination. Sure, I could go back, but the whole point of leaving a day early was to not be a fucking zombie come show-time on Friday. (And, secondarily, to have some time to get to know Quebec City a little bit before-hand, as well as after.)

So, I slowly worked through my options, as I navigated a crumbling, 50-year old highway build for a city half the size of the one it now serves.

  1. I could turn around and go back home to pick up the pass;

  2. I could just write it off and spend more time exploring one of North America's most fantastic historical cities;

  3. Or I could see if it was possible to get the damned thing shipped to me.

Needless to say, once it occurred to me, Option 3 seemed like the best plan by a country mile.

I waited until I was off the island and pulled off at an exit that promised a burger as well as time to use my phone. First thought: Purolator. Well, they could do it, all right. Pick up and deliver, all for the entirely reasonable fee of, er, $450. That's right, four hundred and fifty dollars.

Well, I love Neil and all, but not that much.

Thank fuck I remembered BPX — bus parcel express. I made a quick call and was told they could get me the package, bus station to bus station, for about 25 bucks.

I called Raven, my sweetie (and now wife, my god), and she was willing to make the walk from home to the bus station (granted, only about six blocks from our humble abode) after she got home from work, and despite the humid, 34C afternoon weather.

I know I'm tempting fate by typing this all ahead of time, but I think it's a pretty good bet I'll be sing my show tomorrow — and maybe some other music, Friday and Saturday.

So, after That Moment when I realized I'd fucked up, came That Moment, when I realized my sweetie could make it all better.

* * *

You might be wondering why I am here in Quebec City on my own (well, with my son, of course), and Raven is keeping the home fires burning.

The simple answer is, what I consider music, Raven often defines as "noise". She has no interest in seeing/hearing Neil Young work his distortion magic on Ol' Black.

And it occurred (and occurs) to me just how lucky I am.

It's not every partner who not only "allows", but encourages, their other half to run off to another city to paint that town the proverbial crimson.

I don't suppose it's all that rare, now I think of it, but I still feel lucky to have someone in my life who will encourage me to go out and engage in pleasures she not only isn't interested in, but which she doesn't even understand.

God bless you, my love.

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How do I love thee, teevee show?
Let me enumerate the ways ...

It has been noted before, by me and many others, that we live in the Golden Age of Television. My personal honour roll includes such singular creations as Orphan Black, Atlanta, Rick and Morty, Treme, The Wire, Community and, most recently and especially, The Expanse.

No doubt, your list will vary — perhaps Deadwood is on it, or Strange Empire, or The Sopranos or Mad Men or Game of Thrones or ...

Or, or, or ... Those far-from-exhaustive lists are very much the point. Only a few years after it seemed "reality" shows would be the death of scripted television, there has been an explosion of good — or at least ambitious — stuff.

But for my money, The Expanse is the gilding on our Golden Age. It is a science fiction program that doesn't (hardly) cheat on the science; that presents three societies (Terran, Martian, and Belters) that are, each of them, complex, with multiple factions and vision and interests; that features full-blown people as its principles, each with back-stories, motivations and neuroses that are only sometimes in sync with their friends and lovers.

It is, in short, far more than the sum of its (excellent) parts. Allow me to enumerate a few of them.

  1. The writing | This is a show that moves. Some have complained that things sometime happen a little too fast. I disagree. The Expanse is a program that has a story to tell; this is Game of Thrones, where after a couple of seasons it became pretty clear that the creators had not particular end-game in sight, and so more and more came to rely on soap opera plot devices and soap opera pacing to keep viewers involved. (I confess: I think I gave up on that show the season of "The Red Wedding".)

    The Expanse moves fast, because a lot happens in it. And that's a good thing.

  2. The Women | It is not quite unique for science fiction to offer female protagonists as fully-realized human beings, but it's far from common. And in my experience only Orphan Black can rival The Expanse in that department. But the former was much more constricted in its canvas. Where Orphan Black offered a multitude of clones, The Expanse gives us a middle-aged diplomat cum politician; a brilliant young engineer running from an unhappy past; a young, idealistic Martian marine; an all-too filial daughter bent on revenge for her father's downfall; a married Reverend with a thirst for adventure that threatens her calling and her family; a fierce rebel fighter in a struggle to lead a revolutionary army ...

    And those are just off the top of my head.

  3. The Diversity | Did I mention that the diplomat is of south-east Asian background? That the engineer and the Martian marine are black? That the filial daughter is oriental? That the fierce rebel is an Ojibwe Canadian in real life? Or that many of the other people we come to know over the course of the program's three seasons (so far!) are also, well, not white?

    For that matter, even the white people on this show are seldom the blue-eyed blondes so common on American television. And, while we're on the subject of looks, one might think that the casting directors set about to not include any actor with standard (American) "good" looks. This show's diversity is more than skin deep. It goes to wide, flat noses, to women with flesh, to men with wiry black facial hair. I could go on. And I could, perhaps, withdraw my suggestion that the show-runners were deliberately trying to subvert standard American television looks, in favour of the possibility they simply tried to pick the best actors for the roles.
    br /> Regardless, the cast of The Expanse doesn't look much like most American television, but comes at least somewhat close to what any big, multicultural city street looks like.

  4. The Relationships | First of all, they vary. A lot. But I will take a brief look at the relationship between Naomi (the aforementioned engineer) and James Holden, the ship's (it's a science fiction program; of course there's a ship!) captain and the closest we have to a full-on protagonist.

    James and Naomi start off as distant colleagues, thrown together by bad luck into an intimate working relationship that, slowly, becomes a love affair. But Naomi, as a character, is never "the love interest". She starts out as, and remains, a protagonist in her own right. (Indeed, one of season three's main plots concern the repercussions Naomi faces from Holden and the rest of her crew for a decision she made at the end of the second season. Her "betrayal", and her eventual reconciliation with both lover and friends is a master-class in writing that respects all of the characters as people, not roles.

    Naomi may be Holden's lover, but it is always clear that that relationship does not define her.

  5. The Newtonian Physics | I want to say the show doesn't cheat on the physics, but it's not really true.

    50 years after 2001: A Space Odyssey blazed a silent trail it remains the road less followed; The Expanse joins the Star Wars crowd in ignoring the fact that there is no sound in a fucking vacuum!

    Le sigh.

    So, engines roar, bullets shriek and metal groans when it's punctured or torn. It irks me, but the rest of the show is so good, I'll forgive the trope and pretend the sounds are a form of background music.

    Where it excels in providing at least a verisimilitude of Newtonian physics. In reality, space is (to crib from Douglas Adams) quite big, thank you, and The Expanse provides us with the sense that it takes a lot of time to get from point A to point B. A voyage from one asteroid to another takes time; even a missile fired from one ship to another, takes time.

    I imagine a physicist doing the necessary calculations would find all sorts of signifcant errors and outright cheating, but for a civilian viewer, The Expanse offers, as I said, verisimilitude. No Luke Skywalker hopping from one solar system to another in a fighter unequiped with a warp drive (or whatever they called faster-than-light speed technology in that franchise).

    All that is a welcome change, as it the fact that the show remembers that there is no gravity in space; characters wear magnetic boots, they suffer under acceleration, they sometimes float in zero G. Quite a lot for a television show with what one presumes is a relatively small budget. (The special effects are not first-rate, but they are very good examples of second-tier work; no danger of one's suspension of disbelief being broken by laughable visuals.)

  6. The Politics | I mentioned earlier that there are three main factions depicted on The Expanse. But none of them are monolithic, and all of the various sub-cultures harbor misguided ideas about the other(s). In the world(s) according to The Expanse, individuals matter, they can affect things — even change things — but so too do groups, from small cabals to a mindless mobs. No one is in full control, of anything.

  7. The Humour | The Expanse is a high intensity drama whose characters are forever chasing events at least partially beyond their control. But it is not an action adventure (though when there is action, it is invariably really well done). The characters are given time to breathe; viewers are given time to care about them, about their motivations and their backstories. (That quiet moment when strong-man Amos explains why he knows how to walk in heels is a priceless example.)

    And part of the way we come to care about these people is through their senses of humour. There aren't many jokes on The Expanse, but there are a lot of chuckles, and no few laughs. As in real life, there are quips, there are bon mots, there is humour in contextual repetition. In short, and to repeat myself, the show is rich with deeply-etched characters.

  8. The Action | There aren't a lot of action sequences in The Expanse, but when they happen — where as ship-to-ship or hand-to-hand combat — they are invariably well-directed.

  9. The Villains | Even the show's most reprehensible characters are portrayed as something more complicated than just evil. There are thugs and sadists on the show, but even they are depicted as telling themselves stories that make their villainy necessary. We get the sense that even Dr. Strictland — torturer of children — thinks he is a good guy, doing horrible things for the greater good.

There is a one hell of a lot more to be said in praise of The Expanse. The acting is of an almost BBC level of craft; the broader story evinces what a friend called an "optimistic outlook on humanity without being schmaltzy or unrealistic" — and, I will add, while facing up to some of the worst that humanity has to offer as well.

And, as with the best "real" science fiction, it provides us with that ol' sensa-wonda in proverbial spades.

If you have been watching The Expanse I'd be delighted to know what you think of it; if you haven't been, I hope to hell what I've written is enough to convince you to check it out.

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Or, Spam Folder Fun Times

Well, I guess I'd better get myself some bitcoin.

[My Actual Name],

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This malicious program records all the operations at your computer and among other things it keep an eye on about coockies of the resources which you attend.

And the primary benefit of this hostile program is that it have an opportunity activate front camera and remove all the Contacts from your mail box.

And moreover I get login to your mail and social networking sites.

In such a way I have got viral and snap shots where you masturbating and in the all together.

If you don’t wish that photos to appear and to be dispatched to all the guys family members I recommend you the succeeding solution of you problem.

You have to send to mine Bitcoin address 1FNARrjb8Yp3eaTsT8cWzDgE86x7braYpa 400 U.S. dollars in BTC.

After having received of money I m going to eliminate black book on you and you will never again remember about all this.

Failing that if you don’t send me this sum of money within 25 hours after you have opened that email I going to forward all the weirdoblack book on you to your closely related people and collaborates and at the same time through social networking sites for general estimation of your behavior.

P.S. My my English knowledge is not good enough because Im not a native speaker but you have an opportunity to understand what I want to say.

Please and don’t reply to this mailing box I shall never use to it again.

Mail.BG: Безплатен e-mail адрес. Най-добрите характеристики на българския пазар - 30 GB пощенска кутия, 1 GB прикрепен файл, безплатен POP3, мобилна версия и други.

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Imagination is necessary but not sufficient

Used to be, I didn't really understand farmers or ranchers, and their psychotic hatred for wolves and other predators.

Until I took up gardening a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I understand a farmer's loathing for all manner of vermin.

In our urban case, number one on our Enemies List is the common black squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis, apparently), a chittering creature whose cuteness is matched only by its pointless destructiveness of All that is Good and Proper to human's urban garden.

Case in point, the savage destruction of some of our newly blossomed tulips (see above).

We went out for dinner last night, and came home to two of our flowers decapitated. Woke up this morning to another, assaulted in the night and left for dead.

And suddenly, I lust after traps and firearms, the better to put an end to the miserable lives of these rodents which don't seem to even eat what they kill.

If this is what gardening is all about, I dunno how long I'll keep at it ...


Jan. 27th, 2018 08:27 pm
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Notes on my health, and the state of the Emergency Department at the Ottawa Civic Hospital (also some footie)

Health-wise, 2018 has not been kind to me. To start, following a long evening sitting in a bad chair at my father's, and my first soccer game of the year, following three weeks off (one actual missed game — about which more, perhaps, in another entry — and two bye weeks for Christmas and New Year's eves), I woke up on Monday the 8th in an agony of lower back pain, something with which I have by this point had far too much familiarity. Used to be, my back went out about every 11 years; nowadays, it's more like every two, with a minor episode between the big ones.

I called in sick, then the next day, and the one after that and the one after that. When I called in the next Monday, my boss suggested I just let him know when I was ready to go again.

Good call; I ended up missing a full two weeks of work along with two more soccer games.

(Allow me a digression. We lost the first of those missed games, and a team-mate texted me the following (I quote verbatim).

We needed you today lol our
dé was all messed up

Lost 4-2 I got the two line goals

(Needless to say, I chose and choose to read the lol in a completely non-ironic way. Onwards.)

At the same time that my back decided to treat me to another round of I dare you to get out of bed without screaming, just try it!, another, perhaps more serious, health issue blossomed suddenly into crisis after what was, in retrospect, a pretty long and gradual gestation period.

Briefly, for some time — maybe as many as two or three months, I've been finding it increasingly difficult — and uncomfortable — to pee. My once-powerful, Niagara-like flow was coming more and more often to resemble the final stretches of the modern Colorado River: slow and inconstant. And suddenly, also painful.

Finally moved to action, I called my GP's office and, using the magic words, It really hurts when I pee, managed to get an appointment on the day of the call, the 11th of January. There I produced a clean urine sample. The Good Doctor prescribed an ultrasound and blood tests, telling me she thought I probably had a bladder infection, adding that she also hoped that was the issue.

That was a Thursday. I duly made an appointment for the ultrasound at a nearby clinic, despite the fact the appointment was eight days away, just this past Friday, the 19th.

Come that day, the clinic called me and left a message saying there was no technician available and, er, my appointment was cancelled. Would I please call them back, etc etc.

Thing is, by this point, the discomfort-verging-on-pain had become fucking agony. I was peeing every hour and a half — or rather, I was trying to pee. Forced to sit rather than stand, so that I need not fear should my mighty efforts to void my bladder also sent issue from my nether region, despite the pain I usually managed to get only a fitful dribble to come out.

Feeling kind of desperate I called the clinic back. They could give me an appointment only the following Thursday. I booked it, but started calling others, and found a place (The Bruyere, south of the Byward Market) that could see me next Tuesday. I took it and hoped I could hold on (as it were) til then.

Come Saturday, I decided I couldn't hold on. The quantity of urine I was able to pass was less than ever, while the amount of pain was entering into agony territory.

I marched myself off to the Ottawa Civic's Emergency Department, arriving around 14:30.

The waiting room in the Civic's Emergency Department is pretty small, seats for maybe 30 or 40 people, I'd guess. There were about a dozen people there when I stepped up to the triage nurse's station. There they took my OHIP card and told me to take a seat and wait to be called.

I settled in for what I thought would be a long while, but I heard my name no more than five or 10 minutes later. The Triage nurse took my particulars and sent me into another waiting area — this one frankly just a hallway lined with chairs — with a samble container for a urine sample. That took about three tries to fill only half-way, but I was told it was enough when I finally saw a doctor.

Finally was a couple of hours after I'd arrived at the hospital. The doctor was a young woman (you know you're getting old when doctors are probably young enough to be your daughter. Le sigh ...) who gave no sign of being rushed. She asked questions and answered them, and took note when I mentioned that the triage nurse had made a mistake: I was suffering from pain in the tip of my penis when I pee, not "abdominal" pain! She took an ultrasound of my abdomen and she even made the rectal probe of my prostate reasonably comfortable.

And then it was back into the waiting hall.

The second ultrasound came around 17:30, and the CT scan, complete with intravenous administration of some kind of dye took place around 19:15 and I was back in the main waiting area at around 21:00. Then another two hours or so to await my results. To wit, a probably bladder infection, no sign of enlarged prostate, but a slightly thickened bladder. At 23:20, I left the hospital with a couple of antibiotics swalled and prescriptions for a two-week course of same, and a 30 day course of Tamsulosin, a muscle relaxant meant to make it easier for me to pee.

All that, for an out-of-pocket cost of about nine hours of my time and $0.00 out-of-pocket. (Filling the prescriptions, on the other hand, did cost me, though happily not a lot.)

Raven declared, "Finally, after 9 hours!!" via text, but I wrote back, "I'm not complaining. No appointment, two ultrasounds and a CT scan, all for 'free', for everyone who needs it."

And indeed, that more included another ultrasound this week, and will include follow-ups with my GP, and then, well, who knows. But I suppose as I carry on growing improbably older, I'll have need of more, not less, medicare.

All in all, I was pretty impressed by what I found at the Civic. Yes, having patients wait in a hallway is far from ideal, sign of austerity, no doubt, but still a functioning system.

Pray we organize to keep it that way.

Finally, despite the fact that I missed two weeks of work, all credit to Raven! Despite earning barely more than the new minimum provincial wage and despite having just put two new pairs of glasses (one for driving/cycling &ct, the other a pair of bifocals for reading and computer work; and glass lenses, damnit, no more god damned plastic!), I am still in a position that will see me pay of the credit card before I carry any interest. Thanks to her lessons, the missed work and the extra expenses are drag, but not a problem, never mind a disaster.

Pics, of course, to come when the new specs are delivered. This coming week, I hope!

Thanks for bearing with me. If you read this far, you deserve a little break.

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Hogtown contemplations redux

Dundas Street West, from the overpass over the tracks

One thing I can say about Toronto without hesitation is that I would never discourage a young person from moving there. I know that obvious comparions can be tedious, but they are what I've got — and so — what you will get.

And so I cannot help but compare the streets of a bustling multi-cultural metropolis with the quiet by-ways of Ottawa or, as I like to call it, The City That Always Sleeps. What curious, imaginative young person would not prefer the chaos of the former to the serene tedium of the latter?

* * *

My own Hogtown sojourn ended where it began, in the home of my oldest friend, sharing bottles of beer, a half-watched hockey game, and the comfortable companionship that comes of long and close acquaintance. And night with Vern (and later, with Helena, when she arrived home from her small neighbourhood restaurant, with which I provided a name some eight or more years ago, and into which I have yet to set foot — too many painful memories), left me feeling considerably less melancholic than I had been.

Not all connections with my old home are broken. (Which I knew, of course, but which knowledge needs tangible reinforcement from time to time.)

Before that, was walking, walking, walking. A mode of transport I don't use often when at hoome, but one I prefer when visiting, whether some place new, or old familiar haunts.

And Toronto, of course, is both familiar and and changed, new to me.

Below, for those who might care, are some observations on the changes time and money have wrought upon Toronto. And of things that remain — or which seem to remain — more or less the same. (Well, of the changes and otherwise, that have been wrought upon one very small section of a pretty large city.)

* * *

Like Kensington Market, Parkdale itself is an area that still mostly looks largely unchanged from when I left eight years ago. But right on its borders, at Queen and Dufferin, loom like a fucking invading army, towers of glass promising an expensive high-rise future that will forever destroy the existing social fabric of a shabby, low-rise neighbourhood that has been for decades home to newcomers, to the poor and the working classes. (And to pockets of the middle classes, too; Parkdale is no slum.)

Being here now is like crossing a quiet expanse that you know will tomorrow be a battlefield.

* * *

At first glance, the phrase beautiful Toronto seems an oxymoron at best, a snide joke a worst. But (as I have noted before, and which has many times been noted by others), its neighbourhoods often have an organic, human-scale beauty that seems to have sprouted organically. It is especially noticeable in areas like Parkdale, where even still, the middle classes huddle cheek-by-jowl with the working classes and the desperately poor, and where wave upon wave of immigrants have rolled in and left a tithe of their numbers to permantly leave a positive mark upon the area.

In other words, Toronto's is not a physical beauty, like San Francisco's or Montreal's glamour, but a beauty of character, a beauty that requires a visitor to sit and stay for a spell, to get to know the place in order to appreciate what is there.

In an absolutely related note, I ate out five times during my trip. First, stopping on the way from the train station, at my old haunt, Java House, where both the prices and the qualities of its strictly bar-food level offerings seems utterly unchanged from a decade ago. (That was where, in the days of my habitual alcoholism, I was known to the staff as "Mr. Steam", for the Steamwhistle pilsner I then preferred. But I digress.)

The second was in Chinatown's Swatow, a non-descript hole-in-the-wall which turns out to be my friends' favourite and which Raven's reading on Chinese blogs told her was possibly the best place in Chinatown for the real thing. (And yes, my cheap lunch was very good.)

But it is in Parkdale that the cullinary differences between Toronto and (oh, say) Ottawa are made plain.

Tibet Kitchen

To put it simply, I went up to the plate three times and three times hit a culinary home run. The first was at Tibet Kitchen where on Wednesday I went for a mid-day breakfast. Ordered a simple beef with tomato on rice dish that was marvellously flavoured, about as tasty as anything but the very best food I've had in Ottawa. Ever. For about $13.00, taxes and tip included.

The place just happened to be up the street from where I've been staying.

Thursday night I took my host (and my father's sweetie) Frances out to an Italian restaurant that had been one of my regular places back when Parkdale was my home — maybe four blocks down the street. And Amico's veal (forgive me) parmesan was old-fashioned but every bit as a good as I remembered. And frankly better than any Italian food I've had in Ottawa, by quite a stretch. Dinner for both of us, with two beers apiece, ran about 60 bucks. And half of mine served as breakfast before we left for the train station this morning.

And Friday, I managed (after much internal debate) to convince myself to forego repeating yesterday's lunch in favour of, y'know, something new.

Nepalese instead of Tibetan. Not a big difference, you might think, but you'd be wrong.

Kasthamandap Nepalese Cuisine is another hole-in-the-hole, a block or block-and-a-half from the place I'd been to the day before. And if not better, than at least more unfamiliar — and so more of a happy surprise.

I had the Sukuti Daal Bhat Tekati set, which came served on a plain tin plate. A small bowl of dried curry beef rich with flavour and not too much oil, a small black lentil soup, a heap of steamed mustard greens, generously drenched with garlic, slightly sweetened potatoes, radish pickles (sweet) and fermented mustard leaf pickles (hot!). None of it was quite like anyting I've had before and all of it was delicious. (Most if not all of the items on menu have vegetarian twins, by the way.)

Nepalese Lunch

It was one of those meals I took my time with, a bite of this, a pause, a bite of that. Fucking heaven, to put it in a professional food reviewer's idiom. (The only disapointment was the mango lassi, adequate but served luke-warm — which might well be the traditional Nepalese way, but not to my taste.)

Like I said, three tries, three home-runs and not a one of them high-end. Thank god Raven and I (especially Raven, I admit) are decent cooks, because eating out costs a fortune in Ottawa and the results tend to be mediocre at best.

* * *

No doubt due in part to tha food, and aided and abetted to having recovered from Tuesday's brutal hang-over, as well as spending my last night with friends, my mood is considerably improved over that recounted in my previous entrty.

It's still a little sobering how few people there are in Toronto that I still want to see, and still strange to feel so much a stranger in city that was home for so many years (decades); I am a visitor to Toronto now, if one returning to a familiar destination, but I am no longer one coming homing.

But I am glad I made the trip. As the old saw has it, a change can be as good as a rest, and this has been both, if not for my feet.

* * *

One final thought. Ottawa claims a popolution of very nearly 1 million people, but it sure as hell doesn't feel like a city of that size. As a pedestrian wandering downtown, one might (might!) guess it at a quarter of a million.

On my first day in Toronto I walked about seven kilometres, Union Station to Parkdale. Doing that in Ottawa would have got me half-way to the airport. (To be fair, doing that east-west instead of north-south would have kept me within a more-or-less urban core. But the point remains. Ottawa's million people are spread monstrously thin, Toronto's knit tight into a city.

But for all that, I'm 52 years old and have come to like Ottawa for what it is, instead of dislike it for what it isn't. Still, a little more diversity, a little more density, would be welcome changes to the nation's capital ...

Union Station, South Side

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My son and two of his cousins

My sweetie, known here as Raven on account of her once-Rave-black hair (now shot through with grey) and her preference for keeping an extremely low online profile turned 34 on Monday. For a variety of reasons, including the aformentioned greying hair, she is not thrilled that she is, as she put it more than once over the days running up to the anniversary, "getting old". (That I am now looking "forward" to turning 53 in February means any sympathy I have for her chronowoes is pretty pro forma.

Anyway, after something like 6 years of working a moveable shift, never knowing more than two weeks in advance what hours, or even what days, I would have to make my way to the airport, I have now begun working a regular shift. Monday through Thursday, 14:00 hours to whenever they send me home — usually between midning and 02:00. Long hours, yes, but regular, four days on, three off.

However, that means that this year, I was working on Raven's birthday, so we agreed to celebrate as we celebrate just about everything: with food, and on Sunday, the day before her actual birthday.

And more, she was willing to wait until after my championship soccer game. (See my previous post, Weeeeee Are the Champions, My Friends ...) After all, I had officially given her her birthday present a couple of weeks ago, when we went to see The Phantom of the Opera at the National Arts Centre. (I think quite highly of Jesus Christ Super-Star, but of the Phantom, all I really have to say is that the music didn't move me, but the sets were really nicely done.)

Now the truth is, we're not actually very big on rituals, Raven and I. We've been together for more than 7 years now, but have never married and, in fact, we both forgot about our anniversary this year. It was a week or so after the event that I realized it and brought it to her attention.

But that doesn't mean that rituals don't have some importance, even to people like us.

After I returned, cold but triumphant, from the pitch, I showered and then came downstairs, to where Raven had called me. She had found a restaurant she wanted to try and wanted to make sure I would be open to the menu, featuring food from one of China's southern, non-Han, provinces. The menu looked fine to me, the web said the restaurant closed at 10:00 PM (restaurant closing times are a Big Deal in Ottawa, in case you're wondering; trying to find trying to find food that isn't pizza, Chinese or Vietnamese after 9:00 is difficult at the best of times. Sunday nights, nearly impossible), so we headed out into the rain to the Virus Car I'd booked for three hours.

I should have known we were in for trouble when Raven's GPS lead us on a wild goose chase, costing us probably 10 minutes before we found our destination. And when we did, at around 9:05, we found out the interwebs had *gasp* lied to us. Not only did Yunan Fusion close at 9:00 PM on Sunday nights, it closes at 9:00 PM every night.

Raven was already frustrated by the wonky GPS directions, and we reached our second choice and found that it too was closed.

By this point, Raven was right pissed. And a pissed Raven is a scary Raven, make no mistake. I tried to jolly her out of her funk, but — with considerable restraint — she asked me to just let her vent for a little while, as I drove us back to our own neighbourhood and my favourite (yes, mine; Raven says they all taste pretty much the same to her) Vietnamese restaurant, a mere four blocks from home.

Her mood did improve over dinner (as it always does; her mood droops badly when she's hungry), but she was still dealing with a lot of disappointment as to how her not-quite birthday had gone.

And so, I decided that I wasn't going to wait for the card I had intended to get her and went to my office, where I had secreted a small box, in which lay a pendant I had picked out for her a few days before.

Nothing really expensive (of course nothing really expensive on my barely-more than minimum wage salary), and far less than the theatre tickets had cost, but it was a necklace whose stone had caught my eye and hoovered another 55 bucks from my wallet.

(A confession: Though when I bought the pendant last week I did so with her birthday in mind, between the Phantom, a couple of dinners out, and the fact that I hadn't found a card for her, I had been having second thoughts and was pondering saving it for a Christmas present. But her downcast demeanour put an end to that selfish fantasy.)

There really isn't much more to the story. I left her sitting on our bed, and came back with a small box.

"I was saving this for when I found a card for you," I said, "but you seemed so down I thought I should give this to you now."

And reader, face lit up story-book fashion: she beamed.

Yes, she liked the pendant, but it wasn't the gift that so lifted her spirits, it was the fact of the gift. That I had made the effort to shop for her (she knows I hate to shop), the fact that the gift was strictly for her, and not (as with food and theatre) for us.

And that's it, really. Nothing earth-shaking, but a good reminder to someone like me that people need tangible reminders, from time to time, that they are loved.

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Final results are final. OC Hammer FC wins the championship on penalty kicks, 9 to 8.

Maybe some of you remember that I took up recreation soccer (futbol) a year or two after I moved to Ottawa. (More to the point, a year or two after I stopped smoking.)

Or maybe I'm being presumptous, what with the state of LJ/DW these days. Maybe some of you remember me?

Regardless, I am no longer just some (old-ish) guy who signs up with a pay-to-play recreational league, playing with and against kids mostly in their 20s and early 30s, but am now the captain of my own team. Still paying to play, but now responsible for getting the filthy lucre out of my own team-mates' pockets.

Anyway, this past season was brutal. I waited too long to get together a full roster, and so was out of pocket about $300 instead of just my own share, and further, more than half the games necessitated a last-minute scramble for subs in order to field at least 6 players.

Nevertheless, though we ended up in fourth place, we came together as a team just at the right time. We man-handled the regular-season first place finishers 11 to 3, and in the championship game, with only six players on the field the entire 90 minutes (yes, Young Geoffrey, too), we took the game to penalty kicks, and took the (Sunday, co-ed, Division 5) championship 8 to 7.

It wasn't quite like winning the Stanley Cup, but — by damn! — it was pretty damned satisfying anyway! (Pretty damned cold, too. Our last game was played on a drizzly field with the temperature hovering around 5 C.)

So, in honour of said victory, in hopes of another in the upcoming seaons, please indulge me in the presentation of a brief piece of video proof that I really do make it onto the pitch.

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What have I become or, The Devolution of Young Geoffrey!

Young Geoffrey Simpson!?!

There are times when looking oneself in even a metaphorical mirror is a sobering thing indeed.

Jesus, god, two written apologies in eight days! What in the world has happened to Young Edifice? Did I somehow turn into that middle-aged white guy? The one whose idea of conversation is to "share" his opinions about this, that and especially the other thing, whether or not anyone has asked for it.

The first incident I might have just chalked up to social awkwardness born of my long hermatose years in Ottawa. Outside of Raven and family, and my weekly soccer games, I could count most years' social interactions on the fingers of one hand. So I suppose a gaffe or two might be in order.

The other two, though, were the sort of explosions of ego that I have always found appalling in others; hearing them in myself is frankly a little nauseating.

That first incident happened two Sundays ago, after a soccer game (we won, thank you very much) which featured a former team-mate as the opposing captain.

Robyn and I last played together two or three years ago, and our sole contact since has been a LinkedIn "friendship", and three or four email exchanges when I've been looking for a sub for one of my teams.

She is an athletic young woman, and one with whom I enjoyed talking when we played together and, yes, I liked the look of her as well. Had I been single, she was someone I might have pursued, if had she wasn't a vegetarian. (I know. Not as big a deal as politics or religion, but still ...) Whether any of that contributed to my behaviour a week-and-a-half ago I leave to the judgment of the reader; for me, I don't think so, but it's possible.

Anyway. As opposing captains we shook hands before the game and then, as fellow cyclists, afterwards we talked on the way to the bike rack, and rode off together, catching up as acquaintances will do.

And then, when there was a brief lull in the conversation, I leaned into my handlebars and said over my shoulder, "Well, and with that I will bid you adieu!" And I stepped hard on my peddles and pulled away as if I was being chased by the devil himself.

Why? Why ever would I be so rude to someone I liked? As best I can recall, I was worried that I was presuming too much, that she might feel I was pursuing her in some unseemly way. That, despite the fact she seemed for all the world happy to see me and to be enjoying our chat. And when I made my sudden departure, her "Okay," came with a distinctly confused tone of voice.

It's one thing to not be an aggressive prick, Young Edifice, but you are actually allowed to talk with women. You used to do it all the time. Hell, there have been long periods in your life when most of your friends were women!

Another incident came on a return trip from Montreal, when one of my passengers directed me to where he had parked his car. A 1970 Thunderbird, all bright red paint job and obviously one that had been lovably restored.

As, in fact, the pilot explained. And he asked for a few appreciative words about his classic automobile. His crew made the appropriate sounds but what I heard coming from my own mouth appalled me, even as I was unable to stop the words from spilling forth. "Well, if I was one who liked sports cars, I guess I'd like it."

Jesus. God. What a fucking ass. Did anybody, I asked myself, actually ask whether you liked sports cars, Young Edifice!?! Just say, "Nice car," would that be so hard?

Then there was this past Sunday, another soccer game. (We lost that one, and I was filling in as keeper. Ten balls got past me. It took me a while longer to process my behaviour because of that.)

One of my team-mates is a young journalist (since when are national magazine writers allowed to look like they're barely out of high school? When did Young Edifice get to be so old!) and when she arrived we got to talking, almost as if we were carrying on from a chat we'd had the previous game.

Anyway, she told me that she was covering the NAFTA negotiations — and I fucking cut her off.

Cut her off and — again, almost as if I were listening to some asshole who wasn't me, except that, y'know: it was my mouth that was flapping, my voice that was spouting off.

Because spouting off was what I was doing. "I haven't really been paying much attention to the negotiations," I started off by saying. And then, rather than asking her to fill me in — since she was, y'know, paying a lot of attention to the proceedings — I launched into a mini-rant on how I didn't trust Trudeau &ct &ct &ct.

For some strange reason, that kind of killed the "conversation", though I didn't really notice it in the moment, since we spoke at half-time and it was time to get back out onto the field.

And on the field, I let in another four goals (for a grand total of 10 — not my most shining hour as keeper!), so it wasn't until I was home and recovered from the defeat that I replayed my words and voice in my mind and realized what I must have sounded like: That Guy. That middle-aged white guy whose idea of conversation is to opine, to lecture, and god knows, not to listen — especially not to a younger woman even if she is actually involved in the topic at hand.


I wrote both women letters of apology (the pilot? Well, I don't have his email address anyway), and both graciously said it was fine, but I still don't feel like it's fine. I can only hope that I'll be given the chance to behave better in the future.

I don't think I've always been like this, so what happened? When did I turn into That Guy? Will I soon by loudly proclaiming that all modern music — everything made since I turned 20 or so — is crap? God knows, I keep running into men (and they are usually men, no question) who make such statements with no apparent sense of irony, or awareness that they are surely channelling their own parents, who doubtless said the same about the music they now idolize as The Best of All Time.

Please, Lord: I do not want this to be a taste of my future self. Self-monitoring — intense self-monitoring! — must become the order of the day from now until at last I slide from this mortal coil into eternal darkness.

Emmy the Great describes the type (I don't want to become) with a wonderfully acerbic wit.

You say you're looking for the truth,
Like you got rifles in your books,
But up above your parents' roof
I saw no star tonight,
Only the black from whence you came,
And where they'll send you back again,
And no blue plaque will keep your name
From falling out of sight.

And you can wage this war of one,
And I am still the only one
Who will remember you when you are gone.

ed_rex: Soccer (Soccer)

One of my favourite passengers is a pilot [let's call him] Richard. He's a big, loud, blustery man who gets his political news from right-wing talk-radio and who suffers from a distinct inability to pick up on everyday social cues. In short, he's a nice enough guy, but not too bright and not too sensitive. A couple of years back, when he insisted on interfering with my instruments one time to many, I had to stop the van and quite loudly tell him he could either get our of the shot-gun seat or find his own way back to Ottawa from Dorval.

He remained banned from the front of my van for a few months and, since I allowed him back in, he's behaved a great deal better.

Anyway, he is also the sort of guy that people talk about. It's not just his chauffeur that finds him a handful; so do his co-workers.

Which is why I know that Richard is the guy who, when someone (for some reason) asked him what Quebec's F&eagrave;te Nationale, (the former Fète de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste, or Saint-Jean Baptiste Day) was all about, replied,

"Don't you know about John the Baptist?!? He's the guy who baptized Jesus and made him Catholic!"

Well, one of my real favourite regulars is another pilot, John, who is also loud and likes to take liberties in the front of the van, but who makes up for that by being both a funny and an interesting conversationalist.

And sometimes a helluva gossip. Especially about Richard.

The latest occurred the last time the two flew together. John mentioned that he had recently vacationed in Vietnam. Richard (so John assured me), didn't express any curiosity about John's trip, but only fear and horror.

"Oh," said Richard, "I could never go to Vietnam! I'm afraid they'd put me in jail for calling everyone 'Charlie'!" (But wait, there's more.) "And I'd have to get shots for scurvy and e coli!"

I don't know for a fact that this is true, folks, but I'm pretty sure no one would bother to make it up.

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One of the things LJ has that I don't think DW does, is feeds from such things as Scott Adams' Dilbert. I can't much abide Adams' politics, but his comic still makes me laugh more than most, and so when reading my LJ friends' page, I have for years clicking the link that would take me to the latest installment of his comic.

But, I've been ridiculously busy of late; keeping up with my reading has been a matter of desperate baling while the waters pour over the gunnel's at best.

And so it was that, maybe four or five weeks ago, I decided to just skip a Dilbert as it came down my feed. And then I skipped another, and another, and another. And cetera.

Three weeks into the experiment, I realized that I hadn't missed his cartoon at all. And a week or two after that — tonight — I said to hell with it. If I'm not going to read the damned thing, I might as well unsubscribe.

And so I did. Farewell, Mr. Adams!

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Car crash at Somerset Street & Percy, Ottawa, taken in January or February of 2017. Click for full-size image.

It's pretty hard to believe it's been 13 and a half years since I joined Livejournal. Paradoxically, it's also pretty hard to believe it's only been 13 and a half years since I joined Livejournal.

What's even harder to believe, is that I've been on Dreamwidth since May of 2009, just shy of eight years, – more than half the time I've been on Livejournal – during which I have made DW my home, cross-posting to LJ from here.

14 years. 8 years. Either way, the mind boggles.

Anyway, over the years, LJ/DW (but especially) it has at times been a central part of my online life, if recent years have seen its importance diminish (almost the only posts I've made directly to LJ since moving to DW have been an automated record of my tweets). And now, the movement away from LJ to DW, which started fitfully back in 2009, seems to have really taken off. Last I checked (two or three days ago) there were a half-dozen dead journals listed on my LJ Friends List; there might be more now).

I'm not closing my LJ. Not yet, anyway. Nostalgia and inertia are powerful forces, and the Doctor Who community over there is still pretty strong. More importantly, I'm not much more concerned about servers being located in Russia than I am about DW's being located in the United States. Indeed, a case could be made that, as a Canadian, I am more likely to be targeted by nefarious forces in the USA than I am by the powers-that-be in Russia.

But regardless, as a wannabe writer and sometime publisher, the vast majority of my on-line life is conducted in public. And I harbor no illusions that anything I post on someone else's server is not accessible to government forces should they happen to put me in their cross-hairs.

So here I am; and there I will stay. And a happy anniversary to me, and to Livejournal.

#mylivejournal #lj18 #happybirthday

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12-hour shifts &mdash even relatively easy 12 hour shifts — are hard.

It's 05:09 as I type this. I've been home from about 1 hour and 40 minutes after a 12 hour shift. 12 hour shifts are long. And become 14 hour shifts if you take travel times into account.

I've managed to eat, and watch the latest episode of The Expanse, which is that bloody rare example (perhaps Game of Thrones rare — or maybe that's a bad example, since I've never read the books and gave up on the show a season or two back. But I think it serves to illustrate the point) of a television adaptation which is very nearly as good as the books on which it's based.

But for now, it's time for a shower and some rest.

Just thought it was more than time this space (LJ version) showed more than bloody tweets (and, DW version, showed anything at all). (Hi Nellie!)

Exeunt! (But have a picture! After almost a week of rain, it's hard to believe this was the scene on my street only a week and a half-ago (February 19th, 2017, to be precise).

Where are the snows of yestermonth?

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To Kingston and back again; a New Year's journey or,

Young Geoffrey VS the ravages of age!

Our son, the driver!
Our son, the driver (I'm so proud)! Carl the Second takes the wheel.

Raven had a brutal couple of months at work and insisted that a post-holiday holiday was in order.

Kingston (Ontario) being reasonably close by, and boasting one of our favourite eateries, the humbly- and confusingly-named Pat's Restaurant, which serves up some delicious fare that, I'm told, is about as authentically Cambodian as one is likely to find in a small Ontario city, I rented a car and packed up the family for a whirlwind getaway last Thursday morning. (Yes, more than a week ago now; I've been busy.)

Raven had also got us tickets to see something called Lumina Borealis, an interactive sound-and-light show held in and around "historic Fort Henry". I had feared we'd be standing around watching a display similar to that which shows up on Parliament Hill every summer, a technically impressive, but edifyingly bourgeois entertainment, which we would passively consume while standing in the damp and frigid Kingston night as it was projected upon the Fort's walls.

Image of one part of the Lumina Borealis light-show in Kingston, Ontario.
A wall near the end of the Lumina Borealis show. Pictured here are people hurling orange snowballs at the display; a hit results in sound and a reaction from the imagine.

Happily, it was a good deal more interesting — and fun. It was cold (a damp cold! And for those of you who live in warmer climes, a dry cold is a lot easier to handle), but the show — a variety of sights and sounds, including physical objects, light-images and microphones into which we could speak or sing and affect the visual goings-on upon the walls around us — more than made up for it. We probably did the circuit in 45 minutes, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I had thought I would.

If you have kids, they'll love it.

But I digress. Aside from the Pat's (Cambodian) Restaurant, the other memory I had from our last visit, was of the best biscotii had ever tasted.

Come morning, we left Carl the Second in charge of our motel room and set out in search of coffee — and biscoti.

Carl the Second guards our room at the Super 8
Carl in Charge! Our son was proud to be responsible for protecting our room from strangers and nose motel employees.

I didn't remember the name of the place, but had a pretty good idea of its location, and it didn't take too long for me to find it. Coffee & Company at 53 Princess Street. We entered and took our place in line. When it was my turn, I ordered a Large coffee (sensibly, they do Small, Medium and Large; that's it, that's all) and not one, but two, biscotis. The second I asked for in a bag, as I wanted to take it home with me.

Dream on, Young Geoffrey!

Two biscotis became one, then almost none, in very short order. (After snapping the photo below, "almost none" become "none".) And when it was time to go, I found myself lurking near the counter and smiling and nodding at the young woman in charge with all the deranged charm of a temporarily sober drunk at a family gathering..

The remains on the tray. A small piece of a once mighty biscoti.
The remains on the tray. Yes, your Honour, it was delicious. I regret nothing!

"I need another biscoti," I said, brandishing the empty bag into which she had earlier placed my second. "To go."

She smiled and nodded in return, as if I weren't on the edge of drooling. As she reached the glass jar in which the biscotis were on handsome display, I blurted out, "Make it two. No! One. No! Two! TWO!"

"Are you sure?" she smiled, a kindly Pity dripping from her eyes like sweet honey.

"Yes," I whispered, and stared as she set about her labours.

She grinned and tonged one, then, two, then three biscotis into the little white paper bag. As the third dropped from sight, she winked at me and mouthed, Don't say anything!

What could I do but grin and nod, then shake my head emphatically in reply?

When Raven and I left the cafe, I asked her, "Do you think she gave me the third biscoti because she thought I'm a hot stud or a cute old man?"

"Oh please!" quoth Raven. "A cute old man."

The sun sets on Young Geoffrey's Youth or,

A young woman struggles mightily to extricate foot from mouth

Our son, the model!
Carl II somehow travels backwards in time, to when all was a panda's paradise: black and white!

Back in Ottawa, I worked a late shift on Saturday that saw me home after 03:00 Sunday morning and in bed close to 05:00. And up again far too soon, for a soccer game at 13:00 hours.

Despite a two week lay-off for seasonal gorging, the game was a good one, hard-fought and close, ending in a 5-5 tie. And, more importantly from my personal stand-point, I played better than I feared I might, running hard and placing some nice balls, if I do say so myself. I even assisted on at least one goal.

Anyway, at one point early in the second half I and a young team-mate called Maddison, with whom I've shared a team a few times before, found ourselves on the sidelines, chatting.

"You're doing really well today," she said. I demured as one does, but she insisted, "You've really mastered the one-touch exit. And you really move! You run just as hard, and pretty fast for, uh ...

There was an expression bordering on social panic in her clenched jaw as she realized her near faux-pas.

Jesus, the things people take offense at! Or might take offense at.

I smiled widely and said, "It's okay, I know I'm a little older than most of you guys. I'm not under any delusions about that."

She nodded, sheepishly, then added, "I don't know if I qualify as young any more myself."

"Oh please! You're under 30, aren't you?"

"I'm 26."

I laughed. "I'll be 52 in February. You're still pretty young from where I stand!"

And I thought, before I took the field again, how strange it is that merely verbally acknowleding an obvious truth — such as, that a man twice her age is "older" — can be frought with such anxieties.

And yet, I felt an echo of Maddison's nerves myself, when she answered my guess that she was under 30, with the information she is 26. Might she, I briefly wondered, have been hurt that I didn't suggest she was under 25?

But there you have it. Like almost every older person I know or have known, I don't feel like I am the chronological age that I am. But (and unlike many, I am blessed with my bike-riding, soccer-playing good health (and nevermind the arthritis and possible tendonitis)) I can't help but become increasingly self-conscious of the fact that Young Geoffrey is, in truth, well into his middle years.

Post-scriptum, for Nellie

"Powderfinger" is one of my favourite Neil Young songs. Bad history, but (I think) beautiful poetry, in metal.

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

ed_rex: (Default)

Not my popularity, but Dreamwidth's.

A whole bunch of my Livejournal Friends (well, maybe a half-dozen) have gone and done what I did a few years back - duplicated their journals here. Worse, they're now cross-posting new entries. Er, as I do.

So, my heretofore almost-moribund DW Reading page is suddenly a lot busier. But (which two exceptions so far), busier with people whose words I will also see on LJ.

It's not nearly as onerous as scrolling through Facebook, but the duplication isn't actually welcome.

Aw well. First-world problems, I guess.

ed_rex: (1980)

Back in grades seven and eight, I was bullied in a pretty big way. Death threats (however rhetorical) were a more or less daily occurrence. Elbows in the hall happened regularly, and actual assaults on school property (inside the school itself, more than once) were, if not frequent, were not exactly rare.

And deciding which route to take home was a matter of balancing my desire to get home quickly vs the odds of being attacked by the thugs who had decided I was the one they would pick on.

Probably my biggest moment of shame and pride happened in (I think) grade eight, when the halls were full with students streaming from one class to another.

I was attacked by three or four guys, who took me to the floor and got in a few shots, then, laughing in triumph, took their leave. At which point I got to my feet and leapt upon the leader — Terry Scovron was his name, I'm pretty sure — and got in a few licks of my own.

Naturally, his thugs came to his aid and I was once again put down, but I felt a certain amount of satisfaction in having gotten in a few of my own.

What rankled, though, was hearing later, that word had gotten 'round that Scovron had beaten me up, no mention of his three or four henchmen.

Anyway, I digress.

I was actually friendly with one member of that gang. He was a nice enough kid, I guess. He hung with the bullies to protect himself, I think. They'd abuse him — mock him and hit him, but not too hard, and in exchange he had their protection and, presumably, some measure of prestige.

Anyway, one day after a test, when we had some free time in the same class-room, I asked him, "Why? Why don't they just leave me alone?"

"They're scared of you," he said. And when, baffled, I asked him how they could possibly be scared of me, he told me that it was because I didn't play their game. I just wanted to be left alone. He said (and I paraphrase; it's been a few years, and he didn't use the kind of vocabulary I'm gifting him with now) if I would just accept their dominance, they'd let me be. But because I kept fighting back, they had to keep putting me down. And because I didn't seem to care about their barnyard strutting, they had to keep putting me down. So that I would care about the grade seven, then eight, pecking order.

(This shit went on for two fucking years; and yes, the constant worry that I might be attacked for no good reason did do some long-term damage. Although, on the other hand, I think it's given me a little more empathy for how women feel when walking a dark street, or navigating a mostly-male workplace, than a lot of men have.)

Anyway, flash-forward to the present. The boss' mother (and titular owner) aside, my workplace is entirely male. Many of them immigrants, almost of us working class. Some, like me, with book-larnin, most without much of it.

I don't have a regular shift there, but get a new schedule every two weeks. And further, if I am going to be driving a crew out of town, I get an email with the specifics of time and (sometimes) of which vehicle I'll be driving.

A few days before Christmas I got one of those emails, with a note about the weather: you'd better come in at least 15 minutes early, so you can scrape the ice off the windows.

I texted back, "Thanks for the heads' up. And if [R] is fretting, tell him I'm already on the bus."

Fretting. I guess I should have known better.

R has made a point of using the word, fretting, every god damned time I've been in the office at the same time as him ever since.

Unlike grade school, it's okay. Instead of punches, my co-workers throw jokes. They tease, "the way men do".

One of the nice things about being a grown up, is that other people (usually) grow up too, at least to some extent. Where once my eccentricities elicited violence, now they are an identifying trait, not a threat. I'm weird, but I'm okay, I'm liked.

Which is a really nice change, even after all these years, let me tell you!

But even so, I think I'm going to get pretty damned sick of the word fretting before too long.

April 2019



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