Sunday, December 17, 2006 at 12:39 p.m. | 0 comments
U2It took me awhile, but I finally saw the video for the new U2 song, Window in the Skies. It's actually a pretty amazing video and to save you the trouble of looking for it (as I know you were all eager to do), I've linked to the youtube video below.

My feet are actually starting to heal. I can't believe it. It's been so long that I almost forgot what normal feet look like. They still look awful at this point, but I can walk on them again after nearly two weeks of having to hobble and shuffle. The pills I'm taking are doing a number on my stomach, but at least I'm getting better.

Nicole sent along pictures of little Izzy just a short time ago. I can't get over how much she looks like Jamie. She's getting bigger and her hands look eager to roll dice and pick up video game controllers. Like my own future children, this kid is going to be spoiled.

Aaron's blog is lacking all sorts of personal details these days (I haven't linked to his crime blog yet, I don't believe), so I'll fill in the blanks. He's doing well at The Ontarion and has finished up for the holidays. That's he's not only surviving his tenure as EIC but thriving should come as no surprise. He is king of editing.

Jer is the court jester. Jer gets the endurance award, however, for that conference of his.

Chris is doing fine. He just won a million dollars. Actually, I don't know what Chris is doing at all. I've been a bad friend. But seeing as how he's got a new house and a new family I'm sure he's plenty busy. I got him a Christmas present back in October but it now occurs to me that he's probably too busy to pay his annual visit to my Dad's house on Boxing Day.

I've got most of my shopping done at this point. A few odds and ends and then I'm set. At least in theory. There's going to be something more that I buy at least.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSomething for myself, perhaps. I bought Thor-buster Iron Man, the latest Iron Man figure from the Marvel Legends series. I'm trying to stop, but these things are like plastic crack and I know, despite asking for them, that I won't get any for Christmas.

I've been missing my friends, though. I haven't seen Paul in too long, Jer's visits are to pick up gaming hardware, and I rarely see Josh. So many others are lost in limbo... Nate, Pushee, Chris. Oh well. I've got the Wii to comfort me until I try to actually make plans. Nate and Pushee will likely enter the scene again come baseball season. Though I'm scared to death to try to go to a game with Nathan. I've never been arrested before and this is likely to happen when you go out with Nate.

I'm bored right now. Anyone up for StarCraft?

Here's the U2 video:

Posted by Parallel
Sunday, December 10, 2006 at 12:55 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMy feet are eating themselves. Especially the left foot which is ravenous.

I'm assuming I picked up some kind of infection when I was in China. Within a week of my return, I developed blisters on one of my feet. I chalked it up to switching shoes when I got home, but these were angry, angry blisters that left my feet swollen.

It kept getting worse. Over the course of FOUR doctor visits, the last being just yesterday, my foot condition spread from a few blisters to the near inability to walk. My left foot has lost so much skin on the bottom that there are raw red patches. It's not pleasant. When wet, it smells rotten.

The good news about all this is that the last doctor finally gave me an oral antibiotic. He described it as potent and the pharmacist echoed this sentiment. That's good, because it's slowly spreading to my hands.

If I die, Catherine gets the Wii. That's just the way it is.

But seriously, four months and four doctor visits and only NOW are they taking it seriously? What is wrong with our medical system? I arranged a dermatologist appointment and was told I'd have to wait a MONTH. This is actually impressive because my doctor said the wait could be months.

I'm all for public healthcare and I think it's a great system. It's times like this, however, when a private model could be brought in sparingly to help address immediate concerns such as this. If you saw my foot, you would see that there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed immediately, not months from now. As much as I appreciate seeing the doctor for free, I'd find it much more valuable to pay a couple of bucks and be treated now.

As it is, I can barely walk. I have bandages and creams to look forward to in my stocking this year (assuming I've been a good boy).

Most of my Christmas shopping is done. There are a few odds and ends, but what would Christmas be if you weren't trying to get something at the last minute?
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, December 06, 2006 at 10:06 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI suppose it's the price you pay for having a life. This blog was a constant source of amusement during my time at FMG and one might say that it kept me from going insane. Since then, I've been busy enjoying myself. Hence the lack of posts.

My time at FMG ended months ago and since then I've actually been enjoying myself more and more. In case you missed the subtle hints, I hated my job. The only two things I miss about it are hanging out with Nathan and the paycheck.

The past few weeks have largely been uneventful. After my practicum, I needed to decompress. Having the Wii helps in that area tremendously. It's an incredibly fun system that Catherine and I both play on a daily basis. I'm especially pleased that Catherine is using it so much, though she does tend to get carried away.

Earlier tonight we were playing Wii Sports. During one bout of the home run challenge in baseball, Catherine thought it'd be a good idea to let go of the remote. Well, the wrist strap broke, the remote went sailing through a glass candle holder (with a light candle inside) that resulted in wax being sprayed on the wall, the battery cover on the remote flying off, and the controller looking like it might be broken.

As luck would have it, Nintendo made these controllers to laugh. This particular controller has hit several people due to wild swings. Once I hit my mother so hard in the arm that I'm sure I left a massive bruise.

But that's the price you pay to play.

And it's good. For my 29th birthday (man, am I old) my father bought me Red Steel. Not much to look at at first, but the game picks up quickly.

Other than that, I'm back in school. What was make work-type of assignments before is now painfully make-work and I'm starting to get annoyed. Why do you need three people to make a 10 slide Powerpoint presentation using only pictures you can find on Google?

The world has gone mad.
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 3:04 p.m. | 0 comments
...and it was good. It was RIGHT.

Catherine, Patti, and Catherine's family are all hooked on Wii Sports. Eventually I'll get to play Zelda and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance.

Fun is about to be had. Jer, Josh, you guys need to come over soon. Though I only have one extra controller...

This thing is cool beyond words.
Posted by Parallel
Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:44 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us...And all I got was this lousy blog post.

Actually, that's not really true. Catherine and I went out to celebrate with a lovely meal.

It's strange to be finished. In many ways, I really didn't want to go. The students were great and they thought I was great, too. The staff were amazing and by the end of it all, I had a class.

It's like building up momentum, hitting your stride, then hitting a brick wall.

At least I'll have the Wii to comfort me on Sunday. Before then, however, plans abound. There's no rest for the wicked. Maybe next week I'll get a moment or two to rest before I turn the dreaded 29 years old.

Soon I'll hit 30. That just can't be good.

Jer, finish up your trade show so you can come over, play games with mii, and then take home your lovely new Gamecube.

God, I need sleep.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, November 13, 2006 at 10:34 p.m. | 2 comments
"Go then, there are other worlds than these."

Good lord it's been a long time since I last posted. No real reason for the lack of updates, just that I've been preoccupied with school. It's a one month "internship" that has me teaching grade 9 english and grade 11 sociology full time.

The first week was brutal, but manageable. The second week I suddenly emerged into the light and all was well in the world.

According to my AT, I'm doing unbelievably well. He's already done my evaluation and it states that I should be hired now and that I'm "the best teacher candidate he's ever seen."

I'm still stunned.

It's not that I doubt my ability to teach, but getting high praise from someone who is well respected in the educational community makes it seem surreal. I have miles to go and years to cover before I'm anywhere near his league, Nicole's league, or the many great teachers I've had in the past.

What I will take from this is that it's a sign that I've made the right choice. Hopefully ;).

Otherwise, things are looking just fine. The Wii comes out in less than a week and I'm going to try to rope in Jer to have some launchday fun and games as afterwards he'll take home his spanking new Gamecube (seeing as I'll no longer have use for mine).

Then next week I turn 29. I'm getting old. Not Nathan old, mind you, or even Jer old, but old.

You know how I know? I always feel ready for a nap.
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 9:19 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIza-pumpkin!

Happy Halloween!

Sorry for the incredibly lame joke. It just seemed like the right time to make one. Time for a quick post to let you guys know how things are going.

I'm tired. Damn tired. I mean, I KNEW how much work being a teacher was, but actually doing it, even on this strange practicum, it's REALLY hard work. Totally mind blowing. I have a totally new level of respect for Nicole and Lindsey. Less respect for Jeromy, but that's just because I have to balance out those cosmic scales.

I'm teaching Grade 9 Applied English and Grade 11 Sociology. So far so good as my associate teacher thinks I'm ready to teach now, but that still hasn't stopped me from spazzing and stressing out. Catherine says I put too much pressure on myself and she's probably right.

I just need more sleep. Week 1 is done, Week 2 (now) is going to be easy, then I've just got two weeks more to go. To reward myself at the end of this whole thing, I'm going to get a Wii.

Though I'll be too tired to play it.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, October 23, 2006 at 6:46 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us If there were an easier way to do things, most likely I'd still pick the hard way. It's just in my nature. It's also just my luck. On the bright side, when strange things happen to me it's almost always amusing to others.

Friday night was no exception. My unanswered call to Jeromy to spend some quality time together left me with nothing to do. Catherine had gone home to Brantford and I was procrastinating on doing my first lesson plan.

Instead, I wound up watching Deadwood, playing Megaman X4, and hanging out with Truffle.

Then I heard a very strange sound. I muted the television to listen for it and within seconds a "whoop" sound, very similar to an 80's-style video game lazer, came from my radiator.

Truffle freaked out and hid in a tube. I, on the other, got closer.

"Whoop!" Again, I had no idea what this sound was. I could hear a scratching, so I figured it was an animal of some sort. I called my dad who promptly suggested "racoon or squirrel." It was an emotional conversation.

I had two problems with this. One, after the mouse that invaded our apartment a year or two ago I swore never to put up with an uninvited guest again. That mouse was LOUD and it was tiny. I'm fairly certain that both squirrels and racoons are smaller.

The heating vent it was currently in was secure against the floor and wall. The problem was that the vent goes through the living room wall into the bedroom and the small pipe that connects them has an opening four times too big for it. The heater in the bedroom is secure against the wall, but NOT against the floor. In other words, that squirrel could soon be among us.

So I decided to fight back. I was going to plug that hole as best I could, then try and scare off my house guest. I was talking to my father on the phone at the time who found all of this amusing, because I had to move my bed out of the way in a very small room to access the pipe.

This failed because I broke the bed.

I was pulling on it and one of the support joints creaked then broke. Part of the bed collapsed. I was not pleased at this. The metal pin holding the two sections together was badly bent and I couldn't remove it. I also couldn't think because my dad was laughing at me.

I hung up on him.

Then I got a hammer and fixed that bitch. I straightened out the pin, set the frame in place, then called Catherine because I needed an alan key to tighten the joint and I didn't know where they were.

I quickly explained to her and David what the problem was, and once they stopped laughing, I was told where the key was.

I got the bed fixed, the hole plugged, and all was well. Although all the hammering, yelling, stuffing, and everything else in between scared off the squirrel anyway. I plan to tell people that this was my expected outcome all along.
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, October 22, 2006 at 3:09 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Or is it?

I found this great program online as I was making up my lesson plan in short fiction next week. It's just a filler exercise should I need to make up a bit of time, but it's handy anyway.

My orientation days at the school went quite well. My associate teacher, Scott, is fantastic and assures me that I won't feel any stress at all. I accepted his statement and wondered where my intense stress headache was coming from.

"Don't be stressed," he said. Pfft. He doesn't know me very well.

But you guys do, so enjoy the crossword!
Posted by Parallel
Monday, October 16, 2006 at 4:54 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usDue to mounting pressure from the Dom, I gave in and got a Zipcar membership. For those of you who don't know, Zipcar is a service offered in many cities, including Toronto, that allows you to take one of their cars out for whatever you want.

You need to reserve the car, but included in your hourly fee of roughly $11 is gas and insurance. It's great for local trips because if you want anything longer or farther you're better off with a traditional rental.

At any rate, we got the membership several weeks ago, but only yesterday did we exercise our newfound power. Catherine finally got to driver her Mini Cooper.

She's obsessed with the make. There's a car lot around the corner where one is parked all the time and we booked it for a round-trip to Ikea yesterday. For three hours, we acted like Mini Cooper owners.

It's a pretty cool little car. The break is super sensitive, and the "go" as Catherine calls it needs a bit of coercing at first, but it's fun. As you can see, we had to take a few pictures.

We have no need for a car (usually) but having the option to drive one around is nice. Besides, how else we were going to get to drive one?

Tomorrow, the practicum starts. Or at least the orientation. I already have a bit of insider info and I'm approaching the whole process with a mixture of excitement and dread.

I'll do my best to pull through.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, October 09, 2006 at 6:09 p.m. | 0 comments
Astonishing X-Men #17Hell, I am too.

I've been in hiding. Well, no, not really. Just busy with busy work. Teacher's college, for the two or three of you who know, isn't really about tough work, tons of essays, and late nights. What it IS about is a lot of busy work. You're always busy with some little assignment or another.

This doesn't always mean the assignments make sense. My first week I was asked to bring in a poem to read to the class. The next week, I was asked to write a poem about myself. I tried going the angsty-teen route, but it didn't work.

The third week, we had to bring in newspapers to tear up and create found poetry. Then my prof sent me home to put my group's poem on paper. Well, one of them I did properly. The other one, well, see below. In my defense, it was mostly my idea.

Found poetry

I know that's not a defense. The REAL defense is that I'm friends with all of you people.

Or am I still? I wasn't able to go to Jer's housewarming which I'm sure was a lovely time. I still need to get my butt over there as soon as possible. I'm also going to invite Jer and Megan (as well as anyone else who is interested) to join Catherine and I for a candlelit tour of Casa Loma at Halloween. We did it last year and it was fantastic. Much better than the day time with a focus on the castle's ghosts.

Aaron at least is coming down this weekend. I need to write him about that as it seems that depending on when he gets here, I may not be able to spend as much time with him. On Saturday, Catherine's aunt from England is going to visit us. There's only so much of me to go around, but I feel a tremendous need to share all things geek with Aaron. Besides, out of everyone who reads this blog, I get the feeling he needs a break more than most.

Aaron, don't give up your blog. I read that thing. You're depriving me of minutes a day as I invest in your life. Think about ME before you make such decisions.

My back hurts and I'm hungry. Tired, too.

Heroes on NBC

But Heroes is on tonight. You guys should be watching that show. It's quite interesting. Lost is looking interesting this year, as is Veronica Mars. But the winner of all the premieres is Battlestar Galactica. I promise I'm TiVoing all the new eps for those of you who aren't caught up. It's just SO damn good. Season 3 is kicking my ass already and they've only aired the first two episodes.
Posted by Parallel
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOne of the biggest drawbacks to no longer having a job is that I no longer have a stable, powerful computer to do all of my work on. My computer at work was a sizeable beast of a Mac, but my PC laptop has had five years of hard living and it's starting to show.

The internet will crap out for no reason whatsoever. It's not the cable box, it's the computer. All of a sudden, it just won't recognize the internet. I have to reboot.

Then there's the harddrive. If it isn't having some catastrophic failure it's slowly eating itself. During a marathon session of photoshop crapping out on me and my deleting a ton of things off the drive to free up space, the new issue is that after having freed up more than 2 gigs of space it now seems to have all disappeared.

Nothing new was put on the drive, but I'm down to 400 mgs of free space.

My hard drive is eating itself.

The easiest thing to do, I suppose, would be to wipe the whole thing and start over again. However, seeing as I am not possessed of a great deal of funds nor do I have a copy of Word readily available, I'm not about to do this now that I'm actually dependent on my machine to help me produce works that will enable me to graduate.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the source of my frustration this week.

Catherine keeps telling me I need to relax. BAH to that, I say. BAH.
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, October 01, 2006 at 11:23 a.m. | 0 comments
October
And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care
October
And kingdoms rise
And kingdoms fall
But you go on


Is anyone else astonished that it's October already? How does that happen? How is it possible that I've been in school for three weeks, not had that job for three weeks, and all the other crazy life changes that have been going on lately.

And why is no one else blogging?

I know Aaron has no life any more considering he's pulling the reigns at The Ontarion, but Jer has no excuse. Nor Josh. Nor Nicole. Heck, what does SHE have to do all day?

Oh. Right.
Posted by Parallel
Sunday, September 24, 2006 at 10:25 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Ah, my fair, sweet internet. Why is it that sometimes I feel that only you really get me?

There's something so sweet, so powerful, about going out and hunting for that one, elusive figure and the evil denizens (store employees) who try to stand in your way but fail miserably.

I'd kill for a good toy. Sigh...
Posted by Parallel
Monday, September 18, 2006 at 1:52 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI know I don't work there any more, but my last day at FMG was actually a pretty good one. I did some work, but more importantly, I did some work making a few fond memories thanks to my camera.

Stop it. Nothing dirty (this means you, Jer).

No, instead I took a few moments to chronicle the misadventures of my former co-workers and myself. I uploaded them all to youtube and now present them here for you to enjoy.

The first one is entitled 'The Search for Water.' It features Nathan and I being dicks to our co-worker, Martin, who's heavily Spanish-accented pronounciation of 'Baafffalo' ranks among our funniest moments. Nathan and I would steal his water constantly and hide it in obvious places around the office. This time, we got his search on video. Of course, the second I started taping, Martin had to ham it up.



The next video is pure Nathan and I. The question I pose to him is "Do you ever wish you were white?"



Next up I scare the crap out of a woman named Sandra. Her office space is quiet except for her little stereo and she always zones out. This was the fifth time I'd done this to her and I think she was getting a bit ticked off.



Lastly, Sheila. She does this sort of thing a lot. Nate and I have but to ask and she performed like a little monkey.



All of that being said, I don't miss my job and I don't think about it at all. It's a nice feeling. Back to school work now (what little I have).
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 at 5:43 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Now that work is done (can I get a collective "hell yeah?") I should be dancing in the streets. School has started and at present my demanding schedule has given me Mondays and Wednesdays off, with classes ending by 12:30 on Tuesday and Friday.

That's a bit too much free time for me.

I don't miss work and I don't wish my OLD job on anybody, but I have to admit it certainly did fill out the day. Now I don't have Nathan to talk to, hit, or ignore, instead I have the brimming-over silence of my apartment broken only by the sounds of Truffle rattling on her cage bars.

I'm sure that once the semester starts rolling I'll have more little assignments to keep me busy. I already have been given, and completed, a couple of very minor things. So far, if this is a taste of things to come, I'm not going to be challenged very much.

At least not until the actual job starts.

In the meantime, I have the internet to play with, karate practices to go to on my own, and images such as Mr. Optimus Prime (seen above) to share with my audience of, oh, say 10 people.

But at least it's something to do. I'm starting to warm to the movie version of The Transformers even if the Decepticons have all gone horribly wrong. Optimus, at least, looks enough like the character I know and love for me not to run out and grab a pitchfork.

Other than that, I'm just sitting around in my shorts waiting for something to happen. I'm working a bit for Julian (the psychiatrist) again and am owed a bit of cash from a few sources. Hopefully the Dom (Catherine, so called 'the Dom' due to her status as the Dominant Bread-winner) will let me splurge on something fun every now and then. Even though we saved for this bit of schooling, I need to watch my purse strings.

And maybe have a shower or something.
Posted by Parallel
Friday, September 08, 2006 at 11:19 a.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI haven't written anything here in more than a week, despite the many things that I found I had to blog about. Partly I was busy, partly I was stressed. Mostly, I think, I'm just avoiding things.

This is a period of big changes and not just for me. Jer and Meg have a new home together, Nicole and Jamie are parents now to little Isabel, Aaron is the EIC of the Ontarion, my dad just retired, my brother is losing his job, David is getting set up in Guelph and much more.

It all seems to be coming down to the wire. Faster and swifter than I would have imagined after months of counting down the days, today is my final day at FMG. I thought I'd be a lot more happy and giddy after the various struggles I had, particularly early on in my career here.

But I'm actually sad. I cleaned out my desk, gave Nathan a present and have been wearing a foam piece of cheese that Nathan brought home for me after his trip to Wiconsin for a baseball game. No one here seems to find this terribly odd. I take that as a compliment.

Earlier this week, my co-workers took me out for lunch to Jack Astor's. More than a dozen people showed up and that doesn't include the six or seven who couldn't make it. Whether I wanted to realize it or not, I made a lot of friends here. The job had become unsatsifying creatively, but I can't deny that it changed me. Gave me more skills, both professionally and in terms of office politics, that I can see myself using in the future. This job was far from a waste of my time though the moment for change has finally come.

All my work is done. There's a company barbecue today and maybe Nate will even drive me out to Toys R Us.

I started teacher's college yesterday. It was just an orientation, but I like the fact that it overlapped by a day with my job. Out with one, in with another. I have Mondays and Wednesdays off until mid-October at school. After the 9-5, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with myself.

But it's time to find out. I waited long enough. I've been patient.

All good things (or in this case, so-so) must come to an end.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI feel like I should tell someone to make sure to feed and water Nathan. I'm going to miss him most of all. Five days a week sitting next to each other and he's become one of my best friends. He's a good man who helped me a lot and has been a good friend. I hope that I get to see him as often as possible. We'll go see the Blue Jays.

In the cheap seats. Nate'll hate that, which in turn, will amuse me.

And that's it.

I've conquered my past,
The future is here at last.
I stand at the entrance
To a new world I can see.

LAST actual day at work.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 3:07 p.m. | 1 comments
view from yangshou
I was so excited to see David in China as it had been more than 14 months since I saw him last. We had worked together at Rainbow Daycamp in addition to becoming more and more 'family' as a result of Catherine and I's ongoing relationship.

But he's such a ham.

If I wasn't rolling my eyes I was definitely laughing. You can't be around Dave and not enjoy yourself. He just has this quirky, manic energy and an infectious laugh. Also, he has no issues making fun of anyone or anything.

During our time in China, David was a constant source of amusement, often at odd times and doing things that you wouldn't expect a sane person to do. While we were on the Great Wall, I asked Catherine to shoot a small video of David and I walking along. David, however, decided to improvise.



There were many such bizarre incidents taking place in Yangshou, Guilin, Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, and then again once we were all together again here in Toronto. Sometimes you want to smack him, other times you ask him to pretend to be a dog while you videotape it.

You don't actually expect him to agree, but while we were touring a particularly steep section in the Summer Palace in Beijing, David decided to accomodate me. He even tried to get Catherine to participate, but she was having none of it.



Speaking of Catherine, she seems willing to permit David a score of odd behaviours that I would get reprimanded for should I ever dare to attempt them. David acts up, and it's hilarious.

In Nanjing, for instance, David spent a night bothering Catherine while she was writing postcards. He took each of her postcards and wrote insane things on them. The goal for her, he said, was to find a way to incorporate what he wrote on the back of the cards. We were all laughing, but I think if I had done it I'd have gotten beat up.

David wrote on one card "If there's a God in heaven..." and ended it with "you know my motto: an eye for an eye." David didn't find out until later that Catherine had set aside that particular card for her friend who was a bit religious.

Of course, that only made it funnier.

David brought a great deal of amusement to our trip which was good. He also cost a lot of money (inadvertantly) by making the wrong friends in Shanghai.

As a result, I now hate tea.

This installment of China Thursdays officially salutes David.

4 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, August 30, 2006 at 10:39 p.m. | 0 comments
I'm borrowing slightly from Jer's blog, but this is such amazing news that it is beyond description. Jamie told me the news yesterday in the morning and I called him right away to get the details.

12:47pm - Isabel Quinn Wiens Shepherd is born via emergency C-section

"Once it was over and they were both good the scary gave way to the happiest moment of my life... nothing even comes close," Jamie wrote.

"We are home now and settling in. Nicole and Isabel are sleeping right now. We are both pretty beat as we didn't get much sleep in the 4 days we were at the hospital. Izzy and Izzy Q are both in high rotation right now... Baby Jimole, not so much... and Doc? huh? Grey's?... weak."

So that's it. The first amongst our core group from university has reproduced. Personally, I think Jamie and Nicole are going to be amazing parents and little Isabel will have no shortage of love and support from both her blood family and her extended family of aunts and uncles who show up for entire weekends and do nothing but play games.

Welcome to the world, Isabel. I promise that whenever I visit, I'll bring you a new toy.

5 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, August 29, 2006 at 10:35 p.m. | 0 comments
Picture yourself near a stream.

Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air. Nothing can bother you here. No one knows this secret place. You are in total seclusion from that place called "the world."

The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity. The water is clear. You can easily make out the face of the person whose head you're holding under the water.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, August 24, 2006 at 12:33 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Above: One of the many odd sights in China that I took photos of. A man getting his hair cut on the city walls of Nanjing.

Nanjing is a blight on the face of the Earth.

Okay, that may be putting it a bit too seriously, but this place had few redeeming qualities. We left paradise on Earth (Yangshou) and wound up in a place that was entirely too much grey concrete to be pleasing in any form. David had just left his girlfriend behind and a late arrival into the city and a confusing taxi ride to find the hostel didn't help.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere is little to nothing to do in Nanjing. David takes all responsibility for us going there in the first place (he wanted to visit a couple of museums) but more than once I was wondering why we had gone there. We went to a bar street called 1912 our first night to find food. Even if I was a yuppie I wouldn't eat there. Tacky and expensive.

Hot, too. Damn hot. The humidity made it like walking through a sauna. The relief of our hostel room was cold comfort because the bathroom walls were entirely made of glass. Want to watch a loved one relieve themselves? Go ahead. Also, I developed a powerful ache in my chest that wouldn't go away.

So it was a good day to walk up a very steep hill and more than 300 steps to visit the tomb of some dead guy I'd never heard of. Part of the incentive was the hope that it was air conditioned, much like Mao's was back in Beijing. We walked a long way up and not only was the tomb not air conditioned, but the floor was slick with sweat and the guy wasn't even embalmed (or pickled as David puts it.

Here's a video of the disappointment:



Making the best of our day, we headed down to a tea house at the base of the steps. We wanted air conditioning (badly) and figured this would be a quick stop.

Three hours later we had a lot of tea to drink. We even had to brave the dreaded squat toilet. For the full story (with excellent details), feel free to ask. It's one of my favorites. Basically, I did it wrong, but still produced positive results.

The tea cups are incredibly small and there's a system you have to follow to drink. Catherine and David take a sip and do their best to look "serene."



To summarize, don't go to Nanjing. Stay in Yangshou or Beijing. We still wound up having some laughs and seeing some pretty neat things there, but overall, it's not a great city. It'd be like travelling to Canada to go and visit Cambridge.

And who would do that?

Well, not you guys anymore.

grumpy gates, guards, brian

9 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, August 23, 2006 at 3:34 p.m. | 0 comments
Apocalypse BAFI can feel it brewing in the pit of my stomach. Lots of life changes ahead, most positive, but my mind and body are eager to get the hell out of dodge.

People keep telling me to relax, I'll be leaving soon, and all that stuff, but I find myself becoming increasingly agitated over minor matters that in months past wouldn't have phased me. I'm not even talking about work complaints, just people in general or having to complete any sort of task.

My mind has quit. It's already at home, watching TV, and preparing for the next step.

It's also bogged down by an article I'm writing for Eye Weekly which I no longer believe in (either the story or the pub). I pitched it months ago (it has to do with the upcoming Toronto Comicon and me interviewing TV celebrities from shows long dead) and I modified it yesterday to be about the ridiculous prices these people charge their fans for an autograph and the paper went for it. Now I actually have to produce something. In reality, all I want to do is sleep.

Most celebrities charge about $20 per signature on a photograph they provide you which you typically have to purchase as well. If they even get 200 people in their line a day, that's more than $4000. Add it up over three days and the potential lines that can grow from a typical show attendence of 30 to 40 000 geeked-out fans and you've got enough for most middle-class families to survive for a year.

Why can't I have a career like that?

I suppose teaching is second best given all the vacation time you have. During the year you're worked to the bone, but at least you're mentallly crippled body has a chance to heal during summer.

I'm also annoyed because I have four blisters on my feet causing a lot of discomfort. Didn't get a single one when I was in China, but I get home and it's blister city.

Oh well. Season 2 of Veronica Mars should be in my mailbox any day now and I finally got the arms/tubes for my build-a-figure of Apocalypse. Minor victories all around on things that don't matter.

The main shining light right now is that today is Catherine and I's 7th anniversary. We've lasted a good long time and look forward to many years to come. I still can't get over how lucky I am to have someone so loving and supportive in my life. She even puts up with my rants and toys. That, my friends, is girlfriend gold.

To celebrate, she's going out tonight with her brother to see Blue Rodeo at the CNE.

Figures. Oh well, I have special plans in the works for us in a couple weeks time as we're super busy until then. Hopefully she really likes it, otherwise I'll be back to let everyone who reads this blog know.

10 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, August 21, 2006 at 12:21 p.m. | 0 comments
But I'm leaning more towards a negative reaction. Early photos have been released of what the characters will look like from the upcoming Transformers live-action film will look like. I'm mostly having trouble because this is a reimagining of the generation one material that we all grew up with. Many favorites will be featured in the movie (for a complete list, see below), but they've all been given a more modern, stripped apart look with gears and other bits of tech showing through.

It makes the characters look much more alien and a bit less accessible. Not having seen any footage I can't say for certain how this will look, but I'm much more in favor of a classic look. Below us we see Optimus Prime, voiced by Peter Cullen who did all the V/O work for the cartoon series and movie.

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Next up is a new character created for the film called Blackout. He looks cool enough, but why spend so much time making him look impressive when Starscream looks like a Quasimodo like character?

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Blackout looks very tough and gritty. I think he's going to be one of the coolest looking characters in the film, even though Image Hosted by ImageShack.usfor the bad guys those awards should be for Megatron and Starscream. Many will lament the loss of Soundwave from this film, but the filmmakers are aware of his popularity and have promised he'll appear in a sequel. For now, Frenzy, one of his tapes, will appear in the film itself. Hopefully he looks better than Starscream here...

Starscream just loses all the things that made him look cool. They could have easily based him off the upcoming Masterpiece toy that's coming out, making him look much more like Megatron's second-in-command and would-be usurper. Starscream is meant to be a tall, imposing figure. Instead, he looks a bit clumsy and bug-like. Hopefully, seeing as how this picture is the watered down toy version of the character, the film version is much more impressive.

Next up is Scorponok:

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Based on the Headmaster character which arrived late in the life cycle of the original series, Scorponok was the leader of the Decepticon Headmasters and the eventual leader of the Decepticons themselves until Galvatron came back. He also appeared in some form during the Beast Wars cartoons. He looks incredibly vicious here, so hopefully he translates well to the big screen.

Last up is Bumblebee.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOne of my favorite characters ever, he looks like he came straight out of Bionicle or something. Kids will likely love him, but I miss the VW bug version. There are issues with VW and Hasbro so that version may never see the light of day again. But Bumblebee was the kid Transformer for the most part. The little sidekick who could. Now he's a camaro.

Sigh.

Here's the final list of the characters appearing in the film:

Autobots:
Optimus Prime (voiced by Cullen)
Ironhide (also voiced by Cullen as he was in the original series)
Bumblebee
Jazz
Ratchet

Decepticons:
Megatron (maybe voiced by Frank Welker, the original V/O actor)
Starscream (his V/O actor has since passed away)
Brawl
Bonecrusher (one of the Constructicons)
Barricade (never heard of him)
Scorponok
Frenzy (one of Soundwave's tapes, but SW himself isn't in the flick)
Blackout (never heard of him).

I have hope.

12 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 11:16 a.m. | 0 comments
Brian's hogGetting around China is fun, so long as you do it properly. Our third day in Yangshou, we rented mini-motorcycles and I think I looked damn impressive on that hog. Finally, I can join the ranks of my father, brother, and uncle with my ferocious beast.

Okay, I was worried I was going to break the damn thing the whole time or run the battery out. Almost did, too.

Today is about the end of the Great Wall trip we had, possibly one of the best experiences of my entire life. That's a pretty big statement, but it was something I will never forget.

To try to describe something like the Great Wall to someone who hasn't been there is impossible. For many, including myself pre-trip, it was just a very, very long wall. Who would want to go visit a wall?

The answer is that everyone should do it, but only the way Catherine, David and myself did. Avoid the commercial and rebuilt sections that are overwhelmed by tourists, stalls, and markets. Instead, thanks to my Uncle Paul, we stayed overnight on an unrestored tower in Jinshanling along with two Americans, Mike and Naiella.

We woke at 5am the next day and made a 10km trek along the unrestored section, passing fewer than 10 people, until we arrived at the next town, Simatai.

The final leg involved crossing a long suspension bridge, but you had no choice, as David discusses in this video:



After that, we went by Flying Fox. I figured out much later that 'Flying Fox' is the name of a zipline that takes you back across the river we had just crossed and down to a boat. From there, they drop you off just shy of the parking lot where our driver was passed out and waiting for us. Catherine snapped photos of David going but refused to go herself, so Mike and Naiella helped her down the hill with her bags.

My trip down the zip got the video treatment:



Anyone going to China should do the trip to the Great Wall that we did. If you want the info, let me know and I'll be all too happy to share it with you.

For now, I'm getting back to work, though I feel absolutely horrible. I'm brutally sick and Catherine isn't here to take care of me.

14 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, August 14, 2006 at 4:24 p.m. | 0 comments
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI'd seen this story in a number of different venues, even on The Amazing Race of all places. I found an online story written by Tim Young that best summarized the story of Hachiko, an incredibly loyal dog.

The story touched me for a number of reasons. Part of it comes because Jack, my own loyal dog, used to sit and wait for me to come home every day. Both of my parents mentioned that when I was due home, Jack would get antsy and wait at the window or the door. I can't express how much I miss that. This is a story about the kind of bond you can develop with animals who become more than pets, but friends.

Here is the story:

Shibuya is known today as a popular gathering point for Tokyo’s young people. But long before loose socks and sandals with three-inch soles, before Tower Records and Studio Alta, Shibuya had another claim to fame: Hachiko.

The year was 1925. Every morning, Professor Eizaburo Ueno walked to Shibuya Station, accompanied by his loyal dog, Hachi, nicknamed Hachi-ko. Hachiko didn’t accompany his master to his teaching job at the Imperial University (now known as Tokyo University), but when Professor Ueno returned every day at 3 p.m., the dog was always at the station waiting for him.

However, on May 21 of that year, Ueno died of a stroke while at the university. Hachiko went to Shibuya as always to meet his master, but 3:00 came and went, and the professor didn’t arrive. So Hachiko waited. And waited.

The akita must have known something was wrong, but nonetheless he returned to the station every day at 3:00 to meet the train. Soon people began to notice the loyal dog’s trips made in vain to meet his master. Ueno’s former gardner, the Shibuya Stationmaster, and others began feeding Hachiko and giving him shelter.

Word of Hachiko’s unaltered routine spread across the nation, and he was held up as a shining example of loyalty. People traveled to Shibuya simply to see Hachiko, feed him, and gently touch his head for luck.

The months turned to years, and still Hachiko returned to Shibuya Station daily at 3 p.m., even as arthritis and aging took their toll. Finally, on March 7, 1935 — nearly ten years after last seeing Professor Ueno — the 12-year-old akita was found dead on the same spot outside the station where he had spent so many hours waiting for his master.

Hachiko’s death made the front pages of major Japanese newspapers. A day of mourning was declared. Contributions poured in from all over the country to memorialize the dog that had won the hearts of the nation. Sculptor Takeshi Ando was hired, with the money that had been contributed, to create a bronze statue of Hachiko. It was placed on the exact spot where Hachiko had waited for so long.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWithin a few years, however, Japan was at war, and any available metal was melted down to make weapons. Not even Hachiko’s statue was spared. However, after the war, in 1948, Ando’s son Teru sculpted a new Hachiko—the statue that stands outside Shibuya Station to this day.

This is not the only monument to Chuken (“loyal dog”) Hachiko to be found in Tokyo, however. Aoyama Cemetery, two kilometers west of TAC, contains a memorial to Hachiko on the site of Professor Ueno’s grave. Some of Hachiko’s bones are reportedly buried there, but in fact, Hachiko can still be seen, in the fur—stuffed, in the National Science Museum, northwest of Ueno Station.

Back in Shibuya, Hachiko’s statue sits in a noble pose, forever waiting for his master. And, appropriately, his statue, the best-known landmark and meeting place in Shibuya, is where hundreds of people every day sit and wait for their friends.
Posted by Parallel
Friday, August 11, 2006 at 10:52 a.m. | 0 comments
I feel so free!To really get the full impact of the following post, I'll give you some background. My co-worker, Li, came over today with a letter (four pages long) from a Spanish employee who not only quit but went into great detail why he was quitting, alleging there was racism, discrimination, and unfair treatment for call center employees, all of which I can believe is true.

Still, the wording of the letter was hilarious. He got his point across, which is the important part, but it just inspired me to create my own letter. He began his with "I am quit, I feel so free."' Amen, brother.

Here's my version, which I do not claim to be totally true or even appropriate. Large parts of it ARE true, but bent enough to be amusing. It made others laugh, which is good enough for me.

Brians letter

I am so quit. I feel so free. This is my letter to say I quit and now I am free.


Company
536 Kipling Avenue
August 11, 2006

For a long time I have wanted to say I quit but needed money. I have money and am go to school so now I say why I am so free and glad to be quit.

Calendar
My calendar was stolen away from me for one day. I do not blame first media for this but blame policy that allowed this to happen. A co-worker racistly took my calendar and would not give it back but laughed. I was upset about this and others laugh at me as well. This is racist. I got my calendar back but had to steal it when no one was looking I made another calendar and put it up in the place but no one noticed. I feel I was within my rites.

Lucnh
I was given a bad manual when I started so I think I was only get 30 minutes lunch and only took that long all day to eat. I hav big lunches so this is often a problem and I can’t walk anywhere except to the bathroom because not enough time. It was 6 month before I find out I get hour lunch and was not allow to take 2 hours lunches for three months to make up difference. I accrued to time which is not given to me and first media policy say I shit out of luck. Bad manual is to blame and no one helped me just laughed.

Natahn
He is a bluly who laughs at me. He hits me with carrots and laughs. Many times he say he is my friend and I believe him but company policy let him bully me. I no longer think this is what Nathan says friends do. I have described me situation to other and they say hitting with carrots is not friendly. I tell Nathan this and he steal some grapes. Grapes are not cheap and I know I will not get paid money to replace them. I feel this is a racist action and p olciy that is in book doesn’t write about grapes. Please fix this so future employess are not racist.

policy
Policy says I can’t go out front doors and have to sign my name if I want to leave or I get in trouble. I don’t see others get in trouble and think this a violation of rights if I have to sign my name. it’s very hard to use a pen and I like to type so I don’t likes to sign my name.

Cleaning people have touched my stuff at night but I can’t confromt them because they are not here during they day and I told I can’t leave a letter asking them not to touch my stuff. They turned spiderman to backwards and moved other things around that are mine. I think they have also thrown out my fruit which I paid for and was told I would not get money back. This is a racist thing.

I fell out of my chair once and company did not offer to help me up take me to doctor or fix my chair. They laugh at me in a way I found racist. Just because I am white does not mean I am snow blind to actions of laughter against me or my chair. I know the chair is company property but I have to sit in it so please buy no slippery chairs for futurer employees. I went to the doctor for this and he said he can’t fix me.

I feel so free to be leaving and going back to school. I don’t like racist things or bombs. First media gave me money but also a bully which I didn’t ask for and am returning to your attention.

Thanks you

Brains letter.


19 actual days of work left.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, August 10, 2006 at 11:28 a.m. | 0 comments
Yangshou countryside


Every Thursday until I get bored of doing it, I'll be including photos and videos of my trip to China.

Today is all about Yangshou, a nice little paradise in the south of China. The above photo is a panoramic shot taken from some of the country roads just outside of the town. We travelled these roads either on scooters or mini-motorcycles that only cost about 30-40 yuan per day (about $4.50-$5.50).

The water on the far right flooded over the path due to heavy rains making it tough to drive those little mini-motorcycles over. Catherine, David and I went for it anyway, but I was too late to catch Catherine dipping her feet in. David and I made it through okay on the first pass, but seeing as how that road turned out to be a dead end we had to come back at which point I made it a point to soak both my feet.

The first pass:


The day before we rented scooters and all was well until David and his girlfriend went through a muddy patch a little too quickly and tried to correct themselves when they slid. Instead they came to a very slow stop and toppled sideways into the mud.

Damn funny, if you ask me. Just then the previously deserted streets suddenly had a lot of traffic and tourists who stopped to ask him how he was doing.

While he was cleaning up, I asked Catherine to take a video of me driving down the street. Little did I know that there was a surprise waiting for me. By the end of the video, you see me panic a little because I was about to enter the muddy patch that did David and Ting Ting in.



More next week!

21 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, August 09, 2006 at 1:13 p.m. | 0 comments
why not?

My personal best is 4311. Post your scores in the chatterbox.

22 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, August 08, 2006 at 4:26 p.m. | 0 comments
Angry Basil FawltySince leaving for China more than a month ago, this blog, for obvious reasons, hasn't been updated much. I expected to get right back into the thick of things last week, but I was tired beyond belief.

Coming home is rough.

The jet lag was terrible. You're talking a 12-hour time difference as well as being thrust into the 9-5 world again. Catherine and I would get home, nap, then wake up for two hours before going to bed again at 10pm. I skipped all the normal routines such as going to karate in favour of bed.

Despite my attempts to sleep my life away, it has found ways to creep back in. More than once I've lamented my return to Canada, not because I wanted to stay in China longer than we were there, but because coming back home is coming back to bills, a job, and reality.

Being in a completely different culture changes your perception of things. One, most Canadians seem terribly fat to me, including myself. Very few people are overweight in China and if they are it's more often a symbol of wealth than indulgence.

It's much cleaner here, but the people seem meaner for some reason. There are a lot of harsh, angry looking people on the subway and on the streets. There is little to no crime in China and what crime there is the punishment is swift and severe. Here, things seem much more lax and dangerous because of it.

Life is changing soon, as people keep telling me, but it's not changing soon enough. I don't wish to be at this job any longer and really, five weeks isn't so long to go and the money is helpful considering the large debt looming on the horizon. I'm still sick from my trip and my stomach has yet to fully adjust.

I also got mad at Tivo. I had to send my unit in to get replaced because of a faulty harddrive. The label was large and printed clearly, but for some reason it continues to sit in a post office in Memphis, just three miles from the manufacturer. For a week I've been yelling at Tivo due to unsatisfactory customer service, only to discover yesterday that the fault more lies with USPS.

So I called them and gave them an earful as well, fending off their flippant excuses. They promised to look into it and have someone call me as soon as possible. No one has called me yet.

Tivo called not long after, apologizing for their crap service. They asked for the shipping confirmation number I got from USPS, which I readily gave, and prepared to apologize seeing as how it was USPS that was to blame and not them.

I didn't get the chance. After I gave the number, the CSR said "okay, your replacement unit will arrive in five to seven days."

Not being stupid, I said "okay, thank you."

I have no idea what's going to happen to that little lost box in Memphis. So long as I get my Tivo, I don't care. My next plan is to call all the companies who have expensive products that I want and harass them until they give me free stuff. It appears to work.

Also, my old calendar-stealing assistant got canned. A new one started today. The vicious cycle never ends. I need to get out of here.

I saw Clerks II and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 this weekend. Both enjoyable for entirely different reasons. I think Kevin Smith needs to actually try to make a movie next time.

That's it. I'll update again more frequently. For now, I'll leave you with a fascinating story involving a new bar that has set up shop near Nanjing in China. Nanjing, for those of you who read this blog, is the Chinese version of hell. I hated that city and would spit upon it again if ever I were forced to go there. Then again, it might be worth it to visit this bar:

ANGER BAR

A bar in eastern China has come up with a novel way of attracting clients - they are allowed to beat up the staff.

23 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, August 01, 2006 at 11:28 a.m. | 0 comments
The road from Jinshanling to Simatai
I'm back.

It's a strange thing to be back. I'd almost say it's more disorienting than flying to China in the first place. Everything looks the same as it did before, but it's all colored differently. It's like going away to university then coming home for the first time. It's still home, but the main difference is that you're not the same person you used to be.

My sleeping patterns are still a bit off. I'm used to being twelve hours behind. As I write this at work, it's 11:26am, but my brain is insisting that it's 11:26pm.

The first night we slept in our old bed and both Catherine woke up at different times and didn't know where we were. This never happened in China, but when I wake up now, I'm thrown off.

Still, I like my bed much better than anything over there. It's like sleeping on a cloud.

Being back at work isn't much fun, either. The job is the same plus a few wrinkles I have to iron out from my time away. My new assistant is an ass. I got up to talk to Nate at one point and my new assistant walked over to my desk, unpinned my calendar, and then put it up at his own desk. It says things on there like 'Dad's birthday' and 'Concert with Catherine.'

I said "dude, why did you take my calendar?" He grinned and shrugged. Twit.

I can't shake China. The fatigue, the wonder. I knew I'd be back here during the trip, but it seemed like such a remote place. Now as I ride the subway, I think back to times in China when I was imagining myself back on the Toronto subway.

I think I'm a bit more sad for being back. I was ready to leave and had an amazing time there, but part of me wishes I had a new reality to return to. It's coming, less than two months off, but things just aren't the same.

And it's not just because I can swear in Chinese now.

David is still there for another week, then we'll meet him at the airport here on Monday. If I was feeling out of it after three weeks, I can only imagine how he'll feel since he's been gone for 14 month
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, July 27, 2006 at 5:42 a.m. | 0 comments
There were various sources describing the length of the walk between Jinshanling, the small town where we'd be spending our night on the tour, and the distance to Simatai, another small town, that we'd be traveling to.

My Uncle said it was 10km. He didn't know if that was up and down mountains, or 'as the crow flies.' David insisted on asking as many people as possible this question, using crude hand gestures to stand in for the crow.

All in all, it was a four hour walk. Up and down mountains. Thirty towers on the Great Wall stood between us and our destination, and to even attempt any kind of description would do the sight itself injustice.

A wonder of the modern world. Mountains all around us and this huge, snaking wall improbably standing along it for hundreds of kilometers.

We arrived early evening last night and got our first steps on the wall out of the way. Our guide was obviously used to this and had no problem going up and down and a break-neck speed. All three of us were wheezing and sore and it took less than half an hour. We didn't say anything last night, but we were all sure we were screwed.

Dinner at our hosts store was fantastic. More than 10 dishes were served up, a 'Farmer's Meal' they called it, and insisted we eat as much as possible. If we stopped, they'd say 'eat, eat!'

When we first arrived, our guide called out, in Chinese "foreigner's are here." His wife came out of the back, took one look at him, then pointed at him and said 'you're drunk!'

Because it had been raining earlier and there was a threat of a storm, we stayed in one of the lower towers that night with an older American couple that we got along quite well with. Catherine, David and I stayed in a building on the tower while the American's opted for a tent on the battlement. Our guide went below to sleep in 'solider's quarters.'

I woke up around 4 and struggled out of bed at 5. I had to go to the bathroom, which in this case was a small grassy field. Squatting is not fun. Though it can be funny. The night before David was squatting over an open toilet and was balancing his flashlight in his underwear. One bad move and he dropped it into the toilet.

We didn't tell them about the lost flashlight.

When I say up and down, I mean up and down. Catherine compared herself to a mountain goat more than four times that day and it was apt. Some sections had us pulling ourselves up hand and foot to make it. When you see the pictures and the distances between the towers, you'll get just how tough a walk this was. Parts of the wall we were on haven't been renovated and the sides have long since crumbled away. To call it treacherous at times is putting it mildly.

But four hours and 10km later, we made it. What an incredible feeling. To cap it off, David and I took a zipline down to a boat on the far bank. The boat dropped us off at the parking lot, where our driver was waiting. He's been waiting for us since he dropped us off. He got a hotel room less than a km away and was sleeping when we walked up to him in his car.

Catherine got stuck with the bags and had to walk down. David and I just relaxed.

That's the way to do it.

This was the best thing we have done in China, even David agrees and he's been here for 14 months. This is possibly one of my most unforgettable things I've done in my life. Thank god for my uncle. As soon as David gets back, I'm going to call him on his cellphone to thank him.

I'm damn tired now. I rewarded myself with a 'great wall baguette' here at the hostel that was terrible. But it was called 'great wall', so I figured I had to.

I'll be home late Saturday. 10pm for sure. Don't call me until Sunday on risk of death.
Posted by Parallel
Oh, what a crazy trip this has been.

It's hard to believe that Catherine and I are now in the final stretch. We've taken so many planes, trains, buses, taxis and everything else that it's hard to believe we'll be back in Canada on Saturday.

Part of me is ready to come back. The part that enjoys NOT being stared at, cheated, or smelling the horribly polluted air is ready for english signs and a variety of television programming.

Another part doesn't want to. This has been such a fascinating experience that you don't ever want it to end. Within a day or so, I"m sure I'll settle back into old routines and I just don't want to do that. There's something about expanding your horizons that the prospect of limiting them again kind of hurts deep inside.

Will it be that bad? Well, if I was going back to my job for an indefinite amount of time, then yes, it possibly would. But I have teacher's college, more time with friends, and hell, even a new Nintendo system coming out. This has been an incredible year and it's far from over.

But for now I'm in China. I've been really enjoying it despite the pace that is threatening to push me over the edge towards exhaustion.

We were in Shanghai just a couple of days ago. I was accosted by a child beggar there who would kneel at my feet and bow to me to try to get me to give him money. I kept saying no and trying to walk away, but he would headbut my stomach or ram me and try to push me with his head. A few times when he charged, I'd step out of his way and he'd fall down. It was just crazy. I kept saying 'boo' to him, which means 'no', and he'd shout 'yes'! David and Catherine just kept walking ahead of me. Loads of help, they were.

Still, Shanghai is China's answer to New York. Old architecture mixed with neon that gives it a seedy yet hi-tech glow. So far it's been my favorite city. We were in Nanjing before that, and that place is a shit hole.

We were trying to conserve money this week which meant having to change our plans of sleeping on the Great Wall. We called the guy who arranges the trips who told us it would be 400 rmb per person, which is around $60. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it adds up. We'd have to take a train out of Beijing to the village and back, putting the total much closer to 600 or 800 per person.

Then the most unlikely thing happened.

I had dinner with my Uncle Paul last night, an overall nice man but not someone that I think anyone could really feel close to. He has a factory here which means he's well off, but exactly how well off is not something I would ever ask.

Before we met for dinner, he told me he was looking into the Great Wall thing for us which was nice, but I wrote him yesterday or the day before and said that it was just looking to be too much so we were going to do a day tour or something similar instead.

At dinner, which also cost more than any of us were prepared for, yet he paid the bill as though it were nothing, he then handed us an envelope of money and said that he was treating our trip. Not only that, he was providing us with our own driver to take us to the village and that the driver was going to stay there over night and take us back whenever we wanted.

Floored is too minor a word to describe my reaction. There was enough for David, Catherine, myself, and THEN SOME. I just didn't know how to react. I'm quite pleased that we had at least bought some flowers for his girlfriend before we arrived and gave her a Canadian pin. Even then, I think we should have bought her a ton more.

So, that's what we're doing tonight. Our own driver will show up in about three hours and take us out there. Then it's sleeping on the Great Wall for us.

Not a bad way to wind down the trip. Not bad at all.

My Uncle kicks ass. I don't know of a way to thank him adequately enough.
Posted by Parallel
Monday, July 17, 2006 at 10:35 p.m. | 0 comments
One of the things I loved best about living in Jasper was waking up in the mornings and seeing the mountains outside of my windows.

The mountains of Yangshou are completely different. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. They are high, jagged peaks, completely covered in trees and some have houses built into the face of the cliffs or on top of them. There are hundreds of these mountains, some with clouds clutching to the faces, and it's impossible not to stop and stare in awe every five minutes.

It's a paradise. One of the few I've found in the world.

Yangshou creates a massive difference on my impression of China so far. Beijing and Chengdu are in a perpetual state of destruction and creation. A wrecked building can stand beside a brand new skyscraper. The pollution chokes you and we never saw clear blue sky until we broke through the clouds on plane trips.

It's been raining here, but it's possible to take a deep, fresh breath and this morning, for the first time in China, we can see the sun and sky easily. We've seen the sun before, but it looked like an angry red-orange dot in the sky.

We've been busy here. Catherine got to pet a panda, I've gotten to talk with cab drivers, and yesterday, after meeting up with David (hard to believe it's been more than a year, but within a minute it felt like he hadn't been gone at all), we rented scooters and drove through the countryside.

It was fantastic. David and his girlfriend, Ting Ting, managed to come to a full stop in a muddy path only to tip over a second later. I helped by taking a picture. Catherine and I had our own scooters as well and managed to avoid making such a mistake.

Later that afternoon we went to a water cave. Huge, deep, and with many places to crouch and scrape along, it ends with a mud bath. We have some pictures of that as well, though someone else took those photos. We even went down a slide. Ting Ting refused to take off her miner's helmet because she didn't want her hair to get dirty.

On the drive back it rained still. David got a flat in town and had to push his scooter the rest of the way while Ting Ting rode with me. Scooter lady didn't look happy, but only charged us $3 for the wrecked tire.

Good times.

Soon we'll leave Yangshou, but I don't really want to. It has been the past part of the trip so far. Maybe we'll go to Nanjing next, maybe to Shanghai. That's the great thing about having the freedom to travel and have fun. David will be with us, and all of his luggage, so that could dampen things, but I doubt it will very much.

All of you should wish you were here. It's incredible.
Posted by Parallel
Tuesday, July 11, 2006 at 2:21 a.m. | 1 comments
You blog.

Or at least that's what I tell myself. For those of you I emailed, this will be a bit of a repeat. There's a small internet cafe in our hostel that I'm making use of at the moment. It's 2:18pm our time, meaning it's 2:18am last night for any of you reading this.

Most of you are probably in bed. Maybe not Jamie.

Getting your first impression of China and in particular Beijing when you're exhausted isn't the best idea. The place is hot, crowded, and you get stared at. A lot. Earlier today when Catherine was off visiting Chairman Mau's grave site, a group of Chinese tourists, all in their young teens, were slowly edging towards me. I figured out that they were trying to snap a picture near me, so I just opened up my arms and a timid girl came and stood next to me. Then another girl. Then a guy came over and we crossed arms and tried to look "tough."

Getting stared at is hard to get used to at first. Just about everyone does it and more than once I've seen them take pictures. There are a lot more tourists around here than you'd think so I'm not sure why they get so excited. I suppose many of them come from small cities or villages where tourists are very rare so I suppose we're an interesting sight.

What a city. There are shantys, skyscrapers, half-torn down buildings and fast food joints. And people are EVERYWHERE.

Our little hostel in the middle of a hutong is quite interesting. A hutong is essentially a small, crowded market street and there are dozens all over the city. This didn't stop my Uncle Paul from just driving right through one in his very large van. People either get out of the way or get hit. No one seems to mind these cars driving through. It's quite a strange thing to see.

And a little bit scary. It took me at least a day or two to get over all the strangeness around us. I don't notice people staring as much and things are very cheap. Whatever you eat, though, just wait half an hour and go to the bathroom before you head out. Call it a precaution.

Also, don't make eye contact with anyone. This is just going to get you bothered to no end. Just say "no" to everyone trying to sell you something or get your attention. If they think you're on the fence, they'll do everything they can to stop you from leaving. One man was convinced I wanted a wallet and tried to burn it with his lighter to prove it was authentic. Then he pressed the heated surface against my arm. I tried to leave and he halved the price. I tried to leave again and he cut THAT price in half. Finally, he got frustrated and thrust a calculator in my hands to get me to indicate how much I wanted to pay. I wasn't even looking at the wallets in the first place.

Everything has a different texture here. The smell, the heat, the city. There are some truly impressive sights here and some truly devastating ones as well. The city is half under rubble as it gets torn down and built up as often as a kid playing with lego. Nothing stays the same here for long. You also see people who were victims of some kind of protest. They're badly burned with chunks of flesh missing as well as limbs. We steer clear of those.

After day one, people bother us a lot less. We shed the Canadian politeness as soon as possible and that seems to make things go easier.

We're about to go out for a walk now. I had a hamburger and Catherine had some sprite. You need lots of fluids to walk around in this city. Hot doesn't begin to cover it. I've already lost 10 pounds from sweat.

But it's good. It's strange. It's China.
Posted by Parallel
Friday, July 07, 2006 at 6:35 p.m. | 0 comments
goneThis was going to be a post of tearful and drawn-out goodbyes as Catherine and I board a plane tomorrow morning at 9:45am for a three week trip to China. Then I thought about it and realized that I'm only going on vacation, not moving away.

Despite this, it became quite apparent how deep and thorough my connection to this place is as the week went on and I informed countless people of my intinerary. You'd think that I was moving away, quitting a job, or having some other massive event happen in my life, but I'm just going on vacation.

Maybe it was my mother. She's very concerned and emotional about the whole thing which I love and appreciate about her. Aaron wrote last night to say that he wanted to see me again before I go, not realizing that my departure was much sooner than he thought.

I called my dad, saw my uncle, talked to people at karate, and many more people at work. All of whom were genuinely interested in where I was going and what I was doing.

It felt good. Still does.

In fact, it leaves me feeling that no matter what else happens on this trip that I left everything in the best shape I could. I went above and beyond for work and though today is Sandy's last day, which is sad in of itself, she's also doing me a huge favor by coming in during the evenings to do work and ensure that I have a job to come back to.

I left lots of instructions for my mom who will be apartment-sitting and wrote a three page manual for Catherine's parents about caring for Truffle. I think I've done everything I can.

Now I don't want to go. Nah, I do, but this is an experience that I've never had. No one I know, except for David, has gone on a trip like this. At least on the bright side, over there, I'm exotic.

I hope to find internet access over there so I'll pick up email and do a bit of blogging.

Here we go.

Deep breath.

And just like Keyser Sose... I'm gone.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, July 05, 2006 at 2:33 p.m. | 1 comments
party pooperNo matter where I go or what I do, I seem to wind up talking about poop. Degu poop, poop talk with co-workers, and now I've even discussed it with a Sears optician.

Last week I got new glasses for the first time in years. Though they look great, they were sliding down my nose often enough that I went back in on Monday with Catherine to get them adjusted. A very nice Indian lady was there to help out and she laughs at all my jokes, though she clearly has limited understanding of English.

"You are good with the words," she said during our first meeting.

This time, shortly after her assistant/daughter returned to the store, she and I were discussing my upcoming trip to China. I told her I had mastered the language already which consists of talking slowly and loudly while gesturing wildly with my arms. She thought this was amusing and while I was joking, I assume this communication mode will come into play sooner than I think.

I told her that I was going to have a good time and that over there, I was exotic and looking forward to being regarded as so. She said not to get into trouble and I told jokingly told her not to be a party pooper.

"A what?" she asked me.

"You know, someone who stops the party from being fun. You're having a good time and someone ruins it," I said.

"Oh," she replied. Still looking confused. I decided to help her out by breaking it down.

"You know, it's two words. 'Party' and, well, 'poop,'" I said.

"Poop?" she asked, clearly not understanding. At this point I was trying to get my point across without using words like 'shit' as then it becomes quite disgusting rather than just an everyday phrase.

At this point, her assistant/daughter looks at her and chimes in. "Poo poo," she says, laughing. The woman's eyes lit up with understanding as she happily repeated "Poo poo!"

Relieved, I continued to explain. "Yes! You're having fun and then someone comes and poo poos. And you look and see the poo poo, so then the party is over."

"I get it!" she says, laughing. "That's a good one. Party pooper. I will remember that."

God help the Chinese when I get over there.

27 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Friday, June 30, 2006 at 4:57 p.m. | 0 comments
Superman Returns in 3DI don't know why I keep trying to deny my inner comic book geek. I've gone so far as to try to publically shun my affliction but as I gaze over the contents of this blog it's filled to the brim with inane references to inane works.

Though I consider some of it to be art.

Well, why fight it, here's a quick breakdown of this week in comic book geek:

1. Superman Returns

If you're going to see it, I highly recommend you go to an IMAX. Not only does the big screen make it an impressive theatrical experience, but the 20 minutes of footage that is in 3D makes it worth the extra $2 admission. I'm fairly certain our showing was sold out and I think the film deserves it.

There are a lot of positives in this film which I didn't think there would be. Kevin Spacey was great, I didn't mind Brandon Routh at all, and some of the plot points that I found jarring just be hearing second hand were no longer an issue for me at the end of this film. I really enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. Makes X-Men 3 really stand out as a sub-par work comparitively.

2. Blade: The TV Series

There is nothing that can redeem this show. I wasted two hours of my life watching it when it was apparent within a minute that this was not a good show. There's nothing solid about it. Not the acting, the costumes, any of the characters or the plot. Judging by this, it will be a hit with stupid people who don't know what good television should be.

3. The Transformers

The teaser trailer is now live at the official website although I wouldn't call it a teaser nor a trailer. We see one robot in silhouette against the sun for a half second while the rest of the trailer makes it seem as though the movie is a battle that plays out on Mars.

Two thumbs way down. The only transforming here is the logo and title. You need to WOW audiences if you're going to tease them about a film a year off, not make them worry about your credibility as a filmmaker.

Other stuff

That's it. Just comics, got a couple more action figures and I'm expecting to get more soon. Vacation season is here. Paul and Victoria have already left for Iceland, Catherine and I are going to Brantford for the weekend and gearing up for our three week odyssey to China in just 8 days time.

I didn't get fired or anything, which means that I've officially met my goal of hitting July 1st (more or less) which means 16 months continual employment. If I can bend this the right way, it will start me off at a slightly higher salary once I start teaching (assuming I make it through the course).

Also, I heard from Tom Beisel yesterday. It's been more than 6 years since I talked to him. It was just a small email, but he seems to be doing well. Good for him.

29 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, June 28, 2006 at 2:15 p.m. | 2 comments
webbingThese days, due to boredom, my ambition can sometimes get the better of me. Case in point is the illustration to the left. Made up of four screen grabs I took from the new Spider-Man 3trailer featuring the black suit (otherwise known as Venom), Topher Grace as Eddie Brock, Thomas Haden Church as Sandman, and James Franco as Hobgoblin.

I wanted to include all of the photos I snagged, but couldn't think of a way that a standard presentation would be effective with so many photos. "Make ONE image!" I thought to myself. Downloaded a webbing brush for photoshop, added drop shadows, adjusted the photos and so on.

It looks KIND OF cool, but not what I envisioned. I'm still posting it though because I wasted a lot of time trying to get it right. The rest of today will be spent making glass beads in photoshop. My first attempt is so-so given that the guy who made the tutorial was working with a much older version.

I'm quite excited to see Spider-Man 3, although I'm getting very tired of film studios putting out trailers like these when the film is nearly a year away from opening. I'll still go see it and enjoy it, but come on, aren't we jumping the gun a little?

First it was Transformers with a July 2007 release and now this. At least Superman Returns opens tonight. I'm planning to go tomorrow night with Catherine to see the IMAX version with 20 minutes of 3D effects to watch.

That can't be a bad thing.

Once I master the glass button, you'll likely see the results in my corner box. It seems safe to expect dozens of the damn things to pop up everywhere once I figure it out.

31 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
BrodySometimes you grow up.

It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. If you're wise enough, you can catch moments, coyly referred to in films as "coming of age" when you're able to spot the exact time and place when life changes, for better or worse, and you ride the current to see where it takes you.

For me, this was the weekend of lost friends. Not permanently scratched out of my life, but the roles in which they played so crucial a part for so long suddenly seemed dimmer and less vibrant than they had before.

Brody stopped by Toronto as part of a charter flight he was working on. He managed to send me an email as he forgot my phone number and we met up for a quick lunch. Though he didn't seem to realize it, more than two years had passed since we last saw each other.

I remember the last time clearly. Brody brought me into the city from Guelph. He had a huge monstrosity of a car that seemed more Star Destroyer than automobile. He boasted that a whole twin mattress could be crammed into the back. He stepped into our apartment and gave his approval. Then showed me the sonogram of his daughter, Rory.

Now she's two. Brody and his girlfriend, Lisa, have just had their second baby. Another girl. Named Brie.

My friend is gone.

The man who sat across the table from me was undoubtably older. He had the lines on the face that I remembered identifying in my youth as 'older' or 'responsible'. He looked like a father. It looks good on him. He flies out of Timmins quite often and has a house on a lake where his daughters can play. He doesn't have cable, use the internet, and his Xbox is gathering dust.

Only one or two mentions of 'the old days' crept in, which I was glad for, but I couldn't help but feel a touch sad that my friend, the one I knew so well, was gone. In his place was someone older and more mature, someone I wish I knew better.

I wonder if I'll ever see him again.

I saw Jer earlier that morning. I hadn't seen him in more than a month. He and Megan are moving in together and I didn't even know about it. I'm quite proud that Jer has found a path that suites him so well and a partner that complements him. Despite that, I feel a little sad and a touch of shame that I haven't made more effort to see a friend only 20 minutes away.

But I know what life is like.

Aaron with a beaver at the Toronto ZooThe next day I saw Aaron. We made plans for the four of us (Catherine and Christa, naturally) for us all to go to the zoo. He and Christa go so well together and it's a joy to see him so happy. There are few men that I respect more than Aaron. This is another friend I don't want to fade away, so that there are years between meetings. Yet I also know that if this were to happen, the man I know would only continue to grow and become someone to be proud of and respected.

So many friends, so many moments. I had one this weekend with Brody. My friend is gone, but doing well. Others are also doing well, though I don't get to see it with my own eyes. Tom Beisel is married and has a son named Evan. I found this out through the internet. Chris is living with Julia and her daughter. I haven't seen Chris since Christmas, Julia in seven years, and I've never met her daughter, Abby.

It feels like only moments have passed since I last saw them. Instead, it's years and hundreds of other moments, experiences, breaths, hugs, and all the things I will miss for the rest of my life.

Oh, my friends. I hope you're all well. Pushee, Alison, Cleary, Manny, Ron, Ajay, Chris, Stewart, Kristina, Brad, Lindsey, Neil, Paul Haynes, Colleen and the dozens of others.

"We hung around until the final band
Called Escape Is at Hand for The Traveling Man
You yelled in my ear this music speaks to me"

- The Tragically Hip

"A long time ago, we used to be friends
But I haven't thought of you lately at all
If ever again, a greeting I send to you,
Short and sweet to the soul is all I intend"

- The Dandy Warhols

33 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Thursday, June 22, 2006 at 1:31 p.m. | 3 comments
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35 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
Wednesday, June 21, 2006 at 11:21 a.m. | 1 comments
Boys BewareAfter giving me lots of useless websites for about a month and a half, my desktop Page-A-Day calendar finally struck internet oil. Crude oil, I admit, but anyone who is a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can appreciate it.

The Prelinger Archives seem to be the hub of the MST3K shorts universe. Rick Prelinger gathered thousands of these films created between 1920 and the 1980s, the bulk of which was acquired by the Library of Congress in 2002.

The good news is that thousands are still available for viewing online.

I haven't had time to go too in-depth with the offerings on the site, but so far great examples include How to Use the Dial Phone, Ulcer at Work, and Are You Popular?

I also spotted Boys Beware, a film shot in 1961 warning boys about that dangerous disease of the mind: homosexuality.

My best guess is that Josh, Jer, and likely Paul will all spend a bit of time looking over this site. It's a great time-waster activity, one I've already spread around the office.

Totally unrelated note: I saw Cars at the theater last weekend. It's not a Pixar classic, but still probably one of the best movies I've seen this year. It's been a crap year for film. Long live television!

36 actual days at work left.
Posted by Parallel
bad jobI was watching a commercial last night with Catherine that featured a series of people finding notes in their briefcases, drawers, and other assorted places. They all had dates written on them: 14 days, 2 days, tomorrow, etc. The end of the commercial asked "when is your quit date?" and I almost joyously shouted out September as that's when I'm finished with this job.

Then I realized it was for smoking. I swear I thought it was a career-change website or insurance company.

That doesn't change the fact that I'm leaving soon, though. One of the things I've learned is that gaining experience isn't always a quick and easy process. Sometimes you have to dig in and DO it whether you want to or not. Sometimes you need to feed your family, but you do all the work so that later on you can feed your soul.

Two years ago I had to quit my internship at eye weekly, because Catherine and I were on the verge of being totally broke. I was ready to get a job at Blockbuster or the equivalent simply to keep us afloat. I knew I was 'better' than that, but there is nothing wrong or shameful about looking after your family. Luckily, Catherine got her current job which she loves which gave me the time to find something really good for myself.

I got this job instead.

A bad job isn't a permanent situation nor is it something to feel bad about. This job has given me the chance to go to school to do something I really want to do. It's put a roof over my head, given me a chance to go to China, buy clothes and other stupid things that people with a bit of money can do.

I'm not rich, far from it, but I'm better off for this place, despite it being a creation from Satan's bowels.

At least I don't have to worry about money. Not for the time being, anyway. That will come in September once I'm back in school. But we're prepared for it. I think.

Oh yeah, I've been playing with our new digital camera and the macro settings. Truffle here can fit easily into my cupped hands, but I shoved the camera right in her face (she didn't like it that much) and took this picture. Unedited, it totally fills the screen both at home and at work making it an intimidating, yet cuddly, wallpaper.

And the ass job gave me the means to make it.

HUGE Truffle


77 days left. 38 of those are actual days at work.
Posted by Parallel
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