Category Archives: Lists

10 things you don’t know about me

This is all the rage on Facebook these days, so I’ll play along.

  1. I used to be an accomplished ski jumper. I started jumping in my teens and won a few competitions while in my 20’s before hurting my ankle. It’s fine now and I don’t limp or anything, but it was enough to end my jumping career.
  2. In the mid-90’s, I worked for a software company that produced software for law enforcement agencies including the Metro Toronto Police, the Boston Police Department, and the Rochester Police Department, and I also dealt with the FBI and US Secret Service. It was interesting enough that I applied to the Ontario Provincial Police to become a police officer but was rejected.
  3. I’ve been hunting a few times but not for years. I once brought down a deer but felt bad about it for weeks. The venison was good though.
  4. I worked as a waiter at a few restaurants while in high school. I was terrible at it and got fired twice after complaints from customers.
  5. My favourite vacation ever was Cancun, Mexico. The place we stayed was very nice, the food was great, and the diving was spectacular.
  6. I love historical fiction. I’ve read Les Misérables a dozen times and will read any novel about 16th-17th century Europe that I can get my hands on.
  7. A girl I briefly dated in high school went on to an acting career in Hollywood, including 3 years on All My Children and movies with Sean Penn, Al Pacino, and John Travolta.
  8. When I went to Western, my landlord was a professor who had previously debated David Suzuki on national television. And won.
  9. I went para-sailing during my honeymoon in Cuba. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
  10. I love to make shit up. Not one of the above “facts” is true.

Only three of them are even partially true:

  • #2 is true except that I never applied to be a police officer
  • #7 – I did go to high school with Ingrid Rogers, who did appear in those TV shows and movies. But we never dated. In fact, I barely knew her.
  • #8 – I did go to Western and my landlord was a psychology professor, but not the one that debated Suzuki.

I did this whole exercise a bunch of years ago, but with actual facts.


Sad songs say so much

When I was a kid, between ages 7 and 10, I was a Wolf Cub (now called a Cub Scout). I had the Cub Book which contained a list of all the badges and stars, ideas for things to do at camps or outdoors, lyrics to campfire songs, and lots of other Cub-related stuff. One of the campfire songs was My Darlin’ Clementine. I only knew the chorus of the song, which included the lines “You are lost and gone forever, oh my darlin’ Clementine.” I didn’t know the rest of the words, so I figured it was about a man whose wife or girlfriend had left him, a theme not uncommon in songs. One day I read the actual lyrics and found that Clementine was actually the guy’s daughter and she didn’t just leave, she drowned in a river. She died. I was stunned. This was about the saddest thing I’d ever read and from that day on, I hated that song for making me sad. I didn’t even want to look at that page in the Cub Book again. No word of a lie, I memorized what page it was on and intentionally skipped it when looking through the book for anything.

That experience taught me at an early age just how much of an effect music can have on a person emotionally. Here are a few other (non-campfire) songs that tug on the ol’ heartstrings.

Hold on – Sarah McLachlan

This is a heartbreaking song about a woman tending to her dying husband. She switches back and forth between hoping that he’ll get better and accepting the fact that he’s not going to. Sample lyrics:

So now you’re sleeping peaceful
I lie awake and pray
That you’ll be strong tomorrow
And we’ll see another day
And we will praise it
And love the light that brings a smile
Across your face

Oh God, the man I love is leaving
Won’t you take him when he comes to your door

Castle on a Cloud – Les Misérables (young Cosette)

I wrote about this one many years ago, when I said “No child should ever have to feel that much despair”. It’s sung by Cosette, a young girl whose mother died when she was a baby and has lived in poverty and neglect ever since. She dreams of a place where she would experience none of the terrible things that happen to her on a normal day.

There is a lady all in white
Holds me and sings me a lullaby
She’s nice to see and she’s soft to touch
She says “Cosette, I love you very much”

I know a place where no one’s lost
I know a place where no one cries
Crying at all is not allowed
Not in my castle on a cloud

4AM – Our Lady Peace

This one is about a man with a strained relationship with his father, who is filled with regret after he passes away.

Walked around  my good intentions
And found that there were none
I blamed my father for the wasted years
We hardly talked
Never thought I would forget this hate
Then a phone call made me realize I’m wrong

If I don’t make it known that I’ve loved you all along
Just like sunny days that we ignore because
We’re all dumb and jaded
And I hope to God I figure out what’s wrong

The River – Bruce Springsteen

A ballad about a young couple who married young when she became pregnant. They then watched their dreams fade away and their lives pass them by.

We went down to the courthouse
And the judge put it all to rest
No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle
No flowers, no wedding dress

Now all them things that seemed so important
Well mister, they vanished right into the air
Now I act like I don’t remember
Mary acts like she don’t care

Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin

Possibly the quintessential tearjerker song. It’s about a father who never makes time for his son only to find that once he’s older and finally wants to spend time with him, the son has no time for his father. Excuse me for a minute while I go hug my kids. <Muzak> OK, I’m back now.

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok”
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

A Month of Sundays – Don Henley

This is a retired farmer talking about his life, some of the hardships he’s been through, and how different things are now. The song touches on politics but doesn’t get preachy (unlike a few other Henley songs), but the last line (listed below) is the one that really gets to me.

I’ve seen dog days and dusty days,
Late spring snow and early fall sleet
I’ve held the leather reins in my hands
I’ve felt the soft ground under my feet
Between the hot, dry weather and the taxes and the cold war
It’s been hard to make ends meet
But I always kept the clothes on our backs
I always put the shoes on our feet

The big boys, they all got computers
Got incorporated too
Me, I just know how to raise things
That was all I ever knew
And now it all comes down to numbers
Now I’m glad that I have quit
Folks these days just don’t do nothin’
Simply for the love of it

I sit here on the back porch in the twilight
And I hear the crickets hum
I sit and watch the lightning in the distance
But the showers never come
I sit here and listen to the wind blow
I sit here and rub my hands
I sit here and listen to the clock strike,
And I wonder when I’ll see my companion again

Man, is it ever getting dusty in here. <sniff>

The Lord of the Rings / There’s so much to talk about / Two haikus for each

I had enough fun writing the haikus for the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies that I decided to keep going. Presenting: The Lord of the Rings.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Aragorn, Gimli 
Legolas and the hobbits
Galdalf, Boromir

The fellowship is
taking the Ring to Mordor 
Chuck it in the fire 

The Two Towers

Gollum is creepy 
He wants his precious back from
Nasty hobbitses

Battle at Helm’s Deep
Elves and Men fight together
Against Uruk-hai

The Return of the King

Despite Denethor,
Minas Tirith calls for help
Rohan will answer

Gollum and the Ring
Both are destroyed in Mount Doom
Two birds with one stone

Special places

I wrote on facebook a little while ago that “There is a special place in hell for people who blow snow from their driveway onto the road”. Someone asked if people who don’t shovel their sidewalk went there too, and I replied that they went to a different special place in hell. There are lots of special places in hell. Obviously there are places for murderers, child molesters, rapists, spammers, sidewalk non-shovellers, and people like that, but here are some other types of people that have their own special place:

  • People who smoke in their cars and throw the butts out the window. For that matter, people who smoke anywhere and throw their butts on the ground rather than properly disposing of them.
  • Similarly, people who throw litter of any kind out the window of their car or leave it on a shelf in a store.
  • People who park in handicapped spots who don’t need them. Similarly, people who have disabled parking stickers and park in designated spots when they don’t need to, i.e. someone has a sticker for mom who’s in a wheelchair (fine), but uses the handicapped spot even if mom isn’t there (not fine).
  • People who don’t clear their table at fast-food restaurants (where there are no waiters to do it for you).
  • People who listen to the entire “We’re not here right now” voicemail announcement, wait for the beep, and then hang up.
  • People who use the phrase “as well too”. “As well” is fine, and “too” is fine, but you don’t need to say both of them. That’s just repeating yourself redundantly over again.
  • People who leave shopping carts in the middle of the parking lot.
  • People at pro sports games who stand up during play for the sole purpose of waving at their buddy who’s somewhere else in the stadium, and who they are currently talking to on their cell phone. “Hey! Hey Steve! I’m over in section 119! Can you see me? How’s it goin’?” Down and up, dude: Sit the F down and shut the F up.
  • People who take far more than 8 items into the express lane at the grocery store. If you end up with 10 or 11 and the limit is 8, that’s no big deal, but there was a lady in front of me the other morning who filled up at least four of those big cloth bags in the eight-items-or-less line. Her total bill came to $89. The guy in front of me had about five items. I had one.
  • People who don’t pull over to allow emergency vehicles to get by. North Americans are far worse at this than Europeans.
  • People who don’t stop when a school bus has its lights flashing.

I’m sure I’ve missed some – feel free to leave a comment with yours! Note that I’m not talking about people who are just stupid or do something silly without thinking. This is for people who commit acts of extreme douchebaggery knowing that they’re being dicks. Nobody leaves their shopping cart in the middle of the parking lot because they forgot to put it in the corral. Nobody tosses their cigarette butt out the window because they think that’s the right thing to do with it. Looking over the list again, most of the time it’s just extreme laziness. OK, saying “as well too” isn’t laziness, and I wouldn’t call it douchebaggery either. But those people still get their own special place. Otherwise, how will they learn?

The good, the bad, and the ugly

It was a year ago today that I had my pancreatitis attack. I’ve written a fair bit about it – an article on the original attack, a fun one about all my different roommates, some numbers regarding my hospital stay, and a three-part series on my time in the hospital before and after surgery and my recovery at home. Obviously this was not the ideal way to spend the winter, but being the glass-half-full kinda guy that I am, I’ve come up with some good things about my experience. But along with the good comes the bad and in some cases, the ugly.

Good: Lost the ten pounds that I wanted to lose!
Bad: Lost thirty more.
Ugly: Me. I looked like a skeleton for a while.

Good: Had Jello every day. My eight-year-old thinks that daddy’s time in the hospital sucked, “but at least you got Jello!”
Bad: Had Jello every day.

Good: Education is always a good thing, and I learned more about what a gallbladder does.
Bad: Don’t have one anymore.

Good: Met lots of friendly and helpful nurses.
Bad: Swabs twice a week.
Ugly: Don’t ask where they were swabbing.

Good: Lots of free time to watch the Vancouver Olympics!
Bad: On a 9″ TV with headphones.
Ugly: And a feeding tube up my nose.

Good: On Valentine’s Day, I got a banana popsicle as part of my lunch.
Bad: It was the closest thing to solid food I’d had in a week or would have for another four weeks.

Good: Lots of time to read books.
Bad: Spilled bile on one. Ewwwwwww.

Good: Had a bunch of interesting roommates. See link to my roommates article above.
Bad: One was a clinically depressed homeless drunk drug addict. And he wasn’t even a friendly clinically depressed homeless drunk drug addict.
Ugly: Another was forcibly secured to his bed because he had a breakdown and threatened nurses with a pencil.

Good: Canada! Free healthcare! Paid for nothing but the TV, internet, and phone in my room.
Bad: The TV cost about $90 / week. I cancelled it the week after the Olympics ended.

Good: Used text messages to converse with my sister from my hospital room.
Bad: The text auto-completion on my phone still thinks that any word beginning with “c” is “CT scan”.

Good: Able to get wireless internet in my room.
Bad: The bandwidth wasn’t good enough to watch streaming video and the TV didn’t get TSN2, so I missed almost the entire 2010 NLL season.

Good: I gained back all the weight that I lost.
Bad: I didn’t want it all back.
Ugly: I gained back more than I lost.

Good: I’m feeling back to normal now.
Bad: My eating habits aren’t as healthy as they should be, and I don’t exercise as often as I should. Yup, back to normal.

More movie haikus / The Harry Potter series / But what will be next?

Continuing on from my recent Star Wars haiku posting, here are some for the Harry Potter series. I managed to come up with two different ones for the first movie. Not sure what to do next – Lord of the Rings? Star Trek? Indiana Jones? James Bond? No, that would take too long and most of the Bond movies blur together for me anyway. Toy Story? Shrek? Spy Kids? Ooooh, I know – High School Musical!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

He’s the boy who lived 
And a thumpin’ good wizard 
Wow, he can fly too


Fluffy guards the Stone 
You-know-who wants to steal it
We don’t say his name

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Is Harry the heir? 
They both can speak parseltongue 
That’s a big-ass snake

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

A powerful spell 
“Expecto Patronum” works
If you think happy 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry’s name comes out 
Cedric’s, Fleur’s, and Krum’s do too 
They all fight dragons 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Occlumency fails
Voldemort plants a vision
Sirius is toast

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Thanks to his textbook 
Harry wins some liquid luck 
Who’s the half-blood prince? 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The final battle 
Voldemort and Harry fight 
One of them will die 


One of the things we bought my sister this year for Christmas was a book called The Book of Awesome. It’s a book based on a blog listing a whole bunch of awesome things, from waiters who bring refills without asking to the smell of freshly cut grass to the last few seconds of untying a really stubborn knot. It’s a fun book, and I think everyone had at least a few minutes of looking through it. Every time I saw someone looking at it, it didn’t take long before they were smiling and nodding, having found one they agreed with. I decided to come up with a few of my own, but note that I did not read the book cover to cover so it’s possible that one of mine is actually in the book.

Turkey sandwiches the day after a turkey dinner. A couple of pieces of fresh bread, turkey (white or dark meat, doesn’t matter), some mayonnaise and a touch of salt and pepper, then nuke it for about 10 seconds. I was going to say “soft white bread” instead of just “fresh bread” but this past Christmas I had one at my parents’ place on fresh twelve grain bread that was just… well, awesome.

When your kids give you a hug in front of their friends. I remember dropping the boys off at school last year and after saying goodbye to Nicky, I saw that Ryan (age 10) was across the room talking with his friends. I didn’t want to embarrass him so I just waved, said “Have a good day, buddy”, and kept walking. He said “Daddy!” and ran across the room to say goodbye and give me a hug. It made my day.

When you get home from a long vacation and remember as you are walking in the door that you cleaned up the kitchen before leaving. We’ve had vacations where that wasn’t the case, and when you’ve been travelling all day and you’re tired and have lots of unpacking and laundry to look forward to, not to mention returning to work / school / etc., walking in to a messy kitchen just sucks.

Taking your ski boots off and putting your regular boots on after a full day of skiing. Doesn’t matter how old and ratty your boots are, they are soooooo comfortable. Also, the warm glow you feel on your face when you come inside after a full day of skiing.

The sound of a baby giggling. Extra points if it’s your baby.

That moment when your parents kiss at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance and you, your brother, and your sister re-appear in that photograph in your pocket. You know the feeling. Just makes you wanna pick up your guitar and wail on the Johnny B. Goode solo.

Working from home during a big winter storm. I’ve written about this in the past. The iPod in the dock, a cup of hot chocolate, and a fierce storm outside makes for a surprisingly happy guy working at home.

Fixing a particularly nasty software bug. You have been working on this bug for days. It seems random. There’s seemingly no predicting when it will happen, let alone why. Customers are waiting for a resolution. You have made zero progress since the last time your boss asked how it was going, and you know that he’s just about ready to ask again. Then in the debugger you see that a variable is set to 0 when it shouldn’t be. “Why the hell is it 0?” you think. “If it’s zero, then that would mean that —” and then it hits you. Suddenly you know exactly why it’s happening, and why it’s so hard to reproduce. All of the weird descriptions of the problems the customer is seeing that didn’t make sense suddenly do make sense. Even better, you know you can give the customer a workaround, fix the problem easily, and even write a simple automated test so that the problem never happens again. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Forgetting that it’s garbage day until you think it’s too late, and making the garbage truck anyway. Even better, when you get the green / blue bin to the curb just as the truck gets to your house, so you can wait for 15 seconds and bring the bin back in.

Being complimented by a stranger on your parenting. When we’re out with the boys at a restaurant or store, I’m proud to say that sometimes they will be particularly polite or helpful. Sometimes, not so much. But when they are, the server will occasionally turn to us and tell us how impressed they are with our kids. When a complete stranger tells you that your kid is very polite, that feeling (“I’m not a complete failure as a parent!”) more than makes up for the bowl of cereal that he (the kid, not the stranger) took 45 minutes to eat that morning despite the fact that you were already late for work.

Need a good blog post / Maybe some movie haikus? / I’ll start with Star Wars

I hated English class in high school. And the part of English class that I hated the most was poetry. But I always liked doing haikus. Why? Because they didn’t have to rhyme! The only real rule was the syllables, and I can count as well as anyone. Sure, you sometimes had to work a little to pack as much “information” into seventeen syllables as you could, but hey, I’m on twitter now – seventeen syllables, 140 characters, same idea.

I recently began posting Star Wars haikus to my facebook status as well as twitter. Both trilogies (in the order the movies were released) in a total of 102 syllables. They are summarized here. The Harry Potter saga is next.

Star Wars

Alderaan destroyed
Great disturbance in the Force
Death Star is no moon

The Empire Strikes Back

Yoda in a swamp
Trap is set on Cloud City
Vader is Luke’s dad

Return of the Jedi

Yoda dies and fades
Vader has some good in him
Ewoks save the day

The Phantom Menace

Droid army invades
Ani and Obi-Wan meet
Jar Jar ruins it

Attack of the Clones

Grievous coughs a lot
Ani and Padme get hitched
But it’s a secret

Revenge of the Sith

Dooku bites the dust
Anakin fights Obi-Wan
Darth Vader is born

Meme: Books I have read

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Instructions: Copy this entire document. Look at the list and put an ‘Yes’ after those you have read [I bolded them too]. (Watching the movie DOES NOT COUNT)

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – Yes
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien – Yes
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte – No
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling – Yes
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee – Yes
The Bible – No
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte – No
1984 – George Orwell – No
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman – No (only the first one “The Golden Compass”)
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens – No
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott – No
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy – No
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller – No
Complete Works of Shakespeare – No, just a few in high school
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier – No
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien – Yes
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk – No
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger – Yes
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger – No
Middlemarch – George Eliot – No
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell – No
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald – Yes
Bleak House – Charles Dickens – No
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy – No
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams – Yes
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh – No
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky – No
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck – No
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll – No
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame – Yes
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy – No
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens – No
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis – No (3 of the 7)
Emma – Jane Austen – No
Persuasion – Jane Austen – No
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis – Yes (Um… part of the Chronicles or Narnia above)
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hossein – No
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres – No
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden – No
Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne – No
Animal Farm – George Orwell – Yes
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown – Yes
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – No
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving – No
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins – No
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery – No
Far From The Madding Crowd -Thomas Hardy – No
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – No
Lord of the Flies – William Golding – No
Atonement – Ian McEwan – No
Life of Pi – Yann Martel – Yes
Dune – Frank Herbert – No
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons – No
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – No
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth – No
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon – No
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens – No
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley – No
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon – No
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez – No
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – No
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov – No
The Secret History – Donna Tartt – No
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold – No
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas – No
On The Road – Jack Kerouac – No
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy – No
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding – No
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie – No
Moby Dick – Herman Melville – No
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens – No
Dracula – Bram Stoker – Yes
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett – No
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson – No
Ulysses – James Joyce – No
The Inferno – Dante – No
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome – No
Germinal – Emile Zola – No
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray – No
Possession – AS Byatt – No
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – No
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell – No
The Color Purple – Alice Walker – No
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro – No
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert – No
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry – No
Charlotte’s Web – EB White – No
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom – No
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – No
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton – No
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad – No
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery – No
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks – No
Watership Down – Richard Adams – No
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole – No
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute – No
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas – Yes
Hamlet – William Shakespeare – Yes
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Yes
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo – Yes

So I’ve read 18 of the 100 books. But the Harry Potter series is seven books, and Lord of the Rings is three more! That should count for something. And the entire works of Shakespeare shouldn’t be listed as a single book.

Pattern matching

Here is another list of bands that have something in common, but this time I’m going to let you, dear reader, attempt to figure out what that is. These are all bands that have been active in the past ten years.

  1. Matchbox Twenty
  2. Blink 182
  3. Sum 41
  4. Eve 6
  5. Maroon 5
  6. Finger 11

If you’re in a band and you can’t come up with a name, just do what these guys all did: pick a random word and a random number and put them together. That’s called creativity.