Category Archives: Lists

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

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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.

Hospital by the numbers


After our trips to the UK and France, I posted articles listing some interesting numbers from the trips. My hospital stay was certainly no vacation, but I thought some of the numbers from that whole experience might be interesting as well.

 

Nights spent in the hospital during 2010 63
Nights spent in the hospital when my kids were born 2 (one each)
Nights spent in the hospital during the rest of my life (not including my own birth) 0
Number of hospital rooms I spent at least one night in 7 (plus a couple of nights in the ER and one in the TV lounge)
Number of roommates 10
MRIs 1
ECGs 2
Ultrasounds 3-5
X-Rays 5-8
CT scans 10-15 (including three since discharge)
Units of blood received at least 7
Units of fresh frozen plasma received at least 13
Number of drains in my body at one time 4
Number of drains total 7
Number of different tubes stuck up my nose 4 (one at a time, thankfully)
Amount of dead tissue and fluid removed from my abdomen during surgery 4 litres
Weight when admitted to hospital 178 lbs
Weight at discharge 151 lbs
Weight two weeks after discharge 141.5 lbs
Number of doctors assigned to me (total) at least 6
Number of nurses assigned to me (total) at least 25
Number of nurses who offered me backrubs 1 (but more than once)
Number of backrubs I accepted 0
Number of nurses who asked me to look up cheap flights to Poland (since I’m a “computer guy”) 1
Number of nurses who spoke Zulu 1
Number of scheduled daily injections (i.e. needles) as many as 6
Number of staples holding my incision closed 43
Cost of having a phone in my hospital room $14.69/week
Cost of having wireless internet in my hospital room $20.95/week
Cost of having TV in my hospital room (with “premium” channels) $90.40/week
Cost of having cable TV at home ~$60/month
Watching Sidney Crosby score the gold medal-winning goal for Canada Priceless

 

This is likely the last thing I will write on my hospital experience. I don’t want to turn this blog into a series of “feel sorry for me, I was really sick!” articles, but the fact of the matter is that I was really sick, and sicker than even I realized at the time. I spent more time in the hospital in two months than anyone else I know has in their entire lives, with the exception of one person – and my experience doesn’t begin to compare with hers. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog.

Top Ten Funny Song Lyrics


Not necessarily brilliant or insightful, just lyrics that always make me laugh. I left out comedy musicians like Weird Al or Jonathan Coulton (though I always laugh at “one bad-ass fucking fractal“). These are in no particular order.

 

  1. Paul McCartney, “Sally”
    When you’re away there are grey skies
    And when I’m away there are even more grey skies than the grey skies I told you about before
  2. Gin Blossoms, “Cheatin'”
    You can’t call it cheatin’, cause she reminds me of you
  3. ZZ Top, “TV Dinners”
    I like the enchiladas and the teriyaki too
    I even like the chicken if the sauce is not too blue
  4. A few self-referential songs, grouped together because they’re similar:
    1. Def Leppard, “Me and My Wine”
      You know I’d like to get to know you
      but I ain’t got the time, and I’m
      I’m finding it harder and harder
      to make this damn thing rhyme
    2. Alice Cooper, “School’s Out”
      Well we got no class
      and we got no principles
      [principals?]
      and we got no innocence
      we can’t even think of a word that rhymes
    3. Primus, “Mr. Know-it-all”
      They call me Mr. Know-it-all
      I am so eloquent
      Perfection is my middle name
      and whatever rhymes with eloquent
  5. Led Zeppelin, “Travelling Riverside Blues”
    Squeeze my lemon til the juice runs down my leg
    Squeeze it so hard I’m gonna fall right outta bed…
    I wonder if you know what I’m talkin’ ’bout

    The same lyrics are in “The Lemon Song” as well, but the funny part is Robert Plant wondering if we know what he’s talkin’ ’bout. Right Robert, that’s a tough one. I’m not sure I can see through the layers of complicated symbolism there.
  6. Tom Petty, “A Mind With A Heart Of Its Own”
    I’ve been over to your house
    And you’ve been sometimes to my house
    I’ve slept in your treehouse
    My middle name is Earl
    (Important note: Tom Petty’s middle name is indeed Earl)
  7. Autograph, “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me”
    Don’t remember any lyrics, I just like the title of this forgettable song from a forgettable band from the mid-80’s.
  8. Matchbox 20, “Long Day”
    I’m sorry ’bout the attitude I need to give when I’m with you
    But no one else would take this shit from me
  9. Dire Straits, “Industrial Disease”
    Two men say they’re Jesus
    One of them must be wrong
  10. Cake, “Short Skirt/Long Jacket”
    The whole song makes me laugh. It starts off with a guy singing about what kind of girl he wants. He wants “a girl with a mind like a diamond“, “is fast and thorough and sharp as a tack“, “with a voice that is dark like tinted glass“, that kind of thing. Of course, he also wants a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket. Then it gets a little weird. Now he wants a girl “with uninterrupted prosperity, who uses a machete to cut through red tape” and someone who’s “touring the facility and picking up slack“. And who wouldn’t want a girl with “a smooth liquidation” and “good dividends“? Finally he gets really specific:
    At Citibank we will meet accidentally [“Meet accidentally!” yell the backup singers]
    We’ll start to talk when she borrows my pen…
    She’s changing her name from Kitty to Karen
    She’s trading her MG for a white Chrysler LeBaron

Top Ten Musical Ironies


  1. U2, “Pop” – Pop is, of course, short for “popular”, yet this was U2’s worst-selling and most critically disappointing album ever.
  2. The Beatles, With A Little Help From My Friends. The song is sung by Ringo Starr, who is a fine drummer but a crappy singer. (Actually, he’s not even that great a drummer – John Lennon was once asked if he thought Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world. John replied “He’s not even the best drummer in the band“, referring to Paul McCartney. But I digress.) He would never have been famous without a lot of help from his friends John, Paul, and George. The real irony is the first line of the song: Ringo sings “What would you think if I sang out of tune?”.
  3. Alanis Morrisette – Ironic – A song called Ironic containing no irony is itself ironic.
  4. Nirvana, Come As You Are – Kurt Cobain singing “I swear that I don’t have a gun” was the inspiration for this list.
  5. Various, Jingle Bell Rock and Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree. They use the word “Rock” in the title, but they are not rock. Not even close. As I’ve said once before, if Rrrrrandy Travis can sing Jingle Bell Rock without changing either his style or the song’s style, it’s not rock.
  6. Five for Fighting. The band name implies strength and toughness (dare I say truculence?), but all of their songs (that I’ve heard) can only be described as “soft rock” – in other words, wimpy and lame. More like two for unsportsmanlike diving.
  7. Yoko Ono. She doesn’t play any instrument – I’ve seen video of her pretending to play the keyboard (finger-syncing?) at a John Lennon concert as well as playing an electric keyboard that was not plugged in. Her singing makes Ringo Starr sound like Freddie Mercury. Yet she was married to one of the most talented musicians and songwriters of the rock era. And he thought she was supremely talented.
  8. John Mellencamp, Pop Singer. Apparently John “never wanted to be no pop singer, never wanted to write no pop song” but he is and he has. Several of them. Incidentally, if you ever get the chance to see Mellencamp live, do it. I’ve seen him a few times (and missed another concert a couple of years ago), and he always puts on a great show.
  9. Extreme, More Than Words. Sounds like a slow romantic ballad about true love (performed by a hair metal band, although that’s not the ironic part). This was even a popular wedding song in the early-mid 90’s. The irony is that is you listen to the lyrics, the idea of the song is not “I love you so much that I don’t have to say the words“, but “If you love me, you’d show me by having sex with me instead of saying the words.” Songwriters Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone (aside: as soon as this article, containing that name, is posted to the internet, long-time Van Halen fans around the world will shudder and not know why) have admitted that the song is about sex. Likely not the kind of message you’d want to give at your wedding.
  10. Linda Ronstadt. She has certainly been successful for a long time, with Grammys and gold records and such, but at one point in the early 70’s, her backing band consisted of four guys named Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, and Bernie Leadon. They went on to form The Eagles, who became far more popular than Ronstadt ever was.

Hospital: Roommates


My work insurance covers the cost of a semi-private room when staying in the hospital. When I moved from emergency into an actual room, we asked about paying the difference and moving to a private room. The hospital told us that even if they could give me a private room, it would likely only be for a night here or a night there because higher priority patients (i.e. those who require isolation) would be given the private rooms before the rest of us. As a result, I had roommates almost every night of my stay. None of the names below are real, and unless it’s critical to the story, I’ve left out why they were hospitalized.

Harold

My first roommate was a elderly gentleman named Harold who could not speak. (Aside: New entry on my list of “creepiest things to look at”: an old man sleeping with his mouth wide open.) I don’t know the reason he was in the hospital, but he had a fancy thing that he could hold up to his throat and talk, and you would hear what sounded like a computer-generated voice saying what he was trying to say. It wasn’t foolproof technology by any means – half the time it was just as hard to understand as his silent mouth movements. Harold was only with me for a day or two.

Roommate 2

My second roommate was also only with me for a couple of days, and I think it was when I was just starting to be a little more coherent at times, though I never caught his name. I remember him getting served his lunch or dinner, and he had real food on his tray. This was when I was still on water and nothing else (not even jello or juice or anything), and I remember being jealous and thinking “must be nice”. Then his doctor came in to talk to him and his wife, and it turned out that he was diabetic and was in the hospital to get some toes amputated. The whole “must be nice” thing faded pretty fast.

Roommate 3

After the diabetic guy, I apparently had another roommate for a night or two – an East Indian doctor who works or used to work at Grand River hospital. I have absolutely no memory of this fellow, but Gail tells me he existed.

At this point, I was moved down from the 6th floor to the 5th.

Peter

My first roommate on the 5th floor, Peter, was probably in his mid-50’s. We didn’t have any conversations or anything, but we said hello a couple of times here and there. He spoke some English, but sounded to me like he was German or Austrian or something. One night I was heading to the bathroom when he popped his head out from behind his privacy screen and started talking to me in what I perceived to be gibberish. When he was done, I politely told him that I had no idea what he was talking about. He talked some more, and again I told him, “I’m sorry, I still don’t understand”. In the next “blurb”, I heard the word “Croatian”, and I immediately said “No, I don’t speak Croatian.” He asked about Serbian, and I told him that I couldn’t speak Serbian either. He then said something like “…then what…” I told him “English” and he said “Oh, English!” as if English was a really weird language to speak in Ontario. I went to the bathroom and returned to bed.

A few hours later, some movement in my room woke me, and over the PA system, there was announcement of a “Code White” in progress on my floor, and then they specifically mentioned my room number, but the other bed. A short while later, the Code White was cancelled, and four security guards brought Peter, weeping, back into the room and secured him to the bed. It turned out that he had had some kind of breakdown and wanted to “run away”. After he left our room, the nurses tried to stop him but he grabbed a pencil from the nurses desk and brandished it like a weapon. (Code White means something like “we have a patient who is a danger to himself or others”.) He left the next day, though I don’t know if he was discharged or moved somewhere else.

Henri

I had the room to myself for a half a day, and then they brought in Henri, who spoke with a French accent – eventually I found that he was originally from somewhere in Northern Ontario. I don’t think I even had a “hello” conversation with him, but he wasn’t afraid of telling the nurses anything they wanted to know, and a bunch of stuff they likely didn’t want to know. His first night, a nurse asked him why he was there, and he matter-of-factly said “I’m addicted to painkillers”, and also told her that he liked to get drunk a lot. He was very specific on the types of booze that he would buy because it was the cheapest and the strongest. Sorry, I don’t remember the names he mentioned.

He never once pressed the nurse call button, he’d just wait until he heard his nurse (or possibly any nurse) outside the door, and yell “Excuse me!” Not a morning or evening went by that he didn’t remind his nurse to bring him his pain meds. At the time, I thought he was just being impatient, but it then occurred to me that he was essentially going through detox right there, so he was probably in as much pain (some physical, some not) as I was.

He wasn’t the friendliest of folks (not surprising, as a depressed homeless drunk drug addict). He asked one of the nurses if she spoke French and she answered no. He then spoke to her in French, which is rude enough as it is.  When she came over to my side to do some work on me, she mentioned that she doesn’t speak French, but she has lots of family from the Sudbury area and as a result she understands more French than she speaks. She knows what he said to her (though she didn’t tell me), and it wasn’t very nice.

He was with me for at least a week, possibly two. The day he left, he was getting dressed when a nurse came in, and he got angry at her, saying that she was trying to look at his <something in French>. Guessing at what the word meant, I had to laugh – nurses see a hundred of those a day, and I’m pretty sure that nobody was trying to see his.

Daniel

Daniel was my roommate for a week. His wife came to visit him every day, and they were both pretty friendly, so we had a few conversations. A couple of times his grandkids came in (ages about 3, under 2 and about 8 months) – the oldest loved to play matching games or “war” with grandma, but he cheated like crazy (according to grandma). Nice couple – not much else to say about him.

Ronald

Ronald was an older English gentleman. At one point, Gail, the boys, my parents, and my sister were all visiting me, and he called out asking when they were leaving. We thought he was just being rude, as did his wife (“Ronald!” she said), but then he said no, he just wanted to leave with them. Over the next couple of days, however, his mind seemed to go, and he fell into dementia. He was calling out for “Ruth” to help him, though there was no nurse named Ruth. Other times he’d call out his wife’s name (which was not Ruth). He had difficulty doing pretty much anything, but got angry when nurses tried to help him, even cursing at them a couple of times.

Once, (during the day when he was more coherent) he was bragging to the nurses that he was a math whiz and asked them to give him a math question. Someone asked him 50 times 99. Then one nurse said “We have another math whiz over there – Graeme! What’s 50 times 99?” I quickly multiplied 50 by 100 (5000) and subtracted 50 and said “four thousand, nine hundred fifty”. All was quiet from the other side of the room until Ron said loudly “smart ass”. We all had a good laugh.

During the day, for the most part, he was pretty coherent, though he slept a lot. At night though, that’s when his mind seemed to go. He’d call for his wife in the middle of the night, he once asked a nurse to call him a cab because he wanted to go to Grand River Hospital (and refused to believe that he was already there), and he asked me once if I could give him a ride somewhere tomorrow.

After a little over two weeks, he was transferred to another hospital in Kitchener.

Klaus

Will talk your ear off, loudly, with a strong German accent. Quite the impressive history of hospitalizations and surgeries (including hip replacement, cancer, chemo), especially given that he was 80 years old, and quite spry for his age. Actually, he was quite spry for someone ten years younger. Just a day or two after he moved in, I was informed that I was having my surgery, so I moved out.


After surgery, I was taken back to the sixth floor, where I was given the same room (601) as I was in the first time I stayed on 6. The next day I was moved to a different “wing” of the floor, which turned out to be just around the corner, but the nurses here are more accustomed to dealing with recovery from abdominal surgery. I only had one roommate the rest of my stay.

Charlie

Charlie was an 88-year-old stubborn-as-an-ox Ukranian guy (It’s getting more and more difficult to come up with interesting but not cliché ethnic pseudonyms for my roommates, so Charlie will just have to do for this one, OK?). I’m not sure what he was originally in for, and his surgery was a couple of days before mine. He had a lot of visitors – his son came every day, sometimes more than once, as did a number of others. His son called him “tato” a lot (and I mean a lot, sometimes twice in the same sentence), which I interpreted as Ukranian for “dad”, since nobody else (except his other son, who was only in once or twice) called him that. He had a picture of his twin 21-year-old grandsons on his table and would tell every nurse he had who they were. He was obviously very proud of them, and they came to visit a lot too. At one point his wife was also admitted to the hospital, and they took him downstairs in a wheelchair a couple of times to visit her.

As I said, he was pretty stubborn, so a few times his nurse would tell him that if he wanted something, he had to press the call button, but he’d try to get out of bed himself to do whatever it was. I’d press my call button (which was shared with his), and his nurse would come in and give him hell for getting out of bed. Then once I got out of my bed to go to the bathroom, and so he called the nurse. The nurse told him that I was stronger than he was and that it was OK for me to get up by myself. After a week or so, he ended up strong enough to get out of bed by himself.

He spoke with a strong Ukranian accent, so we didn’t have a lot of long conversations. Near the end of my hospital stay, I was diagnosed with a minor virus that required me to be in isolation, so after two weeks with Charlie, I was moved to a private room. Charlie went home the next day, and I went home about three days later.