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July 11th, 2008

03:53 am: Westward Bound
So I'm doing like the song says, and going west for a few weeks. I leave tomorrow for Vancouver, where I spend just shy of a week, then it's on to Edmonton for the weekend for a cousin's wedding (the reason for the whole trip) where I'll get to meet up with a bunch of family and family friends, then it's off to Jasper for the remainder of the week to hang out in cabins with some of said family and friends. I return home on the afternoon of the 26th. It should be a good time; I apologize to everyone whose events I'll be missing in Montreal, but I'll be busy exploring new cities, eating awesome sushi, etc. Sorry.

And yes, I'm contemplating going mountain biking on actual mountains. No, this isn't smart.

Current Location: Montreal, for now
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July 8th, 2008

08:05 pm: Cranes In Action
So it seems the best crane-related idea I've heard in a while is coming to Montreal this summer. Now I just need to find out how much it costs, and round up 21 friends....

Edit to add: The CBC is saying that it costs "at least $20,000" to rent for a day, so even just going up for an hour might be pricey. I'll keep investigating.

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June 17th, 2008

03:59 pm: Cancelling Bell DSL, a Journey
3:57: Call Bell
3:57: Encounter Emily. Say "I want to cancel DSL service"
3:58: "OK, you want to cancel home phone service."
3:58: Phone rings. Get put on hold.
4:00: Phone is answered (in French) by the "Home Phone Loyalty Center". After establishing that I have no home phone, have no cable TV, and that he can't do anything at all for me, he takes my name and Sympatico user ID.
4:02: On hold
4:05: My agent comes back, checks that I'm still here, then starts talking in French to a colleague who's faintly audible on the line, apparently trying to make sure my next agent is Anglo. At least I know the call center isn't outsourced.
4:05: On hold.
4:07: Talking to the right person. Say I want to cancel. Give my name, Sympatico user ID, and address.
4:08: Explain reasons.
4:09: Silence.
4:10: Agent is presumably trying to make sense of my mangled account.
4:11: Apparently I'm on a contract until Sept 2009.
4:15: Escaping the expensive crappy contract I didn't sign will cost me $100. Money well spent. The alternative is a $5/month discount on my horribly overpriced service.
4:16: On hold.
4:21: Is there anything they can do to keep me as a customer?
4:25: No.
4:25: An extra $10/month discount for the next 6 months doesn't cut it.
4:26: My account will be cancelled on July 16. Have a good day.
4:27: Realize I could have saved $10 if I'd cancelled part of my service I won't need for the next month. Accept that $10 isn't even close to worth the hassle of calling back.

Victory! Why do I feel like I need a drink?

03:51 pm: Q Taping
For any fellow CBC Radio One addicts, Q will be in Montreal next week, and will be taping a show at the SAT next Thursday the 26th at 5:45. Tickets are free, and in addition to the usual sorts of Q entertainment, will get you performances by Joe Lovano & Hank Jones, Gregory Charles, Miracle Fortress, and Creature. Anyway, if anyone else is going, let me know.

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June 16th, 2008

04:01 pm: Fringe Notes
So if you've been wondering where I've been in the past few days, the answer, as it so often is at this time of year, is Fringing. Some notes on shows we've seen:
  • Acné Japonaise: Like watching four Japanese psychological horror films in an hour. Good, but intense (and in French).
  • Blastback Babyzap: Hilarious, as always.
  • Busty Rhymes: Good songs, OK poetry, mediocre stand-up. The show was saved by some very-above-average audience participation, but it could have gone badly.
  • Degrassi! The Musical: If you heard the title and said to yourself "OMG I must see it", then you must. The nostalgia factor is off the charts. Unfortunately the songs are mostly slow and dull, and the whole thing felt rather pointless.
  • Dishpig: A well-performed show that's very engaging, but also felt a bit pointless at the end.
  • Even Steven: Good performances, but what little comedy there was felt really out of place. This made the rest feel kind of tedious.
  • Greed: A fairly strange tale, but I enjoyed it. I think the script was a lot better than the audience was giving it credit for.
  • Identity Crisis: Unlike the inFlux Dance works of years past, this is only two people without as much of an overall theme. This means it's merely a good dance piece, instead of their standard super-amazing productions.
  • Mating Rituals of the Urban Cougar: Charming and engaging performance poetry. The stories and such in between the poems were also very well done.
  • Nile Séguin is Hondomania: Hilarious stand-up, like in his previous appearances. There were a few jokes I recognized from previous shows, but they were still well-placed and there's a lot of new material.
  • Peg-Ass-Us: Enormous amounts of fun. But let's just say it's for mature audiences only.
  • See Bob Run: Much darker than I was expecting, but I still liked it a lot. Very well acted.
  • Teaching the Fringe: This is being hyped beyond description, mainly by The Gazette, it seems. It's still good, but just try to keep your expectations grounded.
  • The Beekeepers: Dark and claustrophobic, in a good way. The tiny venue really helps here, though you'd be well advised to go on a cooler day or after sundown. You'd also be well advised to get tickets on the early side, as the tiny venue virtually guarantees sellouts.
  • The Diaries of Adam and Eve: There were a few interesting scenes, but with absolutely nothing to tie them together, and no kind of overall point, the whole thing was very frustrating. The scenes also got longer and more boring as it wore on. Mercifully, it's only 60 minutes instead of the advertised 90, though all in all I'd prefer having spent 0 in there.
We don't have many more must-see shows left to cover - we still haven't seen The Cody Rivers Show, Barry Smith, T.J. Dawe, Zeppelin was a Cover Band, Die Roten Punkte, or the ever-awesome Jem Rolls, but that still leaves a lot of time for random shows. Should be fun!

April 2nd, 2008

04:33 pm: Monitor up for grabs
So I find myself with two things:

1. A 19" CRT monitor I don't use any more, and
2. A car until next Friday.

If anyone in town needs a monitor at all, let me know, and I can even drop it off for you. It's actually quite nice, it runs at 1600x1200 perfectly fine, and has been a total workhorse for me for years. I only got an LCD to reclaim some desk space.

January 31st, 2008

12:53 am: Decline of Civilization
The scene: a sports bar.

In one room, the crowd cheers wildly as steroid- and/or silicone-enhanced "wrestlers" pretend to battle for the "sports entertainment" championships. We dub one contender "Captain Emo"; when he loses, the snarky comment is that at least he'll have something to go home and cry about.

In the other room, the wall of TVs has a variety of options, whose collective intelligence level is uninspiring at best. Memorable shows include minor-league hockey, people attempting to simultaneously kill both themselves and the planet doing stunts on snowmobiles, ads for spectacularly mindless movies, and a documentary, complete with CG visuals, showing exactly what happens when one is punched in the groin. For variety, they compare the relative effects of a hockey stick vs. a baseball bat, vis-a-vis hitting someone in the face.

At some point we realized that we were getting a front-row seat to the decline of civilization. This then inspired us to watch Idiocracy, which was funny, but hit rather too close to home.

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January 22nd, 2008

02:22 pm: Banking Fees, The Ridiculousness Thereof
A few days ago I ran across an interesting story from Britain about bank customers and consumers rights groups getting mad about some rather obnoxious banking charges. We get that here in Canada, that's fairly normal, though the banks' rationalizations are pretty spectacular here ("it's not a penalty charge, it's a fee for a service. That you can't refuse").

But in this case, they're actually taking the banks to court, and it looks like they've got a reasonable chance of winning. Why is it we never see anything nearly so successful here? Is it due to limp consumer protection laws? Is it the stereotypical Canadian niceness and non-confrontationalness that keeps us out of the courts? Do we just like to grumble rather than do anything effective?

January 20th, 2008

05:33 pm: Winter Wonderland, Activities Therein
I went out cross-country skiing today for the first time this year. There's some construction or something around the cross on the mountain; this turns one of the best parts of the trail up there, a lovely longish curvy downhill, into a ludicrously short, steep, icy deathtrap. With a tree at the bottom. At least they put in an alternate route.

I also broke the spike off one of my poles, but I'm not too broken up as (a) poles are cheap, (b) one of my poles was already bent, and (c) I didn't much like my old poles anyway after they ate a pair of gloves. Maybe this time I'll get some that are slightly less cheap. Or maybe I'll be lazy and put up with a missing spike for a while.

Otherwise conditions were great, I thought I'd freeze but there was no wind so it was fine.

Other upcoming activities:
  • More XC skiing, of course.
  • Skating - I finally got myself some skates today, and I need to give them an on-ice test this week while I can still return them.
  • Downhill Skiing - I'm thinking of organizing a trip to Mont Tremblant sometime this winter.
Anyone interested in joining me in any of the aforementioned activities should let me know.

January 18th, 2008

10:35 pm: Trip Photos
For the curious, photos of my Europe trip last summer have finally made their way to my Flickr account.

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