Monday, May 30, 2005

What exactly is a Lilac?

Yesterday was the 4th Street Lilac Festival. I didn't know what a lilac was, probably some sort of flower, probably lilac in colour (or color, depending on my target audience). But anyway, one of the guys from the footy team was having a barbeque and I had nothing better to do - working for myself means that I can designate almost whatever time of the week I want as "nothing better to do", as long as I don't do it too often. So Sunday afternoon was blocked out for Lilac festival.

A few of us had a small group run before that, which I plodded through, and even that's putting it favourably. Lilac Festival seems to mainly consist of a big crowded street market (with a few performances), and a bunch of beer gardens (all selling over-priced warm beer), and very few lilacs (whatever they are).

So in other words, Lilac Festival is like any other big commercial street party type event. It's widely viewed as the first "summer" event in Calgary. Actually, those were totally gratuitous quotation marks because it was hot and sunny, and I got a little bit "burned". Those weren't gratuitous, because Canada has an ozone layer, and it's possible to spend the day in the sun with only one application of SPF30 and not wake up the next day feeling like someone has applied acid to your face.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

"I liked your blog"

It is always a weird feeling (for me at least) to have someone in real life compliment something I have done on the internet. Now, I'm not good at accepting compliments, but that's not the point right now.I used to have a very very compartmentalised attitude to life, I'm getting better, but I still prefer the parts of my life to be seperate, which is semi-normal, but I can and do carry it to ridiculous extremes.

Anyway, last night, one of the Kangaroos said that he read my most recent blog entry and it was funny. This was a surprise - both him reading it, and saying that he found it funny. It shouldn't have been, my URL is in the signature of all my emails, and office workers have a lot of spare time. Now, I'm not good at accepting compliments, even ones I can be almost certain are truthful (he brought it up, he seems to be an honest guy, I'm fairly sure I am capable of being funny) but that's not the point right now.

Tuesday's post was a slightly vitriolic, although apparantly pretty funny, rant. It's a good job I'm funny, otherwise I would be a very unpleasant person to be around (not that I'm not unpleasant to be around some of the time, I'd just move up a grade to being very unpleasant most of the time).

Yes, it looks like Thursday is officially navel gazing day. I blame it on the Calgary Kangaroos mostly being older and more settled than me. It's not that I'm naturally prone to introspection or anything ;)

Anyway, it's instructive to hang around people who you like who have a significantly different life from you. It's not like looking into the future, or a what might have been mirror, or anything dramatic like that, it's just thought provoking, and my thoughts don't need much / any excuse to be provoked.

It's also interesting to discover how old people are. It turns out had two player's ages pretty much switched in my head - we're talking about a 5 year age gap here, which is still significant, even as people close in on 30 (and after my next birthday, I'm kind of closing in on thirty, as scary as that sounds).

The only thing I really want that people with settled lives have is pets. I love cats and am rapidly coming to appreciate the advantages of having a dog. I also want a parrot, probably an African grey (we had one briefly when I was a child, and it was so cool).

Unfortunately, this post probably hasn't been particularly interesting. Sorry. I guess you get what you pay for (actually, my proffessional writings are even more staid).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I wish it was possible to slap people through the internet.

OK, I am dealing with some fairly big and very profitable (from what I hear and can work out myself) companies. I can't be bothered going into details, but let's just say today does not rate highly on the job-satisfaction scale.

Times I have banged my fist on the desk - 22 (approx)
Times I have yelled "are you stupid?" - 3
Times I have yelled "are you trying to make my life difficult?" - 8
Times I have given up and checked my email - 4
Times I have walked around the lounge huffing and pulling my hair - 2
Times I have contemplated going and getting a job at Subway - 1

I might still like my job, I'm sure I did once, but the petty, frustrating, and just downright pointless rubbish I'm having to deal with today is making it that difficult to remember what that felt like.

Being an employee was never this bad, even at Riverside Mountain FUBAR.

Being an employee you get paid for working and for putting up with petty idiocy and frustration.

Being a contractor means you get paid for working and then petty idiocy is smething you put up with for free.

To top it all off, you have to work through the petty idiocy before you get paid, unlike being an employee where you can just throw your hands up and say "at least I still get paid this Thursday".

That probably didn't make much sense to you. I don't care.

Let's just leave it at - Richard is in a bad mood and wishes he could just grab some of these people and shake them until their tiny little brains rattled out of their ear.

To lighter, but yet still pointless things:

Which is worse, to be the kind of couple that has to go grocery shopping together to discuss their purchases:

He picks up a loaf of 60% whole wheat bread
She - "why don't you get the white bread pookie"
He - "oh no ookums, I know you like 60% whole wheat bread"
She - "but pookie, you like enriched white bread"
Richard (thinks) "let me through, I'm hungry"
He - "I just want to make you happy"
Richard gives up on getting bread and decides he can quite happily eat toasted rolls for breakfast for the next week.

OR to be the kind of couple that can have just one member go grocery shopping... as long as they are on their cellphone to the other member at all times.

She "OK, I'm at the cereal aisle now pookie. What kind of cereal did you want me to get?"
She "I know you like oatmeal, but what kind, we have..." here, She starts to list EVERY kind of oatmeal in the store, brand, name, and flavour.

Obviously I'm not privy to any more details about these couple's relationships, but really

1) You're discussing groceries. Groceries are not usually worthy of much discussion - "do you like X?" "Yes" (and really, if you're grocery shopping together, you should know this stuff already - I'm 90% sure I can buy acceptable groceries for my family and I have only ever called them pookie or oookums in a demeaning fashion. I'm also pretty sure I could buy acceptable groceries for my best friend, who I have never lived with and have defintely never called pookie or ookums, EVER, mainly because he looks like a Neanderthal (and I'm safe saying that because he admitted he doesn't read my blog much).

After confirming the other person's like or dislike of the food (by the way mum, I do like beetroot) you may then say "Good, what's the cheapest X?" This is the most important part of grocery shopping but does not require much discussion. By the age of 14, children should have learned all the key factors necessary to make a good grocery decision. [see appendix]

That's it. This is the limit of socially acceptable grocery discussion. You might be allowed an interesting anecdote about the company who makes X, or your friend who swears they can tell the difference between X and Y, but can't really. But even that is pushing it.

2) The word pookie, and all baby talk of that ilk, is not suitable for use to another adult, at least not in public - it just makes you sound like an idiot. End of discussion.

3) Grocery shopping is a chore that is necessary to get food into your house for the next week. It is not a chance to prove to the world at large how much you love each other (especially if the world at large are hungry and just want to pick up the kind of bread they've already decided on).

4) Yes, I'm bitter and anti-romantic, and generally not a nice person. I don't care.

Much better. Nothing like being nasty about people to clear my mind a little.


Key factors in grocery shopping.

1) How much do you, and any other people you are buying for, like the product?
2) How much of it do you eat (compared to storage space, and how quickly it spoils)
3) What is the unit price (own brands are usually very competitive with brand names).
4) Is it on sale?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Everyone's going to New Zealand...

Well, OK, not everyone, I'm not, and most of the Australian members of the Calgary Kangaroos (best Aussie Rules team in Western Canada, if not the world, actually, definately not the world, but a good bunch of guys) aren't.

But a frightening proportion of Canadians between 20-29 will be travelling to New Zealand. In the last two weeks, I've met five (of the ten I've talked to for any length of time) who are definately going, and most of the rest want to.

Now, this is definately not a statistically valid survey because

1) I keep getting introduced to people's friends who are definately going to NZ - one of my greatest social attributes in this country is being able to answer "stupid" questions about New Zealand.

2) Obviously if you're talking to a New Zealander, you're going to pretend you want to want to go to New Zealand. I mean everyone kinda wants to go everywhere (within reason - only crazy people like me want to go to unpleasant dangerous places like Afganistan or Australia). So, you play up your plans to be polite. And if there's one thing Canadians are good at (all together now) it's being polite. I've done it myself more than once. As an example, although Italy isn't high on my travel plans, when talking to Italians, I've expressed more interest than I normally would.

But anyway, lock the doors and put up the tourist fences. Otherwise there might not be room for me to come home (a little known fact about NZ is that we have a strict rota system to keep 10% of the population overseas at all times, it gives the rest of us some breathing room). By the way, my triumphant return is looking like April 06, since my best friend seems to be planning on finally getting married then. I can't guarantee how long I'll be there. I started to make a list of the places I haven't been, but it got kind of involved.

Let's just say that one of my life goals - yes I have some, no they don't include getting a real job (it's an unpleasant necessity) - is to live for a year in every continent (defined loosely) in the world.

So far I've achieved:

Britain, Africa (both as a child, so it's kind of cheating)
North America (Canada, twice, I guess I went a little overboard)
New Zealand (not a continent, but it pads the list)

That means, at a minimum, I need to spend a year in Japan, Argentina, Israel, and somewhere in Europe. I'm running out of working holiday eligibility too (I spent far too long at university), so I'd better get my act together.

Oh, and Antartica, which will be kind of tricky. If anyone has any advice on how I can finagle that, I'd greatly appreciate it (no, pretending to be a Penguin when I get deported from Canada will not work, New Zealand has penguins too, so they'll just send me home).

I'd also kind of like to get a PhD, because well, it's kind of the ultimate certificate of smartness (except for a Nobel Prize, and I doubt writing about how I don't want to grow up, and Canadians are very polite will get me one of those). There's also a bit of competitiveness there too. [Pop psych alert] Eldest sons need to be prove that they are better than their fathers, and although I did get a better honours degree than my father, he's still got the "undergraduate work doesn't matter" argument (I've got the "your masters doesn't count because it came free with your BA" argument, but his PhD kinda trumps that).

See? I mentioned earlier that our family has a strong competitive streak, the above might look like a joke, but there's enough reality behind it to make it funny. It's one of my genetic curses, along with having to wear glasses, and shedding my hair everywhere like some sort of big mousey-brown lapdog.

Plus I just want to go back to the university lifestyle, where I can sit around reading books all day, and not have to constantly try to sell webpages. I've been doing a ridiculous amount of research about internet marketing recently - some of it is to improve my own commercial writing (basically do the opposite of what I do in and for this blog and you'll be doing well) and some of it is actually to try and sell traffic to webmasters. I now see nothing wrong with using CPC, CTR, CPM, and maybe SEO as well, all in the same sentence.


PS - Nics, or anyone else, feel free to correct me, I might be contrary, and difficult, and determined to make fun of everything, but as I've started to mature (it's a journey of a thousand miles and I've only taken the proverbial single step) I've learned that it's better people tell you when you make a mistake than that they tell everyone else.

PPS - Thanks for reading. Somewhere along the line, this stopped being a blog, and started being more of a sort of opinion / humour column for me (by the way, newspaper or magazine columnist does not count as a real job, so if anyone out there knows of a job, especially in one of the countries / continents on my to do list...)

Monday, May 16, 2005

Red Deer - More fun than a box of hammers!

I spent the weekend in Red Deer with the Calgary Kangaroos. Calgary were looking to keep their undefeated record intact, Red Deer were looking to avenge last week's crushing defeat, a few random Irishmen were busy being shuffled between the two teams to make up numbers as players appeared.

The coaches finally settled which teams Connor, Ryan, and Tim (although I'm sure the names are probably spelt Quonair, Rian, and Tim - since even the Irish can't make Tim a confusing name). But anyway, the game started, and Red Deer came out and took an early lead against a Calgary side who were half (or more) asleep.

They took this lead into the first break, and none of the Calgary players were particularly surprised. Calgary picked things up a little during the second, but Red Deer did go to half time ahead, thanks in part to the efforts of Adrian Laggan. Adrian is a former top-flight Gaelic Footballer. He's only a little man, but has an uncanny ability to attract the attention of pretty much every player on the other team, no matter who he is playing for. We all want to hammer him, but he's slippery and wirey. I tackled him once, but he got a good kick away as I was doing it.

Calgary got a reality check at half time thanks to speeches from three wise Australians (yes, I know that the lack of Wise Men was why Jesus wasn't born in Australia, but these guys have been in Canada a while). Increased desire, and marginally more accurate goal kicking (although your correspondant officially "kicked like a mongrel", missing both his free kicks at goal - scoring just one behind) gave Calgary a 5 point lead.

Calgary finally woke up, and superior experience and fitness began to take its toll, leaping out to a comfortable cushion early in the fourth. They kept the pressure on to run out 40 point winners.

Red Deer nearly got their revenge when the bouncer at Wild Bill's (the pub that sponsors the Magpie) told the Calgary team that it wasn't kareoke night and threatened to throw them out if they sang the victory song again.

Still, my Red Deer experience was more fun than a box of hammers. Not quite up there with a barrel of monkeys, but definately a lot better than poking oneself in the eye with a blunt stick, probably about as good as a seeing a rabbit eat a cheese sandwich.

Wow, this just gets weirder and weirder, doesn't it? I have no excuses, for once.

On the upside, I might have a job interview at a stock trading firm, we shall see. Don't get too excited (mum).

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

We got a couch

Our deck has been sadly lacking in pimp-quotient, until recently. But, Dan's ninja skills spotted a couch in the alleyway behind our place, abandoned by a dumpster. We headed down and claimed it.

After the futon incident (we couldn't get the frame for my futon into the far bedroom, so using our university skills, we decided it would be easier to switch bedrooms than dismantle the frame), we have getting stuff into our appartment pretty much down now.

So yeah, we have a couch. I jammed my fingers back at footy training, so typing is a bit awkward (my left hand is slowly forming into a claw, no matter how much I clench and unclench it). Yes, I've iced it, no it isn't broken, or dislocated (I hope) although it did hurt really badly when it happened.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Kiwi Nomad - First in AFL Alberta news!

The opening game of the 2005 season kicked off shortly after 3pm at the Calgary Rugby Fields. The Kangaroos (that's us) comfortably beat the Magpies (Red Deer) 17.21.123 to 8.8.56 (the first number is the number of goals - 6 pointers - scored, the second is the number of behinds - 1 pointers, the third is the total (but Aussies don't need it). Calgary made some key player aquisitions in the off season while Red Deer was fielding an under strength team thanks to injuries to key players.

Most notable of the new players for Calgary was Richard. Ok, that's an out and out lie, "Crazy" Jordan (a Canadian recruit) had a stunner, and could well be competing with some of the Aussies for player of the season points. Matt and Todd also played very well. The Australians showed why it's called Aussie rules, with Judgie, Chriso, and Boozer putting on a great show for the crowd of two dozen. Irish ringer Adrian (although I'm sure that's not how the Irish spell it :P) was in fine form, and attracted a bit of hostile attention from frustrated Magpies players.

Me, I managed to not completely embarass myself. I think I kicked two behinds, I know I got one when my shot from the one mark I took all game hit the post, so that was a little frustrating. I made a couple of nice disposals to team mates that resulted in goals for the team, and didn't get in the way too much (except of the other team a couple times, but that's a good thing). All up, I'm pretty happy with my first game. Fitness needs quite a bit of work, my game-sense is almost non-existant, and I've got to get back into the swing of trying to hit people (unlike ultimate frisbee, where it is a bad thing). But, it was my first game and I'm not a natural sportsman.

However, it is a long season, and Calgary can not afford to get too confident. With their twice a week training schedule and innovative recruitment techniques (rumour has it that the 'Pies grabbed some guy off the street in Red Deer and showed him the football on the drive down), it's looking to be a very interesting season - and that's before you through the Cheiftains into the mix with their funny shaped ball, tricky rules, and secret Irish voodoo.

Kiwi Nomad - First with the Alberta AFL news (mainly because I'm an internet geek and wanted to check my email before going to the Flying Emu for more team celebrations).

Offical report will probably appear on at some point soon. But I was first! nyah nyah nyah!

Bill Gates owes me 6 hours of my life.

I was looking for a new driver on microsoft dot com (not linking in a futile attmept to avoid bolstering their google page rank), and windows update tells me "you have critical updates to download".

I make the mistake of downloading a couple of these things.

After I installed them and rebooted, the fun started.

1) Windows kindly turned my screen back into a 256 colour 640x480 (from 1024 X 780 high colour). That's an easy fix.

2) Firefox has disappeared. No toolbar shortcut, no desktop shortcut, file not found when I search for it.

3) Point two doesn't really matter because I can't connect to the Internet. According to hardware troubleshooter, wireless card is working fine, network adapter is working fine, I just have no LAN connection. I uninstall it and its controller. Reinstall - no luck.

Long story short, after 6 hours of trying all sorts of things, I went to bed (and was taunted with dreams of the icon that shows I have a LAN connection - sad but true). I undertake a "last chance before I reinstall windows" effort. Thankfully it works.

I am NEVER downloading windows updates again. Even if they say that they've kidnapped my family's cat and will pick her up and carry her around (which she hates) if I don't. Sorry Quizzie, you'll just have to deal with it.

But I have firefox back now (even the three minutes of IE to get to and download it were bad enough) and hereby resolve to never buy any microsoft product ever again (except possibly windows, as much as that bugs me, I'm not sure if I'm geeky enough for linux).

On the upside, if I imagine that the Red Deer Magpies work for Microsoft, I should be able to psyche myself up to make a few big tackles. It's the opening game of the Alberta AFL / Gaelic Football season in a couple hours and I have been selected for the Calgary Kangaroos squad (mind you, so has anyone at training who said they didn't have weddings, funerals, or work today).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Responses to comments

Yes, I could have just commented in response to the comments, but this is easier for me, and also I get to show off that I actually HAVE comments. I love comments.

Dan wrote "BTW are you related to that Mark guy who came second in the French Semaine Olympique recently?".

I'm going to assume this is No-Nickname Dan (there were too many Dans during my year at U of Calgary, and he somehow avoided getting a nickname). And if it isn't, well I was overdue to link to NN Dan's page (he's in Canada right now, and he has photos, and doesn't subject you to haiku).

But yes, Mark is my identical cousin (that's what it's called when your cousin looks much more like you than your brother does) and he is a world class sailor type guy.

It's easy to tell us apart (not that we've been in the same place for a couple years now). But in case you need to:

Mark - very good at making boats go faster than other people's boats (he's particularly good with Tornado class catamarans).
Richard - usually remembers that the pointy end of the boat is the front.

"Nics" - I'm afraid I have no idea who she is, although since she's probably from Northern Ireland (my expert deduction skills say that someone from Ireland wouldn't have mentioned Northern Ireland), but anyway, if she's from Northern Ireland there's a good chance she's related to me - my mother has so many aunties and uncles, that perhaps as much as 33% of Northern Ireland's population are related to me) wrote:

"Gaelic football? hurling? try being a girl and playing camogie, the feminine version of hurley for girls, it's not pretty. and 'shamus' is actually 'seamus'!! sorry for being pedantic, but here's a site for you, www.gaa.ieor alternatively come to ireland or northern ireland for an intensive course!

I've corrected the spelling mistake - thanks for pointing it out. Although I do think that deciding "Shamus" is actually spelt "Seamus" is another good example of a confusing Irish trick.

I'm going to leave aside "try being a girl", because, well, I don't need any more groups of people mad at me.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll get my head around Gaelic football by the end of my time in Calgary - the Kangaroos play enough games against the Cheiftains (guess which team plays which sport) with one half under each set of rules that an understanding will be whistled into me.

Hurling on the other hand (and camogie, which is women's hurling) still seems like a crazy sport. I've read the offical rules now, and it seems no less crazy than when I saw it on TV. If you're still not quite sure why this sport is for the sanity-challenged - or did I cover that by saying it was the Irish who invented it? :P, I'll try and explain again:

1) There are lots of people swinging large sticks near each other - In England this is either a gang fight or a Morris dancer's convention.

2) These people are allowed to run into each other. I'm a fan of sports that involve people running into each other. I've even played a few. I fact, I quite enjoy running into people when it is appropriate. I just don't think running into a guy who is carrying a big whacking stick is a good idea.

3) There is no padding. Sure, rugby players don't wear padding. Rugby players also don't carry great big sticks and the ball is softer (although still quite able to make your nose bleed if you try catching it with your face).

4) The ball goes quite quickly, and players are expected to leap in front of it. Even cricket players know that avoiding the ball is a bad thing, and their games take five days to end in a draw.

OK. I admit it, I'm a great big wuss who doesn't understand the finer points of Gaelic culture and am perpetrating my Anglocentric prejudices.

Disclaimer (in the hopes of not getting "an intensive [care]" explanation of why hurling is great).

Most of what I write in any post is a joke.

Specifically, I'd like to state that hurling is a perfectly valid sport that is exciting to watch and takes a lot of skill and fitness to play.

It's still for crazy people.

Damn it, I was so close. Now I have to watch out for upset Irish-sports-people as well as pigeon fanciers, Australians, crickets, and any other group I've insulted in this surprisingly widely read blog in last week.

It's a good job I've got two million dollars of medical coverage.

Free writing from a professional author.

The big news, as the title suggests, is that I am kind of a professional writer.

Don't get too excited. I'm providing keyword heavy "articles" to portal sites. It's definately not as lucrative as writing Discworld novels, but that gig is already taken. It's not particularly challenging, except to crank out the articles, but it's usually more enjoyable than having to work for a living. My pay should cover living expenses, and as long as people are interested in "refinancing home loans" or "Asia travel tips" and other such thrilling topics, I should be able to keep doing it... until my head explodes from conforming to requirements like "3% keyword density" and "CTR maximising structure" and I start submitting haikus about lemons or pigeons.

On that note, there don't seem to be many pigeons in Calgary. A few magpies and smaller birds (uh they're kind of brownish and go tweet), but my beloved sky-rats are nowhere to be seen.

Pigeons gone.
Who will eat the crumbs?
the sky weeps.

After that little poetry interlude, I should complete the update. I'm in Calgary, mostly installed into a fairly-spacious fairly-downtown apartment. We still don't have a couch, let alone a couch for the deck. Dan (who I met at U of C last time I was here) - and I have a running joke about "pimp my deck" (for those of you who haven't seen it, it's reference to the MTV show "pimp my ride" in which old junky cars are given a $20,000 facelift. This usually involves DVD players and other electronics, a fancy paint job, new upholstery, all that stuff. Our deck is sadly very un-pimped right now - we sit on cushions on the lip of the french doors and look longingly at the barbeque and camp chairs that Nascar-flag-guy has across the alley from us.

We're almost right above a Tim Hortons (although it's a 6 story walk down to get there - at least until we install the absail rope). Timmy's is a canadian cultural icon - Tim was a hockey player who opened a chain of donut and coffee stores, and while they are not as ubiquitous as Starbucks. After going through LA airport, I sometimes wonder if we're headed for a Starbucks event where eventually the entire planet will be covered with Starbucks, everyone will be employed be Starbucks and society will collapse.

Yes, that is a reference to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the galaxy shoe-store catastrophe.

No, I haven't seen the movie yet.

Yes, I really want to.

No, I haven't made any plans to see it, I'm really not a big-screen kind of person (I blame being a New Zealander, I like my screens small and understated)

Yes, that doesn't make much sense (it's been out for a week or two now).

On an unrelated note, but something I thought of when I noticed I had footy training tonight - it's funny that my siblings and I are as keen on sports as we are. Mum is, and I have to be careful here because I risk losing half my readership, somewhat fond of sports (but still less than averagely keen, at least for New Zealand), even if she needs to be reminded about the rules quite frequently. On the other hand, our father is definately not a sports fan. In fact, he's probably best described as "anti-sport". To his credit, he trooped along to several years of schoolboy rugby matches and did his best to fit in with the other parents and not tease us too much about playing a "stupid game". He's even managed to learn to "quite like" netball (possibly because he was never forced to play it at school in the 1890s).

At a guess, it's because one of the things my entire family, perhaps the whole clan, has in common is that we are willful and contrary. My paternal grandfather was very keen on sport (or at least English sports like football, rugby, and cricket). So his eldest son dislikes sports, and his eldest son's eldest son likes sports (and one day, I'll inherit the kingdom, bwhahaha!)

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