Thursday, February 25, 2010

:: A programming note, and a li'l history ::

It was brought to my attention a few minutes ago that my blog comment box has undergone a little overhaul, unbeknownst to me. Old posts still have the old black/blue pop-up box, but the last two, and this one I assume, have some new-fangled thing, which I do not like. For starters, I fear change. And secondly, no matter how many comments I get, the main display page of my blog still lists the comments as being "Comments (0)"

Until I just checked, I actually thought that not a single commenter had written anything on my last two posts. And I was sad.

What has happened, best as I can tell, is that the web-company that designed and operated my comments, Haloscan, has apparently turned into another company, which has in turn changed the commenting system.

Over the past few years, this blog has had a handful of behind-the-scenes technology issues, mostly on account of this blog outdated – by a number of years – the current publishing system used by Blogger. I started this blog back in 2003, before Blogger was acquired by Google, and before comments were even built into the available blog templates. That is why my comments are a pop-up box run by Haloscan, and not the same format as most other people's.

As a matter of fact, Classic Times (originally called In the 'Loops for those with long memories) is so old that the reason the email address classictimes @ gmail even exists is because, as a Blogger member, I was given a free address before they were available to the public – back when everyone was wowed by how much storage space Gmail users were afforded.

With regard to the comments, I had to sign up separately with Haloscan years ago, and Mike went into the HTML code for me and added the right lines in the right places for it to all work.

So yeah, we kick it old school 'round here.

The current look of this blog – the template, if you will – is a dinosaur. It's undergone a billion modifications of my own doing – the blog header graphic, the colours, the links, etc... – but the original template hasn't been offered by Blogger since it's big update a number of years ago.

And because I chose to stick with the old look – I fear change, remember – I've missed out on a number of things afford the new bloggers. For one, I don't have a drag-and-drop screen to move blog elements around easily. Anything I wanna do has to be done by digging through line after line of HTML code, and trust me, that ain't my thing.

Secondly, under my current account, I can't follow other blogs... can't do a number of things that would make my blogging life easier. And about three years ago, I lost the ability to moderate comments because I lost my Haloscan password and username when my old laptop bit the dust. (And it's because of this lack of moderation ability that a certain ridiculous, flame war was recently allowed to take place in the comment section of a particular post... Try and guess which one!?)

Yet still, I resist.

But I guess this is just a long-winded (because some things really don't ever change) way of saying this: I'm thinking that it's time for a change. It probably means changing the look – drastically – of this blog, and maybe even the web address will change, but we'll see.

It will pain me greatly to do it, but perhaps now is the right time to put the ol' blog to rest.

Or maybe I'll just leave it be. I mean, I am pretty fucking lazy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

:: Unanswerable questions ::

Earlier today, I was in the second-floor washroom in my office building. I was at the sink, washing my hands, when a tall, older man with an English accent entered. I had never seen this man before in my life.

I am not one for bathroom conversation – I hate inane small talk, and when you're peeing it's just that much more awkward – but unfortunately, we made eye contact. So I have him the polite head nod, eye-brow lift that essentially says, "I acknowledge your presence, but do not wish to engage in any real conversation."

Of course, this guy ignores bathroom etiquette completely by actually saying "Hi." So I was forced to respond in kind, as I dried my hands. I thought that would be the end of it – I mean, what more can be said between two strangers in an office bathroom?

Well, I didn't need to wonder long. As I'm about to leave, he blurts out "So, ya loading, or unloading?"


Thinking that I'd heard him wrong – on account of his accent – I asked, "What?" and he repeated himself. Nope, that's really what he said.

Now, I have no idea what in the hell that question meant – absolutely no idea. In fact, I'm still confused hours later. Was this some Olde English greeting? Some kind of joke? A legitimate question about who-knows-what? I mean, I am in a bathroom so, taken literally, I suppose if I had to chose between the two options, I'd say I was unloading, but that's an awful personal question from a guy I don't know (and a weird and unnecessary one if we did know each other).

"Ya loading or unloading?"

I mean.. what the crap is that?

So, confused as all hell and regretting heavily the three coffees I drank earlier which got me into this mess in the first place, I did the only thing I could think of.

I Lloyd-Christmas'ed my way the fuck out of there.

"Well... see ya later," I said.

And then I left without saying another word and without further eye contact, while the English gent stood there as confused as I had been 10 seconds earlier.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

:: Bizarro World ::

First off, an apology.

I'm sorry friends. I truly am. I have caused some of you grief which you did not necessarily deserve, and heartbreak you most certainly did not want. I have wronged you, and I apologize.

You see, it was about 14 months ago that I – somehow, some way, against all odds and the laws of the universe – managed to snag myself a lady friend, and a fantastic one at that (That sound you hear is my stock going up with Christene). But there's been an odd twist over the last little while, too – something that I had not realized until Christene pointed it out earlier this week, during a bit of idle, random conversation.

"Don't you think it's weird that ever since you got a girlfriend, a lot of your friends' relationships haven't worked out?" she asked.

I had never realized it, but she was right. I mean, not to pick at old wounds or anything, but first there was Sean and Rach; then Ian and Bre; and then in an unexpected twist, my buddy Jay split with his wife. And if the gossip mongers are to be trusted (and if you can't trust them, who can you trust?) there has been the odd close call elsewhere as well, which is really none of anybody's business, but is out there nonetheless. Thankfully, each situation seems to have worked out for the best, which eases my guilt ever-so-slightly.

But it's still like bizarro world out there. Up is down, left is right, hamburgers eat people. Nick gets a girlfriend. Everybody else breaks up.

I feel a tinge of guilt, sure. In fact, to quote Bart Simpson after he cruelly sets up Mrs. Krabappel on a blind date with Gordie Howe/Woodrow (who does not exist), "I can't help but feel partly responsible."

I mean, had I known that my happiness would have upset the logical order of things as much as it has... I probably still would have done it. Yeah, I definitely would've still done it.

But I'd feel guilty as hell.

And for those of you out there still together and happy with your significant others, I applaud your resilience.

But be warned: The universe is pissed.

Friday, February 19, 2010

:: Deconstructing an apology ::

Last fall, when the whole Tiger Woods brouhaha erupted, I wrote that contrary to popular belief, the world of athletics – the whole world, some even said – was not crumbling into a pile of porn stars and crumpled Cadillac bumpers. In fact, all that happened was yet another athlete in a long line of them screwed up away from the field/course/rink/park, and lo' and behold, lost some fans, respect, etc.

Basically, I didn't agree with so many who decreed that sports was suddenly not good anymore, now that the Golden Boy had fallen from his perch.

And today, in case you haven't heard, Tiger spoke publicly for the first time since the shit hit the fan. And shortly after his 15 minute-speech - which was not followed by a Q&A session – the pundits came from all corners, critiquing his words, his actions, whether or not he should have cried, and oh, by the way, why wasn't his wife there? And what does that mean, exactly?

If you saw or heard it, you know how it went. He apologized many times, to many different people. Said he'd return to golf but he didn't know when, railed against the paparazzi angrily and told them to leave his family alone. And he said he did what he did because he was rich, famous, and felt – foolishly, wrongly he admitted – that he was successful and thus entitled to enjoy the fruits of his fame.

Post-apology, you had those expected parties – Tiger's "friends" – who jumped quickly to his defence, saying that he truly appeared sorry, he's learned his lesson, that it's a remarkable thing he's done to come clean; I even read online that some media outlet (I can't find the link now) called it one of the most remarkable, important sports apologies of all time, or some BS.

These came from the expected sources – the Golf channels, the few reporters and media groups handpicked by Camp Tiger because his handlers knew they wouldn't cause trouble or make waves... all the media people who "need" Tiger. Tiger's people knew they'd play nice, write nice things, etc..., because they need a continued good relationship with Eldrick to be able to function (apparently). This, of course, turns it from a press conference into an infomercial

And then, of course, are the naysayers. Those who demanded a "different" Tiger – ie: a non-robotic one, with emotions. Those who wanted tears. Those who complained about the lack of access to all but Tiger's friends in the media (As a media person myself, I agree with this criticism, but that's a long-winded post that I'll save you from reading).

But whether you accept his apology as sincere or think it was simply a PR ploy written by his handlers, it really doesn't matter. Why doesn't it matter?

Because he doesn't have to apologize to anybody other than his wife and kids. At least not publicly. Tiger didn't break any laws, didn't cheat (at golf)... Were his actions immoral? Sure. Illegal? Nope. Sure, you can make the argument pretty easily that he's let down his fans and sponsors, but he still doesn't need to apologize to them – he has not directed affected their lives, which was the whole point of my previous column.

Even though I personally don't think he sounded overly sincere, who the hell am I to tell him to be more sincere? To cry or be more contrite? I'm nobody to Tiger Woods; he owes me nothing. And anybody else out there (media or otherwise) who thinks Tiger owes it to the world, and by extension to them, to be more apologetic, more teary-eyed, more emotional – in essence, less Tiger – well, these people are as foolishly self-entitled as Tiger once claims to have been.

I mean, who the hell do you think you are, anyway?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

:: Just business ::

There is a scene in one of my favourite movies, The Wedding Singer, in which Adam Sandler's would-be wife visits him a day after standing him up at the altar. In her explanation for her actions she says, among other reasons, something to the effect of "I just don't love you anymore." Pretty boilerplate stuff. But it's Sandler's reaction that I've always loved – an agitated calm that quickly boils over. "These are all things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!!" he yells.

I could have screamed that same line at my bank today, when they called to inform me that, after finally getting around to looking in-depth at the purchase agreement for the new rowhouse (which I had faxed over, as part of the mortgage process), they realized that they will not – cannot – give me a mortgage, no matter how sparkling our finances may be.

Apparently it just dawned on them that this rowhouse is strata-free despite having common property (not common property in the legal/real estate mumbojumbo sense, but simply that there is a shared roof and the appearance of a shared interior wall. In reality, each house has its own walls, but the exterior facade makes them appear as one).

And apparently, because of this situation, these rowhouses are too risky to give mortgages to. ("What if you need to fix the roof and your neighbour doesn't agree?" the bank lady asked, despite me explaining that the roof warranty actually outlives the mortgage ammortization.)

I tried to plead my case a little bit, but to no avail. It's just company policy, and nothing personal, I was assured. Of course, my answer was to call the situation "horseshit" and declare my intention to pull my accounts entirely. (I'm so full of tact it's frightening).

But I quickly realized why I was so angry. It wasn't just because my house was deemed to be un-mortgageable by this particular bank (after all, two other banks today are quite pleased to give me a mortgage, I discovered after some phone calls), but it was the timing of the situation that pisses me off.

The subjects are to be removed on our new purchase in five days. This is when the bank decided to drop this bombshell on us. Not six weeks ago when we originally went in to inquire about a mortgage – at which time we specifically said what we were looking at buying. And not a week ago, when I contact with the bank's mortgage person again. And not even two days ago, when I first faxed them the contract.

No, any of those days would have been superior to today, which is when they finally decided to call and say, "Sorry, I know you only have five days, but how about starting from square 1 again?

"Don't be mad, it's nothing personal."

But considering that today has been stressful solely on account of their procrastination, I don't think a little personal consideration would've been too much to ask for.

(As an aside, this is the second time I've had to use the anti-Coast Capital label in the past 10 months. I think that speaks volumes. And isn't it credit unions that tout their 'personal touches' make them better than big, faceless, corporate banks? Hmmm.....)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

:: New digs ::

Behold, our new house! Or at least a close approximation (our house is indeed brick, but is not an end-unit. This was the best picture I could find online).

We don't move until September-October though, so right now our "new house" is actually a pile of dirt, but it's still exciting. Until then, we'll play the waiting game.

It's been retardedly stressful the last month, between deciding to sell/actually selling/paperwork/offers/revised offers/revised-a-third-time offers/roof issues, etc... but it's all coming to a close now, and in a little less than a month, I'll have vacated my former home and will be temporarily shacking up in Cloverdale, where the rent is cheap (good) and we share a basement with an old, friendly orange cat whose company I've grown to quite enjoy (better) and a large, always stocked wine rack (best).

It's going to be sad to leave this place, for a number of reasons I'll get to in a later post, but for now I won't get to nostalgic for the days of yore (ie: four years ago when Kyle and I used to get blitzed at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoons, watching Simpsons re-runs while others worked.)

No, now is a time for looking forward. To bigger and better things. To new (larger) mortgages, a new address, and most importantly, a new strata-free existence where I can paint my fucking house bright god-damn yellow with blue stripes if I want to and no strata-president douchebag can tell me otherwise.

If it's OK with Christene, of course.
:: I don't have a problem; I'll tell you when I have a problem! ::

I have become something of a chain coffee-drinker.

Take today, for example. Christene has the day off, and since she still woke up before I did, there was coffee made by the time I got out of bed and got dressed. Then, as I finished the last of my cup of coffee, I grabbed my travel mug for the road, which was also filled with sweet, sweet caffeine.

It's now 9:33 a.m. and my big travel mug is finally empty. Which coincides nicely with my department's daily 9:30 a.m. coffee run up the road to Tim Horton's. All told, I will have had coffee in my hand from approximately 7:05 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., non-stop.

Oh well, at least it's not a $1,000-a-day Faberge egg habit.

Monday, February 08, 2010

:: Country-fried America ::

This past weekend, Christene and I went to Seattle, for no reason other than we wanted something to do, and thought Seattle would be fun. We had a grand ol' time – walked around the downtown core a ton; ate a bunch of seafood; went on a historic walking tour of underground Seattle; fought off the advances of some gross homeless bum; and went shopping.

But of all the things we did – and we did a lot in a little more than a day – one of the seemingly minor things that stood out were the two breakfasts we ate: Saturday morning at the IHOP in Bellingham, and Sunday morning at the Denny's just outside Everett.

They have these two establishments in Canada, too, of course, but in both cases, the American menus are quite a bit different. Better, mostly. And also fatter.

One fatter-in-America example: American IHOPs have found a way to combine cake and pancakes with something called the New York Cheesecake pancake.

Another case in point: On both breakfast menus, country-fried steak is featured prominently. This is something that just isn't Canadian. I mean, it's steak, caked in deep-fried batter, fried (of course), and then topped with white gravy, which is approximately 214% fattier than regular gravy (rough estimate). For breakfast!

I mean, we here in Canada are fat – we invented poutine, for fuck's sake – but we're not that fat. Of course, though I mock it, I obviously ordered it on Sunday from Denny's (What can I say? I enjoy local cuisine... it was a cultural experience).

And not only did I order it, but I actually ordered it as part of some artery-choking extravaganza called the Meat Lovers Trio. The trio consisted of the following: country-fried streak covered in country-fried gravy; two sausages, two strips of bacon, two eggs, and then hashbrowns. But not just any hashbrowns – these were "new" hashbrowns, which were covered in cheese and sausage crumbles.

I know it said "trio" and I assume that refers to the three types of meat, but considering there are clearly more than three items, and sausage is in it twice, the number three could easily refer to the number of minutes you have, post-eating, until you keel over and die, or perhaps the number of times – maximum – that you will ever have sex again should you continue to eat in this manner.

At one point, I had on my fork a piece of steak, sausage, bacon, egg, and cheese. All covered in gravy, of course.

What a country.

:: Better switch to Starbucks ::

You know, there are punishments, and then there are punishments, and even though this seems heavy-handed – I mean, all he allegedly did was complain three times about coffee - the customer in question should probably know better.

I mean, taking on Tim Horton's? Are you nuts, sir? That's like badmouthing hockey or spitting on a picture of the Queen – or Wayne Gretzky. It's just not done.