Thursday, June 28, 2007

How well does the world REALLY know Canada? Heh heh heh.

In anticipation of our upcoming national birthday celebration, un petit quiz pour vous. We'll see how participation goes...maybe the winner will get a prize (a nice bottle of home-made Canadian maple syrup, perhaps?).

Identify the following:

The Rocket
Talking to Americans
CT boutique
GT boutique
July 1
Coronation Street
Newfoundland speed bump
The Bay
Red Green
Don Cherry
prairie oyster
the Centre of the Universe
two-tier system
Roch Voisin
This Hour Has 22 Minutes
The Great One

*deafening crickets*

Come on, give it a try...whaddya got to lose?

Canadians, since this will be no challenge for you whatsoever, I refer you to this excellent and eminently readable blog by 93 year-old Canadian, "Don"...because there is no body of knowledge or experience richer than nearly a century of mindful living.

Happy looooooooong weekend!!!

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Anatomy of a jerk

"Jerk"'s one of those words that I fear really dates me, like "slacks" or "nitwit" or "converter". Is it a left-over from the 80s? I'm not sure when it originated, but I know that's when I started using it. Usually in thrilling combination with "stupid," "face," and/or "ass."

...There's just something satisfying about the way the hard "j" and "k" sounds cut out of your mouth when you say it...

As curses go, of course, it's pretty mild. Often I still say "jerk" out of habit, when I really mean "fuckwit" or "assgobbling halfwit shit-for-brains waste-of-space."

All of this introductory digression to say that when you have the misfortune of crossing paths with a jerk, you're usually so tongue-tied by righteous anger and frustration that it's the only word you can spit out between senseless exclamations.

There is a certain breed of jerk I've encountered in my working life that is particularly stanky with fuckwitedness. This is the soul-sucking psychotic know-it-all lout. The soul-sucking psychotic know-it-all lout sits in a position of ultimate superiority above all other humans. It doesn't matter that they have, say, a mail-order certificate in Human Resources from the Matchbook Academy hanging on their wall and that you have an advanced degree in...whatever your discipline. They know your subject better than you do and they will take every opportunity to talk down to you like the amoebic waste-product you know you are. They usually occupy management positions.

These work-jerks come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe it's that bitchy executive assistant who intimidates the life out of you. Maybe it's that client who keeps hiring you for the sick pleasure of tearing down everything you do or say, knowing that your livelihood depends on keeping clients happy. It could be that accountant in Finance who is helping you write an article on mutual fund fees and feels that that English class he took that one time makes him the Shakespeare of management expense ratios.

The point is, these people always exert a strange power over their unfortunate victims. Sociologically, it's really very interesting. Because they don't necessarily have to be in a position of authority over you. But they do have to hold some kind of power--they have something you need and they'll fire their pistol at your feet and screech "DANCE MOTHERF*&^%ER!!! DANCE!!!" before you can get it. They're Lucy holding the football. They are Satan slithering 'round the apple tree.

Obviously, I recently had a run-in with a jerk. Nice as pie to my face, spitting venom behind my back. I did get royally pissed at first, but then I started trying to understand the underlying psychology. I tend to work that way--systems thinking kind of deal. Maybe I'm trying to deconstruct the incomprehensible...

Clearly, he gets something out of this behaviour. He does it to everyone at his company, as well as to out-sourcers like me. His jerkishness is quite egalitarian. He, like the rest of his ilk, operates under the assumption that nothing anyone else does is ever as good as he himself could do, if only he had the time to do it. But he's just so unutterably important that...sigh...he has to delegate the task to Inferiors.

I did a communications plan for a woman like that once. She was Pure Evil. Grade-A psychobitch, and I tell you no word of a lie: every employee working under her left in the time I was contracting in to her. She was sort of like the Miranda character in The Devil Wears Prada ..Very quietly and efficiently cruel, like a guillotine. You didn't know the blade had fallen until you were looking at your own feet from ground-level.

What does a person like that get out of his behaviour, and what's the right way to deal with them? There has to be a way to win. Please don't tell me there's no way to win.

In the past, I've tried all kinds of approaches with these people: excessive niceness. Robot-like detachment. Defensive blustering. In the case of my recent run-in, I chose to ignore the asshole comments and focus on facts. That keeps me blameless while helping me get the job done so I can get the hell out of Dodge. But none of it is really effective in feeling that sense of "HA! I won!" I'm looking for a way to get a little back...

I know everyone has had experience with this kind of co-worker. Any moments of triumph? Have you ever had the pleasure of putting a work-jerk in his or her place? Do share.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I have no son

Last night Chico lifted his leg and let loose...on my heart.

I'm not sure how it all started, because by 1:30 a.m. I had been asleep for about 4 hours already, but I woke to the sound of Mr.Whyioughtta whistling and pacing quietly on the porch outside. Whistle whistle... Pace pace. Whistle! Pace pace pace. Whistle whistle... Pace pace pace pace.

"What's going on??" I groaned groggily from the bedroom upstairs.

"...Chico...he's f^&%ing around again...won't come in," he replied.

Chico's been doing this for months, but not usually this late at night and not with such manipulative forethought. You see, he used the "emergency bark" to lure my husband into letting him outside. The emergency bark is reserved specifically for when Chico has to go to the bathroom really, really bad and risks losing bowel control in the house. He's only used it twice before.

But this time he used it with cunning and falsehood. He didn't have to go to the bathroom at all. He just wanted to go out and play.

What do you call a dog who cries wolf???

By then I was wide awake, 1:30 a.m. being the time I normally get up these days. We tried everything we could to get him back in the house, but the brat wasn't having it. Instead he chose to lurk menacingly just outside the reach of the porch light. Finally we said, "screw it. We're going back to bed."

That didn't last long. Chico decided to run around the neighbourhood barking at God knows what. I was nervous because he chased a young bear yesterday and I could see the goof trying it on with young bear's mother. Then again, if he didn't shut up, an angry neighbour was bound to shoot him. Either way, I had to get up and stage whisper "ssssshhhut up dumbassssss!" in my Satan voice to the darkness.

I made myself a bed on the couch, whence I can see out the patio doors and track his movements. He refused to come in, but he did fall asleep on the patio just outside the door. When I got up to let him in, he took off through my tomato garden. I wanted to throttle him.

I fell asleep for about 2 hours. Visions of dancing around his taxidermified corpse filled my dreams. When I woke up, I completely ignored him. I knew I had to drive Mr.W into work in an hour and that would be the deciding moment: would Chico just let us leave peacefully, or would he, as he has done several times, try to follow the car down the highway?

In the end, I didn't have to face that moment, because as I walked out to the car, he followed me and hopped right in the back, just like he owned the joint. He was perfectly well-behaved for the rest of the journey, except for his grand finale of puking all over the back seat.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Loose bits

Snap-ins are those annoying inserts they put in magazines that fall out all over the place and make it impossible to lay the magazine flat so you can read it while drinking a margarita and painting your toes.

I hate snap-ins with a hate that is never-ending.

That hate has got me thinking of all my other irrational targets of hate. Most have to do with loose ends and bits and pieces and, on occasion, gravity. I don't exaggerate when I say that if something passes through my hands that I don't have a designated location for, I become literally paralyzed by indecision. It's like the brain-loop my dog went into the other day when faced with his first mirrored closet door: He couldn't understand why he couldn't get into that room. So he just kept swinging his head left and right, left and right, left and right. That's me when holding an extra shoelace.

Other loose bits I hate:

Socks. Matching a clean load of socks is a total nightmare for someone with OCD tendencies. Hunt and peck. Hunt and peck. Hunt and peck. WHY GOD WHY? Folding (well, balling together) socks gives me such a tension headache...Oy!

Junk mail and flyers. I have not one but two stickers in my mailbox screaming NO FLYERS PLEASE! (Note the compulsory Canadian "please"--included even on a 3/4 by 2-inch stick-on label.) I blush to think how much it has reduced my overall stress not to get junk mail anymore. In one tiny way, something has been set right in the world.

Those extra envelopes they include with bills. Who the hell pays their bills by cheque anymore? Visa, Bell, banks of Canada: please meet my good friends, The Internet and The Bank Machine.

Bills in general, once they've been paid. WHEN CAN I LET THE OVERFLOWING FILES GO? I know, I know...the CRA needs to be able to go back 7 years. But...seriously...will anyone really ever need my cell phone bill from March 2002?

Mormon and Jehovah's Witness flyers. This place has been just crawling with evangelicals these days. If you're not home when they drop by (and by "not home" I mean "crouching under the window pane until that old man and his miserable-looking 37-year-old-virgin daughter drive away in their 85 Chevy Impala"), they now leave flyers. Go away and take your unnecessary paper with you! I resent having to bin things with Jesus's face on them. Especially when he's kind of cute and surrounded by all those cool animals.

Safety pins, bobby pins, and hair elastics. We fly people into space on a regular basis, yet no device has yet been devised that protects hair accessories from being sucked into the wormhole that leads under my bed, into the bottoms of my old purses, and into the back corners of my lingerie drawer.

Apostrophe misuse. I've noticed a particular problem with use of the possessive ( 's) as a plural (The street was full of car's.) among the British. Ironic, considering it is the birthplace of the language. For me, every misused apostrophe is like a little death.

I'm sure there's a deep philosophical point to be made here about loose bits interfering with my enjoyment of life's important details...Can't see the trees for the leaves, or something like that. Little bits and pieces need to be organized into a context, for me; I don't know why. Maybe I'm missing some synaptic connector (where did it go? is it with the bobby pins????)...This is my albatross. Feel free to share yours.

Friday, June 15, 2007

How's your bullpoop-o-meter?

Today, I blather.

What is it about getting older that makes us grow more outspoken about things that used to seem small and yet remain silent on things that used to seem big?

Call it maturity, call it grumpification. Either way, it's very real.

I seem to have reached a magical point in my Maslowian self-actualization that never appears on that pyramid thingy. You know you've reached this point when you stop arguing about whether there's a God ("ehn...who knows? Does it really matter?") and start speaking up when the kid serving you at Winners is too engaged in her conversation with the next cashier to hear you politely request that she remove the plastic hanger from your new shirt before putting it in the bag. So you ask her again. And she raises her voice so that her friend doesn't miss ONE SECOND of her FASCINATING tale of how she was SO WASTED at Grad. So you wave your head around a little to try to make eye contact. And she responds by ACTUALLY STOPPING what she's doing to answer her friend's inquiry into what she'd thought of Linda Feinsten's hideous chiffon dress. So you loudly say, "excuse me miss," cutting her off and she looks at you like you're vermin she has just noticed crawling over her counter. Into which face of utter belligerence you shout, "I ASKED YOU TO TAKE OFF THE HANGER. WHY AREN'T YOU TAKING OFF THE HANGER???" To which she snidely replies with that ultimate insult, "Sorry MA'AM."

As an example only, you understand.

(That yappy little chippy had it coming.)

I NEVER imagined I'd reach this point, but I have. And it extends to the way I deal not just with strangers, but with family and friends as well. I now understand my grumpy great-aunts and uncles. They weren't grumpy. They just had finely tweaked bullshit-o-meters.

And there's the nub of it, isn't it? I think after a certain amount of life experience you start to see when someone's being genuine--even genuinely ignorant is okay--and when someone's just being lazy or arrogant or selfish--in other words, bullshitting themselves and/or others.

On the flip-side, you start calling out your own bullshit too. It can be very edifying. Also endlessly humourous.

All in all, I think it hones your sense of individuality and your sense of compassion. You realize you're not the only person in the world with the only opinion on the planet, and that others--who may see things very differently--are just as convinced that they're right. And that's just a-okay. You realize your own capacity to cause others joy...and pain. You see how that thing you said could have been taken the wrong way, and you regret having said it. You feel proud when you make someone else feel good. I'll stop before I crawl into bullshit territory.

And so even while you're tweaked to the old b.s., you are better able to put yourself in other people's shoes for a second and ask, "enh...who knows? Does it really matter?" And once in a while you realize it does matter, and that you've acted out of turn, and you realize why the Golden Rule makes good socioeconomic sense. And other times you choose to be full of it, because sometimes a little bullshit goes a long way.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

May this bird of good fortune not poop on your head

Gigantoraptor. Gigantoraptor. Gigantoraptor. Gigantoraptor. Gigantoraptorgigantoraptorgigantoraptorgigantoraptor. I can't stop saying it.



This "robust" birdlike dinosaur was recently discovered by some very lucky and soon to be famous paleontologists in nortnern China. Just when you thought, "paleontology...humph, who studies that anymore?"

GIGANTOraptor was last seen 70 million years ago "pouncing on its prey with an open mouth and strong beak." See diagram above. (Apparently, dudes who look like they might drive a 75 Camaro and smoke unfiltered Salems were gigantoraptor's food of choice). Gigantoraptor weighed in at more than 3,000 lbs. Not something you want landing on your birdfeeder.

This reminds me: I was attacked by seagulls yesterday. Seriously. And THAT made me shriek.

(I will have a real post up soon.)

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thar be dragons

Have you ever been walking through the woods in Eastern Canada on a dark, drizzly June day and found yourself being attacked by an animal that should not be living in your...hemisphere...or...epoch?

I think I was attacked by a komodo dragon today. Or possibly a small triceratops. I'm not sure. It was definitely reptilian. It had big earflap things that were all...sticking out at me. And it was chasing me. And hissing, very loudly. And it was big. Like, about 10 inches tall, it seemed. With big muscular arms. And it was fast. And did I mention that it was hissing?

I was walking through my neighbour's yard (she's on vacation and asked me to keep my eye on the place). Chico was, as usual, way up ahead of me. Suddenly, I hear an unidentifiable hissing noise in the brush behind me and to my right. Fortunately, I had a transcriptionist on hand to track my thoughts from that point on:

What the....? What's that noise? If it's another one of those goddam grouse scaring the...Wait, what is that? ...It's a big...???. it a racoon? ...Am I being stalked by a has to be a grouse...WHAT THE HELL, why is it moving so fast? Why is it running up to me?! IT'S CHASING ME!!! AND HISSING!!!! has no feathers...!!! Is's's a LIZARD! IT'S SOME KIND OF LIZARD! JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH IT'S A LIZARD!!! BUT WE DON'T HAVE LIZARDS HEEEEEERE!!!!!! AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!! OH GAAAAAAWD!!! SAVE ME!!!!!!!

That was followed by a lot of shrieking and hand-in-the-air waving and running for my life. Which was in turn followed by approximately 45 minutes of very shaky walking through the woods punctuated by constant paranoid looks behind me to make sure it wasn't following me. I'm still a little pale in the face.

It sort of looked like this fella, only its head-flap thing was a little smaller.

A couple of years ago, my sister's 4-foot iguana escaped from her house (she lives on the west coast). It all ended well; the lizard was spotted in the neighbour's tree a few days later. "He" was fine. I had a good laugh thinking about the poor neighbour, walking out to her car or taking the pooch out for a walk, and looking up to see a massive 4-foot lizard hanging in her chestnut tree. Karma has repaid me for my mocking laughter.

Relative scale of me to the monster that attacked me this morning.

Anyhow, anyone with any ideas on what it could have been...please share.