Friday, August 30, 2002

What's a Diorama?

Another week has gone by, folks. That's right, you're now seven days older than you were seven days ago at exactly this same time. Feel any different? Had a good week? Worked hard? Maybe had a beer or two after work? Did some house cleaning? Maybe ran around your neighbourhood buck-nekkid for a while? Blew up some alien motherships using your laptop and 53 pounds of silly putty? Shook your fist in the face of adversity, and having pissed off adversity, shook your fist at oppression just a little bit? Did it make you feel good? Did it? Yeah, you like that.


I'm burnt out and I suspect that I'm not making much sense. Time for some R&R up at the cottage and a little bit of the going-away-party business for my good friend, Mike. Bon voyage-y, Mike! We're gonna miss you around here. Enjoy learning about the bubonic plague and stuff!

I also get to see my very first Ottawa Renegades game, which should be fun. I think it'll be my first live football game since I was ten years old. Frightening.

So have a good one....back in the bloggin' business as of Tuesday. And maybe next week I'll have something intelligent to say....

Netscape Can Bite my HTML

I've done some tweaking to the look-and-feel (to use an industry term....mmmm, consultant-licious!) of this here blog . And I'd like to looks like ASS on Netscape. If you're not using IE, Mozilla, or Opera, take a look at it using one of those. See? It's not supposed to look all ass-y!

Y'know, back in 1996, Netscape was the way to go. No longer, my friend. Stupid Netscape.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Naughty Survivor

Oh, you won't believe this one....After Survivor II: Australia, Survivor Jerri Manthey stripped for Playboy. Thanks to them, she got a pay-off from the gig on the show, but it further hurt her chances of a big-time acting career. Everyone knows this, most people shrug and say "Whatever," since a lot of the time, that's what happens with ex-pseudo-starlets. Playboy backs a dump truck full of money to their front door and the temptation to lose a few articles of clothing and run with the money is huge.

Well, this time around, we've got the opposite going on. Remember that new contestant who's a washed-up soap opera actor that I was telling you about? Turns out he's done soft porn! Bwa-hahahaha! He's already done the nasty, preserved for posterity on film, an indelible part of cinematic history. Rent the tapes to see for yourself today!

Check out the link for pictures and everything. Apparently the producers of the show know about it and are playing it down. What's next? Survivor 6: Nude Beach?

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

I Want to be on Europa, 2010

Mmmmmm....gotta love Arthur C. Clarke-goodness. Is anyone else worried about the Rendezvous With Rama movie that they promised to us way-back-when? The book literally writes its own screenplay, and yet the movie's stuck in development hell. I wanna see some biots on the big screen, dammit!

That is all.


New Weebl's up....check it out. You'd think this guy is paying me or something.

I Want to be Front Row for Speed Skating, 2010

In the news this morning: Vancouver, BC has been short listed for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games along with Bern, Switzerland, Pyeonchang, South Korea, and Salzberg, Austria. Although the bid has a huge price tag ($13 million so far), it means the potential for many, many more millions if their bid is successful, along with benefits to the city including venues for the events, infrastructure to support the Games (including transportation links, in particular), and heaps of exposure for Canada as an international powerhouse.

And believe me, Vancouver needs the infrastructure. When I was there this past summer, I was shocked at how much of an urban planning nightmare it was. There is no major highway route into downtown, unlike any other major city I can think of. Their mass transportation is wholly inadequate, made up of only buses and the "SkyTrain", a throwback from Expo '86, an elevated railway that services only the southeast corner of the city and stops short of the commercial core. And traffic and parking are in what can only be described as an unholy state, a confusing swarm of no parking signs, tow-away zone signs, narrow cart-track streets and terrible drivers. Maybe the Olympics will make Vancouver a city that's fun to live in, because right now, it's a mess, in my humble opinion.

But YAY! If Vancouver wins, maybe I can be there, waving my little Canadian flag and cheering on our winter warriors. See you at the skating oval!

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Goin' Semi-Public...

I found out today that Google has picked up my blog. That's right, no matter where you are in the world, you will always be able to type in "andrew limmert" or "monkey pan-flute" into the search field, and you will find my page and all the delicious, gooey contents held within.

I'm sure it's a magical moment for all of us.

All kidding aside, I think it's kinda cool. Maybe if people out there are looking for me, for whatever reason, they'll be able to find my page, drop me a line, and catch up a bit. I'd like that. I think it has only happened once with a friend from university who had lost touch and it has happened once or twice with my old highschool acquaintences. Maybe this way, it'll happen more often.

In the meantime, I'm going to play with Google and see how many ways I can search for my page and find it easily each time.


Time to play along....I've done this quiz three times now, and once I was curry and the other two times I was: Booze. Sweet, sweet booze.

What Flavour Are You? I tashte like Alcohol.I tashte like Alcohol.

Heh. Heh. I taste like beer. I like beer. Buy me a beer. I'm not drunk, I can drink plenty without... What was I saying? Beer.

Monday, August 26, 2002

You Look Toit! Toit like a Tieger!

Hey, just wanted to say I got to everything on my list of stuff for the weekend except for the Ex. That's fine, fairs suck anyway. Tool was amazing....Stacey and I were talking to this nice Goth kid when we were out for a cigarette in between the opening band and Tool, and he described the band as the "Pink Floyd of the 90's," and I think he was right. Best visuals and lights I've seen in a long time and a really unconventional, well thought-out show. And the opening act, Tomahawk....also amazing. For those of you who aren't in-the-know, Tomahawk features Mike Patton, former frontman for Mr. Bungle and Faith No More (two unbelievably cool bands), and members of The Melvins, Helmet and The Jesus Lizard. Tomahawk's still a little rusty, but they put on one helluva show.

Oh, and saw Goldmember again, under the auspices of meeting Ryan's new girlfriend. Still funny the second time around.

More later....right now, I have to do some QA on a document. That's a big "whoo-hoo" from me.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Friday Afternoon Special

Well, it's finally happened. Two days ago, the Hon. Jean Chretien, aging Prime Minister of the coolest nation on the earth, announced his retirement. And a great number of Canadians breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Now all we have to put up with is 18 months of Jean discrediting Paul Martin, granting Manley another eight or nine portfolios to make him look like Superman, and naming his drinking buddies from Shawinigan to the Senate. And let the games begin: the NDP, Tories, and Liberals will all be choosing a new leader in the next year and a half. An opportunity for a total house-cleaning and a new generation of politicians to join Harper as the young leaders of the big mucketty-muck powers-that-be. Look for their leadership campaigns, coming soon to a high-profile event near you.

My weekend's looking busy:
  • Tonight's Lynx game in a corporate box, courtesy of Stacey's company,

  • Tonight's going-away party for Brandy, who's moving in with her boyfriend and moving away from Ottawa to a far-away southwestern Ontario land (we'll miss you, kiddo),

  • Tomorrow's (possible) trip to the Super-Ex, since it's the last year that it'll be held at Landsdowne Park,

  • Tomorrow's Tool concert (Stacey and I don't really know the band, but we're going with friends),

  • Sunday's brunch with Stacey's Dad,

  • Sunday afternoon's vegging, hardcore,

  • And who knows, maybe we'll fit in a movie somewhere in there.

  • Have a good weekend, everyone!

    Thursday, August 22, 2002

    Rain, Rain, Go Away

    It's rainy and dismal in Ottawa today, the kind of day where I should be thinking how good it is for brown and crispy strands of straw that pass for the lawn around where I live, but instead I focus on what a downer this kind of weather is. I'm still drying out from my foray into the deluge, fresh from a steaming bowl of smoked meat poutine at Dunn's Deli, the dish that takes the award for being the *best* idea for a meal when you see it on the menu and the *worst* when you finish it. If you finish it, that is.

    Stacey and I were on our way to our swim last night (which, by the way, was dampened by a kid peeing in the hot tub, which they closed for the rest of the evening after it happened...pun intended on the dampening thing) when Stacey pointed out some long, thin, corrugated-looking clouds that were very high in the sky, and knowing that I was a geography-knowing-kinda-guy, asked me what kind of clouds they were. "Well," I told her, "Those are Cirrocumulus clouds..." and proceeded to give a less-than-coordinated explanation of how fronts, air masses, and clouds worked to create weather (I'm a little rusty considering I haven't studied meteorology since 1st year, and then only for a week). I foretold that based on the clouds that she saw, it would probably rain within the next nine or ten hours. I'm pleased that I turned out to be right, but I'm not pleased it's raining.

    Anyway, I was doing some research this morning to refresh my memory about clouds. If you'd like to be able to predict weather by looking at the clouds or know how the different weather-generating mechanisms work, take a look at this USA Today site, which is by far one of the most complete sources of reference material I've found so far.

    Wednesday, August 21, 2002

    Ali's Armpit Hurts, Film at 11

    Things have been pretty good the past few days or so. Last Friday, we celebrated my next door neighbour's Birthday party (happy birthday one more time, Nancy!), chilled in the backyard with a couple of drinks and talked with friends until 2 or 3 in the morning. Stacey also had fun dressing up a ten year old kid in her clothes for a photo shoot of fashions through the decades, through the 90's, 80's, 70's, 60's, and 50's. I'm not sure what was scarier: the fact that Stacey had all those clothes in her closet or that the kid let herself be subjected to that. Gotta love a willing Barbie doll. Me, I just drank my beer.

    Oh, and I met a fellow Queen's student who was an avid reader of GW while I was working on the paper. I still kind of miss that pseudo-celebrity status that being a part of Golden Words, our campus funnypaper, allowed. It was kind of like having super powers and a secret identity....we were just regular students, but every sunday, we jumped into a phone booth, emerged wearing our GW jerseys and wrote funny until the wee hours of the morning. And everyone wanted to know who we were, but we all had pseudonyms to protect our anonymity. But going back to Friday, it was fun to meet someone (in my own backyard, no less) who enjoyed my comic strips and writing and was interesting in getting to know who drew his favourite cartoons and wrote his favourite pieces. Every once in a while, he'd pop up with something like, "HEY, did you know Phreakshow?!" or "That guy Miss Kingston Pen was HILARIOUS! Who was that guy?" I think over the course of the evening, we went through just about every regular writer who was working on the paper in the last two years I was working there. It was nice.

    Saturday night was a night out at the Dominion Tavern in downtown Ottawa with my buddies Tony, Ryan, and Mike. It's a sketchy bar, but I've always been comfortable there. It's the only bar in Ottawa (to my knowledge) that will play punk music all night long. And they have really big beers. I think they import them from Quebec or something. Anyway, that night was pretty fun (because I don't spend as much time with them as I'd like), despite the fact that I found out about my friend's housing problem (see previous post) and a bunch of other stuff that night. Something about the Dominion brings out one of two kinds of people in you: a) The happy-go-lucky-let's-party-tonight-and-get-ploughed guy, or b) the man-my-life-sucks-right-now-let's-bitch-tonight-and-get-ploughed guy. I think I was type a) that night but a lot of my company was Type b). But regardless, some beer was had, we went to subway, some random girl bought me a sub and then left before I could even thank her, I later went back for some cookies, and those were free too (best subway experience ever), and overall, we all had a pretty good time. No complaints here.

    Sunday I had lobster dinner. Which was awesome....first of the year. Tasty. And we saw The Legend of Drunken Master, which was much better than the last Kung Fu movie we saw, the first Once Upon a Time In China, which was just awful. Jackie Chan is a true master when it comes to using everyday stuff that he finds around him (like benches, or pieces of cloth, or stuffed animals) to beat the living snot out of anyone who gets in his way. Very entertaining, plus he does a convincing drunken-stupor imitation that's amusing to see. Drunken Boxing, indeed.

    I spent last night cheering up Stace. She'd had a rough day, and I decided to buy her some Harry Potter lego and a bottle of Liquid Tide (the detergent came free with the lego) and make her some dinner. We topped off the evening by watching The Animal which was pretty mindless, stupid fare but was probably Rob Schneider's best work (not saying much). Colleen from Survivor was in it though, and she's just damn cute. I think it worked. Stace went to bed in a much better mood....mission accomplished!

    Coming ahead tonight: swimming! Exercise is so good when you enjoy what you're doing.

    Tuesday, August 20, 2002

    Early Morning, Full of Bran, Listening to New Filter CD

    "I think that it is an individual matter, an individual choice and people don't like to be socially engineered. And I think that evidence has shown on both sides of the border, despite what the anti-tobacco lobby says, that people will make up their own minds."

    — John MacDonald, spokesman for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges says if the government changes its anti-tobacco advertising strategy it won't have much effect.

    I can't help but agree with this quote, despite the fact that I'm agreeing with a big-time tobacco company executive. Maybe anti-smoking campaigns work on some people, but they certainly don't work for me or any of my friends. Hell, even a certain friend of mine who works for a major anti-smoking awareness group sneaks a drag or two off a cigarette from time to time when no one is looking. We all know what the risks are and that's it's bad for us...but people don't like being pressured or guilted. If people want to smoke, they will smoke. The exception is when it comes to loved ones. Usually, we'll listen to a loved one who cares about us and we'll consider their request more carefully, and many times, we will more-readily quit for someone else than for ourselves. But slogans and gross-out pictures on cigarette packs and guilt-inducing commercials on TV? They're frankly a waste of money, in my opinion. Most smokers laugh at them.

    Smoking is a filthy, filthy habit, as my mother likes to remind me every once in a while. Second-hand smoke is also disgusting. Hell, almost *everything* about smoking is disgusting.

    But, speaking as a smoker, the current mainstream methods of convincing people to quit just aren't working. People have to decide for themselves if it's time for them to kick the habit.

    For a look at an interesting, unconventional approach to an anti-smoking campaign targeting women, check out Sluts Against Butts. It's very militant and quirky.

    Monday, August 19, 2002

    Calling all Ottawans...

    Quick post: I have a friend who is facing the terrible possibility that she may not have anywhere to live after the 30th of September. She is looking for a room in Ottawa for approximately two months while she's waiting for her boyfriend to save up some money so they can get a place together. She's a total sweetheart and things aren't looking very good for her. She can only afford to pay between $200-$300 for the room, and $300 would be a real stretch. She also has a large dog, some rodents in cages, and some birds and would need a place for them, too.

    If you have a room available for a short-term period or if you know someone who's interested in renting out a room and likes animals, please contact me ASAP. I know it's a shot in the dark, but I promised I'd do whatever I could for her. Thanks.

    Where do we gooooo from here?

    This makes me stupidly excited. They've announced the cast of Survivor: Thailand! Yay! You know you've spent too much time with a TV show when...

    The cast sounds like it could be interesting. Of particular note:

  • First ever Oriental Survivor!

  • A Cheerleader and a quarterback!

  • A washed-up soap opera actor and a washed-up pro football player!

  • A female firefighter! From Arkansas! And a cop from Brooklyn!

  • Five people from Texas!

  • A gorgeous social worker!

  • A Navy diving instructor!

  • Yoga-lady!

  • A cigar-chomping grandma!

  • A cotton-picking guy with a golf club!

  • An extreme sports pretty-boy dentist who lives in Waco!

  • A raving, deer-hunting, born-again christian Pastor!

  • Arizona's most eligible bachelor!

  • A skateboard! How the hell do you skateboard on a beach?

  • 3/4 of the cast is from the southern US! Hicks-a-plenty!

  • Survivor starts up again September 19th. Yeeee!

    Friday, August 16, 2002

    I Like Pie

    This is....just depraved. It's called The Everyday Happenings of Weebl (and Sometimes Weebl's Friend Bob).

    I don't know why it's funny. And yet it is. Kind of like my friend Scott Feenstra's cartoon, Corwyn.

    I don't understand. I doubt anyone can. I think it's vaguely British. It's not really clever. It's just very, very strange. I highly recommend it! Check it out if you'd like your day to be a little more surreal.

    Warning: may cause confusion and brain-leakage. It also has sounds, so watch out if you're in an office.

    Whup-dee-doo, Elvis is Still Dead

    Today marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of the King. Forgive me if this date is completely meaningless to me. I truly can't comprehend why people would sit around at Graceland with candles to sob big salty tears because some performer died of a self-inflicted heart attack from a drug overdose and being hideously fat. 25 years ago, no less! This man, who ate sandwiches made from gristle and three entire packages of greasy bacon, forcing them into his maw like they were tic-tacs. This man, who's claim to fame was unhinging his pelvis and limping across the stage like a paraplegic in rehab.

    I guess what upsets me more than anything else is the notion that this man, above all others, was the true musical genius of the past millennium (and ask any fan, and they'll tell you just that). I think the true geniuses here were Elvis' PR people, the marketing machine that propelled him to god-like status after he bit the bullet. Viva Las Vegas, indeed! Just before they found him unconscious on the floor, he was finished. His big selling points were his strange propensity for sequins that almost put Liberace to shame and an inability to complete shows without drenching himself with sweat and staggering off the stage in a stupor. In the "Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock 'n' Roll," critic Peter Graining said at the time that, "It seems to be a continuing battle... and Elvis is not winning. His hair is dyed, his teeth are capped, his middle is girdled, his voice is a husk, and his eyes film over with glassy impersonality. He is no longer, it seems, used to the air and, because he cannot endure the scorn of strangers, will not go out if his hair isn’t right, if his weight -- which fluctuates wildly -- is not down. He has tantrums onstage and, like some aging politician, is reduced to the ranks of grotesque."

    And now, today, Elvis is more popular than ever. Forbes Magazine recently named him the top earning dead celebrity and sales of Elvis-related paraphernalia earned more than $37 million (US) in the last year. Are people insane?

    My disdain for this lunacy has nothing to do with his music. I agree wholeheartedly that he was very talented and I enjoy a great number of his songs, and I appreciate the fact that he did a great deal towards popularizing rock-and/or-roll. But I also recognize that in many ways, he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Rock & Roll truly started with black musicians as an extension of jazz in the southern United States. Elvis grew up in the south, heard the new sounds, copied them, and made them his own. He broke out onto the scene in 1956, when the young people of America were looking for something new, something that spoke to them and made them feel independent. Elvis came to symbolize this new smooth talking, sexy youth culture of fast cars, diners, leather jackets, and loud music -- he became their King almost by default, riding the wave of his good looks, decent voice, and unconventional dancing style. Parents hated him, and teenagers wanted to be like him.

    And why Elvis? Why don't we mark the passing of Beethoven or Mozart with wracking sobs and composer-impersonators strutting by? They were true geniuses.

    And if we mark Elvis as the grandfather of Rock & Roll, will we celebrate Joey Ramone, the recognized father of punk, and Kurt Cobain, the recognized father of Grunge music and the one who can be credited with popularizing Alternative bands (creating one hell of a confliction in terms), in the same way, 25 years from now? I certainly hope not. They were entertainers, not prophets....and I don't think that Joey Ramone would appreciate something like that anyway. If anything, he'd want everyone to get really drunk and watch Rock & Roll High School or something.

    Or maybe we celebrate him because he was a great musician and he died before his time? If so, maybe we should circle April 5th on our calendars as the day that BOTH Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana overdosed....we could call it OD Day, and go to Seattle and light candles under the Space Needle. Or have a midnight vigil in the Paris hotel room where Michael Hutchence asphyxiated himself with his belt. Or for Tupac, or Jimi , or Janice. But I don't see that happening in any hysteria-level way anytime soon.

    So why do we hold Elvis up on a pedestal? Why do we impersonate him with a ghoulish mockery of his on-stage persona? Does he truly define two generations of Americans?

    But all of this is just my humble opinion. I guess you'd have to ask a fanatic to get the whole story, because I just don't get it.

    Thursday, August 15, 2002

    Andrew's August Health Watch, Brought to You by Shopperz Drug Mart

    A few things of note have come to my attention over the past 24 hours, and they're freaking me out a bit (not in that "I can't sleep because of this" or the "Please, someone exorcise these demons!" kind of way, but still). There're these *things* just floating around out there, ready to make you feel crappy. Can't see 'em, can't really do much to prevent them from getting you, and they all happen when you're doing something fun. But anyway, for the sake of public health and your well-being, here's the goods...

    Swimmer's Itch

    We were watching the news last night when we heard about this one, and it's pretty sick-ass. See, there are these flatworms that swim around in lakes, rivers, and marshy areas in Ontario and other provinces and the northern United States. Every year at a certain time of year, they reproduce and their larva are also swimming around in there. Now, normally, these larva get all parasitic-like on birds and snails, but every once in a while, they come across a juicy human swimming around and they decide to burrow themselves into the poor sucker's skin. Okay, and after it gets up in there, it goes and dies on you. The result: these painful, itchy, raised, red sores all over your body where they bored into your skin which show up about 30 minutes later, expand steadily over the next day, and will itch for a week or more. Wanna see some pictures? I didn't, but I had to look at them anyway.

    It's pretty sick and, I would assume, pretty annoying, but it's not life-threatening or anything. Which is just as well, because most people don't know about it, and there isn't much you can do about it. The larva are microscopic, so you can't really tell if they're there, and they can happen at all kinds of different times during the summer, although outbreaks are more common in May and June. If you're thinking of taking an outdoor swim, try to find out if there have been reports in your area and look out for signs that say swimmer's itch is around (although I would expect that most places wouldn't post warnings as most people are inherently lazy and irresponsible). If there is an outbreak and you can't handle the heat and need the swim or else you're going to lose your mind and start throwing things, the best thing to do is limit the amount of time you spend in the water (to ten minutes or so at a time) and towel off really well and vigorously when you get out of the water.

    Now before you start rushing up and down, proclaiming "I'm never swimming in a river and/or lake *ever* again!" and throwing your hands in the air and generally freaking out, the conditions have to be just right for you to get swimmer's itch. The wind has to be right, the water current *just* so, the time of day is important, and there have to be a ton of water birds or snails around, and individual sensitivity plays a factor, too. Swimmer's itch is usually reported by people with other kinds of dermatitis, but getting swimmer's itch can also make you more susceptible to further exposures.

    It's been reported in Ottawa recently, for those of you who live here. It may be going around elsewhere too. Beats me. I'm not a doctor. Stop looking at me that way.

    VG-1 Fungus

    It turns out that there's this fungus on Vancouver Island that can kill you, or so the story goes. When Stacey and I were there this summer, there were signs at Cathedral Grove (which is just *stunning*...300-800 year old cedars and Douglas firs....the trees are indescribably big...go there, I highly recommend it) that said, and I paraphrase, "For the love of God, do NOT touch the trees! Don't do it!...Hey, I saw that! Come back here for your bath in disinfectant and fungicide!" Of course, following regular provincial government patterns of ineptitude, they only put the sign on one side of the road, and there were trails leading off on both sides. Stacey had to tell a poor mother who was taking a picture of her little girl on a tree stump that her daughter may have been infected by the fungus and she should go see the park rangers immediately, who proceeded to look like she was going to throw up and scream at the same time. We didn't see what happened to her, but last we saw, she was tearing through the trees with her daughter in her arms like those speeder bikes from Return of the Jedi. Poor lady.

    The fungus can make you very sick and it can kill you (there have been 50 reported cases and 1 death as a direct result of exposure to the fungus in the last three years). Today, however, I found that just keeping your hands in your pockets isn't enough. It's preliminary findings right now, but one woman has apparently died in a Victoria hospital from an airborne version of the fungus...*shudder*. It's already shown up in porpoises (go figure), but this is the first human case of this strain of the fungus, known as cryptococcal neoformans or VG-1.

    And what does it do? After it is breathed in, it causes a lung infection. After that, the fungus spreads from the lungs to other organs and then your body gets all messed up. Right now, this will only matter to the folks out in BC, as it's a tropical fungus and probably won't move eastward into the colder and drier parts of Canada. But it most definitely sucks, no doubt about it.

    Smog + Exercise = Deadly

    This one goes out to everyone in Toronto in particular. I haven't found a lot of research online yet (and I'm working on it), but Stacey told me yesterday that they've found that a vastly disproportionate number of bike couriers in Toronto are getting lung cancer. We're talking young, healthy, fit people in their twenties who are suddenly getting lung cancer. The only connection they can make is that because they're out there, inhaling exhaust and other fumes and exercising all day long, every day, that it's being caused by prolonged exposure to the smog.

    The Canadian Cancer Society is going to be publishing a paper on this very thing later this year that will have more information, but regardless, you should be very careful when you're exercising outdoors when smog levels are high in the city. When you exercise, it opens up your lungs and makes you more susceptible to the toxins in the air, which in turn can cause disease in your lungs, asthma, and cancer. When I get some more information, I'll post what I can find, because as an urban-geography-knowing-kind-of-guy this really concerns me. There's no reason in the world why fit young people should be getting lung cancer like this. It's pretty sickening, especially in a time when cities and provincial governments (in Toronto in particular) are cutting back on public transportation funding and incentives, dismantling air pollution restrictions for transportation and industry, and reducing the amount of green space by building more and more tract housing. It's only going to get worse.


    I like puppies. Thought I should end this on a positive note (which, if you ask my nine-year-old neighbour, James, should be "There's a snowman on the ship!" I'm not sure how this is positive, but that's all he could come up with when we asked him last night, so I guess I'll have to take him at his word. *shrug*)

    Wednesday, August 14, 2002

    HOUSE: The Final Frontier

    Well, boys and girls, as of 9:15 am yesterday, we are the proud new leasees of a 3-bedroom house on Pickford Drive in Kanata.




    Yikes, that sounds odd! Stacey and I have come to terms with the distance from downtown as much as we can, and we're both very excited about starting up in a new neighbourhood. Neither of us knows Kanata very well yet. Stacey was commenting on the fact that it seemed like a whole new city far, far away when we were driving around last weekend, and I have to agree with her. But we're happy that many of the things we love having close to us at our current house, like the Blockbuster and the grocery store in particular, are still going to be within walking distance.

    Here's a little bit about the place, now that I'm confident that it's ours and we've signed on the dotted line and all. The house is about 7-10 years old and it's in fantastic condition. It's a 3-story townhouse, one of the middle units. When you walk in downstairs, there's a small hallway with the garage on the left, the utility room straight ahead, with a patio door going out to the little backyard, and a staircase on the right, going up to the main level.

    When you get up there, you're in the living room, which has a wood-burning fireplace and a patio door going out to a small balcony overlooking the backyard on the right and the dining room on the left. The dining room and living room are separated by a small step up and a single column, making the rooms open-concept but defined into two spaces. There's an opening or pass-through between the kitchen and the dining room, a feature that we really like about our current house. The kitchen's about the same size as what we have now, which is very comfortable, with a space for a table and chairs, and big windows looking out onto the street. To the right of the kitchen is a small washroom, a closet hiding the washer and dryer, and the staircase up to the third level.

    Upstairs, there are two small bedrooms at the back of the house (on the right), just big enough for Stacey's office and my office / guest bedroom. At the left, there's the main bathroom, and just to the right of that, the master bedroom. And here's the has an ensuite bathroom. Which is just wacky. Three bathrooms for two people. We're still not sure what we're going to do with them all.

    All in all, we're not sure that it's any bigger than what we have now (although 1/3 of the space we have now, we barely use...with the unfinished basement and all), but it has a lot more character, the layout really appeals to us, and we feel that it has more usable space. It's a condo, so the yard work is taken care of, and all we really have to do is keep the place in good shape. Lots of storage space, not too much that's needed in the way of repairs, and a small window air conditioner, which we're buying off the current tenants, already installed.

    Moving day is October 1st, and there'll definitely be a house-warming. I let you all know when the shindig's going down, in case you'd like to stop by. It will probably be later in the month. Maybe we'll do a Hallowe'en theme, as per the GW crestings I've attended in the past. But with a whole lot less squid.

    Tuesday, August 13, 2002

    Insinuation and Innuendo...

    Further proof that Mr. Chaiton is a true gentleman. Thank you, my friend!

    Prague vs. the Flood

    I just wanted to take a little time and space to send my best wishes to Matej and Chelsea in Prague, which is experiencing its worst flood since the late 19th century. It sounds like what you're dealing with is a whole lot more harrowing than my weekend was. Good luck to you both and to all of your friends in the city! For Matej's reference, here are some instructions on building his ark, originally found here:

    The Design of the Ark

    A. The Designer was God Himself. We do not need to assume Noah knew anything about ship-building. The instructions for design are given in Gen. 6:14ff.

    There you go, Matej. You don't even need to know anything! Get God on the line and he'll help you out.

    B. Construction Materials

    The Bible says the Ark was to be built of "gopher wood". "Gopher" is the actual Hebrew word. In early english translations the meaning of the word was unknown so it was left untranslated. The NIV translates it "cypress wood", however, this is only a guess. It was undoubtedly translated this way due to the fact that cypress wood is highly resistent to rot. What this material was is still a mystery. It could have been a pre-flood wood with which we are not familiar.

    Looks like you're screwed on the gopher wood. I recommend using Balsa wood, instead. At least then, when you get bored, you can make a really neat elastic-powered flying airplane model using one of the handrails.

    It is almost certain that Noah did not construct a standard wooden ship of the kind we are familiar. According to nautical engineers the longest wooden vessel ever built was 360 feet in length and was not seaworthy. Because of the wave action of the sea only wooden ships shorter than this will be seaworthy. Therefore, we must conclude that Noah used some other method of construction to overcome this problem.

    Well, it was designed by *God*, after all. Surely God would know a few things about nautical engineering that we don't. I wonder if anyone's ever tried using Krazy Glue and staples? One time, I tried that with one of my notebooks and got stuck real good.

    C. The Design.

    1. The Biblical word for Ark is "tebah". It is used 28 times in the OT and is only used of Noah's Ark and for the container in which Moses was hidden among the bulrushes. Because of a similar Egyptian word meaning "box", and the ultimate purpose of the Ark, we believe the Ark was not like a streamlined vessel designed to easily glide through the water. More likely it was shaped like a rectangular barge which floated rather low in the water. From the story in the Bible, it also would appear that Noah had no control over the vessel. He, and its contents were at the total mercy of God.

    You know, that sounds good and all, but I think I'd want a little steering wheel, if only for show. Then I could be up on the bridge in my little captain's hat, shouting "Shiver me timbers!" or something of the like while God does all the driving.

    2. The Ark had three stories with only one door. The phrase in Gen. 6:16, "Make a roof for it and finish the Ark to within 18 inches of the top." is problematic in that the words used are obscure. Most commentators believe it means leave an 18 inch space at the top that is open all around the vessel. This then would be for ventilation, and when water entered it would drain out somewhere below, similar to the vents in cars.

    If those aren't clear instructions, I don't know what are. A couple of labeled figures might help a bit here.

    3. The Ark was to be coated inside and out with pitch. Again the Hebrew word for "pitch" is obscure. It was more likely some resinous material used not only to waterproof the vessel but also to prevent decay. If Noah was 480 years old when God told him to build an Ark and 600 when the Flood came, it is reasonable to assume that the construction of the Ark took place during this 120 year period (See Gen. 6:3 along with I Pet. 3:20). The need for this preservative was essential. It is also possible that things did not decay as rapidly in the pre-flood atmosphere.

    Wait a second....480 years old? 600 Years old? I think something's screwy here. Either that, or Noah was *much* older than my dad. And at 120 years' building time, something tells me you should've gotten started a while ago, dude.

    4. The phrase in the NIV (6:14) "make rooms" is also problematic in that the word is obscure. The Hebrew is "qnm". Since Hebrew did not have any vowels when it was written, scholars speculate that the word could be either "qinnim" or "qanim". The former would mean either "rooms" or "nest", and the later, "reeds". Most english translations translate as in the former. However, some of the better and more recent commentaries, believe it should be translated "reeds" since the context is building materials. If in reality it is "reeds", then somehow reeds were part of the construction material. Large boats are still made from reeds and are very seaworthy. The Egyptians still use reeds for caulking their wooden ships.

    Right, balsa wood and reeds. Check and check. This is going to be the strongest Ark ever!

    The Size of the Ark

    (When considering its size it obviously was not the backyard effort of a primitive river-dweller!)

    Oh *CRAP*, Matej. I think the author of this piece is onto you.

    A. It is given in cubits as being 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. A cubit in the OT was generally about 17.5 inches. However, an Egyptian royal cubit measured about 20.5 inches. Since Moses was educated in Egypt we must allow for the possibility that the longer measurement was meant here. The Ark, therefore, could have measured from 437 feet to 512 feet in length! It was not until the late 19th century that a ship anywhere near this size was built.

    Alright, is everyone clear on what a cubit is? I'm not.

    B. It's Ratio

    The Ark had a ratio (length x width x height) of 30 x 5 x 3. According to ship-builders, this ratio represents an advanced knowledge of ship-building since it is the optimum design for stability in rough seas. The Ark, as designed by God, was virtually impossible to capsize! It would have to have been tilted over 90 degrees in order to capsize.

    That's right, but no rocking the boat when you're out there! That's just asking for trouble.

    C. Its Volume.

    With the shorter cubit the Ark would have an internal volume of 1,518,750 cubic feet, or the equivalent of 569 standard railroad boxcars. If the average sized animal was the size of a sheep it means the Ark could hold over 125,000 sheep. (Assuming the shape of the Ark to be rectangular there would have been over 100,000 sq. ft of floor space!)

    Okay, balsa wood, reeds, 125,000 sheep. The ark's as good as built, man!

    Monday, August 12, 2002

    Monday Lunch-Time, Feeling a Bit Better and Pondering the Reasons Why I Keep Getting Gum Stuck to my Shoe....

    I recently completed 10 weeks of a grueling but very satisfying course at the Ottawa School of Art. It was a comic-book course.

    Since GW, I really haven't had the time or motivation to draw anything or write anything in a graphic format. I drew one cartoon for GW last year, my first real foray into digital clean-up of a hand-drawn image using PhotoShop, but in a way, it was the same sort of stuff that I had been doing all the way through University and I wanted to flex my once-bulging, now flabby, artistic muscles and really give myself a challenge. I had commented a number of times to people that I had the desire but not the get-up-and-do-it, so my mom decided to jump-start the process and give me this course as a birthday gift, and I'm very glad she did.

    I had the choice of any course that the school offered, from life-drawing, to sculpture, to digital art, to oil painting, but everything seemed to be too much of a leap as I was just starting off again. There were so many courses to choose from, but only one really stood out, and its title: "Comic Book Design and Illustration." I have tried in the past to draw an entire comic book story from beginning to end, with some success. For an art class in OAC, I drew seven pages of a comic book, which was meant to be the prequel or origin story for a comic book that never followed. I also drew a comic for my Chemistry class highlighting the life and times of Fluorine Man, Caped Crusader, which was hokey, but got me a decent mark. And there were literally hundreds of pages of character and concept sketches, many of which I still have, for an entire universe of super-hero books that in all likelihood will never see the light of day. But I had never done an entire book or story, with a clear beginning and end, that was never meant to be more than just one story.

    In many respects, the course was just what I needed. The assignment was to create a complete 4-page story, following the entire design process from the initial plotline, to character biographies, to script, to character sketches, to thumbnail roughs, to blue-line pencils, to final pencils, to inks and lettering. The instructor didn't provide much in the way of new insight into comic book design, as I had hoped, but he did make sure that we were following the process and we had the chance to critique each other's work and achieve a stonger end-product. Although we weren't being marked on the project, there were deadlines to make sure that we were keeping on track and wouldn't get too far behind or overwhelmed by it all. Which turned out to be *HUGE*.

    Make no mistake. Four pages of a comic book doesn't seem like a lot of work, but it's gigantic. Part of the challenge was actually limiting the story to four pages. When I heard that Jay's comic book project had been put on hiatus after someone else beat him to the comic book shelves, I felt terrible for him, knowing what had probably gone into the project already. And he was planning on a full-size book....sorry, man. Anyway, after 10 weeks, I had devoted well over 200 hours to the project. For a while there, my whole non-working life was sitting at my drawing board with a pencil, pen, brush, or nib-holder in my hand, staring at the page in front of me and drawing or desperately trying to contemplate how I would get everything done.

    In the end, everything *didn't* get done. Although I was hard on some of my classmates, most of whom didn't bring in a single page of finished art because they couldn't be bothered to spend the time to work on it (which I can't understand, when you're paying $200 for the course), I couldn't get it done by the last day. Only one person did, and he had thrown something together the night before just so he could get it over and done with, and it looked like it, too. But I was damn close. I had finished the inking the night before at 3 am, having taken a day off work to get it done, and all I had to do was the lettering. I was one of only two people that had completed the art on time. That was back in June.

    Which brings us to today! Last night, I finally scanned my pages into my laptop so I could start doing the lettering and finish the book. At some point soon (if I can figure out where I can post the damn thing), I'm thinking of putting it up online. Let me know if you're interested in seeing it so I can figure out if it's worth spending a chunk of cash to get my own domain and everything for it. In the meantime, I'm going to go back into Adobe Illustrator and get this thing done. Finally.

    Monday Morning, Left Arm Kinda Tingly and Head Feeling like Sack of Wet Buckwheat Dough

    It was an interesting weekend. Parts of it were fantastic, parts of it were harrowing, but I'm back at my desk now, condemning myself to soul-sucking tasks and wondering why they only have blueberry muffins with bran in my building. I have secured some reading material for later on and I have that mild anticipation of a day that could very well end up sucking, but has the mediocre potential of being sort-of-alright.

    I would like to draw your attention to another two of my closest and dearest friends (who I haven't seen in over two years) whose new blogs have been bestowed with a place of honour on my link-bar. The first is my former roommate, former co-editor, and former pizza, beer, and wrestling buddy Jay. As one of the most talented writers and artists I have known, I am confident in recommending his blog as an entertaining way to spend a few minutes. The second is a former co-worker and co-enjoyer of Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters (and Bambleweenies), Sara. Sara's in merry 'ol england right now, living with a man who closely resembles Joey Jeremiah, but Sara won't admit it.

    Feel free to enjoy, discuss, and generally pontificate.

    Friday, August 09, 2002

    My Joyful Find of the Day

    I've had a terrible day so far, so I don't feel much like writing. Instead, I'll let you all know about this link to a lego-man generator where you can make a picture of yourself (or anyone else, for that matter) as a lego-man (or lego-woman)! Isn't that neat? I thought so too. You wouldn't believe who's blog I got this from....Wil Weaton's (a.k.a. Wesley Crusher / that writer kid in Stand By Me)! Wow, I think this post is really geeking me out now...better cut it short and wish everyone a good weekend...

    Thursday, August 08, 2002

    This is the coolest thing ever....

    Honda has a motorcycle called the Monkey! And it's *tiny*! I want one on principle! Monkey-Bike! Hee hee hee hee! Check it out! Gives the term "riding my Monkey" a whole new meaning, doesn't it?

    What are they looking at? It's a mystery!

    Wednesday, August 07, 2002

    Reddevil is back....

    I checked out The Big Jewel today, and Mr. James Pinkerton has written a revealing piece about what you should do with your investment money. Check it out! First thing I've laughed out loud at in my cubicle for some time now.



    Stacey and I have been approved for the house in Kanata! Nothing official yet, we still have to sign the lease, and we both want to go back a second time to ask some more questions and make sure that we haven't built the place up too much in our minds, but as far as they're concerned, the house is ours and it's been taken off the market! Yay! More updates as I get 'em....

    Where you Live is not Who you Are....

    Yesterday, Mike Chaiton wrote a blog entry commenting on my search for a new residence showing some ideological disagreement with what he believes my priorities to be. As a student of Geography with a concentration in Urban studies, I couldn't agree more with the premise of his academic argument, but certainly not with the implication that I was a part of this "New Suburbanism", or big-gas-grill-and-manicured-lawns lifestyle.

    It's clear to me, however, that his approach to life in general would indeed be very different from mine. Mike, having spent some time traveling around the world, is now enjoying a brief stopover with his parents in Ottawa before continuing on to Toronto to study Epidemiology at U of T. He's single, still a student, has little in the way of accumulated possessions (having downsized several times when he traveled abroad or to school), has a steady job (but is leaving it by the end of the summer, I would assume), and has little in the way of long-term responsibilities, except to himself and his studies. Myself, I have been living with my girlfriend for well over a year now, I have two cats, I have a career (which I don't entirely enjoy, but is steady), and I have a pile of accumulated junk, since, for the first time in my life, I have a little bit of money to spend on creature comforts that I have never had before. Of COURSE we're going to make different decisions at this point in our lives.

    We're on two very different paths, that is true, but to say that my "dream" is to have the two-car garage, the BroilMaster 3000 super gas grill, and a ride-on mower doesn't seem fair at all. What I disagree with is the proposition that because I am considering living in Orleans or Kanata, that I want to become like all of the "rest of them," or how we perceive people who live in these places to be. I get the impression from Mike that he believes that a neighbourhood is in part about status or an expression of personality (like the Annex or the Plateau), and that by considering a suburb, that that is also the status or lifestyle that I want to attain.

    I don't think that this is any more fair than suggesting that because I currently live just to one side of Vanier that I aspire to become a drug addict or by living where I was before, in the Carlingwood area, that I aspired to be a retired old grandpa with two big-ass cars, a stamp collection, and a pension. Surprisingly for Mike, it seems that he is buying into such stereotypes and without considering who I am or what he knows about me, he has lumped me in with this stereotype of the balding man with the pot belly in plaid shorts bragging about how few weeds his lawn has compared to everyone else's. Who knows, maybe one day I will be one. But this isn't all I consider myself to be or all that I consider I can accomplish in life.

    I guess I want to take this opportunity to say that I'm very happy with my life and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. I have a wonderful girlfriend and we love each other dearly, more and more every day. I have two awesome cats, Chloe and Mowgli, who are adorable and bring us much joy. My family is wonderful and have always been extremely supportive, especially my mother and sister, who have always been there for me no matter what (I now even have the pleasure of being co-workers with them, as well as family--an added bonus). I haven't lost sight of the fact that things are just things and I can do without them, but for the first time in my life, when I want something expensive, I don't have to rely on someone else or stress out about how I can possibly afford it.

    Now here's the thing about the housing search. When I suggested that I didn't care which neighbourhood we looked in, we were looking for a house, I meant just that. The house can be anywhere, literally anywhere, so long as we get a house that's big enough for us for the rent we can afford to pay. We've looked at houses in the Cyrville area, in west Gloucester, in Brittannia, in Craig Henry, and considered places in Centretown and the South End, and just about everywhere in between. It's not that we want to live in Orleans or Kanata, in fact, we'd rather not be that far away from everything. But we're flexible and we want to get a pretty nice house for the money we can pay. Most of the places we've seen have been exactly like the house we live in now, which is fine, but for the sake of variety, we'd like something a little different. And maybe that means we won't be close to where all the action is and we'll need to rely more on the car, but it's not permanent.

    One day, we'll be able to afford something that suits who we are a little better, without having to scrunch two people and two cats into a tiny place. If I could afford to pay $4K rent for an apartment in Greenwich Village, it would be high on my list, but I'm not a rich stockbroker. I would LOVE to be able to afford a nice 2 or 3-bedroom house in the Annex (if I was living in Toronto, that is), but at this stage in my life, I can't afford it. I would love the culture, and the lifestyle, and the artistic expression, and the fun, and if I was in the position to live in a small bachelor's apartment all by myself so I could soak all that in, I probably would. That's a part of who I am and what I like. But my life's a little bigger than just myself now, and I love that too. And I wouldn't give that up for anything.

    Tuesday, August 06, 2002

    Just Call Me Captain Numb-Arms....

    It was an action-packed weekend, to say the least. Supa-mega-hyper-action-packed, to be precise. Hmmm....not enough. Super-mega-hyper-action-packed-to the EXTREME!! That's better.

    Friday evening, after celebrating my co-worker's b-day, Stacey and I fell apart, veged-out and saw The Doors, an interesting flick that was incredibly well done, but I had a lot of trouble relating to it. I guess as a guy with nearly zero hippie tendencies and an upbringing that included very little in the way of Doors music, I can't be blamed. Kilmer was incredible, the directing was outstanding, and I would certainly recommend it, especially to a number of you in particular. You know who you are.

    Saturday, Stacey and I ran around like the proverbial chickens with their proverbial heads cut off looking for a new place to live. We must have spent 9 or 10 hours that day looking at houses, talking about houses, thinking about houses, and coming out of houses pinching our noses and saying to each other, "That was sick-ass." We did end up finding the nearest-to-perfect place (in Kanata, this time....polar opposite to Orleans), which we have applied for, but we don't think we'll get it. If we do hear something back about it, I'll tell you all about it....but this time, I'm really not going to get my hopes up. It's *that* nice, and within budget. So suffice it to say, Stacey and I fell apart and veged-out for the evening and saw Gladiator for about the hundredth time. Only this time, we figured out that the movie has DTS. I guess we hadn't watched it since I got my surround sound system. And to quote a local audio-hawker, it sounded "just *great*," especially the battle sequence against the barbarians at the beginning.

    Sunday started off a little frantic (for some unfathomable reason, Stacey's swimsuit top managed to vaporize into thin air....we know it's in the house, but we looked *everywhere* and eventually had to give up and go out to buy a new one) but got REEEEAL relaxing when we got up to Mike's cottage. Thanks again, man! We had a blast! Hawk Lake was beautiful, and Mike's cottage is the perfect kind of retreat....far enough away from everyone else so that you can't see your neighbours, lots of space, a big screen porch, a couple of coolers full of beer, and good company. Can't go wrong. We spent most of the night talking about the good 'ol days, watching for the ISS in the night sky, playing a few rounds of dominoes (all hail Chris, the undefeated Weiner King!) and trying to figure out why Fin du Monde beer foams up like an unstoppable volcano when you open it. Good times had by all.

    After leaving the cottage, Stace and I had planned to check out Mont Cascades for waterpark fun, but couldn't believe our eyes when, getting there at 3 pm on an overcast day, the place was infested with overweight and generally-unattractive people and screaming kids. The parking lot was full, and all we could see was lineups for the slides. A little disheartened, we decided to give up and move on to Le Grand Splash, the park most Ottawa folk around my age remember from our childhood. Wellllll, it doesn't exist anymore. We had a nice drive, though, and poked about in Wakefield for a bit (only to fight the crowds from the unloading Wakefield steam train ...just can't win!) before coming home. To top off the evening, we went out for some mini-putt and a bucket of balls at the driving range (which made my arms all numb and my muscles all stupid), came home and veged out, watching Amelie. That movie is indescribably good. It made me happy, and warm, and joyful. The colours are vivid and intense, the characters are strong, and carefully-constructed, and believable, and Audrey Tautou is so adorable that you cannot consider any other actress in the role. Well-directed, well-filmed, well-scripted, well-DONE. If you haven't already, go see it, you won't regret it. And watch it twice, if you can't speak french very well....once for the words, and once for soaking in the visuals. Wow, I'm still reeling from it.

    And now I'm back to work after a great night's sleep, courtesy of the sudden cold-snap. Sleeping with a blanket is so much better than going without.

    Friday, August 02, 2002

    I lied about the no updates until Tuesday thing!

    Another soul has joined the web log cult! Check out Mike's blog for what I'm sure will be an enthralling dissection of the metaphysical psyche and historical comparative analysis of the mysteries of the human spirit*. Enjoy!

    * May or may not contain content. PRESSURE! Mwa-hahahaha!

    The Glory that is the Thriving Metropolis of Orleans, Ontario

    Last night, Stacey and I saw what may be as close to our dream house as we can afford at this point in our lives. It's not's more expensive than what I can easily afford, it's available for August 15th, and we can't move until October, and it's in Orleans. Maybe it's me, but I've always seen Orleans as a place for people with families who can't afford such a big house in the city, old people, and the commutally insane (a term that I just came up with for people who have a strange affection for long commutes). But it's gorgeous, no doubt about it. Cute little bungalow!

    Here's the goods: the kitchen is the same size as our current living room and dining room combined, it has a real wood fireplace, it's in beautiful shape, three bedrooms and a finished basement, a 1.5 car garage (now all I need to do is find 0.5 of a car to fill it up), and a backyard.....ohmigod, the backyard. It's about three times as big as the largest backyard my family has ever had, and I've had a bunch of backyards. There's a weeping willow back there, and it's quiet. Now most of you are probably saying "have fun mowing the lawn for three hours, chumpy!" but the best part is....the landlord pays someone to take care of the property! Ideal? I think so.

    But we haven't gotten our hopes up yet (yeah, right). There's a good chance they'll rent it to someone else who can move in and start paying rent sooner. In the meantime, Stace and I are going to see a bunch of houses tomorrow, and maybe we'll find something we like even more.

    Right now I'm looking forward to the weekend. One of my best friends from the high school days, Matt, is coming into town with his lovely girlfriend Fiona. We're hoping to go up to Mike Chaiton's cottage and chill by the lake with a beer or two on Sunday, and then maybe go to Mont Cascades for waterpark-fun on Monday. Hope the weather's nice! If I don't see you this long weekend, have a good one! Next update from me will be on Tuesday.

    Thursday, August 01, 2002

    Canada's Troubled Ferry System: Waking up to a Growing Problem

    For me, a vacation on either coast of Canada isn't complete without a ride on a big car ferry. We have even gone out of our way on some vacations to take a ferry, at no small expense, so that we could have that been-on-a-boat feeling. On trips to PEI, I used to cross my fingers in hopes of arriving just in time for a ride on the mighty MV Abegweit and used to get upset if we had to ride on the MV Holiday Island instead. I think last summer was the highlight, when my mother and I took The Cat between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Bar Harbour, Maine, which was by far the coolest machine I've had the pleasure of riding on. It's this giant, 300 ft, catamaran behemoth, traveling at 90 km/hr....just amazing. But other than the cat, I've noticed that many of Canada's ferries are aging, and they're not aging very well.

    Ferry services are vital to the island economies of Newfoundland and Vancouver Island, BC. They can't survive on air cargo and passenger service alone. Trucks carrying goods and carloads of people traveling on business or on vacation travel to and from these islands by the thousands each day during the summer. The ferries aren't cheap, but they usually run on time, are reliable, and offer fairly comfortable service.

    This morning, however, I was reading an article on the CBC website which revealed that some of these ferries may not be as safe as we are led to believe. Transport Canada carried out an audit in November of last year and discovered that the ferries running to Newfoundland between Port aux Basques, Nfld., and North Sydney, N.S., were unprepared to deal with emergencies, with blocked escape routes, open fire doors, and staff who are poorly trained to deal with emergencies, jeopardizing the lives of passengers and crew. Since then, Marine Atlantic, the Crown Corporation which owns the vessels, has spent nearly $2 million to improve safety aboard their ships....but with approximately 500,000 passengers a year making the trip to Newfoundland, there should have been greater care taken with passengers' safety long before now.

    Nor does this seem to be an isolated incident this year. In an article dated June 27th, 2002, BC Ferries rebutted the accusations made by the Ferry Worker's Union that their ferries were unsafe. Among the union's concerns were that the Crown company was using rusting lifeboat equipment, fading radar screens and failing ramp cables on some of their ferries crossing to Vancouver Island. The union also said that "almost half the ships are in the last quarter of their usable lives, including major ferries on the Vancouver-Victoria route and Nanaimo-Horseshoe Bay run." BC Ferries have denied the accusations, saying that they were based on outdated information and all of their equipment had been regularly inspected by Transportation Canada. While they admitted that their ferry fleet was aging, they say they have "a long-term plan to replace ships and maintain service and safety" including $50 million a year in maintenance.

    BC Ferries has tried to update its fleet before, with disastrous results. In 1996, BC Ferries commissioned the construction of two new "fast ferries" that they dubbed "PacifiCats". These all-aluminum catamaran vessels, much like "The Cat" that I mentioned before, were promoted as a 100 km/hr replacement for existing ferries on the Georgia Strait that would cut travel times in half, representing the future of the ferry service between Vancouver and the Island. Right from the beginning, they had a huge price tag.

    The three PacifiCat ferries, PacifiCat Explorer, PacifiCat Discovery, and PacifiCat Voyager, are now mothballed at the Nanaimo terminal. The total price tag for the ferry project is now over $460 million over-budget. The ferries were delivered 3 years late and, although they were supposed to cost $70 million per ferry, they ended up costing $210 million. They burnt more than twice the amount of diesel fuel per passenger per trip than conventional ferries do (raising environmental concerns), saved only 10 minutes in travel time (since they had to turn around at each end of every other trip in order to load/unload), and could not operate at top speed (which in the end, only turned out to be 70 km/hr., 30 less than they were designed for) since they created tsunamis from their wake which damaged docks and marinas along the shores near where they operated. They carry fewer passengers and vehicles than the conventional vessels they were built to replace. The PacifiCats were not designed to carry large trucks or campers and have a limited amount of space in the passenger areas for amenities.

    Explorer was in active service for six months and Discovery was pulled after only three days! Worse still, Voyager was launched in 2000, after the decision had been made to mothball the PacifiCats, and never carried a single passenger. So now they sit in the harbour, mouldering away, waiting for someone to snap up the ships at the low, low, bargain basement price of $40 million apiece. Get 'em now, while you still can.

    What a terrible waste. Maybe my rant has been a little unfocussed, but you get the idea. Ferries are important to the Canadian economy, especially when it comes to tourism and moving goods and services, and we need to make sure that they're safe and that replacements for the aging vessels don't end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing. Transport Canada needs to make a detailed review of Canada's ferry fleets and propose strategies that are realistic (unlike the PacifiCats). If the PacifiCats aren't economical for a short ferry run between Vancouver and Victoria, maybe they should be traded to Marine Atlantic or another Crown ferry operator. With Transport's supervision, these vehicles wouldn't need to go to waste and could be put to greater use elsewhere.

    That's it for now....back to feeling tired and loagie for me.