The past as a set of tangled wires.

This is the tangled path. See if you can follow it.

My first girlfriend was Laura. My sisters liked her because she was nice. In retrospect, it would never have worked: she was much too nice.

My sister went out with Doug. They broke up.

I started going out with a girl named Greta. Doug started going out with my cousin Beth, one of my sister’s best friends. We commuted together the hour and a half to see them, since they lived in the same town.

Greta broke up with me. Beth broke up with Doug.

I started going out with Kate, though never officially, a girl from the same town as Beth and Greta, and the same church as Beth.

At that point I got to know Nick, who’s now my best friend. Me and Kate broke up amicably and then went on to never say another word to eachother, pretty much.

I eventually left my church in Toronto and started going to Ancaster. I asked Mary out, and she said yes, and there was much rejoicing. Around the same time, Nick asked Shana out. And we were all great friends.

Nick broke up with Shana, and Mary broke up with me. Both, I might add, with much drama. Mary moved to Alberta and is now moving back, but to London, a stone’s throw from where Shana used to live, and where Kate lives with her somewhat-newly-minted husband.

Greta is, as far as I know, still single. Laura is married to a tall Dutchman. Beth is marrying her sweetheart this fall-ish. Beth’s sister is marrying Kate’s brother this spring-ish. Another of Beth’s sisters is married to Shana’s brother, Steve, who I work with. Steve’s brother pastors my former church.

Now that I spell that all out, I get rather frighted for the genetic dilution of my circles.

Yeah.

Your alternative medicine is stupid.

I dislike alternative medicine. You know why? Because it doesn’t work. And when it does, there’s no reason to believe – from a scientific perspective – that it’s anything other than the placebo effect at work.

I’ve tried some of this stuff before. Well-meaning people have given me herbs, pills made from herbs, pills made with active bacteria, pills made with ground-up rocks, and pills made of who-knows-what.

It just doesn’t work. Maybe because I’m a skeptic, I never feel or see any positive effects from these so-called medicines.

And the whole idea of “alternative medicine” is stupid. Idiotic, in fact. You know why it’s “alternative” medicine? Because it doesn’t work! If it did work, and if it could be proved to work, it would become actual, real medicine. Like, for instance, penicillin.

I’ve seen families with my own eyes, families so afraid of the medical establishment, that they were literally scared to go to a doctor. And you know what? They were some of sickest people I’ve ever known. This isn’t always true, but it has been true a lot of the time. You know what I think the problem was (and I’m no doctor)? They had a genuine medical problem that they were trying to sort out with quackery. No wonder they were sick!

I don’t think we really have any idea how blessed we are by the modern medical establishment. Is it flawed? Yes. Are there unscrupulous drug companies out just to make a buck? Yes. But the fact that a doctor can remove a baby by c-section when the cord is triple-wrapped and both the child and mother survive this operation is simply amazing. Show me a homeopath that can do that repeatedly without the modern medical establishment, and I’ll give you a thousand dollars. We live in an age where all but the most complex diseases can be treated, if not cured. People who would have, three hundred years ago, died in relative youth can live to a ripe old age.

You can go get your chokras ballanced, go get tiny needles stuck into your muscles, have a chiropractor re-align your neck, but at the end of the day, these people aren’t really doing anything serious. Accupunture and chiropracty – even though they may have some slight basis in science that we don’t quite understand yet – are meant to relieve pain, and that’s it. Anyone that claims otherwise is lying to you.

There are drug companies, for instance, that go to great lengths to test every single natural remedy so they can capitalise on it. They have a huge multi-billion dollar industry; do you think, seriously for a moment that they haven’t tested and re-tested every homeopathic so-called remedy that exists to see if they can sell it? Of course they have! They’ve tested things that aren’t even on the periphery of the homeopathic mindsphere, if you can even call it that. The reason they don’t sell your magic remedies, homeopathic folks, is because your magic remedies don’t work.

Then you see things like people who won’t vaccinate their children. Do you understand how idiotic that is? How self-centred and how very moronic. For over a hundred years the world has made a concerted effort to stamp out diseases by innoculation and vaccination, and to a very large extent, it’s worked! The only reason you can opt not to have your children vaccinated is because the diseases they would be immunised against aren’t even a threat anymore thanks to – you got it! – vaccination. The only reason that your children aren’t getting smallpox and polio is because everyone else is vaccinated against these very diseases; if everyone was as selfish as you are, children and adults would once again be dropping like flies.

Not only that, you don’t understand statistical analysis, or cause-and-effect. You know how rare problems from vaccination are? Extremely, extremely small percentages. But we take that risk for a reason: for the whole human race to be better off. You can opt-out if you like, but that doesn’t change the facts as they stand. You choose to drive to work every day despite the chances of you dying in an accident and dying being much higher than your child having developmental problems from inocculation. Not to mention people trying to blame autism and the like on vaccination: how does that work again? We’re just now starting to diagnose autism, much less understand it, and you’re trying to tell me that the rise in autism figures isn’t because we’ve begun to diagnose it better? That’s like saying that we have more aneurisms today because in the 1700s they had no idea what an “aneurism” was!

Another problem is that the homeopathic industry suffers from exactly the same problems that the drug companies suffer from. Do you imagine somehow that homeopathic remedy makers aren’t out to make a profit? Of course they are! The only difference between them and people who make actual medicine is they have no accountability at all, their remedies don’t work, and the cost to actually make their pills and such is much smaller. Not to mention the raft of snake-oil salesmen that have literally swamped the homeopathic market with their wares. You would think that in an age filled with the knowlege of generations of people fooled by shady guys selling sugarwater off the side of a wagon people wouldn’t be fooled by this madness, but apparently there’s still a sucker born every minute. And the homeopathic industry is filled with suckers, that much is for certain.

Now – some of you are going to have a gut reaction to what I’ve said – almost a religious reaction to it. Ask yourself this: why? Have you really examined these beliefs, or are you simply reacting againt the admitted problems of the modern medical community. Or are you just a gullible person? Or are you so blindly committed to a way of life that you can’t admit you’re wrong?

And when you’re done that, check out http://www.quackwatch.org. Really. You need to.

Oh them customers.

At my business we have lots of customers, some big, some small. Some are laid-back. Some are uptight. Some are constantly in a panic. Some plan ahead.

And there are some combinations I can take. We do work for a major North American drill company, and they’re almost constantly in a rush to get things done – but we can deal with that because 1) they have volume, 2) they pay their bills, and 3) their salesman is a nice guy who we like.

We do work for some gigantic automotive companies in Ontario. Some of them – from the same group of companies, mind you – plan ahead and keep stock in their commonly used tools. Others – again, from the same group – use us for quicky spot buys. But for me, this isn’t a problem, because these are major accounts that we need to do good work for in order to carve out our piece of the Ontario market.

But we also do business with these little tiny shops that frankly only exist because of their legacy customers or because they can provide some service that the big boys can’t. Some of these tiny little companies are a pleasure to do business with: we service a client just down the road from us. He owns a tiny little tool and die shop and walks down to see us every once in a while with an oddball tool. Really nice guy, pays his bills, all that jazz. The sort of guy that I’ll do a special request for every once in a while because he’s a friend.

However, there’s always two or three shops that just don’t understand anything about business. The owner – usually – will walk in here and ask if we can do his tools the same day. No? Then next day? No, then this week before the weekend? And these people literally get mad that there are other customers in front of them, or that their tools are more complicated than they think.

Today I had a guy walk in here and cancel an order we had been working on yesterday and today because – get this – we hadn’t done his tool in one day. He got mad, told me he could do it himself in an hour, asked why the tool hadn’t been done overnight, and eventually stormed out after I explained that when I say to him “I’ll try to get your tool done faster than normal, but I don’t know if it’s possible… so call ahead before you come to pick up,” it doesn’t mean, “why yes, we’d absolutely love to do your tool now… in fact, all these endmills you see piled up around you are a mere facade to convince you we’re busy when in fact we’ve been waiting to jump on your order like hyenas on a rotting gnu carcass!”

Now of course, I was as gracious as I could be, but after he had stormed out, I put him on hold. That’s the sort of aggrevation I don’t need to deal with, nor does anyone else. I may be bearing the brunt of his rage, but it affects not only the people who run the tools – I have to bother them a lot more, then – but also the other more important customers who also need tools done in a hurry, not to mention our poor secretaries who can only stare in abject astonishment at the man’s assholery.

Ponder this.

I have several piece of advice that I want to share that revolve around some personal experiences of mine. These have accumulated over the years; I want to write them out not because they seem pressing at the moment, but because I think they are true.

1. Keep your emotions to yourself. Don’t spill them in public unless it’s appropriate, like at a funeral, or during a rock concert. Whatever you do, don’t use your emotions as a club to beat on someone else. Spill out your thoughts, but leave your emotions at the door: you have them, I have them, but in this medium and most others where rational thought fares better than other communicative forms, your emotions need to stay with you and the people that share them with you. Emotional nudity is ugly.

2. Stop with the gossip. There’s a line in a Bright Eyes song that says, “the truth is that gossip is as good as gospel in this town,” and I wonder how often that rings true of us – especially as youths. How many times does the New Testament tell you to keep your hands in your own pockets? If it’s not your business, make it not your business. If someone doesn’t want to tell you something, don’t try to pry up the floorboards. If people have old skeletons, don’t unlock their closets. Don’t disguise your gossip with good intentions and pious words.

3. Be honest. There is a time to lie, and there is a time to tell the truth and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. If that road seems unclear to you, err on the side of honesty. You’re a sinner, other people are sinners: you want to lie and other people want to take offense. This is the natural way. But let me ask you this – are you in your natural way? No, you are not.

4. Put on a thick skin. Sensitivity is nice, but it’s also a frill. When you’re riding into battle, you don’t have frills, you have sharp edges and functional equipment. Whether you die wearing dinted armor or a tutu doesn’t make a whit of a difference. Don’t jump to be offended at every little thing. You’re not an emotionally vulnerable teenager – I hope – and you don’t need to be coddled in the gentle arms of others’ deceit. Which is, after all, what most false sensitivity is. It’s a mask. It’s not about the other person, it’s about you. It’s selfishness.

5. Abandon stupidity. People will respect you more for admitting that you’re wrong and seeing you back off a bad position than you clinging to your idiocy because you’re afraid of giving an inch and having a mile stolen behind your back. If it’s stupid, it’s stupid. If it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t make sense. If it’s not coherent, it’s weighing you down and you need to get rid of it before it drowns you. And illogical stands will do that. They will drag you down into an ocean of ridiculous related fallacies.

6. Think with complexity. Don’t think from point A to point B. That sort of logic is rarely if ever correct. If the solution to a problem seems obvious, it’s probably wrong. Occam’s razor is a fine tool for analysing the results of your scientific theorem, but it’s a horrible tool for understanding humans, human motivations, and human interaction. People are a whole lot of more like electrons: they exist in probability; you can’t measure them without some change happening. People, communities, churches, groups, faiths, environments, causes – all these things are not simple systems, so why are you trying to force them into some sort of artificial linearity?

7. Shut up. As I will now.

Migrating away from Skype!

That’s it. I’m sick of Skype. The client is buggy, I always have problems with it, and the sound quality is absolutely horrible when talking to people faraway, like, say, in the US.

So I’ve started using a different VoIP solution from The Gizmo Project which uses – instead of Skype’s proprietary protocols – a freely-available and documented SIP protocol that can not only operate with the Gizmo client, but also with any other client that uses the same protocol, such as Google Talk.

And the quality is much better. And it’s prettier than Skype. And it sounds So. Much. Better.

So I’m making a mixtape.

A thread on the Rumor Forum convinced me to make a mixtape. So this is it. I’m going to list the tracks here and then press a few. If you’re a friend, ask me for for one. It’ll be a like a promotional disc for all the artists I love.

1. The Wrens, She Sends Kisses
2. Xiu Xiu, Rose Of Sharon (Grey Ghost Version)
3. The Samuel Jackson Five – Locust Lowtalker
4. A Silver Mt. Zion – Stumble Then Rise On Some Awkward Morning
5. Andrew Bird – Fake Palindromes
6. M83 – Let Men Burn Stars
7. The Decemberists – Of Angels and Angles
8. The Boy Least Likely To – I’m Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star
9. The Books – An Animated Description Of Mr. Maps
10. Neutral Milk Hotel – The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1
11. The Postal Service – We Will Become Silhouettes
12. Set Fire to Flames – Two Year In a Bucket
13. Grandaddy – Jeez Louise
14. John Mayer – Comfortable

Adventures in Wikipedia

That’s right: hit the Random Article Button enough, and you come up with some pretty bizarre and fascinating articles. I present for your consideration the following:

John Gates, the Communist.

Apparently, there’s this religion called “Hinduism”.

James Alexander Gordon had something to do with ships and such.

Once upon a time, there was a war with these Dutch guys in a faraway place.

Speaking of Dutch, how about that there Friesland?

The third-largest aviation company in the world is Canadian. That’s just wierd.

They Should Be Holidays

In honour of the holidays that don’t exist, I’ve taken the liberty of composing a list of days we should all celebrate. Days that, for some reason, we don’t. Feel free to add your own in the comments section.

They Should Be Holidays: January

Jan 1 – Mongrel Dog Appreciation Day
Jan 2 – Smoke a Stogey Day
Jan 3 – Loud Noises Day
Jan 4 – Wear A Funny Hat to Work Day
Jan 5 – Go Commando Day
Jan 6 – Wake Up Your Neighbor at 6:00am Day
Jan 7 – Discontinued Coca-Cola Soft Drinks Day
Jan 8 – Worn Keys on Your Keyboard Day
Jan 9 – Wash Your Car Day
Jan 10 – Club Foot Appreciation Day
Jan 11 – Why Is Samuel L. Jackson in So Many Crappy Movies Day
Jan 12 – No One Cares About Your Blog Day
Jan 13 – Civil Servant Appreciation Day / Don’t Do Any Work Day
Jan 14 – Desert Eagle Appreciation Day
Jan 15 – “I’m A Pretentious Indie Fan Who Doesn’t Like Your Music” Day
Jan 16 – Your Cat Hates You Day
Jan 17 – Riot Day
Jan 18 – Construct a Voodoo Doll Day
Jan 19 – Spellling Day
Jan 20 – Fruity Toilet Paper Day
Jan 21 – Get An Exotic Disease Day
Jan 22 – Tofu Appreciation Day
Jan 23 – Burn George Lucas in Effigy For Ruining Our Childhood Day
Jan 24 – Politically Incorrect Day
Jan 25 – Try-Before-You-Buy at the Supermarket Day
Jan 26 – Luxembourg Appreciation Day
Jan 27 – Crush People’s Heads With Your Fingers Day
Jan 28 – No Shower Day
Jan 29 – Pavement Day
Jan 30 – Put Caffienated Water In the Water Cooler Day
Jan 31 – Wear Your Underwear Backwards Day

Some notes at mid-day.

Perusing The Wrens music is an exercise in patience. While I may or may not have The Meadowlands Prelease, I also may or may not have The Meadowlands, The Meadowlands Extended Edition, The Meadowlands Bonus Disc, and The Meadowlands With All The Names Changed. Who even knows if I have the studio cuts or some rough demo recordings?

But, there’s a simple solution, you say! Just buy the album. I would, normally. The Wrens aren’t on a RIAA affiliate label, so that’s not a problem. It’s just that it’s so hard to find. So in lieu of having actual hard copy (my preference), I’ll have to live with some MP3s some guy gave me.

Every television show has a gimmick. You know, something to keep people watching. I mean, think about it: it’s hard to write a great episode for a 45-minute show every week. That’s like writing half a movie close to thirty times a year. Even with a great team of writers, that sort of greatness is pretty much out of reach, wouldn’t you say?

This is why we have shows like CSI. They have their forensic examination gimmick. But of course, such things wear off, but by that time – at least in the minds of the writers and execs – you’ll be hooked on the characters and won’t mind that most if not all CSI episodes follow a familiar process of crime scene > examination > obvious conclusion. Possibly with that cycle repeated a few times for good measure.

Shows like CSI have no real mystery to them, did you realise that? There’s nothing to tickle the mind. The show Numb3rs is the same way, simply substitute math for forensic examination. The difference, for me, between the CSIs and Numb3rs is that I actually do like the characters, and even if there’s not much hot whodunnit action going on, they have a way of racheting up the tension that makes up for the sometimes-absent plot.

Gimmicks wear thin, though. CSI, for instance, has pretty much jumped the shark already. The next show is coming along to replace it, and I for one don’t mind that one bit. Forensic science is interesting, sure, but if I wanted to know more about that, I’d check Wikipedia or maybe watch the Discovery Channel.