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Monday, November 29, 2004

Sunday Night Lights

I came home Sunday afternoon and realized that my room had very poor lighting. In my room's previous incarnation as hotel room with one large bed (hint hint), its guests (I would imagine) probably engaged in activities that required little or no light. But, as a student, I had different needs; two desk lamps and one floor lamp (each powered by a puny 100W incandescent bulb) did not provide the type of luminescence I need. Armed with an uncharacteristic determination and a free afternoon, I decided to do something about the lighting situation.

Being a n00b in this city, the only store I could think of that sold light fixtures was Canadian Tire. In hindsight, walking more than 30 minutes in gale-force winds (sans tuque, no less) was a stupid (and unneccesary -- there were probably several stores that sold lights at the Eaton Centre, a mere five minute walk away from my place) thing to do. But I was possessed by an enterprising spirit I had not known before. I was unfazed by the cold, unfazed by the winds, and unfazed by the long walk ahead. I knew there was only one floor lamp in that world that would be fit enough to grace my temporary hotel room floor; and at the low, low price of $14.99, I knew I had to hurry! Excited, and feeling brave, I took the elevator down 26 floors and began my journey to the Canadian Tire on the corner of Yonge St. and Church St.

Pedestrian traffic was light as I slowly made my way north on Bay St. On most days of the week, this street would be teeming with corporate types hurrying to merge and acquire, or to shift paradigms, or to do whatever it is that occupies Bay St. drones on weekdays. But on this Sunday afternoon, I was at times the only person walking on the street. It felt eerily strange; as if the whole world had left town to avoid an impending nuclear war, but I had somehow missed the memo, or slept through the sirens.

The winds were strong, threatening to push me over on several occasions; and cold, stinging my unprotected face as I inched along up-hill. Finally, after about twenty minutes of arduous walking, I hit Bloor St. and found myself in the midst of a throng of holiday shoppers in "Yorkville", supposedly one of the most high-end retail areas in Canada. It's ironic that I had to walk by Holt Renfrew on my way to Canadian Tire, but I was too numb with determination (and frostbite) to appreciate it then. I quickly walked along Bloor St. and turned left to head up Yonge St.

A few minutes later, I finally saw the red and green Canadian Tire logo and walked into the heated, warehouse-inspired store. To be honest, the whole experience was anti-climatic. Canadian Tire sucks. There wasn't a single box on the selves that hadn't been opened, ravaged, and returned (...then re-sealed, re-sold, re-opened, ravaged again, and returned...again). People, when you buy a lamp for $15 and you don't like it...too bad! Don't stuff the contents back in the box and return it so the next guy pays for something you've used and scratched up.

As I walked out of the store with my floor lamp (that had been owned by at least one previous owner), I felt the enterprising spirit that only moments ago had lit a fire in my soul leave. I took the subway home.

Your Favorite Jerk

Update: Despite prior ownership, the lamp works great. My room is super bright now and I can read without having to squint anymore! Hurray for halogen.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Take 10 hours of sleep and see me in the morning

I went to bed last night thinking my head was going to explode. I had two reports that were due and myriad other lose bits and ends that I had to tie together by week's end. But, praise Him who watches over us! 10 hours of restful sleep later, I feel much better and more encouraged to keep going.

In all seriousness, I feel that I've really let my spiritual life slide since my move to Toronto. I'm not going to make excuses because I don't think they're worth very much in the eyes of God. I just have to make a resolution to come back to Him again. I hope you guys can keep me accountable. I'll blog some more when this storm blows over.


Friday, November 19, 2004

If you need help, here I am

Remember how I applied for the "all-night" proctor position a few weeks ago? Well, in case you didn't know, I got the job. A typical 6 hour shift goes like this: I go in at 4pm (or 10pm if it's Friday) and open up my novel de jour; 6 hours later -- 10pm or 4am if it's Friday -- I close my novel and go home. So far I've read three wonderfully engaging novels (A Brave New World, Things That Must Not Be Forgotten, and Red Azlea) and I really can't find anything to complain about with this job. If this thing paid about 3x better, I would seriously consider doing it full-time.

I wish I had some interesting anecdotes to tell you, but I really don't; watching people study is a really boring and uneventful task. The only time things got remotely close to being interesting was when the "Contraceptives For Undergads" seminar was held in the studyroom. If anyone needs tips on how to correctly insert a diaphram, you know who to ask...okay, nevermind, go look it up on google. I can't really describe it that well with my hands.

I am not obligated to provide any assistance to the students' questions, but I always try my best when I'm asked a question. Two weeks ago, a keen engineering student asked me if I had a calculator or knew where I could get one. To which I replied: "No". I think I'm going to apply for a TA position or something. I'm a natural at this sort of thing.

Your Favorite Jerk

Thursday, November 18, 2004


I wanted to write a haiku about my new cubicle, but I have difficulty counting syllables (how many syllables are in "flourescent glow"?), so I had to give up on that idea. Why don't I just tell you about my cubicle sans pseudo-Japanese poetry? My cubicle is small. It has two white desks that are in a right-angled v-formation. It has only two walls -- I'll have to work hard to earn the other two -- that are covered in some sort of puke-green felt material. To these walls are secured two oversized beige cabinets, which house myriad broken office knick-knacks.

Personally, I don't think cubicles make very good work spaces, providing neither the absolute silence of a small traditional office nor the frenzied energy of an "open-space-concept" one. If I had a choice, I would find two more walls so that I could be completely enclosed by felt fabric, then I would get another two walls and put them on top of my setup so that I could have a sound-proof felt-covered box to work in silent bliss. It's not that I'm antisocial; I like people. I just don't like to hear them when I'm working, or see them walk by, or talk to them about the weather, or explain to them for the tenth time that their dog was already dead when I found it...ummmm, scratch that last one.

BTW, If anyone has Dilbert cartoons, please send some my way. I need to stick a few of them on my cubicle to complete the experience...and all my co-workers have them so they'll probably laugh at me if I don't. Geeks.

Your Favorite Jerk

Friday, November 12, 2004

Effective advertising

I was walking back to the 'Nut for lunch today when I passed a Mexican Board of Tourism Bus parked on University. Okay, actually it was more like a flatbed truck with a glass enclosure, inside which was a Mexican beach scene with sand, beach-chairs, and tanned bikini models (not manikins, but real people). I kid you not!

This is by far the most effective advertising ploy I have ever seen (well, maybe, it's not quite as good as that Meow Mix jingle...meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow meow...No!!!! Make it stop! Make it stop!). Whoever thought this thing up is a master of the craft of advertising. Showing pedestrians in scarves, mittens and tuques a scene from a Mexican beach is almost cruel and manipulative in its genius. I don't even like beaches and I was tempted to walk into the Mexican consulate to get a Visa today after seeing the "Beach Bus".

The only drawback of this display was the extremely bored-looking bikini models in the "cage". I guess it's hard to get excited when you're being paid to get laughed and pointed at; but come on, you're in the happiest place in the world...Cancun!!!!!! Well, at least 5 square feet of Cancun, anyway. Lousy ingrates.

Your Favorite Jerk

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Sweet Thinsulation

The weather has gone from being cool to cold this week. Eventhough the climate appears to be deceptively warm for this time of year, hovering at a tolerable 5 degrees celsius, the freezing wind coming over the lakes (I presume -- I don't really know where it's coming from), makes me feel like it's 2 or 3 degrees below zero.

Every morning I walk by a small shop that sells cheap trinkets to tourists. I have been able to resist the rack of tuques in front of the shop because I've been hoping that this "cold-streak" would pass. But it has finally occurred to me that the cold temperature I've experienced this week is not an anomaly, but a confirmation of my suspicions that winter has arrived. Walking along Dundas St. this cold morning, I came to terms with the fact that from now till april the cold would be my faithful (but very annoying) companion. Finally, after weeks of stubborness and self-delusion, I succombed to the tuque-rack.

My navy blue Thinsulate™ tuque is the best $3.99 I've ever spent. I don't think I've ever appreciated the tuque in Vancouver because any headgear that wasn't water-proof was essentially useless there; but out here in dry, cold Ontario this piece of Canadiana is indispensible, eh.

Your Favorite (dorky) Jerk

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ask Dr. Laura

Caller: Hi Dr. Laura, RF here. Longtime listener; first time caller. Recently, I moved to Toronto and boy, is it windy here! My hands are always dry and I can't seemed to bring back the soft, supple hands I had back home, no matter how much swiss-imported hand cream I lather on in the morning. I figure since you're a doctor and everything, maybe you can tell me what's going on.

Dr. Laura: Listen RF, I'm not actually a medical doctor, but I don't need a stethscope around my neck to know that your descicated epidermal fibres are a symptom of your corrupt moral fibre. Look at all the people living in the southern, more morally righteous states. Do any of them have dry hands? No!

RF, listen to me. You're heading down a slippery slope. First you use a little swiss-imported hand cream. Pretty soon, you're on to the harder stuff like Aveeno and what have you -- I can't even mention these names on the air because children listen to this show -- you kids out there, just say no to luxurious hand creams from Europe.

Alright, we're running out of time. But RF, listen to me, get some help. Marry your crack-addicted common-law partner and raise your born-out-of-wedlock bastard children. When you fulfil your potential as a loving parent, your hands will be supple again.

Caller: ...but I don't have any bastard children...and cracked-addicted...what?...what are you talking about?...I..uhhh

Dr. Laura: Okay, I've heard enough. Next caller!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The Ethicist

Q: Rememberance Day is coming, but I still do not have a poppy to remind the world that I do, in fact, remember (incidentally, would you happen to know where I can get a poppy in this town?). Yesterday, I saw a poppy fall from a man's jacket on my way to the lab. Ethically (and hypothetically) speaking, would it have been wrong of me to surreptitiously stoop down and pocket this poppy to memorialize those who fought (and died) for my right to keep what I find in this free country?

- Anonymous, Toronto, ON

A: Whenever you use the words 'surreptitiously' and 'stoop' in the same sentence, you are almost certainly in danger of commiting an ethical faux pas. In this case, by not informing this man that he had dropped his poppy (and a piece of his patriotism), you are dishonoring the memories of those who you allegedly seek to honor -- hypothetically speaking, of course.

But what troubles me most is your disingenuous use of the sacrifices paid by dead war-heroes to justify your kleptomaniacal tendencies. You are clear a small, sick, and twisted individual. I suggest you seek professional help -- magazine columnists do not count, by the way -- before you find yourself plucking pacifiers from the mouths of helpless babies.

Incidentally, poppies are quite difficult to find in your city for some reason.

Disclaimer: The preceeding was a satirical piece of semi-fiction written out of boredom. The Reformedjerk did, in fact, see a man drop his poppy but he did NOT stoop (surreptitiously, or in any other manner) down to pick it up. Lest we forget.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Dear Miss Manners

Dear Miss Manners,

This morning I woke up later than usual, so I decided to skip my usual continental breakfast and customary paper. Instead, I went to the lobby to pick up a boxed breakfast of pastries, fruit and juice. The server looked rather tired and quite unhappy, but I attributed this to her post in society and thought nothing of it. It was only after I had got my packaged meal that I realized this woman was sick! To make matters worse, I noticed that she had not been wearing any gloves during the preparation of my meal! Not wanting to appear rude (and too hungry to do otherwise), I ate my phlem-tainted meal; but what, I humbly ask you, would have been the polite and sanitary thing to do in such a crisis?

Arrogant Hypochondriac in Toronto

Dear Arrogant Hypo,

You are clearly a man of good breeding, although you appear to lack what we, uppercrust members of society, call balls. Even I, Miss Manners, small and diminuitive though I appear, have got a fairly large pair of them (figuratively speaking, of course).

There is but one acceptable course of action for dealing with a situation such as this: first, you must take off your left glove (always your left); then, with minimal, but deliberate force, you must slap this woman with your glove and demand satisfaction for her mistake! How dare she get sick, and on a workday no less! Sick days are strictly to be had on the weekends and after hours. Miss Manners is saddened and alarmed by the rise of the unwashed masses in recent years, coupled with their increasing demands for "workers' rights", "equality" and other liberal, progressive nonsense such as "humane treatment". Miss Manners thinks it's high time for those of us who have worked so hard to get to where we are -- by being born into a rich family -- to take back what is rightfully ours!

By eating your phlem-tainted food this morning, Arrogant Hypo, you have single-handedly set back the aristocratic movement by ten, or maybe even fifteen years. I hope you're happy. The next time your INS-dodging gardener refuses to lift a 100lb boulder by himself and demands extra help, you will have only yourself to blame.

Miss Manners

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


On Wednesdays evenings, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) opens its doors to the unwashed masses so that the hard-working (but stingy) proletariat can get a taste of art that is usually reserved for the rich and powerful. After two hours at this cultural open-house tonight, this is my conclusion: I don't get it.

I don't get how I'm supposed to interpret an exhibit where all I see is a video of a guy humping a 2-by-4. Nor do I know how to appreciate a canvas covered with 3 coloured stripes repeated a few times (didn't we all make something of this sort at some point in elementary school?). Really, how big of a crack pipe do you have to smoke before you commision something like "Guy humps 2-by-4: A Video Commentary"? Am I the only one who isn't hopped up on goofballs here?

Jon, please explain this art thing to me.

Your Favorite Jerk