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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Good Morning, Bangalore

My Toshiba M30 is broken. Yep, busted, b0rked, toast. It still boots up and appears to be running, but I don't see anything on the screen. Last night, I called Toshiba Canada to see what can be done about it since the machine is still under warranty.

I was wondering how they could afford to have 24/7 tech support, and it totally didn't occur to me that the call centre was overseas. Well, it didn't occur to me until the guy at the other end picked up and it was pretty clear he wasn't based in Texas. For the most part, the conversation was cordial, although there were more than a few occasions when he got ticked that I couldn't make out what he was saying. In order to avoid sounding culturally insensitive, I'll just give you some bits of the conversation as close to verbatim as I can.

Me: My address...89 Chestnut...
Tech: Hold on...this is a city?
*thinking: ummm...yes. I live in a city called Chestnut where there are only 90 houses and I just happen to live in house number 89*
Me: No, it's a street. The name of the city is Toronto
Tech: is in a "province" called...On-Tar-Eee-Oh?
Me: Yes

skip forward through some more techie drivel

Tech: Ok sir, please to hold power button until I say stop
Me: Ok
*holds power button for one minute*
Tech: Ok, now you can stop.
Me: Ok
Tech: Now press power again
Me: Done
Tech: What do you see, sir?
Me: Nothing
Tech: *shocked* Really?
Me: Yes
Tech: Really?
Me: Yes
Tech: Are you sure?
Me: Yes
Tech: What colour is your screen?
Me: Black
Tech: How black?
Me: Pitch black!
Tech: Sounds like a hardware problem.
Me: Yes...that's why I called

I had a good time. Now if only they'll call back so I can send this puppy in for repairs.

Your Favorite Jerk

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


This post is a few days late because the last three drafts had too many four-letter words for public consumption. But now that I've had time to reflect on last Sunday's blackout, I can write about it in a more measured (and civil) way.

Like many of history's great evils, this blackout started out very innocuously. At roughly 8:00AM, while I was still enjoying my Sunday morning slumber, the PA system informed me that a building-wide power outage had occurred and would be rectified after further investigation. As I had no particular use for electricity at that time of day, I thought I would just go back to sleep and wait it out. How hard could it be to isolate a blown fuse and get things back on track?

By 10:00AM, the room was starting to feel uncomfortably cold and it was nearly impossible to sleep, so I decided to get up to reassess the situation. Apart from the drop in temperature, everything else looked no different than usual. So far, so good. But when I went to turned on the tap, I heard only an angry hissing sound instead of the sound of flowing water. Suddenly, things were starting to look more serious. I can live without lights, but for various archeaic biological reasons, I can't live without water.

I also realized that the absence of water now meant that there was exactly enough water in the toilet tank for one, and only one flush. I now had to be vigilant and discerning about when to use that one silver bullet. As I thought about this, I wiped my face with a piece of tissue, tossed it in the toilet, and flushed it down. So much for vigilance and discernment. I was out of water, out of electricity, out of phone service, and perhaps more immediately alarming, I was out of "flush".

By 11:00AM it became apparent that this outage might not be as temporary as I had hoped. I did a quick survey of my room to see what I could eat and drink (and what I could burn for fuel). Reality struck hard when I realized that I only had one cup of water and some snackbars. Clearly, I had to acquire more food and water before it got dark if I wanted to get through the night without cannibalizing my neighbours. I picked up my coat and winter accessories and went down the stairs.

Only when I got to the outside did I realize the magnitude of the blackout. There must have been 40 or 50 city blocks without power that day! This wasn't some minor screwup by the building manager, but some sort of large-scale outage. Suddenly, finding a place that sold food and water seemed a bit more challenging. To my surprise though, the Shoppers on Bay and Gerard was still open. After ringing up my purchase of water and Nutrigrain bars on a calculator (solar powered, no doubt) I went back to my place to wait the outage out.

I've always known that I'm not in the greatest shape. But walking up 26 stories in total darkness while carrying 4 litres of water really underlined the ineptitude of my body. By the time I reached my room, I was ready to chug down 2 of the 4 litres to replenish my spent body.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. I spent the next 7 hours knitting (yes, I knit now...more on this in another post) and eating nutrigrain bars. As the sun set, I added more and more layers of clothing. By the time the power came back up around 7:00PM I was wearing two sweaters, long Johns, jeans, thick wool socks, scarf, and leather gloves.

The moral of the story is: electricity and water are essential services! Keep them running if you want to get re-elected.

Your Favorite Jerk

Monday, January 17, 2005

Okay, so I'm not always right

Okay, so maybe I'm not always* right.
Characters on seals may be cut in relief or in intaglio.
Bonus points if you know what intaglio means.

However, note also the following:
The artist...should know how to arrange within a limited space a number of characters-- some compact with many strokes and others sketchy with very few-- to achieve a vigorous or graceful effect.

So you see, it's not the number of strokes in a name that determines the grace and beauty of a seal, but rather the competence of the artist. And no comments about the word "sketchy" please. I'm sure it means something completely different in calligraphy.

Your Favorite (sometimes fallible) Jerk

Friday, January 14, 2005

Age regression

On my flight to Vancouver last December, I read an article in enRoute (one of my favorite publications) magazine about the new trend in collectible vinyl toys. Some of them look really amazing but the price tags were astronomical. Nevertheless, reading this rekindled the little kid in me and I've been interested in getting little vinyl figures and cool little toys since then.

Today, I found out that Hasbro has released a new Darth Vader Mr. Potatoe Head figure called Darth Tater (hehehe). If this thing had come out a month ago, it would for sure have been on my list. The pun itself is worth the sticker price, I think.

Your Favorite Jerk

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Where is Liberia, anyways?

It's been a while since I've seen a movie in an honest-to-goodness theatre, so I decided to treat myself to a night at the cinema tonight. Jonny recommended that we go to see a "free" movie about the civil war in Liberia. Frankly, I don't know where Liberia is, but I do know what "free" is, so I took him up on his offer.

Evidently, I wasn't the only one who knew what "free" meant because by the time we got to the theatre at Bloor and Bathurst, there was a Soviet-era-waiting-for-bread sized lineup. My reaction to this queue can best be summed up by the words of a surprised fellow theatre goer: "Who the #*$% knew there would be so much interest in Liberia". I know I didn't! The sad thing was, the whole time I was standing there I wasn't thinking about the innocent people of Liberia; I was thinking about how warm it would be to go across the street to visit Honest Ed's, and how we could have been watching Meet the Fockers that very moment. In any case, the manager eventually told us that there would be no more room, so Jonny and I did end up going to visit Honest Ed's.

The gheto bars at the entrance to Honest Ed's told me that Honest Ed obviously thought that he was the only honest man in town, and even though he's "crazy about low prices" he's not crazy enough to let the riff-raff run off with his highly-discounted merchandise. I'll be honest here, Honest Ed isn't losing any money selling cheap merchandise. There wasn't really any great deals there except for the $1.99 sweatpants. With my laundry bills coming out to almost 4 dollars a load, I figure it may be cheaper to buy a bunch of these and throw them away when they get dirty. I think Honest Ed would have approved...and so would the kids who made these pants.

Your Favorite Jerk

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Flying back, ironic style

So after three weeks at home, yesterday was time to go "home" to Toronto. Ironically, it wasn't the Toronto winter but the "storm" in Vancouver that threatened to cancel my flight. Thankfully, the runways at YVR were equipped with better plows than the rest of the city and my flight was only delayed by about 15 minutes.

I was lucky enough to get the seat by the emergency exit aisle, which meant that I would have had first dibs at exiting the plane had we been involved in the (unlikely, of course) event of a water landing. But perhaps even more importantly, this seat also offered a lot more leg room than regular seats. In return for this extra bit of realestate, all I had to do was learn the three simple steps to open the emergency hatch -- break glass, turn knob, lift and push door towards outside of the plane so that it doesn't block other passengers from exiting...and competing with me for life vessels...hmmm...I wonder if improvisation would be allowed in a real emergency). Thankfully, I didn't have to use any of this information because it would have been embarassing if the rest of the passengers had to discover to their absolute horror that my limp, noodle arms were too weak to save them.

After we pushed off from the gate, the captain informed us that snow on the wings is not aerodynamically favorable for takeoff, and so we had to make a pit stop at the de-icing station. Now, at this point the coffee I had had before boarding was starting to work its diuretic magic and I was hearing nature's call get louder and louder. To see a man hosing down the plane with a waist-level hose was not helping me quiet the call. As soon as we hit cruising altitude, I bolted for the short, it was a close call.

That about sums it up for the flight home. It wasn't the greatest flight ever, but the landing was smooth and I got back in one piece. I got lots of thinking done on the plane and the New Year is off to an interesting start.

Your Favorite Jerk