Saturday, April 23, 2005

a clockwork orange

I had LASIK surgery yesterday. This morning I can see. It's incredible.

They say it will take several months for my eyes to heal to the point where I get my best vision, but even today it's decent. I'm probably getting in the neighbourhood of 20/40 or 20/50 uncorrected, which I think is pretty amazing, considering that just yesterday afternoon they were slicing open my cornea and burning it with a laser.

I'm now allowing myself to hope for 20/20 uncorrected, altho I'm not counting on it.

I will say this: all the people I had talked to beforehand said it was "relatively painless". They lied. Or maybe I just blotted the word "relatively" out of my mind. Or maybe I'm just a big baby. But in any case, it *was* somewhat painful when they cut the flap, and when the numbing drops wore off after surgery it felt like I had hot sand in my eyes. I took 4 Advils and a big slug of Benadryl and went to sleep for 12 hrs -- I highly recommend this approach. My eyes feel fine this morning, and all's well with the world.

The only downside I can see is that since I'm 40 yrs old I'll need reading glasses now. Being nearsighted, I was able to see clearly close-up without my glasses on -- now that we've "corrected" away that anomalie, I'm like everyone else -- I'll have to be dragging my glasses out to read prescriptions, etc.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes, in case you have no life of your own...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

piano man

Samantha: I have a piano lesson at 5:30

Me: The calendar says it's not a private lesson this week, it's a class-lesson. At 7:15.

Samantha: Mom wrote it on the wrong day. Wait, I guess I have two lessons, a regular one and a class lesson.

Me [after rearranging my evening appointments, and leaving a msg with the studio to check on the time]: Okay, I can take you right now. Make sure you take a book or homework or something in case you only have a class lesson.

Samantha: Hurry up, we're late.

Me: If you would do what I asked -- use your little calendar/schedule book -- we wouldn't be having this confusion. You would just look in your book, and we'd all know what to do.

Samantha: I lost it.

Me: Well, then you need another one.

Samantha: I can just use my school schedule book.

Me: Well, then USE it!

Samantha: I did. That's how I know I have a lesson today.

Me: Oh. Okay.

We arrive (it's a 20-minute drive) to find that the only lesson Samantha has is indeed a class lesson at 7:15, which the teacher says she explained in detail to Samantha two weeks ago. (But since the ADD Princess can't think more than 30 seconds ahead, AND REFUSES TO COMPENSATE OR ADJUST HER BEHAVIOUR TO ACCOUNT FOR THE DEFICIT, we are naturally messed up again. And believe me, I've tried everything -- printed calendars, charts on the wall, hand-held calendars, PDA, whatever. She can't be bothered with such trivial and annoying stuff. So it's continual missed apppointments, missed assignments, missed everything. It can be a bit frustrating.)

Me: Okay, well you can just wait here, and practice till your class lesson.

Samantha: I'm not waiting here for an hour and 45 minutes! I have things to do! I don't have any homework or anything to do here!

Me: Yes, you are. I'm not making three trips today. You can just practice piano.

Samantha: I"m not practicing piano for three hours!

Me: I guess you are. See you at 8:15.

Samantha [stalks into the studio]...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

then this happened

Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is quite as satisfying as an income tax refund.
--F. J. Raymond

A few months ago, I got a letter from the IRS stating that I owed $14,000 in unpaid tax, plus about $3,500 in penalties and interest. This did not fill me with joy.

I sent a few letters explaining why I did not owe them any money.

They sent me a letter saying that the penalties and interest were now $4,000, but that I could make payments if I couldn't pay the whole $18,000 all at once.

I made some phone calls and sent more letters.

A week or so ago, I finally got a letter that said, among other things:
Previous Account Balance: $18K
Amount You Now Owe: -0-

It was one of the nicest letters anyone ever sent me...

Monday, April 18, 2005

another quote i like

A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.
- G.K. Chesterton, author (1874-1936)

ooh! ooh! what a cool quote

Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one's self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily; and why older persons, especially if vain or important, cannot learn at all.
-Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (1920- )

hockey update

We won our playoff final last night (4-3), so we are the champeens of our division. We got a little plaque and a warm feeling. Plus our picture taken.

It was an ugly game. I think we had 19 minutes of penalties. One of our guys got tossed for fighting, and he deserved it. He had words with another guy, and the next thing you know, he's punching the guy in the head. It wasn't a real hockey fight (ie, he left his gloves on, and he didn't pull the other guy's helmet off, just punched him thru his cage) but it still rocked the guy and he took a while getting up.

The other team was annoyed, and so was the rest of ours. Fighting has a place in hockey, in certain leagues and at certain levels. Sometimes you have to send a message; sometimes you need your grinder to go out there and mix it up with their grinder to stop their momentum and get you back in the game.

But this is rec hockey -- we paid to be out there. There's contact, but there's not supposed to be any actual hitting, and at our level there's no need for fighting. We've all got jobs we have to go to in the morning, for Pete's sake.

Anyway, in the last 5 minutes of the game we killed 4 minutes of a 5-on-3 power play, and then another minute of 5-on-4, to hold on to our one-goal lead and get the win. Our goalie stood on his head again, and worked hard on defense. We ran quick D-shifts -- 30 to 40 seconds -- every time we cleared the puck we switched, and everybody skated their butts off trying to shut them down in our zone.

Okay, I realize that wasn't interesting, but it was fun for me to re-live it for a minute. You may now continue with your regularly-scheduled lives.

the role of religion

A recent quote made me want to pontificate again:

On the subject of religion, it was calmly and confidently stated that "No other cause in human history has resulted in as many killings."

To which I say, ballocks. I hear this all the time, and I've yet to see any statistics to back it up. It's like all the other things that float around in the national consciousness, unquestioned because we hear it so much. A couple hundred yrs ago a lot of white people were sure you couldn't hurt a black man by hitting him on the head -- it didn't matter that it was a phenominally ignorant idea -- stupid people just repeated it and believed it.

My point is this:
Yes, religion has been behind many killings -- I'm guessing millions of people have died in religious wars. But the claim that it is the biggest cause of killings requires some evidence, and I haven't seen it yet.

Stalin killed somewhere between 20-60 million. Pol Pot killed a million or two. Hitler killed 7 million (over 50 million died in WW2, 8 million in WW1, etc). Consider all the European wars, civil wars, the blatantly political wars of the last 1000 yrs. Consider race wars/tribal wars throughout human history. Consider all the killings done for the purposes of solidifying political power, for gaining territory, for the personal glory of some leader. Consider how many killings stem from simple greed, lust, anger, hunger, jealousy, simple cruelty, etc.

When you consider the above, the role of religion -- while not insignificant -- seems relatively small. And even when religion has been invoked, half the time it was just a wrapping around a quest for power, territory, or glory anyway.

I agree that religion is often used as a way to say "I'm good, you're bad." I agree that it is often divisive. But to blithely state that it's responsible for more killings than anything else is irresponsible and wrong.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Quote of the Day

I wish to highlight a quote passed on by blogball:

Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.

The older I get, the more I think we are masters of self-delusion, and as the D-man said, it's what we really really really want that rings truest for us...

and speaking of shootouts

Everyone remembers the 1999 Women's World Cup final -- Brandi Chastain taking off her jersey, etc, after hitting the winning shot in the shootout against China.

What I never really grasped was why so much of the attention & credit was given to Chastain. As far as I was concerned, it was Briana Scurry (the US goalkeeper) who had the hardest job and deserved the most credit -- it's far more difficult to stop a penalty shot than it is to put one in. Chastain did what she was supposed to do (except for the sports-bra demo) -- it was Scurry who came out of her body and saved the day. Or at least, that's how it seemed to me.

hockey stuff

We won our first-round playoff game last week. We were tied after regulation, so we ended up in a shootout (each team picks 5 guys to take turns going one-on-none with the goalie).

Our goalie stood on his head and stopped 3 out of their first 4 shots. I was one of the two from our team who scored, but it was possibly the ugliest goal in history.

The ice was so soft that it was covered in "snow" (ice shavings) after the game -- this makes the puck slide more slowly over the ice. It was so bad that when I took the puck from centre, I immediately overskated it.

In a shootout, you have to continue forward -- you can't reverse direction, so I kicked it forward with my back skate, then (still not grasping how sticky the ice was) I overskated it AGAIN. I picked it up with the heel of my other skate, and flipped it forward. By this time I was so close to the goalie all I had time for was one little deke and a try for the five-hole, which by some miracle went it.

Much good-natured ribbing by the other boys ensued. There were offers to buy me beer, as well as suggestions about physical therapy options, wheelchairs, hockey lessons, openings on the Jr High girls' squad, etc. I didn't care -- just win, baby, that's what I say.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

the guys with the thighs

OK, my deal is that jeans never fit me. If I get a pair with a small enough waist, I can't get my thighs (or my butt) into them. If I get them big enough in the leg, I end up with enough room in the waist to smuggle illegal aliens (hopefully Penelope Cruz).
It's taken me a while, but yesterday I finally figured out that instead of buying regular jeans in my size (34"), I need to get baggy ones in 32". So then they fit like regular, but are also tight enough in the waist.
Having a big butt/thighs is a black stereotype (for anyone who's been lost in space for the last 400 yrs). I wonder if I'm the first white guy to have this problem and figure out what to do about it. I suspect not...

In a related story (also not interesting), when buying a suit there's typically about a 6" drop from chest to waist size. Athletic cut suits are 8". Since I'm a 44" jacket and a 34" pant, I always have to have the pants taken in, and the guy always says the same thing: Oh, no problem, our tailor can fix that, they'll fit perfectly. And they never do. They always look like 36" pants that have been altered to 34". They don't drape right, they bunch and gather and look stupid. The only thing that works is if they'll let me take the slacks from one suit and match it with the jacket from another. Which they almost never do. Dirtbags.

So anyway, I heard there was a contest to see who could write the most boring and pointless blog post. What did I win?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

it has come to my attention that...

my last three posts have been about Las Vegas, being with beautiful women, and lying.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea, let me state for the record that
a) I only wish my life were as interesting as you were thinking, and
b) my wife -- who teaches aerobics and kickboxing -- has never looked better than she does right now.

men behaving badly.

When you're a man in the company of a very attractive woman, other men will stare at her. Some are subtle about it, some just gawk -- but they all look. Then they look at YOU, and what they're wondering is "What does he have that he gets to be with her?"
This is shallow, and yet extremely gratifying.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

how to lie

The main thing to do:
Concentrate on believing the role you're playing, and ignore completely the question of whether or not the other person believes you. When we tell the truth we almost never worry about convincing anyone -- why should we? We're telling the truth, after all -- if they don't believe us, it means they're stupid, not that we're lying.

What not to do -- two examples from my life where someone forgot to be in the role:

1) We found a canary in our garage. Since canaries are not native to Alberta, Canada, we assumed it was a lost pet. The neighbour kid showed up, and we showed him the bird, flying around in the garage. He said, "You know what? I lost a canary a couple of days ago." It was possibly the worst-delivered lie ever, and why? Because he forgot to believe the lie himself before speaking. If he really *had* lost his canary, he would have said, "I can't believe it! You found Tweety! Incredible! Oh, thank you!"

2) We were talking about model rockets. One young man started talking about rockets he had flown with his brother. About two minutes in, he said, "And one time, we put a mouse in the nose cone and sent him up..." Which was clearly a lie, since if he *had* ever sent a mouse up in a rocket, it would have been the first thing he said: "Ooh, ooh! One time my brother and I put a mouse in our rocket!" Since it took him so long to come out with the mouse story, we all knew he'd just thought it up that second.

As a bonus, here's possibly the worst-delivered lie I've ever tried:
I was about 5 yrs old, and stayed outside playing for so long that I wet my pants. When my mother saw me, I claimed to have fallen in a puddle. She said, "and you just got wet there?" I said I had fallen *across* the puddle, so only my crotch had gotten wet. Also it was a warm puddle. For some reason, she didn't buy it.

Anyway, these are just a couple thoughts that hopefully can help everyone become more accomplished and believable liars. I believe my work here is done...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sin City

Just returned from 3 days in Las Vegas (business conference).

Everything is very large there. There is a lot of money going on. It is loud, and there are a lot of lights. People seem to stay up quite late.

The "family-friendly" push of a few yrs ago is history. On the street are people handing out cards with pictures of strippers who will come to your room for private dances. Or whatever. Didn't hire one, so I'm not totally sure of all the details.

I saw Mamma Mia (musical based on ABBA songs). I was the only straight male in our group, but I confess to a secret love of ABBA's music, I don't care what anyone says.

I had beginner's luck at the blackjack table, ended up ahead about $65.

On the plane I sat next to a Columbian guy who had a couple bottles of red wine and became friendly and garrulous. He said we can all create or choose our own reality, and that everything I said was what he had already decided I was going to say. Or something. Not totally sure about that either, because his Spanish was so fast and his English was accented. Not to mention people aren't at their most articulate when their hearts are Merry with Wine, as it were.

That's pretty much it. My presentation went well, I might get some business out of the schmooze-a-thon (ie, networking) aspects of the conference.

Tomorrow I leave for Austin, TX. With luck I'll soon write a blog post someone would actually want to read...