Monthly Archives: May 2013

And Our Hurtful Games Shall Come to a Truce

Sorry for the dramatic title, but I really like Ghostkeeper so I thought I’d quote one of their song titles here.

This marks the last day I’m going to be writing this blog on a regular, day-to-day basis. I’ve given it a bit of thought and I’ve concluded that it’s not in my best interest to continue as I am now. I liked that it forced me to write every day, but almost this entire month has been me forcing myself to come up with things to write about, and most of those times I’m unsatisfied with the way things turn out.

I feel like anyone who’s been reading me since the beginning will (I hope) have learned plenty about me, and I feel like if I bare any more of my soul here then it won’t be long before I end up like the blogger from that season six episode of House.

I won’t be abandoning this blog completely. I’ll probably still write from time to time, because sometimes I just really itch to have a place to write something. But it won’t be with any regularity, I imagine, particularly as I finally start to get busier this summer.

In my last post, I referred to an Important Phone Call I was waiting for. The phone call was confirmation that I’ve been selected to intern at a local news website for the rest of the summer. I likely won’t be spending eight hours a day there, but even so it will probably also seriously impede my ability to sit down and write.

So this is the end of the road for the “blog-a-day” blog. I’ll admit I’m a little disappointed in myself, but such is life.

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A blog about blogging

Apologies in advance for going a little meta here- I’m about to blog about blogging.

Anyway, as I was waiting for an Important Phone Call, I ended up amusing myself by watching an episode of House. I was never an avid week-to-week watcher of the show, but despite it trying its best to be complex, it’s really a show you can drop in on at any episode and not be totally confused by.

The episode in question is called “Private Lives,” and it’s from the episode’s sixth season. In it, House and co. treat a famous blogger. “Interesting,” I thought to myself. “I wonder how stereotypical this blogger will be.” The answer to the question- WAY stereotypical.

It was apparent right from the first scene, as the blogger sat in semi-darkness, typing a mundane anecdote about her fighting with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend then comes into the room, and she accidentally lets it slip that she blogged their argument. He gets pissed and says something to the effect of “I don’t want you blogging about me, delete it.”

It only gets worse throughout the episode. A reader of the woman’s blog comes to visit her in the hospital, and the two women are on their laptop, with the reader reading the blogger’s blog. At that point Wilson says “You know you’re in the same room, right?”

Later on (potential spoilers if you must see episode six, episode 15 but haven’t yet) the woman finds out she needs a new heart valve, and must decide whether to get a valve from a pig (which would allow her to have children, but she’d need surgery again in ten years), or to use a plastic valve (which could be used indefinitely but would require meds that would cause birth defects). Her boyfriend puts in a passionate plea for the pig valve, the blogger for the plastic, so to tie-break their argument, yep, she asks her readers for advice. They were supposedly the ones who convinced her to become a vegetarian, so naturally they choose the plastic valve.

What all of this illustrates (there’s way more blogger stereotypes in the episode but I don’t want to write about any more of them) is that TV shows and movies still don’t know how to accurately portray people who blog for a living or hobby. Yes, there are definitely some bloggers who are probably like the House character, but don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch.

There are plenty of amazing, passionate people who blog about things other than every mundane aspect of their personal lives. I think of people like Steve Munro, a transit blogger, a guy who is super active in the Toronto community. He’s an expert on the stuff, but he’s certainly not a shut-in. Or I could even talk about my friend Steph, who has a wonderful website you should all look at called Snacking on Sunshine. She blogs about food while having amazing adventures in London, England (or wherever she is now).

What House also did is make it look like people who blog about everything in their lives are bound to get a lot of readers. People with such general-interest blogs rarely amass a huge following. For every one person that gets famous blogging, there are hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of blogs that are read by no one or few people (this blog probably falls a little more to the latter category, as you might guess).

Will an accurate portrayal of a blogger ever exist on TV or in the movies? Probably, and the most accurate portrayal of a blogger would be to cast a regular person, not someone who must grab their laptop after something momentous happens.

A happy day playlist

The sun has come up, so to speak. Outside right now it’s a bit cloudy, but the sun I’m referring to here is a healthy dose of optimism. The internship I thought was lost may actually be coming my way after all. And hearing that news yesterday made me way happier than I could have imagined. So in honour of this happy news, I’m putting together a happiness playlist. My specialty being what it is, they will of course all be Canadian, and I’ll try to make the ones I choose less-than-common choices.

Jordan Faye- “Happiest”

From Sorry, I Slept In.

Beams- “Sun Wraps ‘Round”

From Just Rivers.

Maylee Todd- “Hieroglyphics”

From Escapology.

Triple Gangers- “Bunnies”

From 3XG.

Coeur de Pirate- “Golden Baby”

From Blonde.

Formalists- “Thomas Edison: The Great Intender”

From Congratulations To Those Who Move Onward And Excel!/In Support of Healthy Structure.

Mary Cassidy & Jon Lawless- “Verbs”

North Lakes- “Copernicus, Copernicus”

From Grand Prix.

Wilderness of Manitoba- “Morning Sun”

From Island of Echoes.

Code Pie- “Muddy Shoes”

From Love Meets Rage.

Linking in

Man oh man, networking is hard.

A few nights ago, having driven myself crazy with my inability to find meaningful work for myself this summer, I decided to act on a recommendation a friend made several weeks ago; I made an account on LinkedIn.

According to a quick Wikipedia search, LinkedIn launched all the way back in 2003, though I imagine it didn’t pick up steam until a few years after that, much like Facebook. Although LinkedIn isn’t nearly as populated; as of January 2013 LinkedIn reported to have over 200 million users, which is a lot, but a drop in the bucket compared to the over a billion people using Facebook.

But then again, LinkedIn is a very different site. When I first heard about the website several years ago, I wasn’t convinced that I would actually ever need to use it. However, I’ve definitely had an about-face on that opinion.

Last month, I noticed that my friend Imran had posted about making a LinkedIn account, although he wasn’t sure why. A week or two later, when I met up with him and a few other friends at a show, he told me how he was initially skeptical about joining, but he’s convinced now since he got two job interviews from the site alone (and presumably one of those interviews actually turned into an actual job for him).

So on Sunday night I took the plunge and created an account. Except I kind of chickened out of doing anything past the initial “insert username/password” thing. Then last night I figured I shouldn’t just leave the account as half-assed as I did, so I got to work.

And boy oh boy does LinkedIn have quite the learning curve. There are all kinds of things you have to consider when you’re putting a profile together; which of your email contacts are actually worth making connections with, for instance? Who should you follow? Which groups will you join? Will that picture you put up look unprofessional to people who are viewing your profile for the first time?

And that’s not even the half of it. I had to then start figuring out how to make myself sound as attractive (to potential employers) as possible. Last night I thought I had put everything together well but then this morning I realized I wasn’t even close.

I’m now kind of happy with my profile, though I recognize that I’ll probably never be totally satisfied. I suppose if I start getting flooded with job offers I might be a little more confident, but for the time being I’m happy.

But anyways, just going through the motions of setting up, essentially, an internet resume made me realize that it’s not easy to build a network of people you know. Partially this is because you cannot (usually) build real rapport with someone until you meet them in person.

Take the people I know through Grayowl Point, for instance. There are all kinds of musicians I’m on good terms with, but I’m on even better terms with those musicians I’ve seen live and talked with after.

Put simply, there’s no substitute for going out and meeting people. Get on good enough terms with them and vast new possibilities can open up for you.

Cooking therapy

Oh right, I’m supposed to write something today. I tried writing something this morning but decided to reward myself with not forcing myself to write my post before noon rolled around. Since noon I have walked a fair distance to a grocery store, listened to music (as usual) and cooked. Which brings me to my point today.

As was probably abundantly clear, last week was not emotionally a good week for me. I spent the week not seeing anybody or doing much of anything, and it frustrated me. I’ve been desperately hoping that I’ll soon be able to move onto doing something that will occupy a bit more of my time this summer lest I go absolutely crazy. Aside from one day last week I tried to ignore my unhappiness as long as I could by talking about anything but that, with the help of a fictional story and a summary of the Rob Ford controversy.

Today, I felt that unhappiness rearing its ugly head yet again, so I decided enough is enough and looked for a new recipe to cook for dinner tonight. I tend to make a lot of pasta-related dishes, perhaps because they’re usually so easy, so it probably won’t surprise you to hear that my new dish was, you guessed it, a pasta dish.

To give a completely honest appraisal of my own cooking skills, I don’t think I’m fantastic at it, but nothing I’ve made so far has ever been gross or inedible. I make the occasional cooking error (usually forgetting to spray a pan/dish with cooking spray) but usually everything works out pretty well.

I’ve managed to find a few pretty good recipes out of a book called the The Really Useful Ultimate Student Cookbook by Silvana Franco (ISBN 9781741960242) which I don’t think is even in print anymore. It’s a bit of a shame, as the book has a very well-organized index that ends with a list of all the books’s vegetarian dishes.

From the book’s recipes, the big hit with my family has been spaghetti marinara. It features spaghetti noodles (obviously) with a sauce made from diced tomatoes and their juice, basil, onion, garlic, black olives and capers. It’s a great alternative to the spaghetti that my dad or mom used to make quite often, which would be canned pasta sauce over ground beef or ground turkey over the spaghetti.

Today’s recipe I made has what was certainly the fanciest name of anything I’ve cooked so far: farfalle Florentina. Farfalle is “bowtie pasta” and the second part of the name just tells you where the recipe comes from: Florence, Italy.

I don’t mean to boast in saying that this is the most delicious recipe I’ve cooked so far. I write the previous not in the sense of “Look how great of a cook I am!” but rather in the sense of “The flavour is fantastic thanks to the varied ingredients.” According to the recipe book, recipes that come from Florence are likely to involve spinach and some sort of cheese. This recipe involves both, and it made me wonder why I don’t eat spinach way more often. It’s absolutely delicious.

When I’m cooking, even if I run into difficulties, it feels, very briefly, like I’m the captain of a ship. I am in total command of the kitchen, only (to ruin my ship-captain analogy) I have to also run all the tasks myself. Boiling pasta, chopping vegetables, sautéeing, all of that is my job and my job alone.

Plus, nothing really beats the smells of cooking fresh vegetables and pasta as opposed to throwing something frozen in the oven or the microwave. It feels great to be in charge of a saucepan, doing things like making sure your food of choice doesn’t burn or get too watery.

And of course nothing is better than seeing what the end result of your labour is. I had meant to take a picture of the farfalle Florentina when it came out of the oven, but my phone was charging and it didn’t seem worth it to grab a digital camera. So you’ll have to imagine it looking pretty good: picture a casserole dish filled with bowtie-shaped pasta, mixed in with melted cheese, spinach leaves and diced tomatoes.

I’ve just made myself hungry even though I just ate.

Life stories: a Journey

Thanks again to DailyPost for this prompt. It reminded me of a long walk I took some time ago that had me exploring areas of the city I lived that I don’t usually see.

I have a friend named Diana, and for the past four years of university I’ve only ever been able to see her roughly twice a year. She was always super busy in school and traveled a lot during the summer, mostly, so I would usually see her once around the Christmas break and another time during the summer at some point.

A few years back (it must have been the summer after either my first or second year of school) we met up during the summer. Our original plan was to go to a bowling alley. On the way there, of course, we talked quite a bit. The general rule of conversation when you haven’t seen a friend in months is a huge game of catch-up.

I met her at her house, as I usually do, and we walked from there. The bowling alley really wasn’t far at all. When we got there, we discovered that there was no way we’d be able to get a game in that day; there was some kind of a bowling league happening and every lane looked occupied.

Determined to not let it ruin our day, we decided to just start walking in a direction away from her and my house, which we did. We ended up heading toward where she went to high school, but took a few more twists and turns along the way. Suddenly, we wound up walking through a huge, open field.

We followed the field for a bit before deciding to randomly turn right into a neighbourhood neither of us had ever seen before. It honestly felt a little strange. It looked kind of like a trailer park, we supposed, but it was as though we had suddenly walked back in time. We didn’t see a single person around and all the stuff looked like something that might have been current a few decades ago. For some reason my mind is telling me that it was a grey, almost ominous sky, but that might be my brain trying to make the story as dramatic as possible.

After walking through this strange removed-from-time place, we re-emerged into the city and decided to walk… I don’t remember where we walked next. But eventually we decided we were going to stroll through a forested area. This area turned out to be a whole lot bigger than either of us thought, however. There were all kinds of fallen wood and plant overgrowths that would sometimes slow down or temporarily halt our progress.

At this point, Diana was starting to get a little worried that we weren’t going to find our way out. She took comfort in a long and ridiculous story I had been telling before we got into the woods. I had been making the story up as I went along, and it was pretty silly and melodramatic (as I intended it to be). A few times during this forest stroll she urged me to keep going so that she wouldn’t think about the possibility of never getting out.

I was never worried for a second that we were going to get lost, because one of my goals in life is to actually get lost somewhere in the city and force myself to find a way back. Eventually, of course, we made it out of the forest and emerged in an area I was pretty familiar with. On the way back to Diana’s house we finished off my insane story.

If I remember the story correctly, I had been poisoned or something and Diana had raced against the clock to get me to a hospital. I think the story ended with her and I talking to our respective sets of kids about the craziness that had occurred some time ago.

What’s the point of this story from my life? I’m not really sure. Perhaps it’s that alternative plans can sometimes yield very unexpected turns of events. The walk itself feels kind of like a dream to me; it was an area of my city I had never seen before and it turned out to be pretty scenic. Plus I got a hell of a lot of exercise from that walk, that’s for sure.

The last post about Rob Ford (I hope)

It’s kind of hilarious that the last time I wrote about Toronto’s (to put it lightly) controversial mayor, I thought the most bizarre behaviour I had seen from him was getting up from a special Toronto meeting and putting “ROB FORD MAYOR” fridge magnets on people’s cars.

But nope, nope and nope, that does not even come close to strange Ford behaviour. Chances are you’ve probably heard about this even if you’re not from Toronto, since the story was broken by John Cook of Gawker, a US website.

In the story, first appearing on Gawker and later in the Toronto Star, the reporters (Cook of Gawker and Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle of the Star) were able to view a video that was being shopped around by, supposedly, Somalian drug dealers in the Toronto area. The video showed Rob Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. He also apparently called Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party, a “fag” and apparently referred to the students he deals with at Don Bosco as their former coach as “fucking minorities.”

For a lot of people, I don’t think it was surprising to hear about yet another stupid thing Ford may or may not have been caught doing. Don’t know if anyone was necessarily thought the latest Ford salvo would be crack-smoking allegations, but that’s what happened.

At first, Ford simply said to reporters (who understandably swarmed around his house the morning after the story broke) was that the allegations were “untrue” and “ridiculous” but then kept silent about it the rest of the day. And the day after that, and the day after that.

Eventually, Ford’s executive committee signed a letter to get Ford to speak about in full. By the way, this letter came about yesterday, at which point Ford had been silent for eight days. Ford did finally speak to the media at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, sporting a new hair cut and a look on his face that could be called a smirk or a grin depending on what you believe.

He said “I do not use crack cocaine” and said he is not an addict. It was an interesting choice of language, as many pointed out. because of the verb tense. The statement could be interpreted as “I do not currently use crack cocaine” which might suggest that he did in the past.

His denial of the allegations was interesting in that he tried to blame the Toronto Star solely for the story, even though it was Gawker that broke the story first. He then went on to talk about the fact that he was recently fired as the coach for Don Bosco but still supports the school, and then wished Mark Towhey, his former chief of staff (who he fired) the best of luck with whatever he’s going to do now.

Interesting point about the Towhey firing: the Toronto Sun (which is usually a staunch Ford supporter) claims that Towhey told them that the reason he was fired was that he suggested that Rob Ford get help in the form of rehab or whatever. The Star in this morning’s paper also suggested Towhey might have been fired when he refused to go and collect football equipment Ford had donated to the school.

A lot of people weren’t convinced by Ford’s denial thanks to his selective language and refusal to take questions. Now, if this weren’t enough, another paper published something this morning. This paper was not the Star but the Globe & Mail, one of Canada’s most prominent national newspapers.

After an 18-month investigation of the Ford family, reporters cited ten unnamed sources in saying that Doug Ford, Rob Ford’s older brother and mayoral office force, sold marijuana as a teen. As well, Rob’s brother Randy and sister Kathy were also alleged to have connections to drug dealers.

Doug Ford was quick to pounce on this one, outright denying, with very clear language, that he ever sold drugs. He used a sentence that Rob Ford should have used in yesterday’s statement. Doug said “I never sold” marijuana.

At this point, Toronto city hall is a huge circus. Nothing is going to get done unless Ford puts this to rest, and as far as I see it, that can only be done in two ways. One, Ford could hold a press conference in which he takes any and all questions aimed at him re: the crack cocaine scandal. I’d be a little more reassured if he actually says he’s never smoked crack cocaine and I’d like him to comment more on the video. Second, Rob Ford could resign.

And to be honest, I think he should. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a particular fan of Rob Ford, but I think his personal drama is now stopping Toronto from doing anything, and he’s probably not building confidence in the taxpayers he’s trying to represent.

As I said in my previous Ford post, I genuinely believe, beneath the burnt bridges and buffoonery, that he wants to help Toronto become a better city. He’s just chosen way too many awful ways to do that.