11.30.2004

Brains...

My sleeping pattern is totally out of whack. I can't concentrate, my mind is constantly racing from one place to the next, my eyes are sore and I generally feel worn out. Last night I went to bed at midnight. My body, ever the genius, takes this as a sign of a nap. 4am, I am wide awake, refeshed even. Two hours later, I'm exhausted and back in bed for another six hours.

It's currently 4am. I am just now starting to feel tired.

Sleep, you moron!

11.23.2004

Like I'm Supposed to Remember That

When I first found my lipomas, I went to the hospital the next day. For all I knew, lumpy arms = something wrong with normal physical functioning. I didn't immediately assume "cancer" because I know the human body is so complicated that it could have simply been some benign reaction to raisins or Cyndi Lauper.

So I checked myself into the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital and got the usual questionnaire quiz. One of the questions was, "Have you ever been here before?" I though back over all the other times I was sick and went to a hospital. I had an operation to insert a tube into my inner ear when I was little. It wasn't draining properly and I kept getting ear infections. That was at the Montreal Children's, though. I got a really bad flu once but I went to the Montreal General for that one. So, "Nope, never been here."

The lady at the desk punched in my data and said, "Ah, yes. You have been here before."

I was confused. Did their system mix me up with some other ill Montrealer?

"You were here as: Baby Boy Vincent."

Oh, yeah. I was born at St. Mary's.

11.19.2004

Problems at the Top

Dear National Leaders,

Here are some signs you have lost it:
  • Monster-sized portraits of yourself hang in public squares.
  • There are statues of you around the capital and you are not dead.
  • You have an election and you (or your policies) win with more than 90% support. Psst, that's not normal in any democracy.
  • There are reports that you seize shelter triplets at birth and no one bats an eyelash.
  • Your dead father has the state-sanctioned title "eternal president".
  • You manage to use Anne Frank's diary as war-propaganda.
  • This is you:


  • 11.17.2004

    Stochastic Neural Processes

    1) I have no idea when I'll get the chance but at some point in my life I really want to say, in jest but in perfect context: "Excuse me, I have to go express some semen."

    2) At some point in time a man likely said, "The only thing I know about women's suffrage is that I find women insufferable!" Which was then followed by a man laughing so hard his monocle fell out.

    2-i) It has been pointed out to me that my analogy between slavery and homosexual civil rights is flawed in that people can't/won't get as outraged about gay marriage as they can about owning another human. I'd agree with that though I suspect it might be overplaying the outrage of the abolition movement somewhat. A great many abolitionists opposed slavery while endorsing the supremacy of the white race, a stance that, perforce, dims one's outrage. I then thought that women's suffrage might be a better analogy but even then a quick comparison between 51% of the population (women) and ~10% (homosexual; where the hell does this number come from anyways? I've heard it for years but never really questioned it) and one can see what a long, long road is ahead.

    3) I had a job interview today. Good news: it was my first bite since I started sending out CVs. Bad news: it pays 9$/hr. Good news: it's testing video games. Bad news: cellphone videogames. Bad news: it pays 9$/hr.

    I went to the place hoping to find some reason to take this job. I think testing video games is pretty much my ideal job. Sadly, the pay barely qualifies for my definition of the word "job".

    It pleased me to see a row of tables in the cafeteria with TVs in front of couches. Each TV was hooked up to different game system, PS2, XBOX, Gamecube, N64, SNES. The walk to the interview office was horrifying, however. Picture a sweatshop. Replace all the sewing machines with desktop PCs. This was the work environment, a huge open floor with about 150 people grouped in eights around large desks, no dividers, no cubicles, bare white walls and a slate grey industrial carpet, a grim phosphor glow reflected in each pale face. It was The Triangle Shirtwaist Company with USB ports.

    I frikkin' nailed the interview. In French, no less. I was part-ninja, part-Jedi, slicing through the questions and disarming all opposition with my disarming manner. Now I know how Moses felt parting the Red Sea. I began to ask about what kind of vacation they were willing to offer. I was hoping to parlay my experience into 3 weeks vacation. I felt I had that kind of leverage. Before my first sentence was complete, they gave me (ME! Moses-incarnate!) a left jab, a solid right hook and a fatal uppercut. I went from heavyweight champ to Glass Joe.

    - There is no vacation offered.
    - This isn't a permanent position.
    - It's a rolling one-month contract (I swear this is what I heard but it just can't possibly be right).
    - This policy is mandated by the head office (the full policy being that 50% of the employees must be maintained on a rolling contract)
    - Overtime is paid time and a half
    - The overtime is strictly voluntary, you know. Always up to you. You know. We wouldn't, like, force you. Right? Well, the games have to be released on a strict schedule, so, like, near those times, yeah, we would ask you to come in. Voluntarily, of course. It's, like, a chance to make some more money, right! (nervous laughter) Right?! (incredibly pained look, like one would give Lucifer after getting caught in his bed with his teenage daughter)

    "So, uh, how many hours a week would you say the average tester works, including overtime?"

    And then I witnessed true majesty. A beauty so breathtaking that the Grand Canyon could be called a hole in the ground, that the Northern Lights be called but a twinkle, that life itself be little more than a cheap and unsatisfying illusion. I witnessed three desperate employees dodging a question with the ferocity of cornered and wounded animal. They simultaneously deployed evasive maneuvers Alpha, Foxtrot, Sigma and Get-Me-The-Hell-Out-Of-Here. I thought I heard the sound of bones breaking coming from under their clothes.

    So...

    -Pay that would insult Mother Teresa,
    -Hours that would make purgatory seem but a blink,
    -The same vacation days POWs get,
    -And all of this on a month-to-month wheel of uncertainty!

    Colour me spoiled brat if you must but this ain't happening.

    11.08.2004

    Press Start

    The Anthropic Principle essentially says, "Hey, isn't it crazy that the laws of the universe exist such that humans can exist within it? Huh, ain't it?" The implication being that the universe was created/designed such that humans were the ultimate goal of said universe.

    It is true that there is a finely balanced dance of physical constants that does allow life to flourish on Earth. That, however, does not imply the creation of the universe was meant to lead to episodes of "I Dream of Jeannie", the CN Tower or even LL Cool J. When I was much younger and began to see how deftly balanced the laws of nature were, I began to ask myself the question that the anthropic principle asks: is this universe made for you and me? It was part of my natural curiosity towards the world of physics. I did not expect to find the face of God in a calculus equation, nor did I ever end up finding one. The universe is a marvelous place with wonders and coincidences that seem impossible but for a hand divine. Nevertheless, the universe is a big place. In fact, it encompasses all of the word "place". The genesis of the universe (if such a thing can be shown to have occurred) may well have resulted from a series of failed, unstable prior universes, each one closer to our own livable current revision. There are as many theories as there are philosophers (perhaps as many as all the parallel universes!) and each one explains the world around us in its own way.

    I've reconciled myself to living with the mystery of origin, the concealed purpose of life, the unknowable darkness that, in the end, allows us to define our existence for ourselves.

    11.05.2004

    Gays into the Abyss

    When Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln went at it through seven debates in a race for the Illinois Senate seat, the main topic of the time was slavery in the Union. Douglas argued that the people of a state have the right to form their own laws, that democracy is based on that very principle, one called popular sovereignty. Thus, if the people of a state choose to allow slavery then the will of the people should be respected. Lincoln, however, disagreed. His view was that the Union could not stand being divided among states that allowed slavery and those that did not. This was a point of great contention at the time and it threatened to become violent as it eventually did. Lincoln, in my view, was a wise man. He understood human nature and he spoke about it with great eloquence.

    "If slavery did not now exist among them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up. This I believe of the masses North and South. Doubtless there are individuals on both sides, who would not hold slaves under any circumstances; and others who would gladly introduce slavery anew, if it were out of existence."

    Lincoln argued that any new states entering the Union should not be permitted to allow slavery; he did not want to fight the Southern states over their right to slavery. He felt that since the slave trade itself had been outlawed, it made no sense to allow slavery's existence to grow beyond its current area, even if the people of the newly formed state did so desire it. A good many people were troubled by this line of reasoning. If people in any one region must submit to the will of another, where does the power lay? Why can a state not govern itself and under what circumstances can one state force another to conform? The flip side is the question: how can one state let its partner maintain a stance that it is morally obligated to oppose? What is the federal power to do when the problem is not in its jurisdiction (as slavery was not generally considered to be at the time)? Is it sound judgment to seize federal jurisdiction where none was previously for the sake of cohesion within the Union?

    It required the American Civil War to ultimately settle the question but it did not quell the problem entirely. To this day, issues of race continue to be an albatross around the American neck.

    This past election day, eleven states voted to limit marriage to one woman and one man. Eight of those states also prohibited any civil-union or partnership between same-sex couples. These measures were not given the clear majority of 51-49 as Mr. Bush has won for himself. These measures soared into the stratosphere with 75-25 or 66-33 victories (with the exception of Oregon, 57-43).

    That, my friends, is the sound of history repeating itself.

    11.04.2004

    Dating, So Not For Me

    I was at a friend's party, laughing it up, munching on snacks, meeting cool people. One of those people was Lisa, a friend of the host. She and I were chatting it up, joking around, a very casual interaction, when she asked for my phone number. I was in the middle of giving it to her when I realized, wait, she's asking for my phone number. Holy crap, this girl is interested in a date. With me! I asked for her number posthaste. I was completely oblivious to any flirting that may or may not have been occurring, maybe that was what she thought was appealing, who can say.

    I got a few nudges and winks from the guys with whom I had gone to the party. They knew me and my lack of effort with women. Picking up was just not something I was particularly interested in. Not that I was against dating, it just wasn't a priority for me.

    We called each other a few times. She had gone to ballet school, liked this band and that band, did this and that over the summer, the usual ice breaking stuff. We agree to meet. She was living on her own out in the West Island while I lived in the relatively central neighbourhood of NDG. I took a metro and a helluva long bus rde to her place. Sitting on the bus, fall colours rolling outside the windows, I contemplated this first date. I had only had a couple first dates at this point and they had usually been comfortable, conversational outings. I was going straight to her place. My imagination developed all sorts of sordid scenarios and I hoped none of them occurred. The last thing I was interested in was a cheap tryst. Hormones notwithstanding, I was just looking to get to know this girl.

    It was brisk and windy Sunday afternoon, the sky undecided as to whether it would be overcast or bright blue. I stepped off the bus, scanned the street for the number of her place and rang the bell. I walked up painted wooden steps into a one room apartment, a mattress on the floor and a simple second-hand table rounding out the studential decor. I had a cup of tea as we made small talk. While she had a table, there were no chairs in sight so we sat ourselves down on the edge of her mattress. I can't say whether or not she expected (or feared) anything more than talk sitting on her bed. I did my best to ignore any untoward implications of our seating location. After a while, I began to relax. Pleasant company, a quiet day of talk; these are things I like. Ten seconds after I start to feel comfortable, Lisa informs me her friends should be here shortly.

    Uh, what?

    Soon after, three of her good friends arrive, brightly and sprightly nattering away. You know that gaggle of girls at the back of the bus making a lot of noise and giggling far too often? I was now on a date with all of them. We hopped in a car, popped into McD's for a bite and ended up at the figure skater's well-appointed house (God forbid I ever remember their names). I couldn't have said more than a dozen words as they fluttered about the room like the gold and crimson leaves on the grass outside. I was stunned.

    After a long enough period of being politely quiet, I said I had to leave and catch my bus back into town. Lisa walked me to the stop. The pleasant conversation of earlier was long dead. We walked in stilted silence as I tried to phrase an impossibly awkward sentiment. How do you tell someone that you don't want to see them anymore? After one date, no less. It was a situation I had never been in before and one that I struggled with as we approached the stop.

    "Listen, I think it would be best if we just stayed friends."

    I don't know how that sounded to her but it was what I said. We exchanged chaste kisses on the cheek and Lisa walked back to rejoin her friends. I waited alone for the bus to take me away from an awful experience. It was cool, dark and windy; a typical autumn night.