Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dolcet Tones

This morning's Queen streetcar commute nearly rendered me postal before I'd even reached work. I had one of those drivers who just can't shut up. Short of announcing that there's an accident ahead and the car is delayed, or that we've been short turned, there is no further reason to chat up the passengers. Not now that the TTC has installed an automatic public address system that not only displays the next stop on a digital sign, but also announces it on the speaker.

Now before you get all Luddite on my ass, realize that this doesn't mean the driver, in a pique of civil mindedness, doesn't still feel the need to announce (or bloody sing in some cases) not only the stop, but the buses and the local services...within a ten-block radius...with a "time stamp." Who needs to know that the beer store is closed at 8am? If I do, I'm either unemployed or working nights and therefore asleep at home...not on the streetcar. The rest of us are sucking back coffee and thinking of our first proper drink at 5:15pm, thanks.

And so, as I shoved my anti-social iPod in my already hearing-impaired ears, I thought of Emma Clarke, the ex voice of the London tube; she's been sacked. Apparently, she suffered the wrath of an un-civil servant's lack of humour...or lack public transit experience.

From the Mail on Sunday online:

“The thought of being stuck in the Tube with strangers for minutes on end and having to listen to endless repeated messages of my own voice fills me with horror,” she told the paper.

The whole experience reminds me of a scene from the film Croupier starring the very lovely Clive Owen. His character, Jack Manfred, is heading to his new job as a casino blackjack dealer, is packed in a train like one of many sardines, and clinging to a handrail: "I hate public transport."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


If you're old enough to remember when the Beach Boys (minus Brian Wilson) released this crap single, then you may cotton on to what I mean by it: shit music made by has-been geezers to cash-in on nostalgia. Hawaiian shirts are optional.

Nostalgia is like tequila: fun in small doses, but know when to cut yourself off before it gets ugly. This goes for so-called 80s music as it does for 60s, but Generation X's market share isn't as big as the Baby Boomers', who, it seems can't hold their liquor.

To see that I'm not alone, check out Jon Fine's media column in Business Week where he comments on David Brooks' op-ed piece "The Segmented Society" in the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Filled to Bursting

Planning a good ol' fashioned booze up? Well, there's a lot to worry about: cash for the tab, cash for the cab, having mates around to remind you how fucked up you were...oh and remembering to pee.

Yeah, pee. Now for us light-weights, it pretty much happens without any prompting: two pints and I'm racing to the toilet. Then each pint after equals yet another trip. Some would think that was embarrassing, but the Guardian kindly put my mind and weak bladder to rest. You see, binge drinking can lead to...


You think that's funny? Well here's a yummy description:

The mechanics of this gruesome problem are relatively straightforward. Alcohol is diuretic - it makes you urinate more - hence the sight of drunk people urinating in the streets on a Saturday night. Alcohol is also an anaesthetic: it dulls the urge to go. The combination of large volumes of urine, and a dimmed, possibly non-existent urge to pee can result in a seriously over-full bladder.

While most people will just let the urine out one way or another (possibly in their sleep), some will be so "dulled" that they will not feel the urge to "void". If it is not emptied, the bladder will eventually be unable to contain the volume, and - like any over-full bag - can burst apart under the pressure. A minor trauma - say, falling down and bumping your over-full bladder during a drunken binge - can also increase the likelihood of this happening.

According to this article, the 3 to 4 cm rupture is big enough to allow urine poison you from inside.

Makes a person want to jump back on the wagon....ok no it doesn't. Just makes me want to pee.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Latest Shiny Toy

Joel Johnson from Boing Boing reviews Amazon's Kindle, the latest ebook reader. Apparently, it's got potential. Still, I bet it would really suck if you got beach sand in it, or dropped it on the bus, or it fell in the tub, or your husband/wife tossed to the bedroom floor in the heat of passion.

Meanwhile, sadly, back on the home front, Americans are reading less and getting stupider as a result. In a New York Times story, a study by the National Endowment for the Arts shows that students' grades drop in most disciplines when reading isn't an active part of their lives. That's not just books, that's anything: magazines, newspapers, etc. While some would argue its a condition of income, the NYT reports that
Although some of those results could be attributed to income gaps, Mr. Iyengar noted that students who lived in homes with more than 100 books but whose parents only completed high school scored higher on math tests than those students whose parents held college degrees (and were therefore likely to earn higher incomes) but who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books.

So, in the future, there will be ebook readers but no readers of books?

There May Be Snow on the Roof

From today's International Herald Tribute

"There's a difference between love as it is presented in movies and music as this jazzy sexy thing that involves bikini underwear and what love actually turns out to be," said the psychologist Mary Pipher, whose book "Another Country" looked at the emotional life of the elderly.

"The really interesting script isn't that people like to have sex," she said. "The really interesting script is what people are willing to put up with.

"Young love is about wanting to be happy," she continued. "Old love is about wanting someone else to be happy."

Lovely. Fingers crossed...