Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Blogging is ruining my life!

Someone. Please. Tear. Me. Away. From. This. Computer.

I think I'm addicted to the internet. I blame my job. You see, every morning I have to scan the major media outlets and find out what's making news that day. And if someone somewhere is writing something about the environment, it's my job to stay on top of it.

At first, I just scanned the national newspapers, tv stations and radio stations online. Now, I'm also trolling through blogs to find out who's saying what.

But I'm starting to feel like someone with a drinking problem -- the girl who starts with a glass and ends with the bottle. It starts with a glance at the latest entry in someone's blog and the next thing you know, I've just spent an hour going through their entire site.

Why are blogs so compelling? How can we be captivated by the ramblings of complete strangers? Is it weird that I'm writing this on a blog of my own without a shred of irony? And why are you reading this anyway?

I like blogs. I like blogging. I like their immediate nature and the public discourse they generate. Politics makes my blood boil sometimes and that's why I like reading Paul Wells' blog. It's a small, sometimes gossipy, window into the news behind the news on Parliament Hill. (Would be a better site without his boring jazz references though. What kind of sicko listens to just one musical genre?)

I also feel a kinship with people who are concerned about the future of the world with George W. at the helm of the United States. So I click onto Bill Doskoch's blog because he culls good stuff about U.S. politics and blogging and journalism that generally fits in with my world view.

And because I read an article about him in the Globe and Mail, I've been reading the Accordion Guy's blog too. I've never met this guy but for some strange reason, I find his life interesting. I've also been enjoying On The Fence. I could go on. And on.

So, does all this make me a voyeur? An exhibitionist? Probably a bit of both.

But I'm also a news junkie, a pop culture addict, a voracious reader (of everything, including the cereal box). I'm fascinated by people and the horrible, wonderful, scary, funny, interesting things that they do. And I use the internet to find out what they're up to.

Yeah, it's a machine, it's impersonal, it's screwing up our ability to have face-to-face conversations, blah, blah, blah. But it's real flesh and blood people that are writing and reading this stuff on the other side of the screen.

That said, I'm going to take a break from blogging for a few days. I'm heading up to Muskoka with some friends on Thursday for a nature fix. Sort of. Muskoka's more like Toronto without the skyscrapers and the concrete. But it'll do. I'm looking forward to spending New Year's in a quiet place where I can see the stars and pass out drunk in a snowbank.

Then I'm flying back to Vancouver. Thanks for reading. Or fuelling my addiction. I'll be back in 2005.


Monday, December 27, 2004

Minutes from the real Fab Five's AGM

Way back when I was in high school, I founded the Pink Ladies Club. It was, and still is, a very exclusive club. There are only five members -- myself and my four younger sisters.

In the early years, official club activities consisted of going to 7-11 for slushies and pulling pranks on non-members (like the time we ran a pair of my brother's tighty whities up a flag pole). We set up a donation box in the front hallway of our house, and held secret meetings in the basement.

But the club kind of fizzled out after we got older and left home for university. So we started having an Annual General Meeting during the Christmas break instead. I'd send out the invitations and write up an agenda about a month in advance. I'd also arrange to have a keynote speaker address the club (usually my mom or dad). We talk about lots of things during the meeting (most of which is too R-rated for this G-rated blog).

We held this year's AGM at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen Street last night (much more civilized than the time we rented an unheated yurt in Algonquin Park and froze our asses off in minus 30 degree weather).

Being the oldest, and therefore the most responsible, I cleared everyone's calendars, booked a room, and planned the agenda. We checked in yesterday afternoon. Or I should say, I checked in while everyone else hid in the lobby (the rate was based on a two-person occupancy).

We then went skating across the street at City Hall. I spent most of my time colliding into little kids. I haven't quite mastered the stopping thing. At a rink, I just slam into the boards if I need to stop. But outdoors, there are no boards to slam into. Only little kids.

Citytv was there doing a story about the bitterly cold weather. We tried to get on camera but they didn't think the Annual General Meeting of the Pink Ladies Club was newsworthy. Or at least not as newsworthy as the fact it was cold outside on Dec. 26 in Toronto.

Skating was followed by a swim in the outdoor pool. We even had a long soak in the hot tub despite my horror stories about the vile stuff I pulled out of the hot tub filters when I worked at the Sheraton as a teenage lifeguard. (Thankfully, they had replaced the hot tub since I had left so I didn't have any nasty dead skin, hair, condom flashbacks.)

No one liked my suggestion of sneaking into the staff cafeteria for some curried goat. (The best part about working at the Sheraton was that we got one free meal a day in the staff cafeteria, usually curried goat. I was feeling nostalgic.)

So we ordered pizza instead. Since the phone in our room wasn't working, we missed the pizza guy the first time he came by. He came back with our cold pizza an hour later after I figured out that the phone wasn't working. The people at the front desk turned him away when they couldn't get through to our room. At least we got free room service dessert because of the screw up.

I'm worried I've raised the bar a little too high. Now I'm not sure how we can top our night at the Sheraton next year.

Friday, December 24, 2004

New Year's predictions

Last night, I got together with some friends to make our annual New Year's predictions. We don't make resolutions. We make predictions. It's more fun and less binding.

A little context first.

A long time ago (1997) in a land far, far away (Saint John, New Brunswick), there lived an ink-stained girl who slaved night and day writing stories for a newspaper.

The girl was me and my first day of work was terrifying. I didn't know anyone, didn't know the city, didn't even realize New Brunswick wasn't an island. My hands shook a little less when I looked around the newsroom and realized half the staff of the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal were in their 20s.

After filing my first story about a kid who claimed he was the victim of a drive-by shooting (he wasn't), Marni, Dan and Laura (the aforementioned 20-somethings) invited me out for a drink.

We quickly became inseparable. On Dec. 31, 1997, we were hanging out at Laura's apartment where I suggested we should make some New Year's resolutions. Someone, I think it was Marni, said we should make New Year's predictions for each other instead.

And so, a tradition was born. Every year since 1997, the four of us have gotten together to make our annual New Year's predictions. I left New Brunswick in 2000 and Dan, Laura and Marni all got jobs in Toronto. So we still end up in the same city for the holidays and make a point of getting together to make our New Year's predictions.

It almost never became a tradition, though. The first prediction they made for me in 1997 was that things wouldn't work out with a certain photographer I thought I was falling in love with. I was so angry that I almost walked out the door. But a strange thing happened. They were right. Things didn't work out with the photographer. And, in time, I was okay with that.

Our predictions are brutally honest and sometimes harsh. Like the time Marni predicted Laura and her boyfriend Craig would break up. Well, they didn't. And there were some hard feelings for a little while.

Or the time I had my heart set on teaching English in Japan for a year or two. Someone predicted that was never going to happen. I was pissed. But, once again, they were right. By 2003, I was getting tired of always having their negative predictions come true. So I demanded only good predictions.

Instead of predicting good things, they said David Suzuki and I would get into a fight and I'd get fired in 2004. Thankfully, that never happened.

Last night, the four of us got together to make our New Year's predictions once again. Here's what they predicted for me for 2005.

- I will get in trouble with the law
- I will date a police officer
- I will date a 22-year-old, possibly a police cadet
- I will hang out with a bad crowd and start doing heroin
- I will not get a new job

I have a prediction of my own. I predict that 2005 is the year that my friends' crappy predictions don't come true.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Drinks at the "Tango Hotel"

I am officially uncool. While this may have been painfully obvious to others for a very long time, it is news to me.

I just found out at dinner tonight. After we'd finished eating our curried chicken and rice, my sister Jane stood up and said, "Who wants to go for some after dinner drinks at the Tango Hotel?"

"The Tango Hotel? Where's that?" I asked, thinking it was some new trendy hot spot on Queen Street West.

To my surprise, this was met with loud laughter. I didn't realize I had said something funny, so I repeated my question.

"No. Seriously. Where's the Tango Hotel? I've never heard of it."

More laughter. Louder this time. My dad tried to give me a hint.

"Think about it," he said. "TH. What does TH stand for?"

Really confused now, I blurted out, "The Old Sod?"

Even louder laughter. TH? What could TH possibly stand for? Somewhere you can get drinks. But where? It was a brain twister.

"Hello? You're the one who was going on all night about how lubricated your brain was so figure it out," said Jane.

It's true. I spent a good part of dinner telling my family about my "brain lubrication" theory. Basically, when you use your brain a lot, it becomes well lubricated, and when something is well lubricated, it just works a lot better and the thoughts and ideas slide around all over the place.

Eventually, they got tired of making fun of me. My dad explained that Tango Hotel is cop code for Tim Hortons. Get it? TH? Tango, hotel (radio call speak). Tim Hortons? Turns out, I was the only one in my family who wasn't hip to this little saying.

It's one of the things my mom has learned on the job as head of the Mobile Crisis Response Team at St. Michael's Hospital. She wears a bullet proof vest and goes out on emergency calls with the police whenever they have to deal with mentally ill people (the result of a high-profile coroner's inquest after Toronto police shot and killed a guy with schizophrenia who refused to drop a hammer he had raised when confronted by police in 1997). Her job is to get the police to stop shooting mentally ill people.

She's out there during hostage takings and stabbings and all kinds of crazy shit that goes down in Toronto. But she comes home and tells us about the cop code for Tim Hortons instead. The excitement I miss while living in Vancouver. Sigh.

On an unrelated note, I watched Global News today and was amazed at the "Oh my God it's going to snow tonight!!!!!" newscast. They spent 15 minutes of the front end of the newscast talking about: 1) how it's going to snow tonight, 2) how people at the Toronto airport sure were hoping to get on their flights before the snowstorm, 3) how it sure is fun to take the train, 4) how to drive properly in icy, snowy conditions.

Holy crap, people. You'd think it had never snowed in Toronto before. Was it a slow news day or is this how all local news stations operate? I vaguely remember writing my share of "Oh my God it's going to snow" stories when I was a journalist. I was earnest enough to think it was something that really mattered.

I'm becoming so cynical. And it's two days before Christmas. Okay. I'll stop now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Caffeine withdrawal + family overdose = massive headache

Today is the first day in about five? seven? eight? years that I have not started the morning with some sort of caffeinated beverage. And now I have a massive caffeine withdrawal headache because of it.

I'm not intentionally trying to cut back on tea or coffee. I just kind of lost track of time and then when I realized I hadn't had my daily caffeine hit, it was too late in the afternoon. So I skipped it altogether. I'd rather have a headache and be able to sleep, than have a latte at 5 p.m. and be wired until 4 a.m.

Is it me or does time go by unnaturally quickly in Toronto? Everything's always in motion here. I kind of like the energy though. It's a nice change from Vancouver. Whenever I'm in Toronto, something's always happening from the minute I wake up until, well, now.

Like today. Woke up around 11 a.m., had breakfast, read the Toronto Star, drove my sisters to my dad's office so that they could help him shred some documents. Then I drove my dad to the local pool and drove myself to the far-away pool for a swim. I wanted to test out the facilities at the Etobicoke Olympium because that's where Nationals are being held in 2005. Plus, I love driving. I don't know if I should admit that. It might be a firing offense. But driving is so exhilarating. I'd probably feel differently if I actually owned a car and drove all the time.

Anyway, got yelled at during public swim because I was swimming in circles (I thought that's what you were supposed to do at public swim). The lady and her son sharing my lane wanted us to split the lane so that they could float on their backs while I swam 100s.

"You swim on your side. You stay out of our side," she yelled at me in broken English. God I hate public swim.

Let's see. What else? Drove back to my dad's office. Had lunch. Picked up my sisters who were surfing the internet instead of shredding documents. Drove them home, where we spent a couple of hours sitting on the couch. At one point, my 17-year-old sister, who was doing an ab workout on the floor, was trying to explain what tea-bagging was to my 29-year-old sister. It went downhill from there.

After dinner, headed out to the King Street MEC to buy some last minute gifts, which I can't really talk about here as receivers of said gifts may be reading this blog. Then some more couch time with my sisters. Blogging and then bed.

As for tomorrow, rewind and replay. Someone hit the pause button. Please.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Air Canada horror show

I love flying. Well, no, that's not exactly true. I love the idea of flying, but I hate the harsh reality of it.

I swear, the next time I hear Celine Dion singing "you and I were meant to fly," I'm going to throw my slipper at the TV (I know, I know. Kind of lame but I don't want to hurt the TV while protesting one commercial).

Has that woman been anywhere near an actual Air Canada flight lately? I'm guessing "no" because if she has, I strongly suspect the lyrics to her little song would go something like, "You and I were meant to fly in private Lear jets because flying economy class on Air Canada really sucks."

Had my own private Air Canada horror show today. Flew from Vancouver to Toronto. Didn't want to fly Air Canada but dammit they had the cheapest fare by about $200.

So I arrived at the Vancouver airport a good hour and a half before my flight. Thought it was a little inefficient that they only had two people working at the check-in desk seeing as how it's four days away from Christmas and all. Hmm...must have blown the budget on getting Celine Dion to sing her crappy song and forgot to save a little bling for some decent customer service.

Despite the fact that I was super early, the ticket agent informed me that there were no window or aisle seats left, only middle seats. Oh god. Not the dreaded middle seat. I was going to be stuck in a middle seat, probably between some guy wearing too much cologne and a teenage girl blabbing on her cell phone about last night's episode of Laguna Beach.

Actually, I ended up in the middle seat between a quiet, book-reading married guy on my right and a chatty, although very hungover and somewhat smelly, frat boy on my left. So not as bad as I imagined.

What was worse than I imagined was the baby two rows over. The kid cried on and off for four hours straight. Even though I was impressed by his lung capacity, I can't even describe how awful this was. He sounded like a squealing pig. But worse, like a squealing pig who escaped from a barn only to be caught in a leg trap in the woods. It was so bad, I had to listen to the enRoute "radio station" just to block out the noise.

I could go on. But I think I'm getting post-traumatic stress disorder by reliving my experience. Anyway, I'm here. In Toronto, where it's minus 20 with the wind chill. My sister Jane arrives in a couple of hours from Boston so we're going to head back out to the airport to pick her up. She's flying American Airlines, so hopefully she'll have had a better flight than me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Brief adventures in internet dating

Two weeks ago, I did something I’ve never done before – I posted a personal ad on Lava Life.

Internet dating has come a long way since its infancy when it was considered a last resort for desperate losers with no social skills. Now everyone is logging on, hanging out and hooking up.

My cousin met her future husband on-line, and many of my gay friends are skipping the bar scene and heading straight to gaydar instead.

I figured, what the hell? I’ll try anything once. So on a dark Sunday night, I logged on, uploaded a picture of myself, wrote a few clever lines, and sat back and waited for Mr. Right to magically appear in my in-box.

Almost immediately, the men started rolling in. Some seemed nice. A few seemed not so nice. Many were over 50. One was a dead-ringer for Fabio.

As I clicked through each of their profiles, it became clear I was going to have to meet them face-to-face to get a sense of who they really were.

And then it hit me. I suddenly realized I don’t want to go out on lots of dates with lots of guys. It’s like an endless string of job interviews. No, it’s worse than a job interview. Every weekend, I’d be telling some guy my life story, over and over again.

So after two short weeks in cyber space, I deleted my profile from Lava Life. All of my best relationships have happened by accident. Usually, I was friends with a guy. There’d be no attraction and we’d get to know each other on a platonic level. Then one day, I’d suddenly realize I was hanging out with the most amazing guy I’d ever met and then blamo! we’d start dating.

My brief adventures in internet dating also reminded me that I like my life just the way it is. If the right guy comes along, that’s great. But I’m in no rush to go out and find him. I’m just going to let it happen by accident.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

In search of Vancouver's 'nightlife'

My friend Carl and I decided to go out dancing on Thursday night. The last time we went out together on a Thursday night, we ended up at a gay bar with the entire dance floor to ourselves. You could practically hear the crickets chirping.

This time, we decided to go to a straight bar in the hopes of finding Vancouver’s elusive Thursday night hot spot. The first place we hit seemed promising. But once we got past the metal detector, and the haze from the smoke machine cleared, we realized we were the only people in the club.

So we chugged our watered-down drinks and hailed a cab to ‘80s night in Gastown. Unfortunately, our cab driver didn’t know how to navigate the 10 blocks or so from Granville Street to Gastown and started driving the wrong way through red lights at about 90 km an hour. I squeezed my eyes shut while Carl, who also didn’t really know how to get to Gastown, tried to give directions.

After a few wrong turns, we eventually made it to Gastown but were forced to wait in line outside the club in the pouring rain. This gave me time to hatch a plan on how we both could get free drinks all night. All I had to do was make eye contact, smile, and start a conversation with random guys. When they asked if I’d like a drink, I’d say yes and then ask for one for my friend (without disclosing the fact that my friend was an eccentric Quebecois male).

Once inside, I put the plan into action. Despite the fact there were hundreds of potential drink buyers in the room, my attempts at subtle flirtation were getting us nowhere. Carl claimed no guys were approaching me because I was hanging around him, which was barely true considering he spent half the night in the bathroom or at the bar.

As we made our way onto the crowded dance floor, a girl with long brown hair and a mesh tank top caught my eye – mainly because every time I turned around, she was kissing a different guy.

"That is how you get a guy to buy you a drink," Carl said.

The closest I got to any action was in the women’s washroom. I had exited the stall but was blocked at the sink by three girls crowded around the only mirror. They had pulled down their tops and were comparing their breasts. As I squeezed my way under three pairs of bare boobs to wash my hands, I overheard one of them complain about how small her breasts were. To which her friend replied, "At least yours are real. Mine are so fake."

Next time I go out with Carl, I’m going to suggest we do it on a Friday night. I’m starting to think there’s a reason no one goes out on Thursday nights in Vancouver.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

So this is what drowning feels like...

A bunch of us from the English Bay Swim Club traveled a few kilometres west this morning to compete at the UBC Masters Swim Meet.

I love swim meets. Where else can you legitimately check out guys parading around in their speedos all day? When I was in high school, my friend Erin and I used the swim meets as an opportunity to pick up cute guys from other schools. Even though we never won any trophies or mustered up the courage to talk to those guys, we had lots of fun. Not much has changed since then.

But today, my attention was focused more on swimming, and less on guys. It was a bit of a scientific experiment. I wanted to see how I would do after cutting way back on my swimming this year.

I did the bare minimum in preparation for this meet. I’ve been swimming about four times a week since October. I’ve also been consuming a lot of alcohol and staying out way too late.

I figured I would either do horrible at the swim meet or do really well after having built up my endurance for Ironman. I was curious to see if lots of running and biking over the summer would translate into faster times in the pool. So it was a bit of a surprise to have smashed all of my personal records.

To be honest, it really hurt. My arms felt like lead, my lungs were burning and my legs didn’t seem to have any power. Plus, I always get so nervous when I’m up on the blocks that I feel like throwing up or passing out.

Here are my results:
  1. 400 metres freestyle: 5:31.39, 1st place
  2. 200 metres freestyle: 2:32.64, 1st place
  3. 100 metres freestyle: 1:08.46, 1st place
  4. 50 metres freestyle: 31.27, 1st place
  5. 200 metres freestyle relay: 2:02.89, 2nd place