Friday, January 27, 2006

Fun with words: Part II

Almost a month after I announced that one of my goals for 2006 is to invent a new word, I’ve finally made some headway.

Well, technically, I haven’t done a damn thing. But regular readers of this blog flooded my in-box with ideas. Which got me thinking. Why should I do any work when you guys are more than willing to do it for me?

So I’ve compiled your suggestions and listed them below. Some are awesome (hotrob). Some are not so awesome (dojo sapien). But we’re still at the brainstorming stage so, you know, no judgement.

Ultimately, the real challenge is to create a word or saying so pithy it becomes part of the pop culture lexicon. Like "off the hook" or "couch potato" or even "blog."

So in the spirit of keeping the English language fresh and confusing, here's a first crack at creating a new word or saying:

Carbohysteria: Worrying obsessively about how many grains you’re eating (submitted by Craig).

Dojo sapien: Guys who take martial arts way too seriously (submitted by Craig).

Hangry: A bad mood brought on by hunger. Used to describe the state people are in when they are so hungry they get crabby. Once they get some food into themselves, they are actually quite cheery (submitted by Tamara).

Hotrob: A person or animal that grossly overestimates his or her own physical attractiveness. This is not meant to be synonymous with narcissist, which is more like excessive self-love. It’s simply a term to describe someone who sees themselves in an overly optimistic light relative to how other people actually perceive them (kind of like the way my mother sees me). Example of usage: "It’s hard to believe Craig thinks he’s in Laura’s league, what a hotrob." We may want to include a phonetic treatment as well, to ensure that no one mispronounces it "ho-trob" (submitted by Chach).

Minoritory: The current state of uncertainty in Canadian politics. It’s a combination of minority and purgatory, with the added bonus that purgatory ends in Tory (submitted by Craig).

Spearfisher: Used to describe those gentlemen who go out to bars with the sole objective of a commitment-free evening of lust. In honour of those who only hunt with their spear. Although not terribly clever, I like this term because it is easy, digestible and stands a good chance of being picked up by lame, frat-happy chums around the country looking for a new way to say "I want to get laid" (submitted by Chach).

Washing the undies: Blogging about the most tedious, minute, personal non-events to an unresponsive readership (submitted by Classic).

It’s a good start. I’m excited about this project. And we still have 11 months left to invent a word or saying. So keep sending me your ideas and I’ll post regular progress reports. Then we’ll vote on the best word and I’ll mail the winner some sort of prize.

But the fun doesn’t end there. Once we settle on the word, Chach and I will start thinking about a marketing strategy. We’re going to mainstream this shit up.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

This guy needs to get out more often

James writes about his experience counting ballots. It's a great read, and not just because he says meeting me was one of his election day highlights. The fact that he calls me "talented and clever" and a "renowned triathlete" also has nothing to do with why I am linking to him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ballots, bribes and high-class hookers

I used to think I was a patient and easy-going person. The kind of person who could get along with anyone. And then I met Keith.

Keith is a 60-year-old retired cab driver. He’s been shot and stabbed and has the scars to prove it. His marriage broke up after he caught his wife in bed with another man. He has two daughters he hasn’t spoken to in years. He quit smoking two weeks ago but when he laughs you can still hear the phlegm rattling around inside his chest.

Keith is also really bad at math. He's the reason why Vancouver Centre was the last place in Canada to report its election results last night. But I'll get to that a little later on.

I met Keith yesterday. We sat side by side behind a small table for almost 16 hours. I was a deputy returning officer and he was my poll clerk. Together, we registered voters and handed out ballots during the election.

Except our polling station didn’t get busy until the afternoon, which gave us lots of time to talk.

Now, I don’t mind listening to people when they have something interesting to say. But when they are loud and obnoxious, it can be exhausting. Especially when they talk non-stop for 16 straight hours.

Before the polls even opened, Keith had already asked me if he could braid my hair at least a dozen times. I figured he’d get tired of asking if I kept saying no. But two hours later, he was still begging me to let him touch my hair.

"Come on. Let me braid your hair."

I told him if asked me one more time, I would have him removed from the building. So he started complaining to everyone who came to our polling station to vote.

"She won’t let me braid her hair."

I just kept my head down and tried to ignore him. I even pulled out a book, thinking he would get the hint. But he just kept talking.

He told me stories so wild I didn’t know whether to believe him or not.

"I used to hang out with high-class hookers," he said. "I didn’t have sex with ‘em. We were just friends."

His favourite story was the time he kicked a very drunk and verbally abusive Elizabeth Taylor out of his cab. He brought it up at least once every hour.

When a Conservative scrutineer sat down at our table, Keith told her she smelled good and asked what kind of perfume she was wearing. I cringed when she told him it was Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. Here we go again, I thought.

At 9 a.m., Keith ate some pepperoni that ended up giving him bad gas. When he told me about his upset stomach, I asked him if there was anything I could get him.

"A kiss," he replied.

By 10 a.m., my patience was running thin.

"Look," I told him. "We’re here to do a very important job and you’re not taking it seriously. You’re not being very professional."

He thought I was kidding. And then he started asking if he could lay his head on my shoulder so he could take a nap.

By 11 a.m., Keith was telling me how sexy he thought the NDP scrutineer was. Which was creepy considering she was about 40 years younger than he was. His eyes kept following her all over the room. He even named her "swivel hips" because of the way she walked.

"Oh, there goes swivel hips," he’d say every time she left her seat. "Look at her! You could walk like that if you wanted to."

I thought if I tried to engage Keith in a serious conversation we could find some common ground. So I decided to ask him what made him want to work the election, thinking we could talk about the importance of democracy and how exciting it was to get involved.

But Keith just held his hand up in front of his face and rubbed his fingers together. Money. And then he told me he had forgotten to vote. "It just slipped my mind!"

So we went back to talking about how much he loves younger women. Older women can’t keep up with him on the dance floor. He asked me if I had a boyfriend. I lied and said I did.

By 2 p.m., the polling station started getting busier. As I folded the ballots and handed them to the voters, Keith stared at me and gave a running commentary.

"You’re so dainty."

"You’re so petite."

"You have piano player fingers."

"Your hands are really thin."

"Let me braid your hair."

But the real nightmare began when the polls closed. After we counted the votes, we had to balance the number of ballots against the number of names crossed off our list. Keith was responsible for crossing off the names and making sure the numbers added up.

The problem was that Keith couldn’t add and had made all kinds of sloppy mistakes throughout the day. Which is strange considering he claims he once worked as a Bay Street stockbroker. So we ended up recounting five times before the numbers finally matched.

In case you were wondering why Vancouver Centre was the last place in Canada to report its results last night, it’s because of Keith.

Keith, of course, blamed me. "How could I do my job when you’re so beautifully distracting?"

So I’m really sorry about the delay in Vancouver Centre. It was totally Keith’s fault.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (shudder)

Okay. So we now have a Conservative minority government. I can live with that.

But I can't quite wrap my head around the fact that Stephen Harper is our newest prime minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Yeah, it just doesn't feel natural.

There's something "off" about the whole thing. It makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way. I never, ever would have thought a Reform MP would one day lead the country.

He's on TV in my living room right now. I can't exactly make out what he's saying but I can hear lots of cheering over the clatter of my keyboard. Fuck this is weird. But kind of exciting at the same time.

So long, Paul Martin. I raise my glass to a stronger, more effective Liberal Party rising up out of the ashes. And cheers to the NDP Party for giving us Jack Layton and Olivia Chow. It warms my heart to hear those sexy lefties will finally be in Ottawa together.

More tomorrow when my body is less tired and my thoughts more collected. Right now, all I can think about is crawling into bed. So I think I will do that. Goodnight!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Canada votes!

If you believe the polls, we will end up with a pro-Bush, anti-Kyoto, Christian Reformer for a prime minister tomorrow night.

Then again, the polls erroneously predicted a Stephen Harper victory the last time around. So anything could happen.

Heck, even a Liberal majority is possible. Not bloody likely, but possible. I know at least 15 people who are abandoning the NDP to vote Liberal for the first time in their lives because they are terrified of a Conservative majority.

Personally, my ideal government would be a Liberal majority with the NDP as the official opposition. But I think a Conservative minority is exactly what we need right now.

Jack Layton is right when he says the Liberals need a "time out." They need time to regroup, get rid of Paul Martin, elect a new leader (hello, Frank McKenna) and come back stronger than ever to blow the Conservatives away during the next election.

There's nothing scary about a minority Conservative government. It will be very difficult for Stephen Harper to renege on Kyoto and repeal gay marriage.

Plus, Stephen Harper won't be able to keep the old Reform Party wingnuts quiet once they're in power. Someone is going to say something stupid (hello, Stockwell Day) and Canadians will realize they don't want a ragtag group of extremists running the country.

It's not going to be pretty. It's going to be like getting drunk at a bar and waking up the next morning with a nasty ass stranger in your bed and a sick feeling in your stomach, thinking "Oh god. What have I done?" (I’m not speaking from personal experience, I just couldn’t think of a better analogy.)

Happy voting!

I've packed my bags and I'm ready to go

So I've spent most of the day getting ready for my 16-hour shift as a deputy returning officer during the election tomorrow.

I feel like I'm packing to go on a camping trip. We're not allowed to leave the polling station once we get there so we have to bring all the food, drink and entertainment we need to keep us going from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

I've got enough supplies in my backpack to last a week in the mountains:

- Two vegetable samosas
- Three bananas
- One large bag of Spicy Doritos
- A dozen gingersnap cookies
- Two sandwiches (turkey breast, brie, lettuce, sundried tomato and basil homus)
- One large bar of dark chocolate
- One litre of water
- A thermos of hot tea
- A tub of cold pasta salad
- Reading materials, including a little Mordecai Richler, some Haruki Murakami, and the latest issue of Vanity Fair
- My CD walkman
- A pillow to sit on in case the chair is hard
- An extra sweater in case it's cold
- A t-shirt in case it's hot
- My EpiPen and some Benadryl
- Some Advil in case I get a headache
- Cash and ID in case I meet some cool peeps that invite me out for drinks after the votes are counted

I haven't even figured out what I'm going to wear. Sexy, conservative or comfortable? Hair up or down? Argh! So many things to do before I sleep. Not to mention the fact that I have to study the training manual to make sure I don't screw anything up tomorrow.

It's going to be a very long, but very exciting day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Cute overload

Oh my god. This is my new favourite website of all time.

It will melt your heart. It will turn your brain to mush. It will make your eyes go googly. Don't fight it! Give in to the cute.

In related news, if these two critters can get along, anyone can.

"I've never seen anything like it. Gohan sometimes even climbs onto Aochan to take a nap on his back."

Awwww . . .

Monday, January 16, 2006

27 days of rain

We were so close. Just two more days of rain and we would have broken the record. But the sky cleared yesterday after 27 consecutive days of rain. So the old record -- 28 straight days of rain in 1953 -- still stands.

I'm more depressed about missing the record than I am about the rainy weather. I was rooting for rain all weekend. I was actually annoyed when the sun came out. It's like quitting a marathon with two kilometres left in the race. All that suffering for nothing.

The worst part is that it rained briefly in downtown Vancouver yesterday but it didn't rain at the airport where the official rain gauge is kept. If it doesn't rain at the airport, it doesn't count for the record keepers. So now we have to start all over again.

In a cruel twist of fate, it has been pouring rain all day today.

The sogginess isn't really that bad, though. I'm not about to jump out of my apartment window. Mostly because I live on the first floor and jumping out the window wouldn't accomplish much. I'd probably just twist an ankle.

Besides, it's January not July. It's cold and dark outside. It's not like we'd be lying on the beach or sipping mojitos on a patio if it wasn't raining. It would have been cool to break a record and end up in the history books. I'm really choked up about this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

If there were an Oscar for best training video, this one would win

I've been hired to work a 16-hour shift as a deputy returning officer on election day. My job will be to hand out and collect the ballots at a polling station in Vancouver Centre. At the end of the night, I will be responsible for counting the ballots and reporting the results to the returning officer.

It's not as easy as it sounds. I spent three hours at a training session today where we were given a mind-numbing amount of detailed instructions. We learned how to seal a ballot box, how to register an unlisted voter and what to do in the event of a bomb threat ("Do not attempt to locate the explosive device on your own").

We were then treated to an Elections Canada training video on how to manage a polling station. If there were an Oscar for best training video, this one would win hands down. It had everything -- bad acting, cheesy music, lame jokes and a production budget of about $10.

The video starred an elderly woman in the role of deputy returning officer. Borrowing heavily from classic buddy cop movies like 48 Hours, a young black guy was picked to play her sidekick. We watched "Christine" and "Richard" head off potentially ugly scenes on election day.

Like when a bearded, shaggy haired guy in a leather jacket stormed up to the polling station and started yelling at Christine and Richard.


"Yikes," said the narrator. "Be patient but stand firm. It's not always easy."

Christine sprang into action. She was patient and polite. And she smiled a lot, which is something the narrator reminded us to do over and over.

"I'm sorry, sir. You'll have to go to the registration desk," she said.


Christine explained she would let him skip the lineup after he was finished at the registration desk. Suddenly, the man's tone changed dramatically.

"Okay thanks," he said and walked away.

The video was also full of handy tips. For example, if someone rolls up to the polling station in a wheelchair, we were told to "greet them the same way you would greet any other elector."

I was one of the few people in the room who had never worked an election before. Luckily, I was sitting beside a grizzled veteran of five elections who offered me some sage advice: "Bring lots of food. You're not allowed to leave and they don't give you any food or water or coffee. But don't put anything carbonated in your thermos. It'll get warm and explode."

The guy sitting on my left wasn't as helpful. He slept through most of the training session. Yes, we are the people who will be counting your ballots. Be afraid.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Five weird things about me

A lot of bloggers have been playing this fun little game where you post five weird things about yourself and then invite five other people to do the same thing. No one tagged me but I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon anyway. Is that weird?

Here goes:

1. I don't have any cavities. Which is weird considering my chocolate consumption keeps the Belgian economy booming.

2. I remember being born. No one believes me when I say this. But it's true. I swear! I remember being all confused and scared. I was like, "What’s happening? Where am I? Who are these people? Help!" According to my parents, I was born into a tub of water in a room with soft lighting and mood music. I'm told this was a groovy thing to do back in 1974. It was thought to make the transition from womb to world less traumatic. But that flaky New Age shit didn't work on me. I was too freaked out by my claustrophobic trip down the birth canal.

3. When I was in high school, I stopped drinking pop because I thought it gave me zits. I blamed the carbonation. I thought the bubbles entered my bloodstream and then traveled through my veins up to my head where they fizzed and popped under my skin. Beer, however, was exempt from this theory.

4. I get scared easily. I can't watch movies like the Exorcist or shows like the X-Files without getting nightmares. To me, E.T. was a horror movie. My dad took me to see it in the theatre when I was eight years old. I spent most of the movie with my hands over my eyes, frozen in fear. I was terrified of the ugly little alien. I remember feeling happy when he was dying because that meant I wouldn't have to look at him anymore. I wanted E.T. to die.

5. I like to dance while I wash the dishes.

UPDATE: Oops. I forgot to tag five other people. I’d like to see Andrew Coyne, Stephen Harper, Paul Wells, Monte Solberg and Maude Barlow reveal their inner weirdo. Nicole, you can play too.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Round II (ding, ding, ding)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Prime Minister Paul Martin. It's about as appetizing as choosing between fried fish eyes or boiled pig intestine. Both kind of make you want to vomit.

Or at least that's how I feel after watching tonight's leaders' debate. Let's face it, this is a two-horse race. On the upside, that means one of these guys will be history after Jan. 24.

I didn't learn much from tonight's debate. Each of the leaders seemed to focus on how bad the other guy was rather than on how good their own policies were.

Just like last time, Jack Layton told us to vote NDP after every single question. Unlike last time, Stephen Harper made a point of smiling. A lot. But he should have practiced in the mirror first.

He would randomly insert forced smiles as he talked about hospital wait times and getting tough on crime. Someone should have told him that it's only appropriate to smile when you say something clever or are trying to lighten the mood. Otherwise it just looks weird. He reminds me of poor Pinocchio, trying so hard to be human.

Paul Martin didn't fare much better. He was on the attack and was yelling so loudly that at one point I had to turn down the volume. Martin didn't inspire much confidence. He even seemed scared. Things aren't looking good for the Liberals.

Harper clearly had the upper hand throughout the debate. But was he prime ministerial? Not to me. I can't shake the image of him as a Reform MP. Or the image of him standing up in the House of Commons saying he supported the war in Iraq. I wouldn't trust him to sell me a used car, let alone run the country.

As for Gilles Duceppe, he injected some much-needed comic relief into the debate. Like when he called Paul Martin a "living democratic deficit." What? What is that? Some kind of crazy separatist burn? Oh Gilles, you crack me up.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Burning crosses vs. stolen rings

One of the best things about living in British Columbia is having a front-row seat to some of the wackiest and wildest politics in the country.

Even federal politics is exciting out here. I can say that with authority, having just spent two hours at one of the most lively and crowded all-candidates debates I have ever been to. And I've been to a few.

There were at least 1,000 people crammed into a room designed for half that number. Hundreds more stood in the hallway outside the auditorium. It was bigger than a rock concert.

The draw? Watching Liberal veteran Hedy Fry and NDP media star Svend Robinson duke it out for the hotly contested riding of Vancouver Centre.

Candidates from the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Marijuana Party and the Christian Heritage Party shared the stage too. But, let's be honest, the real reason we were there was to watch the battle of the divas.

Anyone who says voters are apathetic or uninterested in this election should spend some time in Vancouver Centre. We arrived at the debate more than a half-hour before it started and the place was already full. Well, full of senior citizens, mostly.

"We're the youngest people here," said my friend Lorena, surveying the crowd.

I hate to use a cliché but the room was crackling with electricity. It really was. Svend Robinson has such a polarizing effect on people. You either love him or you hate him. And both camps were out in full force at the debate.

Forty-five minutes into the debate, the question we all knew was coming landed with a thud at Svend Robinson's feet.

"Where did you find the guts to run for office after stealing a ring," yelled a woman in the crowd. She was booed but Svend took her question seriously.

He spoke quietly about the "shame and pain" he still felt about stealing the expensive ring. He explained it was completely out of character and doesn’t reflect who he is. He seemed sincere and contrite. And after he finished explaining what happened, he was greeted with thunderous applause that went on for more than a minute.

It seems the ring theft is a non-issue. Or at least it's a non-issue for people who vote NDP. There were a few Svend-haters in the room who tried to use the theft against him. Like when Hedy Fry went way over her allotted time after answering a question, Svend joked, "I hope that didn't go into my time."

A guy in the crowd yelled out, "You didn’t serve any!" Then people started heckling the heckler. Like I said, it was lively.

Hedy Fry, on the other hand, was never asked about her infamous (and idiotic) comment that there were crosses burning on the lawns of Prince George.

However, she was the target of heated questions about the sponsorship scandal and government waste. This put Hedy on the defensive for most of the two-hour debate. Her tone was terse and bordered on belligerent.

She seemed annoyed to have to keep repeating the line that the Liberal government has paid down the deficit and balanced the budget.

At one point, she said, "We have managed the people's money very well indeed." She seemed flustered when this was greeted with laughter.

The best verbal slip-up of the afternoon came from Joe Pal of the Christian Heritage Party. He was talking about how he would protect the family, restore morality to Canada and keep marriage between a man and a woman. He then explained that his platform "will transform Canada into a vile nation."

The room exploded with whoops and cheers and loud applause. I kind of felt sorry for the guy. What the hell is this dude doing running in a riding that is home to B.C.'s biggest gay community? It's suicide.

Anyway, I was impressed by how intelligent and well informed some of my fellow constituents were. They asked questions about arts funding, the Kyoto Protocol, Canada's presence in Afghanistan, missile defense and the problem of voter apathy.

Well, not all of the questions were good (specifically the one about sexual liberation and the male foreskin). The best response to the foreskin question came from the Green candidate, who said he'd have to study it further.

"Well I can't know every policy! There's policies on everything!" he cried. Policies on foreskins? Really?

So who's going to win in Vancouver Centre? It's a tough call. The federal NDP has never won this riding. And some people are annoyed that Svend was parachuted into it. He doesn't automatically get the gay vote either. Hedy has been a prominent gay rights supporter. Plus, she's held the riding for 13 years. People seem to like her.

Personally, I admire Svend Robinson. I respect him for being the first openly gay member in the House of Commons. And for his petition to remove the word "God" from the preamble of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Also, he was one of the few MPs who took me seriously when I was a 21-year-old student reporter covering Parliament Hill for three months. I've never forgotten his kindness and encouragement. Actually, Monte Solberg was pretty nice to me too. But whatever.

I can't wait to see what happens on Jan. 23.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The object of feces and abuse

My neighbour, the tree assassin, was in court today.

You may have heard of her. Her name is June Matheson. She's the woman who drilled holes in the base of five trees and poured poison into them because she wanted a clear view of the ocean from her $1.7-million condo.

These weren't just any old trees on a lawn somewhere. These trees were on public property. Right on the edge of Stanley Park. Stanley Park!

Her lawyer argued that she had been punished enough by the media and the public and therefore jail time or a fine was unnecessary. According to the Globe and Mail, she had to sell her condo because people were throwing rocks, eggs and bags of dog shit at her apartment balcony.

The best quote came from her lawyer, who argued:

"My 70-something client is now the object, truly, of feces and abuse."

Awesome! Oh, wait. I think he's saying we should feel sorry for her.

The mind-boggling thing is that the judge gave her an absolute discharge. That's right. No conviction, no fine. Nothing. Hello? She killed trees on English Bay because they were blocking her view!

Worse, this was pre-meditated tree murder. She travelled to Washington State to buy a brand of poison she found on the Internet because it wasn't available in Canada. She even put the poison into a plain container before she crossed the border back into Canada.

To paraphrase the Crown attorney, what she did was selfish and idiotic in the extreme. Surely that deserves some kind of punishment, aside from being skewered in the press.

But the judge was mysteriously swayed by her letter of apology:

"At the time I did this, I thought only selfishly about my view and the thousands of dollars spent on waterfront taxes to enjoy the beautiful ocean," he read. "What I now realize is how wrong it was to take away something that wasn't mine to take. For that I apologize."

"I had to sell my home that I love because of endless harassment. I now have a home with no view. My health has been affected and I've had death threats made against me."

Wow. Could that half-assed apology be any more lame? The ocean is beautiful but trees aren't?

To reiterate: She now has a home without a view. This woman just doesn't get it. Is she truly sorry or just sorry she got caught?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fun with words

I've always wanted to create a new saying. And I've decided 2006 is the year I'm going to do it.

Coining a new phrase isn't the hard part. The real challenge is to create a saying or word so pithy it becomes part of the pop culture lexicon. Like "off the hook" or "shits and giggles" or even "blog."

My friend Chach and I plan to spend the next 12 months collaborating* on this exciting project to keep the English language fresh and confusing. So far we've come up with absolutely nothing.

No, that's not exactly true. We were brainstorming at a New Year's party when celebrity blogger J. Kelly Nestruck (inventor of the wildly popular term "posting the cat") joined our conversation.

Kelly came up with the word "iPoodle" to describe someone who mindlessly jumps from trend to trend.

It was brilliant. It contained the right amount of pith and wit needed to become a legendary neologism like "soccer mom" or "couch potato."

Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. A quick Google search returned 360 hits for iPoodle. There's even an iPoodle t-shirt. So, back to the drawing board we go.

Once we coin a new saying, our mission is to spread it as far as possible. We'll start at the grassroots level by dropping it into as many conversations with friends, family, co-workers and strangers as possible.

Our ultimate goal is to have the word or phase written into an episode of Corner Gas. Just for shits and giggles.

* Feel free to join in on the fun! Email me your suggestions or leave them in the comments box below.