Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23rd, 2015

If you sit down for long enough and do nothing, you discover just how much ground your brain covers. Is that a universal feeling? Do you thoughts wander aimlessly when you sit down? I think they do because I can feel the discomfort in the silence when I can't think of what to say next.










That was fun wasn't it? What did you think about while we were sitting here silently together? The weather? If you left the oven on? Your brain is always going off and thinking about the next thing. Stupid brain. Why won't it slow down.

For the last 3-4 years I have noticed a steady erosion of my attention span. It usually got a correction whenever I went on a retreat but in the day-to-day grind of life I have noticed that my desire to do things that are hard, and my ability to persevere has just dropped to almost zero. I could blame this on any number of things, but that would be a useless exercise because I want to fix the problem. So how do you fix the problem?

 I try not to look at my phone. If I am picking up my phone, it's because I don't want to be bored and I know that there is something new to read in the endless numbers of social media apps that I use that will prevent me from having to be idle and live inside my own thoughts. If I want my attention span to improve, I have to stop picking up my phone.

I don't know if I can do that so in the meantime, I've got a bible app on my phone and when I would normally read some social media, I'm reading Hebrews. I have read Hebrews before, so I'm no longer satisfying my need see something new. I am doing something that is a little bit hard. It's hard to read the Bible when I still don't understand a lot of what is going on. So those ten minutes of reading Hebrews instead of flipping through Instagram is like five minutes on the treadmill. It's not much, but someday it's going to get me somewhere.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015-11-23

I'm supposed to be writing a counseling paper right now while I am skipping class because it's a few weeks away from the end of semester, I'm getting more and more hours at work, and somehow I'm supposed to complete this pile of culminating assignments. I have no idea how any of these things are going to happen but I'm just taking it one assignment at a time and right now that means working on this counseling paper and drinking this Red Bull and procrastinating (I am a master of procrastination).

Look at that, I just checked twitter and killed ten minutes. A master of procrastination.

I was telling someone at work that I was almost finished school and how these couple of weeks are crazy. Then I said how I was almost done and I would never have to do it again. Then I remembered that I am currently applying for a "credentialing program" and I have to take another four classes online in the next two years so that whole thing about not having to do school again was a lie.

I know that things will be better when this semester is over. My four courses and slower and easier than my current schedule and they will happen when my schedule at Starbucks lightens up so I'm not worried, but my statement does indicate how desperate I am to stop going to school. I really don't want to be there anymore and yet I am trapped. Such is life right now.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Video Games: Who knew?

It's an cycle that often repeats itself, the one where I quit writing. Things become busy, I stop writing here, then I go back and realize that I don't know how to string sentences together properly anymore and suddenly the depth of my insights doesn't seem so important anymore. It just becomes about writing. So write I will. I will write once more. Whether it's read is not important. What's important is whether it's wrote.

All the time I am reading articles by feminists who are angry. They're usually right. Women have gone through so much. People of colour go through so much. White men don't go through very much. I think that's what they're angry about. They're angry about privilege which is fair. I too get mad when I see people get things they didn't really do anything to acquire. However none of this is my point so if this summary seems a little crappy, then just move on to the next part.

I think the outcome that some people I read are looking for is for white men to stop talking or at least stop using their voices to reinforce the privileges they already have. At times I ask myself "that seems kind of boring. What am I going to do if I have to stop speaking?" I have found the answer. The answer is video games.

I think that video games provide a wonderful distraction for white men like myself who feel an urge to take advantage of their privilege and need some sort of harmless outlet for it. Instead of getting angry about how there is nowhere left for me to explore, I can open up Skyrim and explore a vast fantasy wonderland. Instead of being filled with nervous energy about how there are no noble causes to contribute, I can go ahead and fight the minions of darkness every night in Destiny. Instead of being bitter about the lack of home improvement I can do in a rental unit that we are going to lose in a few months, I can work on my latest project and list of objectives in Diablo 3.

Video games give white men looking for something to keep themselves occupied so they don't say anything something to do. The give worlds to explore, causes to fight for, and tasks to complete. I think if you were looking for a way to check privilege, just throw some Best Buy gift cards at the nearest white man and watch as he wastes the next few months working his way through the entire Elder Scrolls series. Video games: Who knew?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Movie Review: Steve Jobs

One of my favourite movies is The Social Network. I saw it twice in theatres, and it's one of the few movies I bought on Blu-Ray which is amazing because when I buy a movie now, I usually do so digitally. I love The Social Network so much because of how it makes me feel. As Jason eloquently stated immediately following our first viewing "now I want to go out and invent a website that changes the world". It's a movie that makes me want to do something. I like that.

Steve Jobs is not that movie. It is written by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote The Social Network. It is full of great actors like The Social Network, and it's directed by an Oscar-nominated director (Danny Boyle who actually has an Oscar unlike Social Network director David Fincher who really should at this point). I read a preview of the film which said that Steve Jobs is a companion piece to The Social Network. The two films are somehow related. I think he's right, but I think it's for very non-obvious reasons.

When Jason and I started a website based around trying to tell stories, I started to think really seriously about the basic building blocks of what make up a story. At some point I came to the realization that stories exist on a grid of plot and characters. Every story has to have both elements, but it can choose to spend more time developing them. A character with no plot is the back of a baseball card. It's a list of static facts. A plot with no characters can't exist. You can't move nothing around. Even if your main character is just a box, there have to be characters to have a story.

But you can do so much in developing one of those elements to the exclusion of the other. Fables are good examples of stories which develop a plot, but not it characters. I don't know a whole lot about the inner demons of the tortoise and the hare at the end of that story. They're both pretty understandable. The plot is everything. Then in a biography, you hear a lot about what a person has done over the course of their life, and there might be moments of tension and climax and drama, but those events really exist as a vehicle for teaching about the person in the book and are not meant to be the sole focus.

So these two movies, both written by Aaron Sorkin, are companions. They both have fast talking dialogue, and they both deal with people in the technology industry. But they differ on how they develop plot and characters to an incredible degree.

In The Social Network, the movie is about the plot. The whole film pivots around a reveal that Mark Zuckerburg pushes someone out of his company. Every scene in the film shifts around that central conflict to some degree. At the conclusion of the first scene, there is almost no character development. In a David Fincher movie, characters don't change or grow. They remain static. All you are doing is discovering who the characters truly were the entire time (see Gone Girl, Fight Club, I could go on). The plot is what is developed. The plot which reveals the true nature of each character.

I don't know what happens in Steve Jobs. The movie occurs in three parts. Each part is centered around a different product launch that Jobs was present for. In each part, a cross section of important people show up looking to resolve serious personal issues before the event begins. Characters walk in and out of Job's green room constantly. I watched this entire movie and at the end of it, I did not come away with the sensation that something had been accomplished. Events had happened, but those events were not there to be woven in some kind of plot. Those events were there to peel back the layers on Steve Jobs and show me what he was like at each of those three time periods. Plot happens, but it is frivolous. What is important is Jobs reaction to each of the people in his life.

The Social Network is about plot. The characters don't really change. Steve Jobs is about Characters. The plot is barely there. But at the end of the film, you know that was the point because you feel like you knew Steve Jobs, or at least knew what Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle wanted to say about him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Friendly Wolf: A Fresh Fable

           Once there was a cunning girl who liked to play in the woods. She would leave her home in the morning and take a lunch, a cloak, and her sword. She’d leave every morning at sunrise and return every evening at sunset. She had done this from the day she was old enough to walk and she imagined she would do it until the day she died.

           One day while she explored the woods, she met a wolf. She had tired of exploring the woods alone and thought it might be nice to walk them with someone else. She asked the wolf if she would like to join her. The wolf agreed.

           They began to explore the woods together. The wolf showed the girl some parts of the forest she has missed and the girl did the same for the wolf. They enjoyed each other’s company very much. Sometimes they hunted for food. Other times they just wandered the woods. As they sat eating lunch one day, the wolf asked,

           “Don’t you ever worry that I am a wolf and it’s in my nature to eat you?” 

           “As long as I can trust you, I won’t worry about your nature.” The girl replied, and that was the end of the conversation. The girl stood up, adjusted her scabbard, and they charged off into the woods.

           One day a famine broke out in the land. Wanting to help each other, the girl and the wolf searched for food together. But with each passing day, they found less and less in the woods to eat. They picked out all the big game, and then the small game, and then the plants. As they ate through moss one day, the wolf realized that she could always eat the girl for food. She looked much weaker, and they had built up so much trust together. The girl would never expect it. So the wolf decided that she would eat the girl if it ever came to that.

           The famine dragged on and the wolf finally decided on a day to carry out her attack. 

Near the end of the day, as they were heading back at sunset the wolf saw her chance. She leapt and pounced at the girl.

           In one swift motion, the girl turned, drew her sword, and slashed a line in the wolf’s throat. The wolf collapsed, unable to move. As she lay there dying, she whispered her last words.

           “I thought you trusted me” The girl returned her sword to its scabbard and answered.

           “I have always trusted you, but I have never forgotten that you are a wolf.”

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Work Again

When I was in high school, I worked in a dish pit for a year. It was rough. I was the only employee under 18. I worked every single weekend evening shift for most of my time there. The head chef was kind of a jerk. It was a really tough time. I used to get sick to my stomach every time I had to go in. The day I walked out with my last paycheck was the most relieved I have ever felt.

For around three years after I quit, I used to have dreams about going back and working there again. It would be just as awful as it was before, but for some reason I had to go back or I was ok with it or something like that. It was strange. Every morning I would wake up and be glad that it was only a dream.

Working at Starbucks was not the same as working in the dish pit, but it was also a difficult time. Juggling school and work was tough and there were a few customers that made me pretty nervous. I must have done okay though because I'm going back to work at Starbucks again today. Not the same store, but the same company. I don't feel sick to my stomach. I'm actually kind of excited. I must be getting older...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Movie Review: American Ultra

I had to buy shoes. I start work on Thursday and in order to go to work I needed work shoes. Yesterday I finally broke down and went to the store to add to my temporarily flaming pile of credit card debt so I could cover my feet for work. I walked over and stood awkwardly by the pair that I wanted to try on. After a few minutes, a guy came over and asked me if I needed anything. I pointed at the shoes and said what size I needed. The whole process took maybe ten minutes. At the check out, the girl gave me a card and said I got a free movie for buying my shoes. I just had to redeem the code on the back. No one is at home with me right now, and I had no plans for the evening so I decided to go see a film. That film was American Ultra.

Most of the comments about this movie that I've seen are pretty disparaging. They complain about Max Landis (the writer) and how he's pretentious or how the movie is boring or something like that. When you're unemployed and spend most of the day reading internet comments, you tend to get a sense of these things. It's the end of the summer though, and there really aren't many movies out that I want to see and it was free so I decided to see American Ultra.

In short, it's a movie about a guy who is a stoner and loves his stoner girlfriend but who also can't leave the town where he lives because he gets panic attacks. Then one day someone shows up and says some code words to him and he becomes a crazy killing machine. It's a similar plot to the Bourne Identity, but instead of focusing solely on the action, Ultra focuses more on the romance. There's a great scene where Mike (played by Jesse Eisenberg) is explaining how he feels about his relationship with Phoebe (played by Kristen Stewart). Then the rest of the movie explains how he got it all wrong.

You should watch this movie for two reasons. First, for the crazy action sequences. Mike's gimmick is he uses mostly what's around him to fight instead of guns (which is a little silly at times, but fun to watch) and it makes for very creative sequences. Second, Mike and Phoebe have a really interesting relationship in the movie. It's almost like the kind of thing you'd see in an indie romantic comedy, but there are action sequences peppered in between it which is unfortunate for those that don't like action.

Maybe wait for it to come out on video before watching it, but I think it's a pretty solid movie with some good storytelling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Fed Ex

Last week while Amanda and I were away on vacation, someone sent me a package. We were sitting on the beach on Tuesday afternoon when Amanda's phone rang indicating the front door buzzer had gone off. This happened three days in a row and I immediately knew what that meant. I was going to be driving to a Fed Ex warehouse when I got home. Sure enough, I found three door tags on our mailbox when I arrived home and so yesterday I called Fed Ex to figure out where I needed to go.

The package had shipped by Fed Ex Ground which I think is like the budget version of regular Fed Ex. It takes a little while and they use smaller vehicles. They also have much less convenient sort and pick up locations. One time someone shipped me something and I had to drive all the way out to Whitby in order to pick it up. It was a two hour round trip for sixty dollars in merchandise. On this particular occasion, the depot was in Mississauga near the airport. I was happy it was not Whitby because I was pretty sure this package was only worth $40. I left around lunchtime just to make sure there wouldn't be traffic.

I arrived at the depot only to discover that it was even weirder than I had imagined. First I had to find the place which was hard because the sign was not visible from the road. Then I had to park, and I didn't even park in the proper place. Then I walked into their building which has a large parking cavern before you even get to the area where the warehouse is. It appears to be mostly for employee parking. I'm not sure why they were using all of this indoor space for parking, but they must have their reasons. When I finally arrived at their door after walking what seemed like a few kilometres from the car, I discovered that there was no "front desk". Instead you walk into a room that's ten metres by ten metres with a hundred clear-fronted lockers on your left, three chairs in front, and a set of metal detectors monitored by a security guard on your right. It looks like the entrance to the lobby scene in "The Matrix".

The security guard recognized I looked a little hesitant and asked me if I was picking up a package. I said yes and handed her my delivery notice. She took it and went and made a call for someone. She pointed towards the chairs I had seen on my way in and I took a seat. I sat there for a few minutes and watched a few employees come in for the days package sort. They all followed the same protocol. Put keys in a bucket, step through the metal detector, swipe ID badge and then they were in. I was impressed at how much security was present, but I guess they're probably trying to ensure no one messes with the mail. I imagine it must be weird to walk through a metal detector every day on your way to work though.

As I watched this process, I thought about what goes into a courier service. It takes a tremendous amount of people to make sure that packages move in the right places at the right time. All it would take is one mistake to put your parcel on the wrong side of the country. But most of the time you never see this. It's all hidden. The business drives directly to your front door and all you see is a person with a truck dropping something off. I think that makes it easy to take the whole process for granted. I am glad I had a glimpse into the strange world of Fed Ex, because I will think about the mail a little differently now.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Long Drives

There are only so many things that you can do when you are driving. You can listen to music, you can listen to the radio, you can listen to audiobooks or podcasts, and you can eat. But if you don't have any music you're in the mood for, or the CBC has Cross Country Checkup on and you don't want to hear phone interviews with the people who call into that show, and you've listened to all of your podcasts, then the car becomes this exercise in patience and boredom. It becomes a breeding ground for positive thoughts about what you will do when you are not in the car anymore.

When you get home there is a brief moment where you can follow through on whatever it is that you thought about doing in the car. You open the door and you see the dirty laundry or the pile of luggage that needs to be put away and you can follow through on your incredible ambition and get to work. There is so much to do all of the time that you're never truly free to say you have nothing to do.

But that's not what I usually do. I immediately plop down on the chair, throw everything to all four corners of the apartment, turn on the computer and start playing games. Three hours later I pause for a moment to think about whether or not I'm ready to carry through on all of that ambition. I am not. I go back to the games and collapse in bed feeling seriously guilty several hours later. If only there was a way to keep those positive thoughts going when I got back in the house.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Car Cleaning

When you get back from a long trip, there's this moment where you realize that even though the trip is over there is a whole bunch of work you still need to do before it's officially over. If you were flying, you probably just need to unpack your suitcase. If you're on a car-camping trip that takes you over 3000 km of beaches and coastline and mountains, you can be pretty certain that you're going to need to clean out the car when that trip is finished. We arrived in Ottawa at the end of our east coast trip yesterday and so I needed to consolidate all of our supplies and give everything a good clean.

When I go car camping, there is this overwhelming tendency to just throw stuff in the back. There is lots of room in the car so you're not rewarded for conserving space like you are on an airplane. On short trips that usually means there's a Mcdonalds bag or two sitting in the back seat. On long trips that means there's dirty laundry everywhere, stuff mixed up, power cords buried under piles of bags, and nothing in its right container. It took me twenty minutes to consolidate all of our junk back together so it could be useful again. This process revealed a huge mountain of beach sand which we had brought back from the east coast with us. This would require a vacuum.

I decided to go to a gas station for their vacuum. It just seemed like it would be easier. Maybe the job wouldn't be as good, but I wouldn't have to lug the vacuum cleaner outside. It turns out that gas station vacuums don't actually do that great of a job. They come with this large head that's hard to fit into small places. They don't seem to offer as much suction as I expected. It just didn't work as well as I wanted it to. But it was a lot easier than doing it at home, and the vacuum job meant that most of the dirt was now out of the car. The car looks sort of clean again and it feels pretty good. I liked cleaning the car out after the trip because it helped with the feeling that the trip was over and it was time to get back to work. Though there's still a few more things to do when we get back to Toronto, I feel one step closer to being at the end of a vacation.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Homesickness

I don't think I would say that I get homesick to anyone else. I like to maintain an aura of steadiness and telling people that I get strong drives to go back home does not fit with that aura. I also didn't really know how bad it was until I was forced into a situation that I couldn't get out of so the fact that it's not well publicized is maybe half my responsibility and half due to circumstance.

There are two types of home sickness for me. As I write this, Amanda and I are in a hotel in a small town in Quebec. We are a little ways outside of Montreal and even though there are people here, I don't speak French and so I feel very isolated. It does not seem to matter that Amanda is with me, I still feel like the start of a zombie apocalypse film. This the first type of homesickness. Sometimes I go somewhere and I just miss seeing people. The place where we are feels isolated like I may never see civilization again. That makes me scared. It makes me want to run home where I know there are people and things which are familiar.

The second type happened to me when I was in California. There are lots of people there and they mostly speak English and some of them are friendly, so it was hard to feel like there was no one else there. But I was sick for people I knew. I wanted to talk to someone about the Toronto Maple Leafs. I wanted someone to tell me how the summer at camp was going. I wanted to hear about the weather in Kingston or the Busker's festival. In California, people don't care about those things. So I was homesick for people from back home.

I will always be homesick when I go away. It happened when we went to Disneyworld and if you can get homesick at the happiest place on earth, you can probably get homesick anywhere. I like knowing what it is that I am homesick for. It helps me to appreciate what is at home, and it also reminds me that I would not do well with travel. For now I'm a Toronto-resident and that is the place I'd like to stay most of the time.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Orange Badge

If you leave our apartment and head out towards the MuchMusic building, you have to cross the streetcar tracks on McCaul street. There's a loop there where the Queen line turns around sometimes. Because the loop is so close to a residential area, they have to lubricate the tracks so they make less noise. They just use water. I'm not really sure why. So when I walk across McCaul in the summer, the glint of the water in the sunlight catches my eye. Every time I see it, I think of the pool. Lakeshore pool.

Lakeshore pool was a strange thing. It was in Kingston and it was definitely a pool but it was nowhere near the lakeshore. In fact it is a solid twenty minute walk from that pool to the shore of Lake Ontario. I assume the just used the same logic they use when naming suburbs. You know, like when they make a new development and they call it something like Sherwood Forest and then the first thing they do is cut down all the trees? There was another development near our house called Conservatory Pond. It was near a pond but the pond was actually an old rock quarry so I think they get as many points as the Sherwood Forest people.

But Lakeshore was also strange because it was a private/public pool. It was private because you had to be a member to get in. It was privately owned by some kind of neighbourhood association and when you paid your membership fee, you got coloured badges to indicate that you were a member. Every year the pool would open and they'd have to make an announcement saying you had to sew on your badge, and you couldn't safety pin it to your shorts. As I am writing this, I just realized that that policy was probably to keep people from sharing badges. That makes so much sense. Your badge would indicate membership and then you could occasionally bring guests, but you had to use a guest pass. We had some that we had bought 6 years before I was born and we were still using them. We didn't have guests very often.

Your badge was colour coded to indicate your age. Different ages had different privileges. Purples were for little kids. You had to have an adult accompany you, but you were allowed in the wading pool with all the other purples. It was a pretty rad place. I was ok with it because I was scared of the water until I was six or seven years old. Then when you hit a certain age, you graduated to an orange badge. Orange meant you could swim without an adult during daylight hours (they had lights and they stayed open until ten).

I had just learned how to swim a year before I got my orange badge. My whole family watched at the cottage as I dog paddled between two docks without any assistance. I don't think I've ever felt more encouraged in my entire life. My mom sewed that orange badge on to my bathing suit, and my days of being home during the summer were basically over. I had a bike, the pool was a block from our house, and I could go there anytime during the day. I spent most of the hot days of summer at the pool bobbing around, swimming under water, doing jumps off the diving board. It was a sweet time. I can't imagine a place like that now where you don't have to be accompanied by an adult. I assume they exist, but you'd probably be arrested for letting your kid go alone. It's silly. I think that orange badge was my first experience of independence and responsibility and I'm glad I got it when I did.

I turned 26 on Tuesday. It's the first birthday where some new form of independence hasn't happened (25 meant my car insurance dropped and I could rent a car from anywhere). It was a very quiet birthday. Amanda and I went to the Pan Am games and watched some goal ball. Then we went to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and finally we took in a Blue Jays game. We enjoyed the day together. It wasn't an "orange badge" type of birthday, but it was a good one. An adult birthday. What I imagine the rest of them will be like. I like that.

I also like how I can walk across McCaul Street and see that water in those streetcar tracks and remember what it was like to get that orange badge.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Review: Trust Me I'm Lying - Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday

Today I had to drive to Westport and back. Not wanting to endure the drive in silence, I purchased an audio book for the occasion. That book was by Ryan Holiday and is an extended study of how blogs (blogs in this case referring to news websites that lack any print format like Gawker, Huffington Post, etc.) and PR people interact together. He touches on a number of interesting aspects of that relationship and the book is certainly an entertaining read. I would say the most interesting part of it is the stories that he tells to support his claims. Holiday works in Public Relations for American Apparel and from what he says in the book an number of other companies and he recounts stories from these jobs, especially from American Apparel, to support his claims and his thoughts.

There is an interesting tension present in the book. As Holiday tells stories and makes comments he sounds credible and reputable through most of the first two thirds of the book. I had very little to question about the way that he talks about things. When you get to the final third though, he begins to make comments that will raise some small warning flags for you if you spend time saturated in media, particularly around how he discusses some topics that often appear on the site "Jezebel". I almost feel like he becomes an unreliable narrator in this segment. There are not enough flags to keep you from reading, but certainly enough to give you pause and think about the substance of what he is saying instead of passively absorbing every sentence.

I would say this book is definitely worth reading, at the very least for thinking more seriously about how it is that we get news and how blogs can potentially provide misleading information. It will probably also lead you to notice how often print media pick up stories from things that you read online. It's only 6 hours on audiobook and it's available on Audible so there's no need to go to a store or anything like that.

Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015

Apparently I'm not supposed to sleep like a normal person anymore. I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, but often I am awake until 12, 1, 2. Last night I fell asleep at 3. What do you do when you can't sleep at a good time? I like being awake early, but I can't get into bed early enough to make it easy. Oh well.

I'm trying to cut back on the amount of Destiny I'm playing. It's addictive. Every moment is filled with thoughts of objectives or tasks or plans for finishing something. I look up weapon stats and threads on Reddit. It's a problem because I don't think about much else and Destiny has little benefit beyond my immediate enjoyment. I am playing in the mornings and hoping that restricting it to that time will fix things.

I had to get groceries today. I am visiting a new grocery store lately because my usual one is closed because of the pan-am games. Well it's not actually closed but I can't park there and I can't imagine how I would carry all of our food home on transit. I am still learning what food is important and what should be forgotten. It'll get better in time. I didn't hit anyone's cart today so that's a plus.

As I was driving back to the apartment tonight, someone did a really dangerous and aggressive move around me. They pulled around me and then turned in front of me. For a moment I was incredibly angry because it so clearly communicated that this person thought that I was incompetent and that they knew when to drive better than I did. It didn't help that what they did was dangerous. I was frustrated. I honked. I had been trying all day not to let other drivers rattle me, but this one I couldn't let go. I thought of a plan for avoiding the same situation in the future. I could also just hope that people would not be reckless. That's too much to ask for though. If there's one thing I know about Toronto driving, it's that people will always be reckless no matter what you do.

July 30th, 2015

I woke up this morning to a message from my Destiny group that someone was running one of the raids a few times. I hummed and hawed, but no one had signed up so I joined in. This turned out to be a good idea because we ran through it quickly a few times and I got some more good stuff out of the endeavor. I am also becoming more comfortable with gaming with these strangers. It helps that I am getting more familiar with the activities in Destiny and the community (which has taken an excessive amount of work), but I also think I'm just moving past the barriers that commonly occur with talking to strangers. Playing games is helping me to be a more social and outgoing person.

I did some chores and updated our books this afternoon. I needed to do something productive. Between feeling sick and the sickening heat that's been present it's been hard to do much around the apartment. Here's hoping this heat wave breaks soon and we don't have to deal with it anymore. Things actually got so bad that I went and took a walk around the mall today because it was air conditioned. I paused for a moment to reflect on the fact that this is a thing old people do before I realized that old people are wise and this is a brilliant idea.

Amanda and I went to High Park for the evening. I suggested a pizza picnic in the park would lift our spirits. It did. It felt so good to be out under a tree eating pizza and enjoying the heat instead of hiding from it. I'll try to take advantage of it more as the summer goes on. We are going swimming tomorrow night which fits that theme nicely.

p.s. if you're confused about what this is, this is a high-school style blog. I won't be advertising these so I don't expect anyone to read them. If you're reading this it's probably because you're interested in the mundane things I'm doing every day. If so, continue to enjoy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July 29, 2015

It was hot outside today. So hot that I opened the curtains for a couple of minutes and then immediately closed them because I could feel the temperature immediately rising. I spent the whole day indoors, like a vampire. It's funny how it gets hot like this every year, and ever year it somehow surprises me.

Since it was hot I spent pretty much the entire day indoors. I'm all finished school now so I did what any five year old on summer vacation would do. I played video games. I get that this was maybe not the most mature choice, but it sure was fun. I'm still up to my armpits in Destiny and I tackled the first raid ("The Vault of Glass") with some complete strangers. It went really smoothly and I had a lot of fun. I was nervous the entire time because I was afraid I was going to go and do something stupid, but we finished the whole thing without getting wiped once. I don't think I made any lasting relationships out of it, and I still have some more things in Destiny to tackle, but it was enough for now.

I didn't sleep very well last night, and I think it's partially because I haven't been getting enough physical activity, so I went for a walk this evening. We live really close to Queen's Park and the Univeristy of Toronto both of which have some beautiful scenery and some beautiful old buildings. For an hour I wandered around. My knees are sore now which is probably an indication that I actually got some exercise. I may repeat it again in the future. I also spotted some places where I could take some really great pictures so I'll have to go back and check it out again soon.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Blog #53: Full Stop

I started trying to write every day two months ago when I had just finished school and my internship and I was trying to find things to do that were productive. I want to be a better writer, and after watching Casey Neistat's vlog for a few weeks, I wanted to try my hand at daily creativity.

It worked pretty well. I did a bunch of things that I wouldn't have normally done and it challenged me to be a bit more proactive when thinking about writing instead of just making things up as I went along. I hope you've enjoyed the last two months worth of stories and thoughts.

I'm going to be trying something else now though and since there is bound to be some overlap, I am not sure that I can run both things at the same time. Therefore I'll be putting a hold on blogging for now, and I'll come back to it if conditions are perfect. I'll also be posting any updates about new work in the future on this blog. Until then, enjoy the workings of life as you go about your business.

Ben

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Blog #52: Inside Out - A Review

Last night I went to see Inside Out with my sister Melody and Amanda. I initially didn't want to see this movie. I had it in the same category as Cars where it just didn't seem like it was going to capture me the way that some Pixar movies do. It did though. I was legitimately choked up a couple of times over the course of the film.

Without giving anything away about the movie, I will say that it is amazing to see Pixar be able to incorporate lessons about life which are applicable for kids and adults into a movie that is entertaining. There are some very deep thoughts behind the movie that will give you something to think about for a little while.

At this point, I think it's safe to say that Pixar can do no wrong. Actually it was probably safe to say that about five movies ago, but this is probably the point where I won't doubt them anymore.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Blog #51: Selling Old Shoes

There is a Converse ad playing in front of the movies. It does the most unusual thing for an advertisement. It is a campaign to sell old shoes. That’s not specifically what the ad does, but the ad glorifies the unique nature of each person’s personal pair of converse. The colour is different, the fabric is different, and the wear and tear is different. The ad shows you some shoes and the coolest part about them is that they are old. They bear the scars of kickflips or kicks to the pavement or dance steps. They have paint or marker on them. There’s a hole where a box fell. They’ve been left out in the rain and warped a bit. Each defect or deformity tells a different story about the shoes.

I went to school on Thursday for a bit (I took ill and ended up coming home). On my way there, I thought about people who look perfect. Not perfect in the sense of an ideal body type or something, but perfect in the sense that they look like they came out of a Matrix pod a few minutes ago. Their hair is perfectly placed, their skin has no uncovered blemish or scar, their clothes are freshly laundered and pressed, their shoes look like they just came out of a box. I look at them and the only information I gather from them is that they are wealthy and they took time preparing themselves for this morning. But what they wear says remarkably little about them.

I have a few grey hairs growing in. I’m also starting to bald. There’s a scar on my finger where I nearly cut my finger print off last spring. I’m missing a chunk out of one of my eyebrows because of a fall I took as a kid. I am covered in freckles on my forearms, face, and neck. I have a wacky birthmark on my bicep that shows up in the summer. In the same way that I don’t gravitate towards new shoes, I don’t gravitate toward flawless individuals. You’re easier to talk to when you smell funny, or your socks are mismatched, or there’s a surgical scar on your throat. It shows you’ve been alive for a while. There’s a story that you can tell me once you trust me. You’re like a pair of old shoes. I’d like to get to know you. But it's a whole lot easier if you have some marks.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Blog #50: A Review of the movie "Gone Girl"

Gone Girl is on Netflix right now. I knew what it was about and had read a synopsis, but figured I would watch it anyways.

Sometimes I watch movies because they make me feel good. Sometimes I want to feel other feelings when I watch movies.

When I finished watching Gone Girl, I felt like I loved my wife and that whatever difficult things were between us they were not as crazy as that movie.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Blog #49: The Right Reasons

I'm a Christian but I'm also a contrarian. It's embarrassing how much of a problem it is because it interferes with my ability to be a normal person every day. There are some people who I just always disagree with. I have to be careful to make sure that I'm disagreeing with ideas and not people because I think that could happen and sometimes does happen. But sometimes I read things like this and I get so frustrated but not in a way that can be easily explained. If twitter didn't exist, I wouldn't have to hear these opinions from people I can't discuss them with, but the internet means everyone is both vulnerable and invulnerable to criticism.

There are a collection of pastors in the US who assert that everyone around them is just going to hate them because they are Christian. They look to parts of the Bible like "You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." and they go 
"Well if people hate us, we must be doing things right!" and then they go on doing whatever it was that they were doing without pausing to consider whether they may have made a mistake.

I'm probably a little over-susceptible to criticism. I like to take peoples accusations pretty seriously, so maybe my natural inclination in these situations is a bit too intense, but regardless there still is one thing that I think is important. Yes, people will be mad at Christians (we believe that humanity is essentially a write off. That's going to get some people going somewhere in the world). But if people are going to be mad at Christians, I'd like it to be for the right reasons.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Blog #48: The Billy Graham Rule

Yesterday I read a story about another Pastor who was forced to resign after having an affair with another woman. I don't know that there is another profession, except for maybe politics, where an affair gets you in so much trouble. For me it was a reminder that pastors are subject to the same kinds of failures that regular people are, and anyone who is Christian and who pretends otherwise does not really know what being a Christian means for all of humanity. As I read the article, I noticed a phrase called the "Billy Graham Rule" which is named after a famous evangelist and is a rule that states male church leaders should never "meet, travel or eat with another woman alone". Apparently there are many other church leaders who follow this. I didn't realize this had a name, even though I have heard of the principle before.

For a moment let's ignore the more reasoned criticism of this rule (although you can read it here if you want) and consider for a moment what the intention is here. I want to focus on the relation to the pastor who had an affair. The first article mentions the Billy Graham rule as though that would have somehow been a solution to this particular issue. And yes, maybe it would have. But what I would like to know is how it seems to be so easy to get into an affair. (Remember how I said I would ignore the reasoned criticism earlier? This is me being ridiculous so just roll with it for a moment). With the frequency that these kinds of things happen, you would think that pastors and church leaders were constantly surrounded by a crowd of women eager to move in and latch on to the pastor. These articles sure make it sound like that at times.

No I think the Billy Graham rule is unnecessary, because if you can't draw a line between a friendship and your romantic relationship with your wife/husband, then you are not starting from a good position to teach people about the Bible. If you find yourself in a position where you would consider abandoning your marriage, then you need to seek some solutions to that problem. Nobody ends up in an affair because they were just walking around and suddenly a woman appeared and the next thing you knew they were in an affair. These kinds of issues happen because of long standing problems, and just avoiding women altogether is not a solution.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Blog #47: The Cottage

In 1946 (I think. My dad will correct me in the comments if I'm wrong), my Great Grandpa Welsh purchased a plot of land north of Oshawa, east of Lake Simcoe. On the shore of a silt-bottomed lake called Dalrymple he built a cottage with his family. Then it got replaced in 1984 with a slightly more modern cottage which still stands there today.

There are a lot of things that have changed in my life as I have gotten older. Our house in Kingston is gone, owned by another family. It looks weird now anyways. There's a tree missing and someone else's car is in the front yard. None of my friends live in Kingston anymore. Everyone is in Ottawa or North Bay or Hamilton or Illinois. My sisters are spread across two provinces an one state. Everything is a little crazy now that I am an adult.

But I went to the cottage this weekend, and the backyard there is exactly the same as when I was a kid. Not a single blade of grass looks different. You could look at a photo from twenty years ago and not know a day had passed. It's nice to know that in a crazy world of change, that one part of the cottage still looks exactly the same.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Blog #46: The Humane Society

I went with Victoria to look at cats at the humane society. It was her plan to adopt one. I found this out the night before when I went over for a visit. Victoria and Jason told me the story of their visit to the humane society, and more specifically how it had ended abruptly with no kitten because it was too late in the day for them to adopt. At the time I did not understand this, but later on I came to realize exactly why there was not enough time.

So the following day I went with her to the Humane society to look at the cats. We looked at all of the cats! I could not believe that they had so much space for cats. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. Old cats, young cats, black cats, white cats, cats who'd just been in a sulfur-type bath. It was a little overwhelming to be honest. Then we finally decided on a kitty and got in line for adoption. We had to wait, and the woman helping us said it would take about an hour. As we started the process, I got a strange impression from the woman helping us. She seemed to be going through the motions of adoption, but also trying to suggest to us that she didn't enjoy what she was doing. In a job you don't always enjoy what you're doing, but shouldn't people at least have the customer service sense to put on a good face? Maybe she could even roll out a red carpet for us instead of being rude. I wanted to stand up and say
"We are adopting a cat and helping you out. Worship us as the saviour of your animals!"

As soon as I thought of this, I recognized that this was ridiculous. As important as adoptions are to a humane society, it's only a part of what they do. The woman serving us probably sees hundreds of cats come in and out a week. She probably also sees old cats picked over time and time again. Then there's the intake process which means she probably sees dozens of animals who aren't cared for. Though adoptions are an occasion for celebration, I am sure that job has to wear on you after a while as you see that people don't care about animals as much as you do. Though I think she could have been nicer about the whole thing, I think I can understand her rough attitude given the particular challenges of working at a humane society. It must be a tough life.


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Blog #45: Drugs

There was a time when people knew enough about Christians to know that we didn't drink, we didn't dance, and we didn't do drugs. Now that doesn't matter so much because there are Christians who drink (and Monks who brew amazing beer), Christians who dance, and Christians who do drugs. More accurately speaking, Christians have always done all of these things we have just stopped trying to hide it in many cases. I don't have much of an issue with Jesus and beer, and I don't have any issues with Jesus and dance, but I have a serious point of contention if you want to put Jesus and Cocaine together.

Nearly every Christian anti-drug talk I have ever heard in a youth group or camp has used 1 Corinthians 6:19 as a proof text. It says "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;" The argument says if your body is a temple, don't pollute it by filling it with filthy drugs. This is a pretty compelling argument. Though I know there are shrines where people sacrifice drugs to gods of various kinds, the concept of offering God, who has historical demanded animal blood in his sacrifices, a pure street drug seems foolish. But no, the real reason that I can't put drugs and Jesus together is the incredibly destructive effects the drug trade has had on every place in the world it touches. Sure it destroys your life, but you can make your own choices and if you make bad ones you suffer the consequences. Drug cartels do not only affect your life though.

I worked with a girl from Honduras in the fall. Sometimes she would talk about what life was like back at home. I cannot retell any of her stories with their original integrity, but they usually dealt with the feeling of not knowing what was going to happen to friends or family or neighbours. Violence as a part of the drug trade is common and scary and from the way she told the stories, a shockingly common part of every day life. In Canada where life is cushy, I had a hard time entering into the world of her stories because they were just so shocking, and because she had so many of them. And this is the reason why I can't stand people who try to justify illegal drugs. The summary of Jesus teaching on the Law is to love God and love the neighbour. You cannot tell me that you are loving your neighbour when you are supporting a trade that disrupts, dismantles, and destroys the lives of millions of people in South and Central America as the drugs work their way northward. If I had one wish, it would be to make the US and Canada impossible to smuggle drugs into. I would love to see how that would trickle back along the trade routes of those drugs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Blog #44: Pictures

I went for a walk on Monday. It was part of my plan to do more interesting things in a week where I have no class. Yes, going for a walk counts as exciting for me. I walked around our neighbourhood a little bit and I walked past the Much Music building. Though it was once somewhat open and had things going on all the time, now not much happens there. Except for today. I walked by it today and there was this monstrous stage set up that took up the entire parking lot. It had a lighting background that appeared like some kind of computer-inspired sculpture. The whole thing looked expensive and complicated. From the back, you could see a bottle delivery service dropping off several flats of beer for backstage.

My first reaction upon seeing it was to take a photo and post it on Instagram. In a sense this says "this is the most interesting thing I did today". I do it with photos of the cat or things that look pretty or stuff that is out of the ordinary. But when I post photos on Instagram, I tend to stop thinking about them. If I were to have posted a photo of the Much Music stage, I would not have recounted my discovery to you now. That story would have been told already, and in kind of a crappy way.

See a photo on Instagram is usually accompanied by a short caption. My entire experience of stumbling across this stage and all of it's wonders would have been trumped by a grainy photo and a short caption. Maybe five words and five seconds of your attention. But since I didn't, I was able to get five minutes of conversation out of it with Amanda, and the first paragraph of this post. I think the value of your experiences depends on the way that you share them with other people. When you do a lot of things, photos are a good way to summarize. But when your life is kind of boring, it makes you way more interesting to tell stories about the things you see instead of just taking photos of them.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Blog #43: Public Shame

I like a good witch hunt just as much as the next person. I don't know why because they can be quite destructive, but something in me gets deeply satisfied by the prospect of someone getting payback for something bad they did. For example if someone says something stupid on twitter, watching them get vilified by a million strangers is exciting. I think this is a problem, but I can't help it. I think it's the fact that people who get publicly shamed usually seem like bad people. I suppose I should be careful because I'm sure people could dig up a large pile of dirt on me.

I read an article about the Nobel Prize winning scientist named Tim Hunt who described his experience of being publicly shamed for making some admittedly stupid comments about women in science before being hung out to dry by every other person he knows. Yes, what he said was stupid, but do such a collection of words really deserve the complete destruction of your entire life? I wonder about that. I feel remarkably little sympathy for people who are shamed, and yet Tim is the first case where I think I recognize that the dog-pile that occurs when someone gets publicly shamed is a little bit of overkill. Make the man apologize because what he said was stupid. Maybe give him a slap on the wrist. But I don't know that everyone is ignorant enough to require the anger of millions of strangers for them to understand that they shouldn't have said what they said.

All of this makes me consider wiping all of my social media. If you think about it, there is very little incentive to share your life with others, and an incredibly high penalty if you say something stupid. Better to be a hermit and be left alone, than become a public figure and have it all taken away from you. And I have a problem with this because that sounds an awful lot like we want to encourage mediocrity.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Blog #42: "Spy", some thoughts on a film

Amanda and I went to see the movie "Spy" last night. Let me begin by saying that though it's full of swearing and there's even a few brief shots of penises (that still shocks me when it happens in a mainstream movie....It happened with The Hangover too) it is super hilarious. Both Amanda and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It had some really great moments and the plot itself was pretty interesting too.

My only deep thought about the film has to do with Melissa McCarthy's characters. I've seen enough movies with her at this point to notice that she kind of has two characters. Either she is resigned to being sad about her life and everything in it, or she's yelling and swearing at every single person around her. In Spy she does both. In Gilmore Girls she is mostly sad. In "The Heat" she is mostly angry. There's nothing wrong with any of this. Her character fits well in the cast of Gilmore Girls, and The Heat is a hilarious movie.

My point is just on the note that her characters seem to be written so that the only way they can be fulfilled is by yelling at every single person they come into contact with. I know that sometimes you have to fight for your rights, but that seems to be the only thing she does. I think it's possible to not be sad but to also not be angry. I would be interested to see what that would look like in another Melissa McCarthy movie.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Blog #41: Some Brief Notes

Yesterday I wrote my final exam for the first part of my Hebrew class. Exam is being generous. This was like a test. It was six pages long and I absolutely crushed it. Not in the sense that I got 100%, but in the sense that I was confident in what I wrote. It was a good feeling. I have not had that on an exam in some time. I certainly never had it in undergrad.

They made a decision on the Gardiner Expressway yesterday. Thank goodness. I hope they follow the whole thing through.  I was hoping that they'd tear it down, but I'm sure that this hybrid option will work out fine. I just hope that people can move on from this issue. It's the kind of decision where it's not worth it to go back and fight about it again.

It is strawberry season and yesterday I hit the grocery store and cleaned them out. I bought five pints. I promptly ate one pint for supper. The other four went in the freezer, and it is my plan to load our freezer with them over the next couple of days (don't worry, I will also eat many fresh berries). The differences between Ontario berries and California berries are incredibly and it brings me joy each year at this part of the season.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Blog #40: Current Events

Toronto has this big thing called the Gardiner Expressway. It's been around for long enough that it's starting to crumble into bits soooooooo the city has to decide what it is going to do with it. Now I don't know why, but for some reason giant infrastructure projects interest me most because that's the cool stuff that government does. Sure it gives health care and pensions and those things are important, but they're not very sexy. New roads and trains and bridges though, those are attractive proposals. Those are the kinds of stories I follow. So I am following the Gardiner discussion thus far.

I had written yesterday's date on my calendar. "Gardiner Decision" it said. I should probably have put the word "decision" in quotes, as no decision was reached before the end of council. Instead somebody proposed a motion to put off the decision for sixty days. When I saw that come up on my Twitter feed, I was unbelievably frustrated. The debate has been going on with this thing for weeks. I have seen so many op-eds about how tearing it down is good for the city. I don't have a vested interest in either side (although I feel like tearing it down is smarter....) but I do have a vested interest in watching things happen.

Fortunately city council restored my faith in human sanity and rejected the motion to defer a decision. At some point today they'll come to some kind of final decision on the thing, and then I can start looking at what it will look like in ten years when they finally finish building it. I don't expect very much from politicians or city councilors, but I do expect them to actually decide stuff especially when it seems big enough to put on my calendar.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Blog #39: Backpedaling

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone where you are telling them something, and then they question your motives, and then you try and justify it?

Then a few hours later you are sitting at home realizing that the other person was right and you need to rethink what you said? Then you realize that if they hadn't challenged you, you would have done something really stupid?

That happened yesterday. I'm glad it did.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Blog #38: Oranje

Yesterday I went to the post office. But when I went to the post office it was raining, so I had to put on all of my associated rain gear. For some bizarre reason, I love the feeling of invulnerability that comes when you're wearing rain gear. It's a bit like saying to the rain "nothing you can do to me! Rain as hard as you want, you won't get me wet". I'm probably the only person who thinks like this, but I'm okay with that. The first thing I put on was my orange Detroit Tigers hat. I bought it last summer when Gimli and I attended a Tigers game in Detroit. I put on the hat because my hair is getting longer but not quite long enough to tie back, thus if I want to go outside without constantly brushing my hair out of my face, I need to wear a hat. It is also the only hat that I own, so there's really no choice in the matter. So I've got my orange hat on.

Then I need to put on my coat. My rain jacket is orange. I bought it in a hurry before a trip to New York City that Amanda and I took a few years ago. We were leaving, and noted that it was supposed to be warm that week so I needed something to wear in the rain. We went to MEC and picked out the most economical coat available. It happened to be orange. I was happy about this because orange is a pretty great colour, but also I had no choice in the matter. I needed a rain-coat. The only rain coat I could afford was orange, therefore I have an orange coat. So now I have my orange coat and my orange hat.

Then it's time for footwear. The shoes I usually wear are Nike Free's. If you know anything about Nike's "Free" line of shoes you will know that they are free to let all of the water straight into the shoe which leads to you having some pretty wet feet very quickly. They are not really very good rainy shoes. But luckily, I have a workaround for this. I have rubber boots! My strange fascination with being impervious to rain motivated their purchase. I bought them last spring and when I was buying them, I wanted to go for maximum visibility. I was about to start a job where people were going to need to find me and I thought if it was raining, it'd make that easier if I stuck out. I chose a pair of orange rain boots for this purpose. I am not working at that job anymore, but I still have the orange rain boots. I head out the door. I am wearing my orange hat, my orange coat, and my orange rain boots. If anyone runs me over on the way to the post office, there is no court in Canada that would let them pass it off as an accident.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Blog #37: A Certain Kind of Friend

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I've recently been playing the game Destiny. I am still playing, which is probably just a testament to the kinds of things that I stay committed to. One of the things that is a challenge about Destiny is that it requires you to play with others for certain kinds of tasks. There are two missions called raids that require you to join up with six friends in order to complete the level. I don't have any friends I know of to play the game with and run through that content, so I run other parts of the game but I am constantly thinking of how I might find people to play with.

I struck up a conversation with Marc about this two weeks ago. We were talking about having video game friends and how it's rare to find a friend that is as interested in video games as we happened to be. As you grow up, your friends become interested in other things until you happen to be the only one who's left. Then you try and find people to play games with but the challenge is that they're all at home playing games and not out running around looking for people to play with. It's actually kind of funny to think about. All of these people at home playing games looking for other people to play games with but never bothering to find them.

It's not just about games either, because I've found random strangers online to play with but I have a different set of problems with them. We can play games together but they are usually so hardcore that there's no moderation to their game playing. I had a guy drag me through one of the raids (I am not equipped to do it but he is able to run it himself) and we talked for like an hour, but mostly just about the game. Very little outside of that. I think the people I'm looking to play games with are like some kind of magical fairy unicorn. They want to play games, but they also want to be casual and talk about other things at times.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Blog #36: Escape Games

It was Victoria's birthday party yesterday. When she started talking about it a month ago, she suggested we might do an "escape game" which is a new thing that's been popping up in Toronto where you are locked in a room filled with puzzles and you need to try and figure out how to escape. You can read about the company who ran ours here. So 11 of us showed up in front of this place to join them for some escaping action.We went inside, signed a waiver, and then sat down for the explanation of the game. Our game master took us through the rules of the game and gave us some pointers on how to play. Then he pointed to a board and said that 1130 teams had participated in the escape game and only 26 had escaped in the allotted hour. I looked at that and then said to myself "There's no way that we'll get out". I lowered my expectations to avoid disappointment. I didn't want to assert that I was too smart.

Then we went into the room and as we started playing, it felt like a lot of stuff was happening. We were finding things, we were solving puzzles. It was a blast. The game we were playing was brilliantly designed and they kept people in the room to ensure that we didn't break any game rules. We had a few eureka moments, and then a long pause of silence as we thought about what to do next (I'm being ambiguous because it's best for you to experience the game with no spoilers). But then we remembered something someone had noticed, we tried it out, and then it turned out to be right, and we escaped with ten minutes to spare! We were the 27th team to escape the mysterious room!

Now being that so few people escape, I tried to play it cool. I acted like it was no big deal. But all evening I kept telling Amanda "I can't believe that we escaped". I had downplayed my expectations so much that there was a feeling of complete shock over our success. But here's the catch. We are part of the 3% who succeeded at the game, but what does that mean? It means we succeeded at a game. It means we're good at escape games as a group. It doesn't mean we get a reward, or entry to some exclusive club. It's just about the pride of having completed the task unassisted. It's natural to go for reward expectations right away, but some things in life are really victories only to themselves.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Blog #35: This Tim Horton's Thing

I forgot to post this morning (it was a busy day) but here I am writing about a contentious issue which will probably spark a Facebook/Twitter fight. You can read a more thorough explanation of the #boycotttims madness here and you can read Rex Murphy's thoughts (you can imagine him talking while you read it here). I don't want to go into too much detail to avoid making too much out of this thing. They whole exercise is kind of ridiculous for two reasons.

First, why does Tim Horton's have advertisements in its store? That seems silly to me. Few other businesses would allow advertisements in your store. Your store is the place where you have free advertising space. Isn't that usually a space that you fill with advertising for your own products? Putting ads for another company in your store seems dumb.

Two, if the Canadian Energy Industry needs the support of Tim Horton's to continue to create jobs then we have a problem. Industries (whatever they are) should really be self-sustaining if they want to employ lots of people and have long term stability. Once upon at time the auto industry was built on demand for cars. Even as auto companies crashed in the late 2000`s, they still remain and are a major employer of people in North American in manufacturing. Their continued operation is based on the fact that people want to buy cars. Likewise the Energy industry is built on the demand for oil. If there is a demand for oil, there will be jobs in the oil sands. Whether or not Tim Horton`s supports those jobs should have little effect on whether those jobs continue to exist or not. No policy will ever be changed and no economic sector will ever crash because Tim Horton`s decided to do something like remove an ad. Man all of that sounded curmudgeonly. It`s beautiful outside. Go outside everyone! Stop listening to me get mad about #boycotttims

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blog #34: A Post About Nothing

You know, for the first time since I started doing these a month ago I cannot think of a topic where I can come up with three paragraphs to write. I am barely staying awake right now and so I think that's blocking up the creative juices. Do I write about being needed? No there's not really much there. I nod off into my keyboard for a moment before kicking myself to wake up again. Perhaps I can tell you about these blogs. Two things for your information.

The first is that I started them because I like writing and I needed to write more and giving myself time to write what I thought was interesting wasn't going to cut it any more. In that sense it has succeeded. May is the month with the most blog posts out of the last several years on my blog. It has also brought back some interesting things that used to happen when I blogged every day in high school. I go to visit a friend and start telling them about something and they say "Oh, I read your post about it". We usually end up talking about it in more detail but I feel like I'm giving all my stories away.

As far as advertising goes, I have been posting here every day (with one exception). I do not always advertise on Facebook and Twitter though. It is usually because I am less proud of the content or I am nervous about what people think. It still gets posted, but no one is told about it. Anyways, that's all I've got for today. I do not feel like I should advertise this post...


Thursday, June 4, 2015

Blog #33: The Race Track

A friend is in town for a course and we wanted to spend some time together. He suggested we go to the Woodbine Racetrack.
"It's cheaper than a movie, you can be there for longer, and you actually get to be social"
He was right. At a $2 minimum bet, you can be on six races, be there for four hours, and still have spent less money than a $14 movie ticket. Plus horse racing is a lot of waiting around with brief moments of excitement so there truly is lots of time to talk to each other. To top it all of, the landscaping at Woodbine is BEAUTIFUL. It just looks really good. Plus it's probably the largest swath of green space in the city that isn't a ravine. Definitely a good spot if you're looking to kill some time with friends.



As for the betting, it went about as well as my foray into Proline last year. Of the six races, my horses placed dead last in four. Now to be fair I had no idea what I was doing. I was betting on horses that had cool names (coolest name of the night: Honolululemon) but still. You'd think I'd pull one out eventually. I think it's for the best though. I love games and if the act of doing something is fun, I'll keep doing it over and over again. If I had actually won a bet, I'd probably still be there. Fortunately it was a bust so I can remain detached.

One thing I noticed while I was there is that it's easy to forget that the horses are animals at a track. They take on this mechanical quality in the way that the races are staged, but every now and then you realize that they are living creatures. In the last race, my horse was chasing the leader and almost passed it but then it started necking the first place horse near the finish line and it slowed up. Instead of pressing ahead with steel gaze, it was kind of all over the place. Just another reminder that a horse is an animal, and not a machine.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Blog #32: Olympic Champion of Grocery Shopping

The best thing that happened on Monday was my grocery shopping trip. Okay, we also visited a friend who was passing through Toronto but that was good in the sense that people are more important than groceries. This grocery trip was a triumphant experience. It started with the assembling of the grocery list which was a largely pain free exercise. It took us ten minutes to come up with one and it looked pretty good. Then I had to drive over and there was no traffic on the way over (it's a good thing I resolved to keep driving in the face of all of Toronto's shenanigans). When I arrived there was tons of parking. As I pulled my items I didn't run into anyone. When I got to the checkout there was no line up. My bill was fairly reasonable, and after all that I got home at a decent time. I left the grocery store feeling like I could conquer the rest of the day.

Then I proceeded to get very little done for the rest of the day. I did some good stuff. I read a commentary on Leviticus (which is full of really good things). I organized the fridge. I drank too much milk. But I didn't do any homework, and I didn't advance any further on the question of what to do next (other than continuing to pray and try to listen). The rest of the day did not line up with my gold medal performance at the grocery store.

But that's okay because I am willing to put aside all of those other things and simply marvel at how incredibly easy my trip to the grocery store was. It makes me think for a moment that I just may have figured out how to live in Toronto finally without having a meltdown. Though the rest of the day was crummy, I always had the morning to look back on. I could always thing of my gold medal in groceries.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Blog #31: Holes where poop comes from

On Sunday I took a drive to the storage locker to put away some things that I need to sell/throw out/give away later. It bothers me that we have a storage locker, but at the moment it's either that or become a full time kijiji wrangler and garbage dump visitor. If you judge me though, I'll accept that. I would. Anyways, that wasn't the point of this paragraph. I had to drive there. The storage locker, without traffic, is about twenty minutes away. It took me forty five minutes to get there this afternoon. I thought that it wouldn't be such a long drive since Sunday, but there were lane reductions, traffic jams, and the worst kind of drivers. People who run through an intersection on a red light or deliberately cut you off or honk at you for no apparent reason. By the time I got home two hours later, I was thinking to myself that I should just stay at home forever. Better to be at home alone and safe than to go outside and face such oppressive traffic and such self-centered drivers.

On Sunday I was playing Destiny. I recently obtained a headset which allows me to voice chat with others online, but I am hesitant to use it because I have been flamed for being bad at a given game. I've been told to uninstall or given comments of supreme disgust. As with most things on the internet, my approach is to avoid places where I might get yelled at so I just stopped using voice communication with strangers. I use it to talk to friends only. Better to be alone online and safe than to go outside and face such oppressive language and such self-centered players.

Except I don't want the worst kind of people to decide what I do and do not do. Sometimes I need to drive and go places and it's not fair if a bunch of asshole drivers intimidate me off the road. I don't have to respond in kind, but I also don't need to leave the road to make way for their self-centreed tactics. My lack of voice communication prevents me from planning with strangers I'm playing games with and also prevents me from making new friends to play games with. I'm only avoiding voice comms because a group of people choose to be assholes. That's dumb. I don't want them to get that much power over me. I would rather be yelled at and refuse to be intimidated than quit using a mic altogether. I don't want the behaviour of a select group of assholes to keep me away from good things. I don't think anyone else should either.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blog #30: Pouring Rain

I was out running an errand yesterday. I was picking something up from the store. When I left the apartment I looked at the clouds, noted that it had rained earlier, but decided I would risking going now anyways. I brought a bag to keep my item dry but I figured it would all be ok. I am only four blocks from the store. How bad could the weather get in four blocks? I made it to the store unscathed, then started to head back. I made it about three blocks when the rain started.

Yesterday was Saturday and it was mid afternoon. So when the rain started, instead of running to their destination, everyone started congregating under the nearest awning or overhang. Wherever you were when the rain started, that was where you stayed. With a few exceptions (a girl in a raincoat who couldn't even be bothered to walk faster in the rain) most people quit what they were doing in hopes of waiting out the rain. I stopped at a bank not too far from home. Three other people were under their with me. From where we were you could see six people in front of a Tim Horton's, three inside a subway station, and another two tucked into the leeward side of a building.

I think it is tempting to become constantly busy, and I myself find myself tempted by this. You develop a task list and then you're always doing something on that list or you are procrastinating.I say tempting because when you get so busy that you don't have time to think about anything but yourself, then you have a problem. Everyone I was out doing errands with was "busy". Pretty much every single person stopped and waited for at least ten minutes in hopes the rain would stop. It's possible to take some time out of the day. Indeed, it is necessary to take some time out of the day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blog #29: Destiny

I started playing Destiny again a few days ago. I've had it for almost a year. I played it a bit last Spring but then the internet at camp exploded and it only works when you're connected, so I quit. A new expansion just came out for it though and so one night while I was humming and hawing about what to do, I pulled Destiny off the shelf and figured I would get back into it. I was only a few levels away from the main story mission anyways. I would just jump in and level my way back up. I think I played for two hours that first night, another hour last night, another hour this morning. I think it's back in my rotation for the time being.

I find it hard to get excited about things as I get older. I see other people get excited about things (Amanda, Jason, Victoria, my parents, my sisters, etc.) but I just don't feel that level of enthusiasm about much. So when it happens (and it's usually about a video game...) I tend to just go for it. Am I alone in this complete lack of excitement? Am I the only person who just sort of cruises along with moderate levels of up and down activity? Probably not, but it feels like it sometimes.

In some ways it's good. I don't have the lows that I watch a lot of other people experience. Things are pretty okay most of the time, even when they are tough. It also means it's easier to take things in stride. When stuff happens I'm usually the one sitting back and watching things unfold instead of peeing myself with excitement. It's definitely less exciting though. I think I kill the mood at times with my heavy sense of restraint. Since I recognize that problem, I like to compensate by getting really excited about things when they do come up.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blog #28: T-Shirts

We needed to do laundry. I packed up all the darks (all I could fit in the laundry basket) and started the trek to the basement. I wonder why I don't ever see more people down there. I think maybe they have laundry in their units. I supposed that's probably what it is. I find out later in the day that this is in fact true as a woman in our building tells me she is moving and she is selling her washer and dryer.

Later in the day I need to go outside to send a package to my dad (he left some stuff in the car this weekend). I haven't showered yet and so I am still wearing my shirt from the day before (the pink one from floor hockey). I go to the drawer to pick out a shirt. It's hot today so all of my black shirts are out. That means I'm digging to the bottom of my shirt pile where I keep all of my camp t-shirts. When it's laundry day this is about all that's left. My clothing-based record of my time of service at camp. 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014. I am missing a few. 2007 disappeared sometime in the summer of 2009. 2009 had to be given to someone who needed a shirt. 2013 was ugly so I gave it away. As I look at all of these shirts I pause for a moment.

This is the first summer in a decade that I will not receive a camp t-shirt. When I left camp in November it felt a bit strange because I felt like I had invested a lot of my life into that place. Looking at these shirts I realize that it's true. That was ten years of my life where I was at least passingly concerned with that place. Now I'm in a position where I still care about the people that I met there, but I don't have a direct association with that place. My summer is not centered around spending as much time there as possible. I will not work fourteen hour days each day of the summer. I am not sure how to process this new identity. I think for a long time I defined myself as a camp guy. To a certain extent that is still a part of my identity. But it is different now. I won't get a camp shirt this year and that's a sign that I've moved on to a new stage of life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blog #27: Vacation? But why?

We try to have dinner with Jason and Victoria every week. It doesn't always work out because we all have wildly different schedules. Amanda and I have night class. Jason works 9-5. Tori is on shifts that change from week to week. This week it didn't work out to have everyone over at the same time so Jay came over for hamburgers while Tori was at work. We haven't had dinner with Tori in two weeks so I figured a visit at work was in order if she wasn't to be present at supper. I hopped on the subway in the afternoon.

I arrived, purchased a beverage, and then we sat and caught up for the fifteen minutes she was able to get away for. It's amazing how much you can cover in fifteen minutes. I was telling her how I finished at Westport on Sunday and how I'm waiting and discerning where I'm supposed to be next. I'm still in school over the summer but the older I get, the less stressful school becomes. I still have five days a week with no commitments. That's a lot of spare time. I mentioned this to Tori because we used to work together and compared to what life was like when I worked, I felt lazy and I felt guilty about that.
"It's your vacation" she said.

I guess it's true. Whatever I end up doing next, I'll be investing a significant amount of time and energy into that. I really ought to take advantage of the current lull in activity. I've been trying. Amanda and I have been getting out to do things we don't normally have a chance to do. I'm writing more. I get up early and read the paper. I try and get in touch with people who've fallen off my radar. I clean the apartment from top to bottom. It's just hard for me because I don't know what to do with myself when I'm not constantly supposed to be doing something. I'll take the current "vacation" but it still feels weird.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blog #26: Movie Shoots

The weather was perfect last night. It was humid but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. Amanda came and picked me up from school and before we left we walked around the school grounds for a bit. I showed her the huge ravine on the back of the property and we discovered a police car down there (for what reason I do not know). It was the kind of weather that makes you want to sit on a bench and stare out at the world. It was pretty late though so we got back in the car and started to drive home.

On our way back Amanda was telling me about the traffic on the way there and how they had close off parts of Yonge Street.
"Maybe it's for filming" I said. They are filming the movie "Suicide Squad" in Toronto right now and it appears they're using lots of practical effects because every day or two there are photos of plane wreckage spread across Yonge Street or what looks like a helicopter crash. On our drive home we got stuck in traffic and discovered that, yes, they were filming that night. It also looked to be pretty close to our apartment. So we parked the car and headed over.


What we saw when we arrived was very cool. We had come at the perfect time. They had covered Yonge street in water to make it look cool. As we approached, a production assistant called out to clear the road. Then a pickup sped down the road with what looked like a flamethrower (it was a smoke machine). Then cars with what I think were Louisiana license plates came down at high speed. And then we saw the camera rig mounted on a pickup truck (it looked to be computer controlled so it was waving around all over the place) followed by a hot pink Ferrari with what we assumed were the Joker and Harley Quinn. That was pretty much the end of the action. They ran all the cars back up Yonge street and started to reset so we walked away. Once again though Toronto showed that it always has interesting stuff going on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Blog #25: Two Hundred and Eighty Hours

Yesterday was my last Sunday as an intern at Westport Free Methodist Church. I preached, they sent me out with a prayer, and then we had cake afterwards. It was a bittersweet ending because I feel like I just got started and finally have a feel for the people and the community that they have going there and now I've got to start the process all over again. At the beginning of my time there, I knew it would be temporary but that's easier to work through at the beginning than it is at the end.

I spent two hundred and eighty hours in the car over the last five months. That's enough for driving to have been my part time job. I can honestly say that I don't mind driving much now. Obviously I would rather do less of it, but the last five months helped me to learn how to make good use of the time with my hands on the steering wheel. I would use the time to listen to podcasts, discover new music, and think about what was going on during a given week. I'll have to find time to do those things in other places now, but I don't think that will be a problem.

Since I moved away from my parents house in Kingston, I've always struggled a little bit to find a good sense of home. I had one for a time when I lived on Princess Street, and Amanda and I had it at Davisville a few months ago, but I feel it really strongly about our current place because of all of the driving I have done. As we were driving back last night, we were talking about being excited to be home. We were excited to see the cat and relax on the couch and enjoy our apartment. I was excited for familiar scenery and familiar rituals (the newspaper, coffee in the morning, the sound of the air conditioner). Oddly enough being away from home so much has given me a much stronger sense of home in our apartment on St. Patrick Street. I look forward to enjoying that over the next couple of months.