A Day of Yumminess

Well, today is the day of the big shin-dig at my place. Prime rib, tequila-lime shrimp, pea salad, twice-baked stuffed potatoes, deviled eggs, and other yumminess is being served up throughout the day. Thus, like my post on Christmas Day, this one is a short but brief wave out at the world.

Hope everyone has a great pre-New Year’s T.G.I.F.

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Agents of Change

So then, where was I? Oh yes, now I remember – that non-epiphanal moment of clarity.

Have you ever had one of those moments where, you find yourself sitting there, looking at a situation, fully understanding how bad it is, and realize, “Hey, this is just wrong! And this is why.”? I’m pretty sure we all have. Such a moment is one of the primary reasons I am doubling up on my studies to become an instructor of English as well as a writer. Now, I have no illusions that by entering the teaching workforce, that I am going to make a difference in the grand scheme of things. But it is entirely possible, and even likely, that I could make a difference for one or two students. Perhaps I could even make a difference for a small handful. You know what? I’m okay with that. Even if I can only make a difference one time, for one student, I have still made a difference.

But what do you do when you realize that there is absolutely nothing you can do to make a difference? Now, I’m not talking about issues such as global warming or the American economy; issues beyond the scope of any one person. I’m talking about issues where one person, or at most a small group of people, actually does have the power to make a difference. What do you do when the only people currently in a position to make a positive difference are the very people making things worse?

I’ve heard it suggested that starting with a grassroots movement is effective if the cause is truly important. But in practice, I have yet to see it work. There is one solution, the Mark Cuban solution. When something does not seem right, buy it and put someone in place to fix it. However, as I look around, I don’t see any spare billionaires with the time and passion on their hands. Such moneymen usually are too busy making more money. So I guess the real solution then is winning a mega lottery. When I was 19, my numbers came up for the lottery jackpot. Unfortunately I was broke and had not bought a ticket. I’m not going to try and figure the astronomical odds that would need to be beat in order for my numbers to come up a second time.

I suppose there is always running for Governor. That would put me in a position to make my voice carry weight enough to be heard. Unfortunately, I would need to win the lottery to do that as well. Furthermore, with my sort of history, there’s zero chance I could ever win, no matter how much money I had.

So what does one do? Well, I suppose the y blog about it while they hold out hope that they’ll be accepted for the editorial position they applied for at the newspaper.

When a Word – Isn’t

Every once in a while I find myself being surprised at the simplest things. Here I was, sitting down to write tonight’s blog when the squiggly red line jumped up beneath one of my words, mocking my lack of a complete mastery of English spelling conventions. Grimacing, I did what most people would do. I right-clicked the offending word expecting the haughty, all-knowing dictionary within MS Word to correct my misconception. But then, nothing happened. No suggestions popped up. Huh. Well then, maybe my spelling isn’t as bad as the dictionary was hoping. Maybe I had found yet another word missing from that glorious database of words that has saved innumerable college term papers from failing marks. So, not to do things by half measures, I decided I best make sure my spelling was correct still. Maybe, the way I was spelling the word was so far from the real thing that the spell checker simply had no idea what I was getting at.

I take my writing seriously. I’m rather proud of my spelling prowess. So when I come across a case like this, I don’t mess around. I go right to the definitive source, one of my favourite “books”, the Oxford English Dictionary. Surely this bastion of linguistic knowledge would comfort me. This, pinnacle of vocabulary authority would surely confirm my spelling and score yet another victory for the literary mind over the not-insubstantial, (in fact, quite impressive) spell-checker. Except, well, it didn’t. It wasn’t that I had misspelled my word, it simply wasn’t there. I checked by spelling. I checked by root word. I even checked in the thesaurus and (silly me) I even consulted another dictionary! Nope. So there I sat. Stumped.

Huh. Go figure. I did a quick search using ye olde Google. Sure enough, I found the word used in all sorts of titles and sentences. I asked around with others. Yup, they knew what the word meant. But according to the experts, those linguistic professors that are the Popes of the English vocabulary, it isn’t. So there you have it. Epiphanal is not a word.

Epiphanal: adj. Marked by the presence of epiphany. “He had an epiphanal moment.”

Epiphanic is a word. Though, to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I actually ever heard the word used. I know that its meaning is similar to the one I had in mind for epiphanal. But in all honesty, outside of literary theory, I’m not sure I have ever heard it used. Huh. How about that?

So here I sit, having what is apparently not, as I had thought, an epiphanal moment. Perhaps I am having an epiphanic moment. Or maybe it’s just a moment of stark clarity and depressing realization all rolled into one. But more on that later. I have laundry to finish.

Why Go to the Movies?

I  have, more than once, been accused of being a cinephile. There was a time when I saw nearly every movie released in my area worth seeing (and many not so worth it). Sure, I had more disposable income than I do now, but also, the experience of going to the theatre and watching the film was something unique. Now I look at how much I would need to spend for that same experience and I wonder, often aloud, “Why bother?”

One adult with a Coke will cost me anywhere from $8.50 – 16.50 depending on the time of day, the movie showing, 3d or not, and whether or not I have a frequent visitor refillable soda cup. Now, I am not one that has a problem going to the movies alone, but it is still almost always more enjoyable to go with someone else. So now I’m at $17.00 – 33.00 for one film. Yikes! That’s an awful lot to pay for an experience that isn’t even guaranteed to be soothing and pleasant. There’s always the risk of morons with cell phones, rowdy children, sexually amorous teenagers, projector problems, or the seven foot-tall two foot-wide guy coming in at the end of the previews and sitting down right in front of you. We won’t even get into what happens when one finishes that 32 oz. Coke in the first 25 minutes of a 135 minute film.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There is still something to be said for seeing films on super-sized screens with 21 speaker sound systems that can make your teeth rattle in your skull during the action sequences or the THX intro. And it used to be that the only way one could experience a movie the way it was intended to be experienced was to go to the theatre to see it. But that simply isn’t the case anymore.

With the great advances in digital technology, viewers can now watch films in the comfort of their own homes with stunning picture and incredibly rich sound. Now, not everyone has a monster screen and a high-powered sound system. But these days most people are finding themselves with televisions 42 inches or larger in their living rooms. The difference is, in their living rooms they are only 7-15 feet from their televisions. That means they are getting the same viewing experience in terms of how much of their vision is taken up by a picture as they do in a theatre. And in some cases they may be getting even more, especially compared to some of the “small screens” in those multiplexes popping up everywhere. Most households also have at least a passable stereo system. Even many of the simple systems have the ability to pipe through sound from the television or a Blu-ray player. Those wanting a bit more of the “theatre feel” can upgrade to a home theatre-in-a-box (HTIB) for all of $250 – 300.

So, given that many folks have the makings of a serviceable theatre in their homes, and movies can be rented for as little as $1 .00, or purchased for as little as $15.00, the incentive to actually go to the movies seems to sort of pale. For the price of two adults one can actually purchase a Blu-ray copy of a movie and relax on the couch with a Coke (or better yet an adult beverage) and watch with no distractions. And hey, if that Coke makes its way through the system too fast, there’s always a pause button!

About the only reason remaining to go out to the movies is to be part of “the event”. There are still some films filled with pop-culture hype that just demand to be seen in the cineplexes. But those films, at least ones that appeal to market of more than one demographic, are even becoming a rarity. It also seems that these days that a growing percentage of the films released are just plain forgettable.

Blah. Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety. But when I can order pizza delivery, enjoy a Coke or a beer, and watch a movie in stunning clarity with pretty good sound along with 0-10 of my good friends for under the cost of two adults going to the actual cinema, it just seems like a no-brainer. There are very few movies that just scream out to be seen without the 3-4 month wait for Blu-ray/DVD release. I would rather take the money saved and reinvest it in upgrading the home theatre, or in buying/renting extra films. (Maybe that’s why my brother and I have 2,200 titles in the house.) Or one could go to dinner with their significant other more often too.

Of course, I am still going to go see The Hobbit on opening  night come 14 December 2012.

The Hobbit Trailer

Oops!

I guss I still have a bit adjusting to do in getting used to this blogging bit. It’s the little things that come back to bite you; like pastingin a nice post about moives and then having it go to drafts instead of publish. I would blame it on the molten pop-tart icing that left two sizeable burn blisters on my left hand, but the reality is I simply forgot to double-check my post. I’m sure that the searing pain in my hand may have certainly led to my distraction, but only in a small way. Maybe I should start taking more ginko to help improve my memory. The only problem I see with that though is that I need the ginko to help me remember where I put the ginko bottle!

Sigh…

Anyway, I hope everyone is having a wonderful day and enjoyed their holidays. Stay tuned to this blog for more idle ramblings in the near future. Next up: the movies.

Happy Holidays!!!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to everyone!

Although I intend to keep this blog as a daily sort of thing, I’m taking today off from writing down anything too terribly meaningful. I just do not really feel like thinking that much. Rest assured though. I will be back tomorrow with some sort of completely bizarre rant or opinion, or… something.

Best wishes for a happy holiday season to everyone!

I Usually Don’t Discuss Politics

I generally don’t like discussing politics. Politics and religion are simply two subjects that are magnets for heated, unfriendly, “I’m right and you are wrong” arguments, and rarely do they seem to attract extended healthy debate. However, there are times when a political issue just begs to be discussed. Whether it is the result of current events shedding bright light on a topic, or the topic is simply being glossed over in a way that is a blatant insult to the intelligence of the American people, some topics just need to be aired out. Without occasional venting, the lunacy of some issues would eventually make my head explode. The Keystone XL pipeline is one of those issues.

Apparently both American political parties are largely in favour of this massive pipeline designed to move Alberta tar sands oil across North America and to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The building of the pipeline is an ambitious project that will require many labourers to complete and see many millions of gallons of oil piped from a friendly neighbor end up in America. Well gee whiz! What’s not to like about that? I’ll tell you what. Plenty. This is one of those times where Washington’s spin machine has been working in overdrive. I’ve seen tops go around and around for minutes that weren’t spun this well.

The GOP and others, including many Democrats would have you believe that this project is going to create 20,000 jobs directly and also as many as 100,000 indirect jobs. These numbers are hopelessly inflated. Furthermore, the jobs created are, for the most part, skilled labour jobs. Sure, there are skilled workers out there looking for work, but they aren’t all situated along the pipeline. The jobs created will hardly be local jobs. The fuzzy math used to come up with the numbers is a travesty. Instead, why don’t they publish the real numbers expected to be employed at each stage along the route? How about taking it another step further and showing how many are going to be general labour jobs? And how long are these jobs expected to last? The folks on Capitol Hill seem to think that most Americans aren’t savvy enough to realize that these are all temporary jobs at best. Independent evaluations of the number of jobs to be created brings the number down to under 7,000. Hmmm…not so many jobs after all.

But let’s say that the infusion of jobs could really help the economy and get things moving in the right direction again. What about the rest of the hoopla? The tar sands that are going to be mined for this oil do not produce crude suitable for being turned into gasoline. Without getting into a drawn out chemistry lesson, suffice it to say that the vast majority of crude, the likes of which will be transported through this pipeline becomes kerosene or diesel. Sure, Americans need those things too, but stop trying to sell us all on the idea that this oil will do anything to help drop gas prices across the country. If anything, the refineries used to process the crude will be spending less time creating gasoline in order to devote resources to refining this new supply as well. That would actually translate into a gas price increase. Now, I’m no economist, so maybe I missed something. But hey, Cornell University does in fact have many economists who have evaluated the situation and they seem to agree. Last I checked, most people seem to think that the folks at Cornell more times than not know what they are talking about.

Then there’s the environmental factor. Tar sand oil is the dirtiest of crude, and as nature would have it, one of the most destructive to pipelines given the abrasive sand scouring the interior and the higher temperatures and pressures it must be moved along at. Then there are the processes of extracting and refining it. Industrial waste and pollution from these processes are on a scale rarely encountered.

But wait, there’s more! What about TransCanada, the company behind this whole project. TransCanada just so happens to also be the company behind the keystone 1 pipeline which, in its first year of operation spilled at least 12 times, including a spill over 21,000 gallons in North Dakota in May of 2011. The EPA ruled that the company had cut corners by using inferior steel and defective welding. This is a pipeline that, if built, will cross more than 1,500 waterways in the heartland of America where every drop of water is necessary to grow all those crops. Do we really want to risk a spill like the one that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River, or risk our waterways being polluted and clogged with tar sands like the Kalamazoo River in Michigan? Heck, Kalamazoo happened in 2010 and still hasn’t been cleaned up yet.

American is the third largest exporter of refined oil. It is a necessary part of our economy. I get that. Oil means money, and America has plenty of it as well as the means to do something with it. But if this is really about helping America make money off of the lucrative oil business, then where is the sense in having the pipeline end in Port Arthur, TX? It’s absolutely no coincidence that the pipeline ends in a Foreign Trade Zone, meaning any oil purchased there is purchased free of U.S. taxes. So let’s recap briefly. The oil will be imported from Canada, who sees money from direct sale of the crude. The crude is then refined in Texas by cash rich oil companies and sold off in the Foreign Trade Zone for destinations in China, Europe, and even Latin America. Sounds to me like the American people are assuming all the risks from the pipeline, but are getting to share in none of the reward. They don’t even get the tax revenue.

Higher water and air pollution, higher fuel costs, and continued energy insecurity. Exactly what part of this is a good deal for Americans? The sad thing is, the pipeline planning is so far along that its construction is all but inevitable.