15 July 2014

A question about the Knights of Columbus

I am considering joining the Knights. I meet their requirements. viz., I am male, over 18, with a pulse. I would like to hear from anyone out there who may read this and have some knowledge o experience with the Knights what their thoughts are on the organization. Did you find the experience worthwhile? Did it help you with your faith and your life? Were there unexpected benefits or drawbacks?

I am debating this decision. I don't know if the Knights would be good for me, or if I would be good for the Knights. I am not a team player, nor much of a follower, nor much of a leader.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

14 July 2014

Anyone else find their job search site to be garbage?

So I'm trying to find work for when this place finally goes belly up. Several friends recommended I join a certain well known website that will aid me in my hunt for new work. I put in my education and work experience, with a few other things, and it finds me matches.

Except it doesn't.

For the purposes of background, education and job experience goes like this: Graduated High school. BA major in English and minor in history (although I could probably upgrade it today to a double major without taking any new courses). Masters in English, ABD on my PhD. I have been quality control lab technician, a teaching assistant at a university. I've built fences and decks and spent a time as a freelance cabinet maker. I even occasionally got hired by a friend who ran a painting company, so I suppose I have been a painter, although you would be foolish to call on me to do your house. And I have worked in this store (for far too long, really) wherein I have worked the information desk, cash, shipping and receiving, and, for a year or two, accounting.

So, what kind of positions do they send me, telling me that I would be just a spiffy fit? From today: Art teacher at a Montessori School.(no idea how they got that) Manager at college pro paint, (That's my university experience plus being a painter); Early Childhood Educator (???);Executive Director, Canadian Association of Research Libraries (no idea how that came up. For some of the other positions I sort of resemble their candidate in the way that a fun house mirror resembles a person- but this one is ocmpletely out to lunch.);Senior Bioinformatics Research Programmer (that makes the previous one look like a spot on match. What is a Bioinforwhatever the heck that is? And nowhere in my CV do I mention "computers" or "programming") Another time I was told I would be great to head up the Sociology department of a nearby university, and at another time, the chemistry department. Seriously.

I would shut down my account, except I find these colossal mismatches to be amusing. I have no idea what algorithm they are using to find these matches, but I think it is probably the wrong one. I would have more luck with a coin toss or a spinning wheel. The weathermen are more accurate in their forecasts than this state of the art program. Anyone out there have similar experiences with their job search engines? Anyone have a good one?

8 July 2014

It's tme for a book review...

...if you can call it a review when I only read about half of the first book of a long series.  Yes, I'm talking about Game of Thrones.

It is very rare for me to put a book down when I am half way through.  Either I stop reading within the first few pages, or I carry through to the bitter, bloody end.  The number of books I have stopped reading midway through are few and far between, and Game of Thrones (first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series) was one of them.  So: Why?

The answer is a little complicated.  I found much to praise about that book.  The writing was very good, the world building was excellent to the point that I can honestly say the only better world building was that of Tolkien himself, and that is very high praise indeed.  The plot was sufficiently complicated without being overly convoluted.  As a work of imagination, this is stunning.

It is a little harder for me to pin down what was off putting.  I suppose the sex had a hand, although not too much.  I am fairly inured to representations of sex, even strange sex, in literature.  (Getting stuck in courses with Sade on the reading list will do that to you.)  (Heck, Shakespeare is full of sex, too)I don't seek out books for the sex portrayed within, but I also don't automatically toss a book aside when it appears either.  In this book there was a lot of sex, much of what used to be referred to as deviant. .  It was incestuous, or paedophiliac, or prostitution.  (Again, two out of those three are also in Shakespeare) In the half of the book that I read, much of it seemed to serve little purpose in terms of plot or story.  It was just there because... There is, for example, a fairly innocuous scene where Catelyn leaps from her bed naked in front of her husband and the Maester.  A few lines of dialogue follow to drive home the point that she is indeed naked.  Her lack of clothing does nothing in terms of adding to the story or the plot or the character.  It's just there.  Does it make the story more real to the reader?  Maybe.  For me, it stuck out for its sheer pointlessness.

But it wasn't just the sex that I found pointless.  It began to dawn upon me that the story as a whole was pointless. Brilliantly written, but still pointless.  Almost all the characters in the book are not good people. There is no hero in this book, someone for whom I am cheering to take over the throne.  And yes, I am aware that most people like Tyrion.  He is a good character, but he does not have a good character, if you understand.  It is just a bunch of not too admirable people involved in a long power grab and struggle to survive.

So there are few good characters, or at least, no one who is particularly good.  But the same is true in the opposite direction.  Even the bad characters aren't particularly bad.  There is no Sauron, no Smaug, no Dark Lord hovering over the horizon.  There is no one who will plunge the world into a new darkness should he win.  In the first book, the worst character was Viscerys, who, along with his sister Daenerys, is the last of the old dynasty to occupy the Iron Throne, the dynasty that was all but destroyed just before the beginning of the book.  Viscerys is evil, but not Hugely, Massively, Awesomely Evil.  He is a small evil.  He does not bring destruction, merely irritation.  His death is less a cleansing than it is a relief: at least we won't have to hear from this clown any more.

 It is obvious that the Iron Throne is to be fought over and eventually claimed by one character or another, but there isn't much difference between the characters.  In fact there was a scene with Daenerys and her guard, whose name I can't remember, where they discuss this very point.  Viscerys has been spinning a constant fantasy about how the people, especially the commoners, await their return to the throne.  How people have hidden banners and symbols of the old regime in anticipation for their glorious return.  Daenerys asks her guard when Viscerys is out of earshot if this was true,.  The guard sighs and tells her no, it is not.  It really makes no difference to the commoners who sits on the throne, he says.

I saw then that the guard was right.  It really makes no difference who sits on the throne.  It was not long after that point that I stopped caring.  There is nothing at stake in this book.  No world's fate hangs in the balance.  There is no lie to be overthrown because there is no truth to be found here.   In Lord of the Rings, to which I often hear this book compared, it makes a difference if Frodo succeeds or not.  It make s a difference if Aragorn takes his throne or not.  Here, one or another, it makes no difference.  It is a dreary world filled with dreary people.  Tolkien once said that he views history as nothing but a long defeat, although there may be occasional glimpses of the final victory.  The events of The Lord of the Rings was one such glimpse in his world.  Game of Thrones offers no glimpse of victory: from what I could see, it was merely the long defeat. At most it offers some little relief in humour of the kind found in taverns and brothels.  But it offers no light in the darkness.  Winter is coming.  There is no promise, or even hint, that Spring is coming in its turn.

As I said, there is much to praise in this book.  It is very intelligent, even brilliant at times.   And yet, in the end, or rather, the middle, I just didn't care enough to turn the page.  Instead, I laid it down and never picked it up again.

7 July 2014

I praise you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth,

...because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

At work today, one of my coworkers (Pothead) has been in a foul mood and is complaining about the crummy work he is stuck doing, yelling at deliverymen and just being an ogre in general.  From his perspective, being asked to do something he'd rather not do for money to support his pot habit is an odious burden.

I say: from his perspective, but it is clear he lacks perspective.

For a better perspective, there is this story about a pair of best friends, all of seven years old each, tackling life's problems head on

Quinn and Braydon have been best friends since Kindergarten a couple of years back- forever, for kids at that age.  Braydon has cerebral palsy.  Whenever he grows, his muscles don't keep up thus making it harder and harder for him to walk and do basic simple things.  There is an operation not currently available in Canada, so they would have to travel to New Jersey and pay $15,000 for the operation, plus travel, plus rehabilitation and therapy, plus plus plus.  Braydon's parents were ready to take a loan for their son when Quinn stepped in- or rather, stepped up- and asked if he could help.  He got his parent's permission to start a lemonade stand with his friend to raise money for the operation. The two of them attracted a lot of attention with their matching blue shirts and the slogan "When Life hands you lemons, make Lemonade."  Generous patrons stopped by for a glass of the stuff, and frequently paid with a twenty and the words "keep the change."

 Quinn's mother started an online donation campaign which has surpassed its $20,000 goal.   Braydon will get his treatment and it will help him walk better.

I know a lot of people- myself being at the top of the list- who have a lot to learn from these two kids and their parents.

4 July 2014

Seventy Five Years Ago Today..

...Lou Gehrig said his farewell to bsaeball.

Knowing he was dying of a rare disease, he chose not to complain or indulge in self pity. Instead he spoke in simple, unadorned words of how blessed he was.

Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day?

Sure I’m lucky.

Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy?

Sure I’m lucky.

When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift - that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies -- that’s something.

When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter -- that’s something.

When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body -- it’s a blessing.

When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed -- that’s the finest I know.

So, I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I've got an awful lot to live for.

Today, this speech is considered a masterpiece of oratory. In honour of the day, 30 of Major League Baseball's first basemen have recited his address. You can watch the video, and clips of the original, here.

1 July 2014

Happy Canada Day!

I prefer when it was still called Dominion Day, but I also prefer "Brewer's Retail" over "The Beer Store".

This is also the 98th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the single biggest military disaster in British history, and thus also the anniversary of the annihilation of the Blue Puttees of Newfoundland. Newfoundland was still a British colony at the time, and Britain was so grateful for their courage and sacrifice that they rid themselves of the colony at the first possible opportunity.

Other memorable anniversaries would include the Battle of the Boyne, or perhaps not, depending on what calendar you use. Drink a toast to Seamus Acaca.

In other news. I was going to post on Michael Coren, but I probably can't be bothered. So let's celebrate Canada Day with a few vignettes.

Remember this?

Here someone on the American News covers the story of our Highway of Heroes, and gets it right.

If you are a Canadian my age or older, you will remember this guy, even though you may not remember that his name was Roger Doucet:

True story: Sportswriter Paul Zimmerman (Dr. Z.) once wrote that he wishes American singers would sing their anthem the way Roger Doucet sang the Canadian one. Also true: Doucet changed the way we sing the anthem. He either invented or popularized singing the final"for thee!" an octave higher than was originally written.

Lastly, our original anthem:

So, whether you believe we were named from the Algonquin words "ka-na-ta" meaning "collection of huts" or from the Portuguese words "ca nada" meaning "here is nothing", happy Canada Day to you all.

28 June 2014

A hundred years ago

One hundred years ago today, Serbian yugoslav Nationalist Gavrilo Princip shot and killed archduke Ferdinand and his wife in the city of Sarajevo. This was the match to the powder keg that was Europe of the time, setting in motion a chain of events that lead to the declaration of war, and created one of the greatest darkneses the world has ever seen. We live still under the long shadow of those shots.