Why I am glad I don’t have cable TV

In the early nineties, Bruce Springsteen had a hit with the song “57 Channels and Nothing On”. It was the precursor to the same feeling we felt over the “500 channel universe” we experience today.

I have no cable by choice. I can afford to put it in, but apart from educational channels and the news station, I really have little to no interest in what passes for entertainment, and, frankly, no time to sit down and watch what appears to be mostly pointless programming spread out over hundreds of television stations. Here is a small list of programming explaining why I feel this way.

  • My 600-lb life (and related TV shows)
    • A century and a half ago, we locked up anyone who was a freak in a cage and charged admission for patrons to pass by, point, and either express shock, or laugh at them. I see this programming is kind of like that.
    • Ah, the life and escapades of the morbidly obese. I am doubtful that any show that depicts the private hell of individuals (whatever the problem is), when it is presented as “reality TV”, is helpful to the individual whose problem is being flaunted for TV ratings, nor is it helpful to anyone watching the show who shares the same problem, as that is not effectively the reason this show is being broadcast. Shows like this are effectively human suffering, served up as lighthearted entertainment.
  • Faux News
    • From pie charts that add up to more than 100 per cent, to unapologetic right-wing bias, the secret to Faux News high ratings is sensationalism and incendiary reporting.
    • And when it isn’t racist, it is merely cheerleading for Republicans and very nearly their every wrong move. It is a more socially-acceptable version of InfoWars (or is it In-Faux-Wars?).
  • The Bachelor/Bachelorette
  • Real Housewives
    • Real housewives? What does that mean? Purportedly married but dressed as if they are single and hot to trot, this is now a franchise of blondes, brunettes and redheads who more or less look and dress alike, and are nowadays from all parts of the United States, ready to make you feel like you don’t belong. Face it, you don’t look like them, you can’t afford to dress like them, you also probably can’t afford the houses they live in. They are not real in any sense that matters to most viewers.
    • The franchise consists of “Real Housewives of ” <fill in the name of an American city>. Every time I think I have a complete list of cities, I always find one more not in my list. The last one I found was “Atlanta”. Atlanta was notable because most of the ladies were black. I doubt that you are going to hear about racial inequality in a way that broadens or enhances the discussion. They dressed and appeared to live more lavishly than any woman of colour I know.
    • These are the stories of domesticated dramas. Whether it is about unmarried people on the make, or married women (who cares about married men?), don’t expect too many challenges to traditional stereotypes, or to the norms of sexual roles we have all come to accept. Wake me up if there are any surprises, since I don’t expect any. You might expect surprises that are there for shock value, such as the guy finding out that she was a he, or whatever.
  • Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo
    • Time to clear the room
  • 'American Pickers' Season 2 premiere on History Channel ...History Channel
    • There is not much actual history on this channel
  • Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire/Multi-Millionaire/etc.
    • And this is because, indeed, the only thing on a woman’s mind is marrying for money.
    • Notice how I am writing as if it is understood that the millionaire is a man, and that the ones chasing him are women; not the other way around.
    • There is some scientific basis supporting the fact that, in nearly all cultures, women tend to choose a man who is financially secure for their husband, and this is even independent of culture worldwide. In addition, the reverse is true far less often.
  • Dr. Pimple Popper
    • About the only doctor Americans can afford without the Affordable Healthcare programme.
    • Again, it’s the kind of programme which makes you question what you are doing with your spare time. And the depressing reality is that the 500 channel universe is filled with such vapidity and emptiness, that there is probably nothing else on.
  • Project Blue Book
    • This is one of the reasons that anyone who likes history has found to their disappointment that the History Channel no longer discusses anything about history. Project Blue Book is about UFOs.
  • Pawn Stars. You Could Learn A Thing Or Two.Pawn Stars
  • Rust Valley Restorers
  • The Antique Road Show
    • Pawn Stars and Rust Valley Restorers are both on the History Channel, and The Antique Road Show is on PBS. The Antique Road Show gives a better history education.
    • One line you will never hear on the Antique Road Show, regarding something like a curious object bought at a garage sale for $100: “Why does this say ‘Made in Taiwan?'”. Or, regarding an heirloom passed down for several generations: “I don’t know what it is. Well, at least it has sentimental value. Have a nice day.”
  • Lego City
    • It’s pretty bad when we mistrust the imaginations of children with toys so much that toy companies feel the need to sponsor cartoons which depict a universe made of toys from one manufacturer.
    • I suppose that nowadays the idea of children playing with toys from different manufacturers is now regarded as an anti-competitive practice.
  • The “W” Channel
    • used to be “women’s network”
    • of 58 titles listed in their annual lineup of shows and movies, 42 cover the themes of marriage and romance
    • Feminist? One show if you count “Ms. Matched” — still a marriage theme, because that’s all women think about, apparently, especially in this small-screen movie. I think only the “Ms.” in the title makes it appear feminist.
  • Much
    • Was “Much Music”, but is now minus most of its music videos.

The indices of Harper’s Magazine

I have been a fan of Harper’s Magazine since the 1980s. In particular, I loved the Readings section, as well as the factoids list (with citations) known as Harper’s Index, near the front of each issue. Here are 100 factoids I’ve researched from over the years, dates not important, but they have been taken from issues since 2000. I have favoured factoids that are not dated, but that was difficult as many good ones with dates crept in. The URL for Harper’s magazine is http://harpers.org, and is available on some newsstands, but not as many these days as in days previous.

  • Cost to produce Safeguard, the only U.S. ground-based long-range missile shield ever deployed: $23,500,000,000
  • Number of days in the 1970s that the system was operational before it was abandoned as inadequate: 135
  • Pounds of fuel required to maintain this year’s 11,500 Olympic torches: 2,029
  • Ratio of the amount of energy generated by 1 gallon of ethanol to the amount of energy required to produce it : 1:0.9
  • Number of times Colin Powell said, “I don’t recall” or, “I can’t recall” during his 1987 Iran-Contra testimony: 56
  • Percentage of global economic activity accounted for by the world’s 200 largest corporations: 27.5
  • Percentage of the world’s population that these corporations employ: 0.8
  • Minimum number of mentally retarded Americans who have been executed by the justice system since 1976 : 35
  • Estimated chance that a U.S. prisoner is mentally retarded: 1 in 14
  • Days after Time named George W. Bush 2000’s man of the year that Russians named Vladimir Lenin man of the century: 4
  • Places by which Russia’s ranking in the U.N.’s Human Development Index of living standards has fallen since 1990 : 31
  • Rank of the United States and Britain among nations whose residents are most likely to be obese: 1,2
  • Rank of Hungary: 3
  • Ratio of the number of pardons George W. Bush has issued turkeys to those he has issued human beings: 2:1
  • Ratio of the average life span of a commercially bred turkey to that of a wild one: 1:7
  • Year in which Disney’s Mickey Mouse copyright will expire if the Supreme Court reverses a 1998 extension this winter (2002): 2003
  • Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision while he went to deposit a check: 35
  • Percentage change since 1990 (to 2003) in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled “disabled” : +37
  • Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances: 2 in 3
  • Chance that an American adult believes that “politics and government are too complicated to understand” : 1 in 3
  • Chance that an American who was home-schooled feels this way: 1 in 25
  • Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida (in 2004): 240
  • Percentage of the 13,129 varieties of dirt in the United States that are endangered: 4
  • Years in prison to which two ex-Pentagon officials were sentenced last year for taking bribes of money and prostitutes: 24
  • Number of years a North Carolina man has been in prison for stealing a television: 33
  • Rank, on the Turkish bestseller list in March (2005), of a thriller depicting a U.S. invasion of Turkey: 1
  • Rank of Mein Kampf: 2
  • Average percentage by which the power of the male heart declines between the ages of 18 and 75 : 20
  • Average percentage by which the female heart does: 0
  • Amount a Chinese online gamer made last year (in 2004) by selling a virtual sword he had borrowed from a friend: $850
  • Months later that the friend retaliated by stabbing him to death with a real knife: 6
  • Number of beetles that right-wing entomologists have named after Bush Administration officials: 3
  • Number of times that Mary, Jesus’ mother, is referenced by name in the Bible and the Koran, respectively: 19,34
  • Number of “Wal-ocaust” T-shirts sold by a Georgia man before Wal-Mart ordered him to cease and desist: 1
  • Ratio, in the United States, of the number of Wal-Mart employees to the number of high school teachers: 1:1
  • Portion of states where the projected climate in 2100 will not be able to sustain their official tree or flower: 3/5
  • Number of words spoken by Clarence Thomas during Supreme Court oral arguments since February 2006 (until Aug 2007): 132
  • Number by Samuel Alito, the Justice who spoke the second-fewest words: 14,404
  • Percentage of single U.S. women in their twenties who are “very” or “extremely” willing to marry for money: 61
  • Percentage of women in their thirties who are : 74
  • Percentage change since 1985 (to 2009) in the number of U.S. newspapers with reporters covering Congress : –72
  • Percentage of six- to nine-year-old American girls (in 2009) who wear lipstick or lip gloss : 46
  • Number of poppyseed bagels that could be made with Afghanistan’s annual poppy harvest : 357,000,00
  • Percentage of British elementary-school students who think Isaac Newton discovered fire : 60
  • Number of U.S. states that have more pigs than people : 3
  • Minimum number of birds that die from crashing into New York City windows each year : 100,000
  • Number of Bentleys purchased in Russia in 2000 and in 2010, respectively : 0, 113
  • Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead : 1/4
  • Average minutes more exercise per week that a heavy drinker gets than a non-drinker : 21
  • Portion of the total U.S. corn crop that goes to make ethanol : 2/5
  • Projected worldwide surplus of low-skill workers by 2020 : 93,000,000
  • Projected worldwide deficit of high- and medium-skill workers by that time : 85,000,000
  • Rank of China among global beer producers by volume : 1
  • Rank of the United States : 2
  • Percentage change since 1988 (to 2012) in U.S. teen-pregnancy rates : –36
  • In abstinence rates among white teens : +31
  • Among black teens : +56
  • Portion of Americans who don’t walk for at least ten continuous minutes at any point in an average week : 2/5
  • Percentage of American cats that are overweight : 58
  • Percentage of men in dual-income marriages who said they struggled with work-family conflict in 1977 : 35
  • Who say they do today (2013): 60.
  • Average annual cost of detaining an inmate at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay : $900,000
  • At a supermax prison in the United States : $65,000
  • Portion of all online advertising that is never seen by a human being : 1/2
  • Percentage of U.S. children in 1960 who lived in households headed by heterosexuals in their first marriage : 73
  • Who do today (2015) : 46
  • Estimated minimum gallons of water used annually to produce Coca-Cola products : 8,000,000,000,000
  • Ratio of money spent by Britons on prostitution to that spent on hairdressing : 1:1
  • Years in prison to which a New Mexico man was sentenced last year (in 2015) for shooting children with a semen-filled squirt gun : 18
  • Estimated number of people who will be driven into extreme poverty by 2030 because of climate change : 100,000,000
  • Percentage of the world’s civilian-owned firearms that are owned by Americans : 48
  • Number of Americans aged 60 and older who have outstanding student loans : 2,800,000
  • Portion of those borrowers who have taken on debt to pay for a child or grandchild’s education : 3/4
  • Percentage of children’s toys available in Sweden that contain banned chemicals : 15
  • Of sex toys available in Sweden : 2
  • Average number of people who die in avalanches in the United States each year : 27
  • Number of FBI confidential informants (in 2017) who worked for Best Buy’s Geek Squad between 2008 and 2012 : 8
  • Rank of Nebraska among states with the least liked state flags : 1
  • Number of days in January that the flag at the state capitol flew upside down before anyone noticed : 7
  • Number of US states in which fluorescent pink is a legal color for hunting apparel : 6
  • Chance an American has taken an “active shooter” preparedness class : 1 in 10
  • Percentage of US “active shooters” from 2000 to 2016 who were killed by police : 21
  • Who were killed by armed civilians : 1
  • Number of universities in which half of all the US tenured and tenure-track history professors are trained : 8
  • Number of the twenty largest German companies that are headquartered in the former East Germany : 0
  • Rank of Germany in consumption of nonalcoholic beer : 2
  • Of Iran : 1
  • Portion of Hawaii’s drinking water that comes from underground wells : 9/10
  • Gallons of raw sewage that leak into the ground from Hawaii cesspools each day : 53,000,000
  • Percentage change since 2009 in reports of human waste on San Francisco streets (in 2018): +391
  • Chance that a given day is a public holiday in Cambodia : 1 in 13
  • Rank of Disneyland among the happiest places on earth, according to Disneyland : 1
  • Percentage of Disneyland employees who worry about being evicted from their homes : 56
  • Number of dead people Americans have elected to Congress : 6
  • Factor by which a millennial is more likely than a baby boomer to claim they have a food allergy : 2
  • Number of states that allow roadkill to be salvaged for food : 31
  • Rank of Arabic among France’s most spoken languages : 2
  • Factor by which graduate students are more likely to experience depression or anxiety than the general population : 6
  • Percentage of Americans aged 18 to 34 who say they’d like to live forever : 24
  • Of Americans over 55 : 13

Truth and Action

Pontius Pilate answered a life-and-death question with a question: “What is truth?” We recognize his response as a indecisiveness masking avoidance behaviour, since truth is well-defined, requiring evidence. Generally, even the answer to the question “What is truth?” needs argument and evidence.

But truth without evidence is undefinable. It can be anything we want it to be. “What is truth?”, asked as if truth were some abstraction, is a discussion that leads nowhere. Like watching shadows in a cave, we can never be sure what the substance of the shadow is doing if we don’t see it, but we can look to the shadow for evidence. True, we may get the wrong idea, but there’s a pretty good chance of getting most of it right. Our brains are wired to put such things together. And though our perceptions may be wrong sometimes, ignoring those perceptions and assimilations is normally seen as foolish and naive.

We can never see everything there is to see in life, but nevertheless, life expects us to make sense of the world around us given our limited perceptions and world view. And the critical decisions we make affecting our lives are almost never based on perfect information. But we often base decision on the degenerate data available, further informed by past experience, and often are expected to render such judgements, whether it is in our line of work, or our daily lives. More often than not, not deciding is often more damaging to one’s future than deciding. With a decision, at least you have a way to base a future plan for coping with any consequences. In life, there is no fence-sitting. Deciding not to decide is still a decision. And it is a decision with consequences.

 

BOSE Sleep Buds, and a note about fraudulent websites

Bose Sleepbuds have helped me sleep this past week, so they appear to live up to the claim of using white noise and nature sounds to mask outside noises. The question is, was it really worth the $325 price tag?

Other reviewers have complained about the earbuds not fitting properly, despite the three sizes of earbud attachments that come with the device. Others have complained about the discomfort of trying to sleep with earbuds stuck in your ears all night. To the first charge (the price that is), it really comes down to how badly you want to have a good night’s sleep, and if it works for you, then it works.

To the discomfort issue, I must say that we all have different sized heads and ear canals. My buds weren’t exactly perfect, but they also weren’t totally uncomfortable. And it did make a difference in how I slept. The sleepbuds end your sleep with a pleasant sounding alarm, which woke me up feeling alert and relaxed.

I found that getting a full charge is not straightforward, unless you remove the buds from the earpieces each morning. If you try to connect the earbuds with their rubber earpieces still on, as depicted here in the ad (see left), it is not always guaranteed you will get good contact, and hence a full charge by the next evening. There were some mornings I woke up with the batteries nearly dead and the alarm didn’t go off.

Also, if you were expecting to go to sleep with your favourite music, then these buds are not for you. These buds only play the white noises/nature sounds programmed into them. They are essentially loops of shorter sounds set to repeat all night. The loops of leaves rustling or rain falling were more obvious, and were more annoying after I noticed it. The best sounds were the fairly uniform sounds, such as the airplane cabin, river sounds, warm static, waterfall, or ocean sounds.

The earbuds are not big enough to fit Bose’s noise-cancelling technology. Thus, they do not detect or cancel surrounding noise, if you were expecting it to. All they do is produce is a sound, which is designed to mask other sounds. The rubberized coverings over the earbuds are made to fit snugly into your ear canal, and act as another sound barrier as well as not falling out at night (they never did in my case, unless I chose to sleep on my side — I mostly sleep on my back).

I also found that the re-charging is often unreliable, and you have to be absolutely sure the contacts are engaged between the earbuds and the charger. I found that you need to check the screen that tells you the battery levels. It is charging both earbuds if both earbuds are not detected. This often takes a couple of extra minutes out of your morning. Before knowing this, I had taken my earbuds out of the charger at night, to find out that one of the earbuds could be as low as 1% charged.

Last night was the first time in a week without sleep buds, and I have to say I tossed and turned and woke up into the night, so the quality of my sleep did suffer without them. For me, the sleep buds was worth the money, despite its limitations.

I also want to say that fake Bose sites are out there. A couple of days ago, boseaen.com came up in a search engine with a high ranking, as a clearance house for Bose products. I saw sleep buds there for $69. Too good to be true, since these sleep buds have only been selling for the past couple of months. I even saw their uber-expensive aviation headset for $79. I know you can’t get those for under $1400 in Canada. I checked the WHOIS database on my shell account, and found that boseaen.com, while looking mighty convincing, is based in China. I called a local Bose retailer in the Toronto area, and he tells me they are a fraud. Nice to know, before you give them your credit card information, as well as other private information. If you find you have been scammed for any reason, and your credit card is involved, notify your credit card company as soon as possible, to have your card cancelled and issue a new one.

For the record, I purchased my sleepbuds from a real person at a real Bose store, located at Toronto Premium Outlets, an outdoor mall located in Halton Hills, north of Oakville on Regional Highway 3 (Trafalgar Road) and Steeles.

The most annoying sound on radio

Related image
This picture was shot at Square One … no, in Vaughan, no, in Scarborough, … Edmonton?, … oh, well… they all look alike.

Why do jewellery commercials have to be so tasteless and annoying? I single out jewellery commericals, since they are more annoying even then furniture commercials, their main competitor for the gold standard of tastelessness.

But no. We have sharpers like Russell Oliver, and others who will go on TV and radio and in the most garish manner known to man, tell you how you can trade in your jewellery for cash, in a way that seems to rob your most prized possessions of all the dignity and memory they once had. But I don’t believe he is the worst.

On the radio station I listen to, which doesn’t play a lot of ads, I admit, there is that infernal commercial from Spence Diamonds. Oh, that Scream! I didn’t know that it has been dubbed the “Spence Scream”, and even hashtagged #SpenceScream since at least 2014. It has even attracted some imitators, and an attempt had been made to vote it out of existence (Spence didn’t listen and it still persists to this afternoon). Since it was Spence that initiated the vote, I believe that maybe they thought it was too memorable, and couldn’t come up with a less annoying idea.

I am annoyed because I am already married, been there, done that. Having been through it, it is a tad degrading to hear it. The marriage (mine, at least), was about love. Clearly, Spence is agaisnt this idea. They want it to be about their diamonds.

Curiously, the comment sections of the YouTube videos of Spence promos have curiously well-worded and lucid critiques of Spence’s advertising practices. These are not your normal trolls. These apparently well-educated and erudite people seemed to have a lot of time on their hands, and are gravely preoccupied with dignity and class.

I think: look, the couple sounds very much in-character on the radio, just get rid of the scream.

Commentary

These are some rambling thoughts on things I have found lying around on YouTube and other locations.

My jazz station plays too many jazz covers of hit songs. If I wanted to hear Woodstock, I would tune into an oldies station to hear the original.

Americans are being offered Tim Horton’s Poutine doughnuts. Yuck. My biggest worry is that Americans are thinking “Canadians eat this stuff all the time!”. It is not offered in Canada.

Youtube is littered with spectacle and it threatens to over-run the good stuff on there. Videos currently tread on the topics of dog tricks, Trump vids are ubiquitous, Cyanide and Happiness, the Kardashians, Marvel comic characters, and other trivia.

One topic buy tramadol 100mg that comes up at least as often as these is regarding search engines as a topic, usually discussing the absurdity of auto-complete. One person did a vlog on someone who google’d himself, and another more constructively (but not much more) did a vlog on the web’s most searched questions. It just ends up being goofy.

Popular musicians for the next hour or so according to YouTube appear to be Ed Sheeran (1.6 billion views on one video); The Chainsmokers with Coldplay; DJ Khaled; French Montana; and Bruno Mars. There are many others, most of whom I have barely heard since I started preferring to listen to Jazz and Classical music.

Eldred, Saskatchewan on the map … barely

Eldred,SK_near_debden
This satellite shot of Eldred and environs pretty much all that mankind seems to know about Eldred at this point. Take note of Eldred Lake, about 5km southwest of Eldred. Eldred itself is near the top centre of the image.

I’ve written about obscure Saskatchewan communities before. Here is another community far to the north of Unity. My ancestors from France settled here.

Many of my ancestors were pioneers that broke new farming ground nearest to a community called Eldred, Saskatchewan. Eldred was about 10 km northwest of Debden along rural route 55. You need to at some point go off-road to an unnamed road to get there. My mother said that it is a community that no longer exists. Well, it appears to exist to someone operating Google Maps, since I can now find it in pretty much the place mom said it was in, so there is no mistake.

So, at this point, it appears that Eldred is not much more than two crossroads: one unnamed road ending on another unnamed road. One is accessible to RR55, and Canwood RR494 (another road); and the other is accessible to RR793. There would be a few homes huddled close together within a 500-metre distance of each other going by this aerial shot, but that’s about it.

At the highest resolution, I can count no more than a dozen or so houses near that intersection. The farms haven’t gone away; they are still there. Eldred is 103 km northwest of Prince Albert, where I went to high school.

Nearby Eldred Lake appears to be just a large slough, being fed only by rain runoff from the surrounding land. I see no river that feeds into it.

Yesterday’s moped ride: Lakeshore/Trafalgar to LinuxCaffe in Toronto

Image cut and pasted from Google Maps

I did this ride yesterday, taking Lakeshore Road (Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto) for almost the whole length. Construction on the Gardener closed it for the downtown core, diverting almost all traffic to Lakeshore Boulevard, slowing it down considerably. However, even in the fast parts, I was still able to keep up with the traffic. I bailed out at Canada buy viagra pills online Drive, and rode the CNE grounds to the exit at Strachan, taking the bridge north. Went the wrong way on Palmerston past Queen (according to Google, but saw no street sign saying “One Way”. And the oncoming drivers didn’t seem to mind, but I admit the street was quite narrow), and turned left at Harbord.

OK, So I am trying to build a home theatre with a quad-core system box …

And part of such a home theatre would consist of a way to hook up the Bravia I bought on sale to the mainboard, which has HDMI on it. My strategy was to enjoy both cable and “free” internet television through either the keyboard or the remote device. So, then there was the TV Tuner card I had to configure. Windows Media Center said that my card “could not be configured in Canada”. I phone the retailer who sold me the card, and indeed they too found to their horror that it could not be configured with Windows Media. I was instructed to send it back and get a replacement.

I think I am an unfortunate victim of “trade barriers”. Perhaps some CRTC regulation is preventing Windows from allowing this card to work, so by law, Windows is telling me that it is a criminal buy tramadol online offense to configure my card.

I check out the card, and it is from AverMedia, a comapny based in Taipei, Taiwan. Well, what competition is left in Canada if Chinese-made TV tuner cards are left out? There are a host of brands provided by Happauge (based in Long Island last I heard), but I think that is it for any major brands. Yes, if you’re Canadian, you buy either American or Chinese. Since you can’t buy Chinese, it’s American or nothing. Not that I expect there to be any Canadian brands, but, I am suprised to see a lack of any European brands at the stores I visited.

Maybe it’s nice to hear once in a while that the Chinese are not given too much of an easy ride in our economy. But this time, I got burned by that idea.

Sleeping with Martha

My wife persuaded me to sleep with Martha. She said that it will make me feel good, and that it was good to have her in bed with us. When I tried to do it with Martha I was spoiled for anything else, and my wife wasn’t even jealous. However, I noticed, that while Martha was good in bed, she kept my head up a little more than made me comfortable, and I wished it would stop. But after a while I got used to it. I told my wife that these were the best Martha Stewart pillows she ever bought, and I had to have more.

Getting My Teeth off My Chest

Don’t put me down for writing this, for if you are reading this, you are counting yourself in the equal company of bloggers who do not have a life. I just want to get this off my chest.

I never thought about being passionate about flossing my teeth, but dog-gone it, there are standards. For one thing, nothing beats the old-school floss that consists of a thin thread of wound unwaxed nylon (or whatever can you buy viagra without a prescription in the usa they use). It is easy, it is a strong thread, it gets the job done.

Recently I made the mistake of purchasing that fancy-dancy floss they have these days which consists of some kind of flavour-coated teflon. The teflon slips past the teeth, and the plaque. Nothing sticks to it. Not the plaque, and nothing else. It’s crap. Expensive crap. There. I’ve said it. OK, you can go to another blog, now.

The rule of "2"

When I was a student on a limited budget, I had some idea, a hunch, that on average, I spent $2 on an item of food at the supermarket. By counting the number of items I purchased, including more than one of the same item, that I would have a fairly accurate idea of the grocery bill before I reached the checkout.

But to apply this rule, I found I had to apply it to every item, including each of the many 33-cent bags of Oriental noodles, each can of soup, each apple and orange, and so on. It saved me a lot of mental effort in having to compute the real total, and I found that I could always stay on budget with this rule.

Completely believing people's wildest stories

I’m into totally believing every story people tell me about themselves. Sometimes, when people tell me their problems, it’s complete horse-crap, with only the flimsiest relation to reality. But I sit in wide-eyed fascination of these artistic bullshitters. I’m just along for the ride, and sitting and listening to these tall tales aren’t really going to hurt me. So I believe it. All of it. With all my heart. It has nothing to do with me, so who cares? I even offer to help out with their “predicament” (which they fabricated of course). And it never amounts to anything anyway.

Here’s how you play: you completely, without holding back, believe everything a bullshitter tells you. If they falter, help them out in order to get their story right. In order to win the game, you have to “land on your feet”, and neither player gets hurt. Those are the rules.

OK? Ready to rumble?

I saw Karen again, and this time it was in the Student Building on campus. She asked me if I remember bumping into her a month ago near the Harbour Front with her mother. I vaguely remembered, and said so.

She said if I could clearly remember this, that she wanted me to testify that in court, because she thought the police were giving her trouble. I was not able to find out what kind of trouble. She was evasive. I didn’t want to pry, but my naturally supportive self wanted to jump in and help her out. I told her so. But, funny thing, none of it amounted to anything. The conversation about court just evaporated. Living in fear of the police didn’t seem all that important, all of a sudden, and I never heard about it again.

It was just like the day later on when she spoke about the fact that her parents were Nazis. She was in her 30s when she spoke to me on this (and that would make her parents, what, oh 50 or 60 years old when they gave birth to her)? She went on about how they used to operate the torture chambers in some part of Poland. She lived in mortal fear of her parents, apparently, because they ruined the livelihood of her brother and set his house on fire. She was now living in fear of them coming for her.

Now did I react and say “Come off it, Karen”? Nooooo. I was the proud picture of gullability itself. I listened to her for hours, in fascination of her and this incredible story. The next day I ran to the university library and took out an atlas of Nazi prison camps. There were hundreds of small camps dotting Poland. I laid it out for her to jog her memory. She pointed at one called Treblinka, but she was no longer going into the same level of fine detail that she was regaling to me earlier with.

The subject was dropped, and never pursued again. For some odd reason, the topic of her parents about to kill her any day now did not seem to inspire as much fear and was no longer important, and she never brought it up again.