Friday, May 22, 2015

One Fine Morning on Olympus Mons

"Oh fuck, it's that Earth species. I must have thrown away fifty of those textile-poles they leave everywhere, last season alone."
"Yeah, why do they do that?"
"They think that putting those poles in a thing makes that thing belong to them."
"What? Wait, really?"
"I know. So weird. [Hands portable data viewer to other Martian] Here, watch this Eddie Izzard bit. He explains the whole thing."
"Bizarre. So can they not urinate?"
"No, they urinate too. They just do the pole thing instead when they feel the need to mark. Urination is primarily waste elimination for them."
"But urine is the universal marker. Urine is how we know Earth is owned by cats. I can't even see any of those textile-poles from here. But I can clearly smell that Earth continent there belongs to the Confederacy of Princess Meowmers. How can they be so silly?"
"I know. And get this: they plan to leave the solar system one day."
"You're kidding. A species that ignorant, in interstellar space? Boggles the plorfox. I'd like to be there when they meet their first Noor-quu."
"Will not be pretty. They'll learn fast enough that when a Noor-quu proffers its g'norx, you accept it and smile, I suppose."
"So, that one is sticking its textile-pole in the ground. Looks like your lawn belongs to it, now."
"Ha, yeah. I guess junior won't have to mow the fraa'f anymore. She'll be happy about that."
"It's kind of pretty, flapping in the breeze like that. What's that pattern on it? Is that their language?"
"I don't think so. I looked it up, once. It's symbolic, but not a language. I'll pull it up on the portaview: 'Centered in the flag, seven rings form a flower—a symbol of the life on Earth. The rings are linked to each other, which represents how everything on our planet, directly or indirectly, are linked...The blue field represents water which is essential for life—also as the oceans cover most of our planet's surface.'"
"Aw, that's kind of sweet. So, why are they leaving their planet anyway?"
"They poisoned their flowers, the interconnected life, and the oceans."
"...We should probably get that thing off your lawn."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eleven things to do on a Friday afternoon.

Ah, the last Friday of winter. If you're like me, then I sincerely hope you're reading this from a medium (at the very least) security prison, you sick freak. Also, you're looking for a few ways to kill some time this afternoon while waiting for that factory whistle to blow before you can head to the bar and get shitfaced.

Well then, here are a few (specifically, eleven) time wasters:

  1. Relax with your own custom 'sounds of nature' loop. Hint: Use the drop-down to change the first slider to 'vibe' and practice your own Daily Affirmation (Stuart Smalley cardigan not included.)

  2. Look at cool pictures of honeypot ants (Myrmecocystus sp., Camponotus inflatus), star-nosed moles (Condylura cristata), Harlequin frogs (Atelopus sp.), and other strange life forms. Hurry: some are endangered, and so this might be your last chance to see them.

  3. Constellate the news with Jonathan Harris's Universe. If that doesn't keep you enthralled for hours on end, try to figure out what his deal is with all the alliteration.

  4. Locate the Amityville Horror house on Google Maps. Hoaxerrific!

  5. Converse with a bot named A.L.I.C.E. or another named Jabberwacky. Invariably, my conversations with either of them have degenerated to furious name calling within minutes, perfectly simulating my interactions with real people, and thus passing the Turing Test.

  6. Watch Zack de la Rocha interview Noam Chomsky. Leftilicious!

  7. Thank SUV drivers for their courteous driving and general respect for others.

  8. Read the true story behind the JATO rocket car Darwin Award. Here's a version that's less likely to make your eyes bleed. [Note: Not really true in the sense of 'not being made up.']

  9. Play with this musical er, toy. For those of you who don't read French, La Pâte à Son means 'Goose Liver with Sound.' Similarly, tabarnac! is le français québécois for 'Dear me! I must not have the latest version of Shockwave. C'mon, load, you motherfucker!'

  10. Download free ebooks from Project Gutenberg. Can't read? They gots them new-fangled talkin' books too! Can read? Then become a proofreader and help out, lazyass.

  11. Learn how evolution of the mammalian ear allows us to distinguish between Metallica and Megadeth. So far, science has not yet been able to explain why you'd bother.

Have fun (and say 'Hi' to Anita for me)!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

2006: A Brownian Space Odyssey, Part I

Sometimes, when I'm lying awake at night, after contemplating my mortality and why only the tops of my shoulders are devoid of hair—making it seem as if I were flanked by two tiny, tonsured monks whenever I go sleeveless—I like to imagine what my day would be like if I lived in...THE FUTURE! in SPACE!

26.27580 OMT (Orbital Metric Time)—6:08:22 AM MDT (Mountain Daylight Time, for all you old-timers)
Sensing a peak in theta waves, my SleepTracker® watch gently begins to sound its alarm. Within seconds, my SleepSmart™ alarm headband chimes in too (I have an early morning meeting today, so last night I set the spare alarm in accordance with my Space neurosis.) I open my eyes and focus on the three dimensional scene projected on the holographic ceiling. It's one of my favourites: giant Space giraffacondas feeding on puppies—ooh, Dalmations; a rare and nutritious treat!—in a sun-lit meadow to a musical mélange of Kraftwerk and Stevie Nicks (my own personal composition; Thanks, Bach-in-a-Moment™!) My Thaiwai'ian futon begins to massage and stimulate my muscles. Though the bed has over 6,451 massage settings in a coconut-curry base, I usually leave it on acu-tantra-lomi since I gave myself a serious Space migraine the last time I tried to neuro-load the manual from the Uninet (or the Space Wide Web, if you're un-Space-cool like my mom). Besides, by now the Space pineapple stings my rectum only slightly. Feeling refreshed and invigorated, I hop out of bed and activate my servo-implants in preparation for my morning Space yoga routine. I still have difficulty performing the 'Collapsing Binary' asana unaided, as do most beings without radial symmetry, so gimme a Space break, okay? Remembering a particularly erotic dream involving the Solid Einsteinium Dancers and a cameo by the wisdom-dispensing (and parallel-processing) Terence Trent D'Ar-Bot, I hit the 'Bookmark Last Night' button on my Dreamcorder and head to the bathroom.

Fuck, waking up sure is a detailed process when one lives in THE FUTURE! in SPACE!

First things first: I sit down on my Captain's Commode® (James T. Kirk seat cover not included) and do my business; probably the only human bodily function that hasn't substantially changed with technology. I find the sharp hiss made by my wastes as they hit the event horizon of the singularity in the bowl to be one of life's little pleasures. I step in and back out of the sonic shower, and while the clono-loofah separates my DNA from the detritus in preparation for injection into McStem Cells® (§4,567,099.99 a dozen at Wal-Mart®) I examine my MRI in the mirror for any abnormalities. I don't like the looks of my heart; it's a good thing I've got a spare in my Ronco™ Angio-Matic™ (Defibrillate and Forget It!™). Ah, well, at least my diamond teeth still gleam. Only black people can get away with wearing their original teeth. (Of course, by 'black people' I am referring to anti-matter humans. Their discovery led to a new wave of segregation for pragmatic rather than ideological reasons: if you want to avoid a universe-annihilating explosion, you damn well better be sure you're using the correct Space water fountain. And you can certainly forget about any inter-matter relationships, Mr. Fermion-Fever; as the saying goes, 'Once you go Dirac, you never go back'. If you're wondering, people of African ancestry were all swept into heaven during the Rapture. Except for the Wayans brothers, of course. Who knew the Flying Spaghetti Monster would hate White Chicks so much?) Finished with my morning ablutions, I throw on a Space mesh under-robe and prepare for my meeting. (In THE FUTURE! in SPACE! mesh is the new, er, non-mesh, so those of you who complain about the yellow mesh singlet I wear now can just take solace in the fact that I am centuries, if not millennia, ahead of the times.)

30.20949 OMT—7:15:00 AM MDT
Armed with a steaming cup of Kona Luwak™, the solar system's finest gourmet civet-scat coffee (grown, picked, roasted, and packaged on the slopes of Olympus Mons by 2000 Flushes®), I turn on my UltravioletBerry™ and log in to my meeting.

30.21296 OMT—7:15:03 AM MDT
I hate long meetings like this, especially so early in the morning. It's really my own fault though: I’m getting reamed out by the editor for my addition to the Wikiverse entry on the Capital of the Universe:
The only Earth city to ever hold the title of Capital of the Universe was Mohenjo Daro in the Indus River valley from 13,713,546,411 Universal Date System: Earth Years (2635 BCE) through 13,713,546,548 UDS:Ea (2498 BCE). Though its bathing and sewage facilities were considered excellent, inadequate electricity (none) and lack of indoor climate-control (two settings: hot during the day and cold at night) led off-world dignitaries to nickname it "the Big Bake," and avoid it whenever possible. As a result, very little universal legislation was passed (or even proposed) during that time. Those dignitaries who did take their obligations as elected officials seriously enough to sit in session in the citadel (as well as those from desert worlds) rarely met quorum, and so, having little to do, spent much of their time pursuing a variety of local diversions (earning "the Big Bake" its double entendre status.)
In 13,713,546,512 UDS:Ea (2534 BCE), the Universal Legislature began using the subterranean convention city of ¡//ft on the gas giant planet ððlR as the de facto capital, finding its nightclubs, prostitutes, and all-day breakfast buffets to be more than adequate to the task of servicing its army of elected officials and their personal armies of interns and assistants, lobbyists and their personal armies of interns and assistants, journalists and their (albeit much smaller) personal armies of interns and assistants, and activists and their, well, and activists.
In 13,713,546,548 UDS:Ea, ¡//ft was officially designated the Capital of the Universe (and thus had to change its name to ¡//fL to reflect its new noun class and gender in the local language). Three years later, Mohenjo Daro was temporarily destroyed by yet another inundation of the Indus River, an event that culminated in the passing of Bill ∝249935-p-Ξ, restricting the Capital of the Universe from being a city on a floodplain. Interestingly enough, the bill was nearly defeated by a delegation of aquatic methanotrophic lobbyists who campaigned to have the Capital moved back to the newly-submerged and substantially more anaerobic Mohenjo Daro.

According to the editor, words like 'capital', 'legislation', and 'elected' are now considered jargon due to the gradual decline of interest by the populace in political processes. The processes themselves would be completely forgotten if it weren't for 'white voters' and abstentionists such as myself. Of course, it all makes sense when I consider that terms such as 'mastopexy', 'capsular contracture,' and 'transconjunctival blepharoplasty' are easily overheard on the playground, spoken by newly-hatched children. Anyways, my editor seems to accept when I offer to replace every offending word with 'Anna Kournikova-Tron 6500.' Before its sarcasm circuits kick in and it has me terminated, I log off and set my UltravioletBerry™'s status icon to 'Overdosing'.

30.41667 OMT—7:18:00 AM MDT
The day's work done, I recline in my Co-MA-Boy™ lounger and finish my coffee. A gentle mewing at the door interrupts my thoughts; I rub my tongue against the Timex® calendar watch implanted in my left maxillary lateral incisor (Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!™) and realise it's Saveferrisday: the day the maid comes. (In order to reconcile the need for an eight-day workweek with the want for a four-day weekend, five extra days named for defunct ska-punk bands were added to the week.) Wondering whatever the hell happened to Thebeatday, I open the door and let in Manopla, who greets me by rubbing my face with her whiskers and purring before reminding me I still owe her for last month's services. Embarrassed, I make a half-assed attempt at tidying up the living room (priority: hide the holo-porn discs!) before giving up and sitting down to watch her work. Captivated by her lithe yet curvaceous body, I marvel yet again at the way her tawny fur turns to milky peach fuzz at her pert breasts and flat stomach, yet darkens to ebony black at her groin. As she bends over, flicking her tail, to lick the lint off the zebriger rug, I consider asking her to stay after she's done. I decide against it, remembering how the last time I hit dat, she stayed mad at me for two months for giving her Space hairballs. Then again, you haven't had sex unless you've had a rough-tongued rimjob. Fuck it: if my dry spell lasts until Operationivyday, I'll ask her to stay then.

33.70949 OMT—8:05:25 AM MDT
Finished cleaning the apartment, Manopla washes herself in the bathroom and then heads for the door. Just as she's about to leave, she turns and winks, pulling a bootleg holo-disc of Catwoman out of her purse. She looks so excited, I don't have the heart (or the Space-Spanish) to tell her it's not porn but rather a shitty movie Prime Minister Berry made before entering politics. At any rate, it looks like I'll be gettin' pussy later! (Even if I have to pull out the 'Ninguna tarjeta verde' card.)

Anyway, I've got the whole day ahead of me, and a whole universe to explore. So many things to do; so many choices! But I guess that's life when you live in THE FUTURE! in SPACE!

To be continued....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Brownian's Guide to Being Inappropriate at Work:

Without Resorting to Racism, Sexual Harassment, or Profanity.

What follows are lessons on shocking and/or amusing co-workers without having to depend on the tired clichés of racist or sexist comments, or outright disagreeability. Each lesson is illustrated with an excerpt (or two) of actual conversations I've had with co-workers in a typical day (yesterday in fact). While I've not yet had to deal with the dreaded trip to the HR office, I would recommend checking with your workplace's policies on inappropriate office behaviour. It's hard to defend your daily lunchtime paean to the wonders of cannibalism while digging into your pork tartare if section of the Policies & Procedures Manual explicitly forbids such discussions. It should be noted that I am not a work-place jerk, and in fact am very well-liked by the majority of my co-workers, probably for the very reason that I engage in interactions like the examples given below (I also single-handedly made it okay to wear jeans on non-Fridays. Next I will end the tyranny of shaving!) I also recommend leaving your quieter employees alone; I only pick on those who deserve it by being obnoxious and opinionated to begin with. Plus, in my experience it's the quiet ones who are most likely to blow up the building.

Lesson Number 1: Religion is the opiate of the masses.
Religion is a particular favourite of mine simply because you rarely have to do anything to get the loonies to come out of the woodwork. Case in point: I found out the Smug Mormon's religious orientation before my job interview had ended. The key lesson here is one of guerrilla warfare: strike fast then get the hell out of there. You do not want to get into a protracted theological discussion with some proselytising Moonie, no matter how boring you may have thought your job was before. Plus, you'll come across as an equally-annoying asshole to any observers.

On whether 'heretical' books like The Da Vinci Code or the Harry Potter series pose a threat to people's belief systems and should thus be banned...
Smug Mormon: If one's faith is so weak that somehow reading a book will damage it, then one should really reconsider what one believes in.
Me: I'm not sure. As an atheist I can say for certain that I've read at least one book that caused me to renounce my Christianity.
Semi-retired Co-worker: Oh? Which book?
Me: The Bible.

Lesson Number 2: Opium is the opiate of the masses.
I enjoy making reference to drugs and drug culture at work mainly because in today's political and social climate even the most ascetic of teetotallers know that recreational drug use has spread beyond hippie-dom and is a cultural reality that's not likely to end anytime soon. Plus, you may just find a kindred spirit with a more reliable dealer. Never admit to using drugs yourself! If pressed, claim you overheard the neighbour's kid talking with his friends. (That'll bring Mr. Checkerboard Lawn and his spoiled brat down a peg!) BE SURE YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH YOUR ORGANISATION'S POLICIES ON RANDOM DRUG TESTING!

On how many grams in an ounce...
Co-worker who's always on the phone making personal calls: [Overheard on the phone] There're 28.35 grams in an ounce. That's right. One ounce. 28.35 grams.
Me: Whatever you're buying, I'll go in with you. Put me down for an 8-ball.

On picking furniture for the new office we're moving to...
Smug Mormon: Ooh, this desk comes with an 'accessory rail'. What's an 'accessory rail'?
Me: That's the small line of coke—also known as a 'bump'—you do when you're beginning to come down.

Lesson Number 3: Nonsense, ¿No se? and non sequiturs.
This category includes random or nonsensical comments, deliberate misinterpretations of others' comments or actions, or otherwise atypical reactions to very typical situations. In essence, this involves channelling a little bit of the Family Guy and should represent the bulk of your inappropriateness arsenal. They can range from extremely contentious to the childishly benign and their versatility allows them to be tailored to fit nearly any workplace situation. In the early stages of the development of your workplace personality (or, as I like to call it, your 'cubicality'), these serve a dual purpose: they allow you to assess your audience's sense of humour, intelligence, and tolerance; and they serve to 'prime' your audience. Priming your audience is key; I once complained to a properly-primed audience of co-workers that I was tired of being viewed by women as a 'safe date' (the human equivalent of a steer). When asked what reputation I would prefer, I deadpanned 'sexual predator' to only a few scattered groans. Later, these are ideal for maintenance as in the example below.

On wishing me luck for tonight's opening of my off-Fringe play...
Semi-retired Co-worker: Break a leg.
Me: What?
Semi-retired Co-worker: I said, 'Break a leg.' In the theatre, aren't you supposed to say 'break a leg' rather than 'good luck'?
Me: Oh. In that case, 'I hope you trip, spill your coffee, and chip a tooth on your mug, jerk!'

Well, that's all the time I have for today. I hope you enjoyed reading this slightly less than I did writing it (sorry, but I just can't stand to see anyone happier than me). Remember that the means to success in any endeavour is "practice, practice, and, um, location." I wish you all the best of luck in your subsequent job hunts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Brownian's Index

A Look at the Numbers that Shape My World—Other Than the 6-Dimensional Calabi-Yau Manifold)
Monday, July 31, through Sunday, August 8, 2006.

  • Distance traveled by land in kilometres (miles): 315 (195)

  • By sea: 42 (26)

  • By air: 6800 (4224)

  • Hours by which my originally-scheduled flight from Edmonton to Boston via Montreal was delayed: 1.75

  • Hours by which my rescheduled flight via Toronto landed in Boston before my originally-scheduled arrival: 1.33

  • Chance that any sane person would willingly choose to fly through Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) even if it means shaving hours off one's trip: slim to none

  • Number of Grammy-nominated songs written about Toronto Pearson International Airport: at least one

  • Possible conclusions one may draw from the above concerning the mental health of Geddy Lee and Neil Peart of Rush: only one

  • Average daily temperature recorded at Logan International Airport (BOS) over the period Monday, July 31, through Friday, August 4, 2006 in °C (°F): 26 (80)

  • Average daily temperature recorded at Edmonton International Airport (YEG) over the same period: 14 (57)

  • Maximum temperature recorded at Logan International Airport over the above: 36 (98)

  • Maximum temperature recorded at Edmonton International Airport: 22 (72)

  • Minimum temperature recorded at Logan International Airport over the above: 18 (66)

  • Minimum temperature recorded at Edmonton International Airport: 7 (45)

  • Normal maximum perspiration rate in litres per hour: 1.5

  • Factor by which I surpass that on a daily basis: 2.09

  • Number of consecutive business trips (including this one) in which a public transport operator engaged me in a conversation about his GERD: 2

  • Brewpubs, breweries and microbreweries in Massachusetts: 80–100

  • Sheets to the wind I was when I misfired at the urinal: 2.—Hey!Whadderya lookin' at? I just had a little acshident, OK?

  • Minutes to dry a urine-soaked pair of shorts with wads of toilet paper and your own breath: 23

  • Pounds of New England lobster eaten: 1.2

  • Cost in USD of the above: 10

  • Minutes to conclude that I cannot simultaneously eat lobster and look suave in front of the Lark Voorhies look-alike sitting at the next table: 3.67

  • Further minutes to conclude that the fact that I was eating lobster is irrelevant: 2.04

  • Number of pill bottles I brought with me: 3

  • Percentage of the above that actually contained pills: 33

  • Percentage of the above used to smuggle dirt out of the country as a souvenir for a friend: 33

  • Percentage of the above brought because I'm neurotic: 33

  • Average number of hyperlinks in a Brownian Motion post: 4.81

  • Number of hyperlinks in this one: 11

  • Times I was threatened with being shot: 1

  • Packages of cigarettes the would-be shooter bought me beforehand: 1

  • Times the would-be shooter assured me he "ain't no fuckin' quee-ah": 4

  • Reasons (besides the above) not to hop into a '78 Caddy with a redneck listening to Jethro Tull: nearly infinite

  • How much pleasure I get from telling the story: C'mon. I mean, c'mon! Jethro Tull?! How crazy is that shit?

  • Percentage of the time I spent not hung-over at the conference my job sent me to (and the ostensible reason for the trip): 65

My sincere apologies to both Harper's Magazine and The Onion.
By 'sincere' I mean 'half-assed attempt to avoid copyright violation'.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Brownian?... Brownian?... Brownian?

This post originally appeared on's Brownian Motion on July 7, 2006

"Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Brownian pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

I'm sick. But you probably already figured that out.

Last week, I also happened to be suffering from some sort of head cold. The effects still linger in phlegm form combined with a bad cough and great quantities of perspiration (though for me that’s nothing new). You'd think all of this would be enough to make me quit smoking and go for a jog around the block, but it's exactly that that kind of erroneous thinking that caused you to fail Comp. Lit. three times over.

I'm much stronger than that.

Anyway, I was sick enough to justify taking a couple of days off from work. I could've gotten away with ditching Friday too under the "Try not to infect the immuno-compromised cancer patients with your outside diseases like the 'flu and Chlamydia, for starters" clause of our Policies & Procedures Manual (I swear it's there, right under the "If your supervisor's on vacation and you don't have a meeting, you can dress as if it's casual Friday" clause and before the "Go ahead and take a box of surgical gloves; you probably have a medical need for them at home" clause) but I wanted to rack up a few martyr points.

The other day I was relating this story to a friend who was moved to exclaim, "Brownian, you're such an interesting fellow, I wonder how a polymath such as yourself spends his free time. Please elucidate for me what you did during your convalescence."

Well, for some odd reason, I'm strangely energetic when I've got a cold. Thus, over the course of the two days, I washed all the dishes, tidied up (and subsequently dirtied) the living room, chopped up a bunch of vegetables for healthy snacking, organised my home office (well, partially; I unearthed the shoebox full of unpaid bills), done the laundry (I now smell slightly fresher than a damp Stephen Harper's hairpiece), and began the process of sorting through all my mp3s for transfer to my iPod (nothing drowns out the voices in my head during the bike ride to work better than Platinum Blonde). Of course, now that I'm ostensibly well, I'm back to lying on the couch watching marathon showings of The Office while popping lukewarm chicken 'bitlets' from Safeway.

What really sets me off as a man of questionable mental stability is that, while taking actual, justified sick time off from my job as a statistician, I calculated statistics!

Let me explain. It all started with this entry by fellow Humpday blogger Spoonman. In it, in case you're too damn lazy to read it for yourself, he predicts a score of 9 to 7—in one game—for a World Cup soccer pool. (Apparently this was back in the 90s; before reason was invented.) The joke is, of course, that soccer game scores never get that high and how silly and let's all have a belly laugh.

I'd heard the story before, but this time it set the ol' noggin a-noodlin'. Initially I wondered what kind of pool one could have on game scores when neither team is likely to score more than three goals apiece. Assuming a place for each combination of zero through three goals per team, that leaves a total of sixteen (4×4) total bets per game. That would do of course for a small office or group of friends, but what to do for real bettors? Well, I rarely gamble (except on whether or not anyone's still reading at this point) so who cares? On to a more interesting question:

Just how often are goals scored in professional soccer, and what is the likelihood of a game ending in a score of 9 to 7?

Ah, to someone like me, a question like this is better than porn (when I'm already spent, that is.) Goals scored in a game, like other discrete event functions, roughly follow a Poisson distribution. Knowing this, if one knows the mean (average) number of events per period (goals per game), one can estimate the likelihood that a given number of goals per game will be scored. To determine the mean, I went to the first official-looking FIFA World Cup site I googled: The official site of FIFA World Cup. From this I determined the average number of goals scored per team per game in the 2006 FIFA World Cup: about 1.125.

Using a simplified formula,
Some mathy crap...
where n is the number of goals per team per game, Moo! is the mean number of goals per team per game, and 'P' sub 'Mu' of 'n' is the Poisson probability function, we can then generate the probability distribution of goals scored per team per game:

Average number of licks it takes to get to the chewy centre of a Tootsie-Pop.

Further, since we now know that the likelihood of a team scoring seven goals within one game is 1.47×10-2% and that of a team scoring nine goals is 2.58×10-4% we merely multiply them together to get 3.79×10-8% or 1 in 2.5 trillion.

Keep in mind that I'm making a number of assumptions here: that the number of goals scored by each team in one game are independent, that the 2006 FIFA World Cup scores are representative of World Cup scores in general, you're still reading (as noted above), etc.

So, what can we conclude from all of this?
  1. Spoonman has no future betting on soccer scores;

  2. Statistics can teach you lots about the world;

  3. I should never be allowed to reproduce for all our sakes; and

  4. I would be a far more effective employee if they just sent me home with a smallpox-infected blanket and paid for my high-speed internet.

I've got to head home now: I feel a headache coming on and I've been wondering just how out of the ordinary this latest heat wave is.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Lovin’ it up when I’m goin’ down.

This post originally appeared on's Brownian Motion on March 23, 2006

Since my last two entries dealt with cheese, I thought I'd start with that theme for today's post.

I love elevators. The best part of riding in elevators is the opportunity to make banal, meaningless conversation with strangers:

Me: "Going up? Heh, heh, heh."
Stranger(s): [Vague mumbling with eyes averted]


Me (on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, respectively): "Monday, eh?" "Humpday, huh?" "Hey, TGIF!"
Stranger(s): [Vague mumbling with eyes averted, slowly backing towards the door]

Yes, folks, I am that guy!

On occasions when I'm feeling particularly frisky, I like to add a touch of surrealism to the journey:

Me (to person getting on): "Can I press a button for you?"
Person: "Yes, four please."
Me: "Mm, four is the number of death. I'll press three for you instead."
Person: "Excuse me?"
Me: "I'm pressing three. It's a much better floor."
Person: "Wha—?"
Me: "Technically, I only asked if I could press a button for you. I don't particularly care what button you want pressed."
Person: [Vague mumbling with eyes averted, slowly backing towards the door, reaching for their mace]

The fact that I work in a hospital (or, as I like to think of it, 'a place where they charge you up the ass for parking') lends itself to all kinds of fun. I once got on the elevator with a couple of EMTs pushing a gurney. I asked them if I could push a floor for them (tee-hee, see above.) When it turned out they were only going up one floor, I rolled my eyes and said, "Hmmph. You guys are lazy."
"Excuse us?"
"You heard me. Whatsa matter, your legs broken or something? You can't walk up one flight of stairs?"
"Er, but, we have this gurney..."

Medical professionals have no sense of humour.

(I'm serious. Try asking a doctor if they've ever left anything inside a patient during surgery and then constantly repeating, "But how can you be sure?" when they respond in the negative. You'll see what I mean.)

I used to work in a building that had mirrors on the ceilings in the elevators. The cheesy motel jokes came almost too easily.

Elevators aren't all fun and games, however. As I mentioned above, I work in a hospital. This particular hospital serves the northern Alberta hinterland, and so I'm always meeting the American Gothic couple on the elevator. Now, I've seen the kinds of bell-and-whistled SUVs these folks drive, so I can't understand how they've apparently never encountered a fucking elevator in their lives. I mean, Barney and Betty Hill probably approached their first flying saucer with less trepidation than these folks do a standard Otis hydraulic.

The encounter almost always happens this way:

I finish my smoke in the basement (one lung left to go!), and hit five for my floor. The doors open on main, and I practically have to shout "GOING UP?" to stop them flinging their shit at each other long enough to notice that the monolith has arrived. After several minutes of sniffing around and gingerly pawing at the opened doors ("Where'd they go?") they snuffle their way over to me, standing under the neon fucking green 'up' arrow:
"Is this elevator going up?"
"Yeah, along with my fucking blood pressure, you goddamn moron," I scream inside my head.
"Oh, we wanted down." Aaaaaaaeeeeeayaaaaaagh!
And then, as if they'd just caught sight of some shiny baubles somewhere else, they turn and waddle out, paying no more heed to the sobbing mess in the corner that is me. God help me if one them is in a wheelchair.

I've noticed that the likelihood of this type of incident increases in proportion to my need for a refill of coffee. Speaking of which, it's about time for a coffee break. I think today I'd better take the stairs.

By way of introduction...

This post originally appeared on's Brownian Motion on March 20, 2006

This is the story of how I acquired the hottest pepper plant in the world:

One cold February evening about nine years ago, I walked into a little shop on 124th street that specialised in hot sauces to see a short, bearded man leaning awkwardly against a bare shelf on an equally-bare wall (bare but for the shelf and awkwardly-leaning man.) Err...I didn’t actually walk in specifically to see a short, bearded man leaning awkwardly against a bare shelf on an equally-bare wall; the store had just opened a few days before and I was naturally curious as to what sorts of hot sauces they offered so, in actuality, I walked in to browse hot sauces and instead encountered the tableau described above.

Anyway, before I could ask what was going on (but after I had opened my mouth to do so) a well-dressed woman entered and, without looking up from the Post-it® she was carrying, asked where some particular art gallery was.

“This isn't it,” The man responded tersely, in a thick Scottish brogue.

“Well, the address reads, ‘124—”

“Look, I told you it’s not here, and I’m in no mood to argue with idiots, so get the fuck out!” Not surprisingly, she did.

As I turned—mouth still agape—to leave as well, he added, “And my back’s killing me from holding this fucking shelf. You!” he pointed to me, “Come here and hold this against the wall.”

Being generally an affable and helpful fellow, I complied, and took up his position leaning awkwardly against the wall while he sat down at an empty table and put his feet up.

“Would you like some wine?” he asked after a moment’s silence.

“Well, er, I…” I stammered. (So far, only 1.6 minutes had elapsed since I entered the store, and I had not uttered a single word nor closed my mouth in that time.)

“Ah, it’s not a hard fucking question! Do you want some fucking wine or don’t you?”

Of course I accepted, and, after I was permitted to leave my post and sit down (“If the glue’s not dry and the fucking thing falls, it falls!”) we sat down and he proceeded to give me a quick and dirty introduction to West Indian cooking. (Apparently he had left Scotland to find a wife and succeeded, albeit temporarily, in Jamaica.)

A bottle of wine later, I left with an armful of canned coconut milk, a baggie full of turmeric, a habanero seedling, and some recipes for coconut milk curry. I think he only charged me for one of the cans of coconut milk.

Twenty minutes later, I burst through the door of my rented house in Belgravia, interrupting my roommate and his girlfriend in yet another of their on-the-verge-of-breakup conversations, and in a style somehow reminiscent of both Gandalf the White and Kramer, loudly proclaimed, “Behold…I hold in my hands the hottest pepper plant in the wo-o-o-o-o-rld!”

This is the story of how I lost the hottest pepper plant in the world:

Nearly a decade later (i.e. last week), someone brought boxes of chocolate to my work to sell to raise money for their kid's school. (In my day, this would have been for a ski trip; today it’s probably so they can purchase science textbooks that don’t subdivide members of kingdom Animalia into ‘critters’ and ‘varmints.’) To their credit, they left the boxes on a little table with an envelope for payment so as not to have to pester their co-workers. Either that, or they’re just plain lazy. At the very least, there’s no pressure to buy, so the purchasing of the chocolate is completely anonymous and voluntary. Seen from another viewpoint, it is the paying for the chocolates that is voluntary.

The chocolates cost $3.00 ($3.00 being the universal cost of fund-raising chocolates), but my vast fortune consisted solely of a toonie and an appetite for sugar and endorphins. Naturally, I put the toonie in the envelope with an I.O.U. for $1.

How do these two stories relate, you ask? Well, I was going to write some smarmy bullshit about the random walk and the title of this blog, but then I thought I'd think I was a pretentious asshole if I were the reader of this rather than the writer. And then I'd think really hard about leaving a comment about how I was such a pretentious asshole, but not actually leave a comment. And then I'd sulk for a bit, and go start my own blog about random stuff just like this.

And so I did.

Lest you think that I'm evil, I did sign the I.O.U. and redeem it as soon as I had a loonie.
I like song lyrics. Scratch that: the voices in my head often take the form of song lyrics, and so I will occasionally reference a song in connection to a phrase that I or someone else has just uttered. It often confuses the people around me unless they also know the particular song I'm thinking of.