Saturday, October 30, 2010

Front-page funnies

The Citizen has a feature article in the Saturday Observer section with a headline that made me laugh uncontrollably for a good couple of minutes this morning:

The fall and fall of Larry O'Brien

It's what it sounds like, a chronicle of Larry's political career, and the latest campaign. Which, like a Mr. Bean movie, is at times painrul and at times hilarious to watch (and sometimes both).

Here's a gem:

Five days before the election, O'Brien attended the book launch of Citizen columnist Randall Denley at the Heart and Crown on Preston Street. The place was crawling with journalists and politicians. He chatted for more than 20 minutes with Citizen reporter Gary Dimmock, whose stories led to O'Brien facing influence peddling trials. Why were they chatting? Because the mayor didn't recognize Dimmock.

"Didn't you use to have a moustache?" he said after discovering Dimmock's identity.
Pity he didn't succeed in giving the city swagger. I think swagger is a good thing, and one of these days I'll actually write out my thoughts on that.

On the bright side, thanks to this article, I don't think anybody will need to suffer through reading the book Larry promises to write.

- RG>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RG the master Lego architect

This is the Falkirk Wheel. I helped design it.

Photograph of the Falkirk Wheel, 2004, by Sean McClean, who likes to save photos in a license that requires me to write his name here

At least, according to the Wikipedia article on the Falkirk Wheel.

Of course, it doesn't say that directly, and I've never been to the UK (especially not as far back as 1994), but then again...

After the above image was featured on Wikipedia's main page a few years ago, I read up on the Falkirk Wheel, and scratched my head a bit while I figured out how the caissons (the water-filled containers that hold the boats) stay level.

I eventually figured it out, but discovered that I wasn't the only one. In January of 2007, I wrote up an explanation of how these gears work on my user talk page, from first principles, using Lego Technic gears. Someone then added a link to this explanation to the Falkirk Wheel article.

Photograph of a Lego model of the Falkirk Wheel, 2007, by RealGrouchy, an awesome guy who marks all the photos he uploads to Wikipedia with a Public Domain license so as not to have to bother himself or others with copyright issues (but who retains copyright on his other photos in order to reserve his right to be a prick to those who reproduce them without his permission).

Fast forward three years to February of 2007, when some wank at the BBC writes a fluff piece about Lego, writing erroneously (as newspeople often do) that the designer of the Falkirk Wheel used Lego in the design process. The offending bit has since been removed from the article, and apparently there was also a video (presumably the one on which the article is based, if the BBC works like the CBC) which either was removed or just isn't playing on my browser.

Anyway, that article was then referenced by this guy as a source when he added to the Wikipedia article the claim that "Lego was utilised in the design process to establish how to keep the caissons level whilst the wheel is turning."

Since, as Stephen Colbert tells us, reality is what the wiki says it is, the Falkirk Wheel was designed using Lego, and since I created the Lego model in question, therefore, I must have designed the Falkirk Wheel.

Nice work, if I say so myself.

- RG>

Monday, October 25, 2010

Election 2010: Score one for the white guys

With women comprising a whopping sixteen percent of the 130 candidates in Ottawa's municipal election, the old boys' club at City Hall was definitely in for a scare.

Luckily, of the retiring and ousted candidates (all white men themselves), all were replaced by white men, except Christine Leadman, who was replaced by Katherine Hobbs. This includes outgoing Kanata-South Councillor, Peggy Feltmate, whose seat was taken up by Allan Hubley. Not all of them have grey hair, but that will come with enough time at City Hall.

Outgoing council had 7 women; the incoming one will have 6, so I guess score one for the white guys.

- RG>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Error: Friday not found

A childhood friend of mine, with whom I still get together regularly, only just figured out one of my tricks last week when he had me over for Vegan Lesbian Thanksgiving. "You're just putting together random words [that don't make sense], aren't you?" he asked, after something I said hurt his brain.

Well, close. It's actually a bit of an art--hacking the brain--to put together a combination of words whose meaning is truly ambiguous, and not simply silly or wrong. It's easy to take a common expression and toss a "not" in front of it, and people will understand what you're saying, find it doesn't flow well, think you unoriginal, then go right on disagreeing with you. If you instead create a puzzle whose pieces cannot fit, those who try to piece it together stumble because they can't.

As a case study, take the expression "Thank Goodness It's Friday". I never bought the claim that the "G" in "TGIF" meant anything but "God". As a stubborn Atheist, this is one of the reasons I don't use the expression in any form.

The easy way out is simply to rearrange the words to say something cheesy like "Good Thing It's Friday", which is at least unambiguous that the G doesn't stand for "God". But the people who do this are the same people who refer to Christmas as "Holiday"--it's a copout.

Really, in satire, you've got to really make a go for it--don't just use a cheap euphemism. If you're going to bastardize a well-known acronym, don't just try to say the same old thing while politely avoiding the parts you don't like; say something that doesn't make a damn bit of sense--but sounds like it should.

Therefore, I present to you the new slogan for Thursdays (sic):
GTIF: God Thinks It's Friday
Think about all the things this might mean, none of which stands out from the others: What does this mean? If you said this because you were offended by TGIF, surely you'd have taken the "God" out of it? Am I sure I heard you right--you didn't just say "Good Thing It's Friday," did you? And what do you mean that God thinks it's Friday--surely God knows damn well what day it is! Or are you just trying to tell me you won't be coming in to work tomorrow? Does it mean that God is optimistic? or just wrong? If you're trying to say "God is wrong", it sure is a roundabout way of getting your point across...

It's the logical equivalent of smoke bomb: use it to make your escape from an uncomfortable argument while your opponent's brain is occupied trying to figure it out. There's a certain type of person that is unable to move on until they've figured out this type of puzzle. If your adversary isn't this type of person, they'll act like they understood what you just said, or at least ignore it. In that case, it's usually safe to assume they won't notice you just walking away either.

For other logical brain-hacks, pore through the archives of (H/T Loth). Especially the ones where the last line is "What???" That's the response you're looking for.

- RG>

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Larry O'Brien is right

According to the Citizen, Mayor Larry O'Brien says the race isn't over yet.

He's right. He hasn't lost it yet. I wonder if he's looking forward to him losing as much as I am.

He's already admitted the first two years of his term were bad. Help remind him the last two years weren't very good either (remember 2009? Bus strike? His trial?).

If you haven't already voted, make sure to vote on October 25 for someone who's not Larry O'Brien. It'll mean that much to him.

- RG>

Friday, October 15, 2010

A RealSherlock in the making

Sitting at Bridgehead this evening, I noticed something a little...different.

Working on a hunch, I texted my friend:

RG: "Did Umi close or something?? There's all sorts of hippies in my coffeeshop today."

My friend, who lives near Umi Café, promptly confirmed that the worker collective-operated coffeeshop at Somerset and Percy had been "bought out" by the Korean restaurant next door. As of yet they haven't updated their website.

Be on the look out for drum circles as Umi's clientele disperses throughout the city. (That link courtesy of today being National Grouch Day)

In related news, Exile Infoshop also closed their permanent location recently, after a three-year run. They're still active, just without a physical space (which took a lot of their time, energy and money to keep open).

- RG>

National Grouch Day required reading: the Oatmeal

October 15 is National Grouch Day (as far as I'm concerned, at least), which I try to acknowledge on the blog.

I'm still quite fond of last year's National Grouch Day entry, 15 ways to celebrate National Grouch Day, so instead of trying to top it, I'll recommend you some other grouchy content.

If you haven't been before, head on over to The Oatmeal. Sticklers for clear, unobstructed communication will appreciate his cartoon-like rants. Like the recent entry, If you do this in an e-mail, I hate you, which displays caricatures of egregious e-mail faux-pas. Or another social error, misuse of the word literally in conversation.

The Oatmeal also has helpful tips about grammar. Helpful, that is, for those of us who are tired of always having to point out these errors. Some examples:The whole website is written, designed and coded by a fellow named Matthew Inman. Being a web designer, he has assembled a repertoire of tips and commentary about that field. For example, he has a list of 8 websites you need to stop building, he explains why printers were sent from hell, and provides sound advice on why it's better to pretend you don't know anything about computers.

While much of his work is bitching about various things, there are some other less hostile pieces that are nevertheless enjoyable. Things like Why Captain Higgins is [his] favourite parasitic ringworm, 10 reasons it would rule to date a unicorn, and 20 things worth knowing about beer.

So check it out, subscribe to his RSS or Twitter feed, and maybe buy some of his shit to keep him chained to his desk producing funny pictures for our enjoyment.

And in honour of National Grouch day, if you find his site to be an unentertaining waste of time, please fuck off. :)

- RG>

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Grammar Nazi's Beware

Jim Watson's prospects for mayor are slipping; I found this in the Centretown News:

I might just have to vote for Clive.

- RG>