Thursday, January 27, 2011

Fire fire fire

I just watched the pilot episode for a TV series from the 70s called Firehouse. I don't know what the series was actually like (it only lasted for 14 episodes), but the pilot was about a black firefighter joining an all white firefighting crew. It was the typical story of battling racism. I found it interesting, though, because I found it hard to be overly sympathetic towards the black character (played by Richard Roundtree, aka SHAFT!)(you legally have to spell it in all caps. The exclamation mark is optional).
Normally in these types of movies, I find myself getting rather outraged at the views and opinions of the racist characters. I find it hard to believe that anyone could ever truly believe that a person's skin colour makes them different or inferior. I felt some of that here, but the black character was a jerk, so it was hard to empathise with him. He didn't try to get along with his new coworkers. He was confrontational and defeatist. He assumed that everything everyone did was because he was black and they hated him, and so he hated them in return. There was only one character that was really hard on him, the rest weren't even all that bad - he just hated them all anyway.
And I found it fascinating, because it is all too common for the minority character in these anti-racism dramas to be much better than everyone else. The black man comes in and is longsuffering and patient and understanding, and everyone is mean until a big crisis makes them rethink their own position and now everything is okay. But in this movie, the anger and sarcasm and ill-will flows equally both ways and both sides have to come to a mutual understanding. Because it was a TV show, at the end, the worst of the white guys finally has some respect for SHAFT, even though "I don't like you, and I probably never will".
On an unrelated note, one fireman dies, and another almost dies in the movie rescuing dogs. That bothers me. I've seen the stickers people can put on their house saying how many pets they have so that the firemen know to rescue all the animals. I don't like it because it means the fireman is rescuing his life to save an animal, and while I understand that pets are important to people and like a member of the family, I don't think they are worth risking a person's life for - especially someone who's job is saving lives. That fireman who died could have rescued (if it were real life) many more people who may now not live because he was trying to save a dog. I don't agree. I know that makes me a horrible person, but that's just my take on the matter. Maybe my attitude would change if I had a pet. But that day is far away.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My two cents

"I disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." It's a phrase heard often in debates, especially in a controversial topic. It sounds like a very noble sentiment, but it bothers me the more I hear it. I agree that free speech is important - it seems that all of the worst dictatorships were quick to strike that freedom down. The problem is, there is no reason to point it out except as a way of proving ones superiority over an opponent.
There is a smugness that comes with saying that - it's a way of saying that not only am I right, I am better than you because I will allow you to say what you want, no matter how wrong you are. Unless you are actually having a discussion on free speech, there is no reason to say it other than to make yourself look better than your opponent. How does it make a difference on the morality of abortion if you are willing to hear me say my peace? How does the existence or not of the holocaust rest on the fact that you will let me say what I believe, even if you disagree? The fact is, those issues don't change because you allow me to say what I believe - the issues stay the same. The only difference is, now you look like you are magnanimous and more understanding and a better person, and maybe that will sway some people.
Like I said, it comes across very smug and can even be almost taunting. It doesn't change the issue, and in fact probably hurts your chance of swaying the one you are arguing with because now they think you are a magnanimous jerk with a superiority complex.
Anyway, that's my two cents, and you can agree or disagree as you like, but frankly, don't tell me that you'll allow me to speak. I already have.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I'd Love To Help, Just Give Me Five Days...

I can't figure out why there are still 'business days', at least in regards to the banks. Everything is run by and on computers now. Interest on loans and credit cards is calculated and charged daily. Yet when I make a payment or process some funds, it takes five business days for computers (which can process information almost instantly) for that payment to go through. That shouldn't be.
It should be possible to, within a single day (even a weekend), have that money, which is only electronic anyways, go from my account to wherever it is going. Why does it take five days for the computer to move a bunch of ones and zeros to another computer. It shouldn't. I can instantly look at my account and my credit card, so why can't the money flow that quickly? Does it take five days to verify that I have the money there? No. I just checked and it was there. Does it take five days to fly across the country? No, it takes a few moments to sync up security systems. What's the wait? I can't figure it out.
I guess there are some explanations. I'm just not sure how cynical to be. Maybe, because of the sheer volume of information, the computer systems aren't able to handle everything instantly, and delaying is the only way to keep from crashing everything completely. I have trouble truly believing this because it seems like too big of a coincidence that the computers need the same amount of time as the banks needed in non-computer ages.
Which makes me think that it is a resistance to change. Banks have always operated on less convenient hours than most people nowadays live. I suppose it is a holdout from the early days of banks when life was vastly different than it is now - when there wasn't 24 hour everything. In some ways, the current world is a bit more conducive to banking hours because there are more people who work evenings and weekends, leaving them time during the weekdays to make it to the bank. But still, the world has changed, computers, evil though they may be, are able to do things much faster than we ever thought possible in the past, so why do we still need business days to process something? Why are 'five business days' really 'one week or more'? Even with taking five days, the weekends shouldn't affect the time. If we really need five days, why do we need to worry about the weekends? Do computers take Saturday and Sunday off? Does my Toshiba know that Sunday was Christmas so it decided not to operate that day? The only way it makes sense is if there is such a massive resistance to change that the banks and financial institutes have decided to just not change it even though they could. They're scared of the technology and so they hide from it as best they can.
The only other explanation I can think of is that it is a conspiracy, if you will, of bank fees and profits. By taking the extra time they can increase the money they get from interest and from fees. Poor timing means that late fees can be charged. They have the power and their isn't much we can do, so as long as they are looking for maximum profits (and that is the heart of capitalism after all), then ease, convenience and user friendliness take a back seat to profits. The only way things get better for the consumer is if it will create more profits for the company. There is no altruism in business. Sweat shops exist because consumers demand lowest prices and businesses want maximum profits. Something's gotta give, and it is those who can be easily exploited that are. Even things like fair trade can be viewed fairly cynically - the companies that do it are mostly interested in looking good for the growing segment of socially conscious consumers. They would rather be buying their product for the lowest possible price and selling it for the maximum possible price. And that was a bit of a tangent, but not much because the principles apply to banks and financial institutions (though I don't think there is much slave labour in banks - they probably just pay their tellers as little as they can, but it's nothing like sweat shops).
Sadly, I think it is a combination of resistance to change and addiction to high profits. The world is changing, but not as much as it should be, and not for as much good as it should be. I can understand a resistance to change - I'm someone who likes routines and comforts. But I have way less interest in profit and business.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I saw a skunk. Near my window! Now understand what I mean by near my window - when it saw us coming, it stopped touching my window with its nose and waddled away. I walked around the side of my house with Beth and noticed some movement and realised that the small black shape moving towards the truck in the driveway had two white stripes on his back. And he was hopping and speaking French.
The worst part was, I got to the car, sighed and headed back because I had left my keys inside. I have never felt so paranoid walking down my driveway before. I whistled softly so as to warn him that I was coming without scaring him. And then, once I had my keys, I had to walk down the driveway again. I'm pulling my sweater tighter around me, like it's going to protect me from the spray of a skunk.
I hope the skunk decides to move on.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Maybe they were pretty and inspiring wagons...

Many cultures have names that are rich with meaning. I know that most Asian names are given because of the meaning. Today I met a Korean woman whose name means 'Grace and Pearl' (her name is made up of two characters), so she is either a graceful pearl or a pearl of grace, according to her name. I also met a Chinese man whose name meant 'Great Life', or something to that effect (I liked the Pearl one better, so it stuck).
Peter comes from ancient Greek meaning 'Stone', and while not as poetic in itself, it has a very strong significance considering its Biblical origins ("on this stone I will build my church").
Christopher also comes from Greek and means 'bearing Christ'.
Jeffrey is a bit muddled, but the last part definitely means 'peace', with the first half possibly meaning 'gift' (so a 'gift of peace').
David is derived from the Hebrew for 'beloved'.
Bethany means 'house of figs' (which I'm sure had a positive meaning when it was first used)
Heather is a type of shrub with pink and white flowers, and who doesn't like flowers?
Wesley means 'west meadow'
As you can see, many names have meanings that are pretty or significant somehow. Why am I bringing all of this up, you ask? Because I got curious and I wondered what my name meant.
Darrell - From an English surname which was derived from Norman French d'Airelle, originally denoting one who came from Airelle in France
Wayne - From an occupational surname meaning "wagon maker"
Ulriksen - Son of Ulrik.
I have the least poetic name ever.

(Scott means, well, Scottish. Not poetical, but at least you have David, lucky stiff)
(Ulrich means 'prosperity and power', but my last name isn't Ulrich, it's Ulriksen, so it doesn't count as poetical, it counts as the son of poetical)
(In case you were wondering, Airelle is in the northwest part of France)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

So Long, Old Pal

Everyone, say goodbye to Thor.
And say hello to ...?... um, my new car. Perhaps Susan, perhaps Suzy, but most likely a different name. I'm not sure yet.
She is a 2001 Hyundai Accent GSI. She is a little four speed that won't win any power contests, but will likely cut my fuel bill in half.
I got her for a very reasonable price from the same used car dealer that sold me Vanessa, my 1989 Crown Victoria LTD, possibly my favourite car I've ever owned (though the Comet would have to come close). My new car isn't nearly as big, but she's been all right for me so far.
As you may be able to tell, she is a standard, and though I didn't go looking for a standard specifically, I'm glad I found one that was in my price range because I quite enjoy the standard, though my left leg is a little tired. It's not used to being in use quite that much.
Oddly enough, this is almost the exact same car that Beth's family owns, except mine has a sunroof, a spoiler on the back, and working windshield wipers. Also, I have been enjoying having turn signals and being able to unlock my driver's side door with my key, and being able to open the driver's side door with the inside handle (as opposed to rolling down the window and opening it with the outside handle). Plus, it is much quieter when I drive it.
Thor was in rough shape and getting rougher. The hood was still a little crumpled from when I had my fender bender last year, and the one light was pushed in slightly (it still worked, but I can't guarantee it pointed anywhere useful). As mentioned, the turn signal, the driver's side lock and the the driver's side inside door handle were all non-functioning. The odometer had read the same mileage since I purchased him, and the travel odometer would sometimes run backwards on the highway (which, admittedly, was kinda neat). And when I tried to remove the front driver's side tire (to look at the brakes)(which I'll explain in a second) I had to remove the last lugnut with an impact drill.
The car had started making a grinding sound when I drove it. I thought it might be the brakes, so I checked them out, but they looked fine. It was an awful sound and I didn't know what it was, but I did know it was getting worse and that it would be expensive to fix it. And then reverse started acting very sticky and hesitant, like it didn't want to shift, maybe. I would put it into reverse and take my foot off the gas and it wouldn't want to roll back on its own. I had to touch the gas to get it going. That made me think that it might be the transmission, a problem that is harder and more expensive than brakes, which was bad enough.
The last time I drove it I was actually concerned that it wouldn't make it. I parked it and bought a car the next morning (I had looked at it already and got the information I needed to make a good choice). So Thor will soon be out of my life completely, though the memories will remain. I guess I will just have to enjoy ...?...
I need to find a good name for her.

P.S. Peter, my new car has all four hubcaps, because I knew you were wondering.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nerd it up Brosef

I visited the Calgary Comic Expo today. I went for one reason - Dave Kellett, creator of the Sheldon comic strip, and all around nice guy, was there and I wanted to meet him. He was super friendly and I wished I could have chatted with him longer, but there is a line between fan and stalker, and I didn't want to cross that line. But I did get him to do a sketch in one of his books. This first picture is him doing the sketch.

This next one is him posing with his sketch. The drawing is of a character from Sheldon named Flaco, a small lizard, and the pilot of a spaceship from his sci-fi comic. The pilot doesn't have a name yet (when the strip started, he had lost his memory and no one knows his name, and Dave ain't tellin'!

Boba Fett with a stormtrooper.

A Death Star troop. The little thing he was holding in his hand was a remote control device, which he was (not) (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) using to control...
R2-D2. This was pretty cool. It moved around and beeped and seemed pretty much like the R2 unit from the films. I was pretty impressed.
The Expo was kinda neat. I got to see Brent Spiner (Data from TNG) and Malcolm MacDowell (the guy who killed Kirk and Star Trek: Generations)(and other movies)(probably). I didn't talk to them, and I sure wasn't going to pay to get an autograph from them, but I saw them.