Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Not to mention, I ran out of carrots.

Okay, coming up to the end of 2005, which has been without a doubt, a pretty weird year. Natural disasters fortelling the downfall of western civilization, soldiers losing their lives for oil, the looming energy crisis about to destabilize the world economy, and the environment getting worse, but for some odd reason, the human spirit marches merrily along, blissfully unaware of anything bad about to happen. I still haven't decided if I have hope or cautious optimimism for the year 2006, because there are still a lot of things that the powers that be aren't willing to divulge.

Sure, the year didn't suck nearly as much as the last for me (see archives for more details), but it's all a matter of perspective.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

So, my question is this: now why the HELL would I want to do a silly thing like that?

I have a (thankfully) uninteresting history with credit cards, having consistenly paid off my balance on a monthly basis since I received my very first credit card at the age of 16. I guess I'm a really good customer because they keep upping my limit whether I want them to or not. This can come in handy (let's just say my limit is sufficient to pay for a semester's tuition all in one go and leave it at that), it's really easy to abuse if I don't have my head on straight.

Stuff like this really tells me that credit companies do not have the best interests of the consumer in mind. I get one of these "payment optional" notices at least three or four times a year and in my opinion, it amounts to psychological mind games. Apart from the fact that your credit rating will likely take a hit, you will have to pay for interest in both cases. However, the effects of having your credit rating drop won't be felt immediately (unless you're planning on making a major purchase right away), whereas paying for interest is a little more immediate.

Interest payments are stupidly punishing. I remember paying off a Visa bill through the bank, but due to an error (on whose part, I don't know), the payment was shorted by $2. I was billed over $28 for interest payments, as the interest occured on the entire previous statement, not just the $2 owed. After enough complaining, the entire thing was reversed. Dumbasses.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Givin' the finger to natural selection.

As I write this, my typing speed has been reduced by 25% as I attempt to adapt to a finger injury due to "Loss of extensor tendon continuity at the distal interphalangeal joint (DIPJ)" (source: eMedicine.com). This condition is known as mallet finger. I don't even know how this happened. All I remember was attempting to do a forward hand-spring and not quite landing it properly, and the next thing I know, I can't straighten my right ring finger. After leaving class early to have it checked by my MD, I am sent to two different medical supply stores to get myself splinted.

I'm gonna be like this for about three weeks (although many resources seem to indicate SIX weeks), which is going to make a lot of everyday tasks a real pain in the butt. And I'm supposed to be going snowboarding tomorrow too.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

For those following along and checking out my other blog/webcomic, Major Studio Production, will be aware of the fact that it was pulled from publication due to its controversial content. According to the managing editor, the executive decision was made to summarily pull the strip, citing that it was seen as offensive to veterans. What do you think? The following is a letter to the editor written in response to the decision to not run the strip, which was published in the November 16th issue of The Other Press (click on image to view full-size).

Considering the subject matter of The Other Press and the amount of leeway given to its contributors, Major Studio Production has found its ideal home. Having depicted a dead body mistaken for Halloween decoration (Oct. 26) and kids getting their eyes stabbed out with scissors (Oct. 19), I felt that it was time I made a serious political statement with the Remembrance Day strip. Reproducing iconic images of war atrocities, they were placed against a quote spoken on November 11, 1918, this being the first reference of World War I as the war to end all wars. Of course, given the images, that quote is truly ironic.

Yet, in a surprising display of restraint, the strip was not run in the last issue due to its controversial and potentially insensitive nature. So, was this the right decision?

Given what does get printed in The Other Press, this might be seen as a double standard. One only needs to see the controversial Sex Issue (Sept. 28) to get an idea of how crazy the material can get. Yet Remembrance Day remains an untouchable sacred cow. Recall just last week, where Conservative MP Stephen Harper is caught on tape complaining about the pin holding his plastic poppy. Everybody who purchases one will have problems keeping them on in some way or another, yet for some odd reason, this is newsworthy, and even potentially controversial.

As to whether I agree with the decision to not run the strip, I’m divided. Indeed, Remembrance Day is an important observance and we should all remember and be grateful for the sacrifices of our war veterans. Life in general would be drastically different if not for them. But clearly, the powers that be have not remembered the lessons of the past, as we find ourselves in a perpetual cycle of war and destruction.

I feel that Remembrance Day should not just be a day to remember the war veterans, as soldiers are never the only victims of war. The examples I picked out are a small sampling out of an excessively long history of war atrocities. Why shouldn’t we remember them too? As it is, it seems that anything with an anti-war slant (which the strip certainly is) is deemed as a slap in the face against our war veterans.

It appears that whether we point out that poppy pins fall out or that soldiers aren’t the only victims of war, our long adherence to tradition is preventing us from seeing the bigger picture.

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Monday, October 31, 2005

The Death of a Customer Service Provider

Is it just me, or has customer service in general really taken a nosedive as of late?

#1: Since finishing my contract with Rogers AT&T wireless back in June, I decided to change cellphone providers, having been offered a pretty sweet deal with Fido ($15 camera phone, $25/mo w/free voice mail and call display, free iPod Shuffle). So, I call them up on Saturday to get them to cancel my old plan. Lo and behold, the cancellation department isn't open on the weekends, so I have to wait until Monday to call.

Monday, the person on the other line is about to charge me a fee for breaking contract (usually $100+) and then I find out that there is a 30-day window between putting in a notice for cancelling a phone, for which I will be billed the time for a phone that I don't even want anymore. I raise a large enough stink and manage to convince them that the contract ended several months back, but I'm still paying for a month of phone service. Can someone please explain the logic behind this?

[ADDENDUM: Okay, so I find out that Bell Mobility forces a 30-day lag on cancellations too. Why isn't there more rioting in the streets?]

#2: Last November, I had my entire collection of DVDs stolen, which was being reimbursed through my insurance company. Allowing A&B Sound to handle my claim, I was slowly rebuilding my collection, trying to be a lot more discriminating when it comes to whatever DVDs I choose this time around (the best thing about having your DVDs stolen is that you get rid of a lot of crap that you have no intention of watching more than once).

Funny thing was that A&B Sound was in the process of changing hands, having declared bankruptcy protection. So, any claim that was filed prior to March 2005 was invalidated, although they were continuing to process claims as a "show of good will." All of a sudden, as of September 2005, these are summarily cut off. I contact my insurance adjuster and A&B's creditors (via KPMG) and they offer no recourse whatsoever.

Way to rebuild your customer base.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

I'm surprised that I haven't done this to my car yet!

I probably shouldn't be wasting my time on this crap when I actually have an assignment due tomorrow, but I gotta say, it beats the pants off of playing Xbox and watching TV. Just gotta wait until the paint fully cures on the Brazil phone and then I can apply a few layers of clear coat for that extra sheen (the green paint is a matte finish) and to maintain the appearance (Testor's model paint tends to absorb skin oils and get icky looking after a while).

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mike "Big Daddy" Schindelka and yours truly ("Class Klutz, 1995")

Buncha people (Andrea King, Jeff Miller, Palmira Villareal, Tony Abramski)

L-R: Brandon Easton ("King of Outer Space, 1995"), JT Gasler ("Loudest, 1995"), Marie Sawchuck and Guest, Carlen Herbosa, Lynn Fontanella

Todd Hounsell (with the Mrs.), Angela Poss, Sandy Hammersmark (with the Mr.), Tania Decock ("Class Flirt: Female, 1995"), Kevin Tomyk, Jacques Fillion

Bryan DeLeon, Janice Vibar, Katherine Menesis ("Most Active, 1995")

Big Daddy behind the axe

Ted King cleans up

Tony Abramski, Danny Nootebos, Jayme Huppert

The organizer, Nicole Godin ("Queen of Outer Space, 1995")

Tabitha Colt, Tania Edwards, Mary-Anne Castro ("Most Athletic Female, 1995")

"F*** the surgeon general!" Tony Telan

Ryan Evans, Maureen Hetzler, Frank Harrington ("Best Dressed", 1995), Danny Nootebos

Ben Yu ("Class Rebel, 1995")

"Stellllaaaaaaaa!" Jen Alexander and Yours Truly

Bryan ("Most Likely To Come Back to Holy Cross and Teach") and Carla DeLeon

Mark Pacheco, bustin' a move

Jen Van Elslande and Heather Corrin

John and Heather Parent

"Pump up the jam...pump up the jam..." Front: John McLeod ("Most Athletic Male 1995"). Back (L-R): Katharine Menesis, Judith Appenzeller, Catherine McDonald.

Neil DiGuanco, Carlen and Jayme Huppert ("Best Couple, 1995")

Well, it came and went. The 10th year high school reunion was not as bad as I was expecting, people were surprisingly civil to each other, although old cliques still remain. The more things change, the more things stay the same. Unfortunately, a lot of the photos kinda suck (ie: severely out of focus, not framed properly, not exposed properly). Thank goodness that digital doesn't really cost anything.

Outside out a small handful of people, everybody was recognizeable (even after about three drinks). Some were successful, some were married, some were cagey on what they've been up to. Didn't have to tell anyone that I invented Post-It-Notes. And best of all, my major plastic surgery and radical weight loss plan panned out perfectly (inside joke, sorry).

Memorable moments:
-Ben Yu ("Class Rebel") giving the middle finger to Todd Hounsel (Student Council President) for no reason whatsoever while Todd was acknowledging the people that came from out of town (Ben came from Calgary, fyi).
-Leigh Turnbull almost taking out a lighting fixture when attempting a handstand on the dance floor.
-Performing a head-slide across the dance floor and NOT taking out a lighting fixture.
-Mike "Big Daddy" Schindelka opening up the dance floor with two rockin' blues numbers on guitar.
-The fact that most of the class actually remains recognizeable after 10 years.

See you all in ANOTHER 10 years after more wrinkles, bigger pot bellies, more grey hair, and farther receeding hairlines.

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Monday, October 10, 2005

"Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Willis?"
-Alexis "Urso do Cabeloduro" Mazurin, December 31, 2004

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Friday, September 30, 2005

Hey, folks. I just started up a new webcomic/blog as an archive for my first comic strip, Major Studio Production, as featured in the Douglas College student newspaper, The Other Press. The comic strip is done entirely using the program Microsoft Paint for an intentionally crude look. Styles and genres will be everything from social commentary to witty satire to juvenile toilet humour. Enjoy.

To read strips, click HERE

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

If I was a professional makeup effects artist, I would be on this site every day.

Scarmageddon.com was launched this month. The title is fairly self-explanatory...it's the equivalent of HotorNot.com, but for scar tissue. Some of these have interesting stories to them, some tragic, some hilarious. Me, having a buncha scars from doing a buncha really stupid things, I decided that I had to contribute as well. Twice.

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Toquinha (yours truly), Ingrasado, and Bala

Roda: Cacau vs. Tubarao

Roda: Barravento (L) vs. Fala Mansa

Meet the Mestres, Contra Mestres, Instrutores, and Professores

Maculele: Leo and Veneno

Roda: Instrutor Instigado and Contra Mestre Fabio (mid-air)


Contra Mestre Gordo leads the roda

Ache Brasil Calgary

Mestres of Capoeira. L-R: Mestre Eclison, Mestre Elisio, Contra Mestre Fabio, Contra Mestre Gordo, Professore Sapo, Mestre Elias, Profesore Reni, Monitor Super Homem, Instructore Instigado, Mestre Batata

Capoeira bateria (musicians)

Three days of music, martial arts, dance, and acrobatics equals one sore back, stiff hips, calloused feet, and split skin on my hands from endless clapping. Oh, and I am also the proud owner of a new belt level, moving up from verde claro ("light green") to verde escuro ("dark green"). Thus was the annual 2005 Batizado weekend with Capoeira Ache Brasil. Will remember to train extra hard as to qualify for an amarelo ("yellow") belt next year.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

And, on a slightly lighter note...can you come up with a better caption than I can?

"No more listening to heavy metal!"

For this, I got to play the part of a telemarketer for the short film, Lady Luck and Razor Tongue, to be screened next Saturday at Tinseltown as part of the Vancouver Asian Film festival. Also, on a sorta funny note, I was also doing sound recording for the film.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Rant: Myopia on a Grand Scale

William of Ockham (circa 1285-1349) theorized that the simplest explanation is often the best one, a theory known as "Ockham's Razor." Sadly, it's all staring us in the face.

Amidst out-of-control spiraling of oil prices on the verge of destabilizing the global economy, people don't seem to realize that our current lifestyles of consumption and greed are simply not sustainable. Peak oil theories notwithstanding (dictating the end of low-cost crude oil, not necessarily the bottoming out of oil supplies), it's clear that our drive to consume has gotten us to this predicament. That and economists link it to ongoing conflict in the Middle East, political pressures from all sides, growing demand in emerging industrial countries. Add that to the fact that, and our environment is a complete mess, with global warming causing extreme weather patterns, but for some odd reason, there are some who still push the global cooling theory and say that it's all a big cycle.

What upsets me more is the fact that the technology is in place to lessen the impact of an energy crisis and has been for many years. Biodiesel could go a long way to mitigating our dependence on foreign oil supplies, and it could have, as the first diesel engine actually ran on peanut oil. Thermal depolymerization could be used to recycle municipal trash and sewage into useful hydrocarbons and chemicals, yet there is only one plant in existence. Bioplastics derived from actually break down unlike regular plastics and contribute significantly fewer greenhouse emissions. But these simply aren't profitable enough. Contrast this with the energy conglomerates that make a killing whenever the price of oil jumps a few bucks.

And then there are other social problems. War against drugs? It could've been a simple matter to focus on rehabilitation rather than criminal prosecution, which is ridiculously expensive and wasteful. Plus, it would cripple revenue streams for organized crime, which relies on the proceeds of the illegal drug trade. But doing so would upset the current status quo.

Sadly, "simple" and "easy" are two completely different things. Herd mentality dictates that we cannot make decisions without meetings and bureaucracy, and by the time that happens, it's often too late to do anything about it, or the problem has gotten larger. Change is tough when things are easy the way they are. But it's not going to be for long.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Solutions For Better Living

Today while taking public transit, I, along with two young female passengers, bore witness to a common male problem. I'm talking about skivvies riding up the crack. This is due to several issues, although much can be traced to your underwear choice -- boxers, briefs, or boxer briefs. I prefer the latter of the three, as it provides comfort, snugness, and doesn't ride up as much.

But, in the event it does, there are ways around it. My prefered method is to through the back pocket, usually in the pretense that I'm reaching for my keys or a cell phone. This doesn't really work for jeans, but it's okay for khakis, dress pants, and cargos.

This was the case for the gentleman in question, who was wearing khakis. But, against all logic, he decided to reach down between his knees and directly attack the fabric on his crotch area. I did my best to contain myself while the two girls next to me did not. The only explanation I can offer was that he's wearing either a g-string or a thong.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Now on a slightly more light hearted note (yeah, I know, light crude oil @ $63.99...I've already reduced my demand by taking the bus more often), you know those emergency broadcast systems that they got on TV? Y'know, the ones that say that they would be giving instructions on what to do, "had this been an actual emergency." Have you ever gotten the feeling that in case of a real emergency, you'd probably be dead by the time they got their act together?

Last week Thursday, the Scarfe building at UBC (and a buncha other buildings) was evacuated due to a natural gas leak. Sitting in the basement dungeon (read: my office cubicle), I had no idea that there was anything wrong, just plugging away at my assignment, until I'm told that we're to leave. Nobody really smelled anything (of course, natural gas is odorless until you add something to give its distinct odor), but we're told to go outdoors, where the odor is even stronger.

So, we're sitting around on the grass (thankfully, it's a nice sunny day) and we have no idea where we're supposed to be sitting because no one can seem to figure out where the gas leak is coming from. There is someone standing on the corner with an orange safety vest and she's got yellow "Do Not Cross" tape set up in a completely arbitrary area, ambiguously defining where we're not supposed to walk. And then somebody casually strolls by while smoking a cigarette.

The firefighters are strolling around, trying to determine the source of the leak, while we still don't know where we're supposed to sit or stand. About 45 minutes later, we are allowed back into the building, only to be told to leave the second we step foot into the building. Realizing the gong show excuse of crisis management that we are witnessing, I make a point of grabbing a snack from the staff room fridge and my notebook so I'll have something to do until they let us back in.

90 minutes in lost work time due to this gas leak, I tells ya. If there were a major crisis, things would not go well.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Uninformed Opinions

"In a world without leaders
Who'd make people starve?
The world that we'd be saving
Would always be ours."
-The Offspring, "Kill the President"

When you're spending 3.5 hours round trip on a bus-Skytrain-bus commute to and from work, and you're not nodding off or napping, you start thinking about stuff.

Like, what would happen if all of our borders were completely closed up? I mean, like all of 'em? Who would have the best chance at survival? Who would thrive? Who would die? What would be left of the economies?

In a world where the gap between the haves and the have-nots gets progressively larger, one could logically say that a small handful of haves are getting richer at the expense of the have-nots. It sorta reminds me of that experiment where you take two balloons and have them hooked up to the same straw. If one balloon is larger than the other, then it'll suck up all the air from the smaller balloon.

You look at America, which sucks down 25% of the world's oil supplies, produces 25% of the world's pollution, yet has less than 5% of the world's population. The American economy is entirely dependent on foreign oil and would suffer a spontaneous crash if the price of oil becomes too much. Because shareholders and CEOs just want to increase their bottom lines, they outsource all their manufacturing jobs to foreign countries. So, if you shut all that down, what happens? Probably a lot of people would starve or die of thirst, as many midwest states have problems supplying their people with water.

Canada happens to be a net exporter of oil, which means it produces more than it uses. So, if our borders were shut down, what would happen to us? Well, we do have a burgeoning marijuana market, so at least we'll have some fun while the economy implodes because we don't know what to do with all that extra lumber or oil. Either that, or Alberta becomes an independent country or the capital of Canada, take your pick.

Could this happen? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was in really rough shape, as they couldn't trade out their sugar to their former allies and America put a trade embargo on them. So, after the initial shock, they were forced to grow their own food again, without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Sure, a lot of people got really skinny really fast, but after they re-embraced organic farming, things got back to "normal", or at least to some certain sense of balance. (link: "The Cuba Diet").

It gives me some level of hope for when stuff does start getting really rough.

Maybe I should start doing something a little more productive with my time on public transit.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Vince Gets Opinionated

As much as I'm proud and willing to show off the various injuries inflicted on me in the past few weeks, I know I'm light years ahead of what some other people have gone through in other parts of the world. By most accounts, the world is not a nice place. By now, the world around is aware of a 27-year old Brazilian living in the UK that was mistaken for a terrorist bomber and shot by British police. This is a shock to most sane people, especially when you consider that the British police force have not relied on firearms between 1936 until being formally re-introduced in 2000. Even more shocking is that they shot the poor bloke seven times in the head.

On one hand, there is the need for public security. Understandably, if a person was indeed a suicide bomber, attempting to incapacitate the bomber by shooting the arms and legs would not have the desired effect, as they can still set off an explosive device. Also, if the suspect had the police themselves, it may place the public at greater risk. In these frightening times, if a person doesn't stop when told to and is wearing a thick jacket in the middle of summer, you can't be too careful, right?

But still, seven times?

The other side sees this as sliding down the slippery slope into a police state. When the police are given a shoot-to-kill directive and can freely execute somebody that they suspect as being a terrorist or suicide bomber. From reports, Jean Charles de Menezes was wearing clothing that put him out of place (thick baggy clothing that could conceal explosives). Since the guy was Brazilian, there is the possibility that he is more used to warmer climate.

By all accounts, anybody could be a terrorist. Small explosive devices would be placed in backpacks, suitcases...why not just have everybody go around naked? I mean, hey, it's summer, isn't it? But then, you could always hide a small explosive device in your rectum, but it probably wouldn't cause enough damage (plus, suicide bombers would likely survive...without an asshole). That, and it might be tough to hide wires, unless the thing was detonated by remote.

I've always been under the impression that if there was a democratic nation at the highest risk of becoming a police state, it would be America. With the PATRIOT act giving the government authorities carte blanche to do whatever the hell they want, definitions of terrorists could extend to just about anybody that steps out of line.

But the UK? I guess it's understadable, in some respects, especially given the nature of the attacks. As a result of 9/11, we've seen some pretty weird security measures in American airlines, such as banning nail clippers and forcing a woman to drink her own breast milk to prove that it wasn't contaminated with weaponized bio-agents. Had a suicide bombing attack occured on US soil, we'd likely see the more like what happened in the UK.

This world is clearly not a nice place anymore. Paranoia has gripped the "free" nations like a vice, where the people are now afraid to go on with their lives and the collective trigger fingers of law enforcement have developed a serious case of hives.

The way I got it figured, the world is going to come to an end whether we want it to or not. When that happens, I want good seats. And a beer. And a shotgun to make sure no one tries to take my beer.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Stitches come out on tomorrow. Do chicks really dig scars? Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Three stitches. You should see the other guy. Not a scratch on 'im!

After these past couple of weeks, I have come to the inescapable conclusion. My face is a magnet for rocks, street signs, and other people's feet.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Superheroes need not fear the hazard signs!

Ache, Bumbaye!

Groupo Ache Brasil, Vancouver and Calgary academy

Cobra vs. Grandao

Nighttime roda

Mestre Eclison vs. Adam

Mulher-only Roda

Workin' the camera with Ballarina and Morena

King of the mat. I lost.

John C. vs. Superhomem

Barboleta (Bush Girl) vs. Toquinha (Charlie Brown)

'Round the camp fire


outdoor roda

Costume roda (Sushi, Morena, Ballarina)

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