Every once in a while I have an idea for something that I think would be fun on a t-shirt or on your iPhone wallpaper. This one is not original. It’s something of a running joke in my family.
A few years ago, listening to CBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics, my older sister asked, “What’s the luge?”
She had never heard of it before.
Not missing a beat, my mother answered her, “It’s when you don’t winge!”
My sister was not impressed. As far as I know, she still hates that joke. My mother, on the other hand, thinks it’s hysterical, and she will explain in detail why it is such a good joke to you if you don’t laugh the first time you hear it.
Everyone gather ’round. It’s that time again! It’s time for me to answer my readers’ questions!
And by that, I mean, it’s time for me to see what strings of words people have typed into Google that brought them to my blog. Then I look through the search keywords that are (more-or-less) well-formed questions and answer them as best I can. It’s the least I could do, since they took the time to visit my site with these questions on their mind.
“Why can’t the space shuttle leave conventionally from an airport?” (July 26)
Mostly because it’s not an airplane. Those booster rockets that the space shuttle normally uses for take-off are not decorative.
“If I fired a laser beam at my hand would it come out the other side?” (Aug 4)
“How to castle in chess with friends?” (July 31, Aug 7, 14, 17)
Begin a chess game with a friend, castle normally.
“How do you move your king and castle at the same time?” (July 26)
You probably meant “How do you move your king and your rook at the same time?”
“Rook” is the name for the pieces that start at the corners of the board.
In chess, “castle” is a verb. It’s the verb that means to move your rook and king at the same time, two spaces toward each other, provided that the intervening spaces are not occupied and that neither the king nor rook has been moved before in the match (and that you’re not trying to castle out of check).
“Cheat on MCAT tips?” (Aug 1) / “How to cheat the MCAT?” (July 30)
Are you really asking me to help you to cheat on the MCAT? Get out.
“Has anyone ever cheated on MCAT before?” (July 28)
No. No one in the history of mankind. No one whose motives were so pure as to aspire to medical school has ever even considered cheating to attain such a goal.
“Grammar is one of the greatest joys in life, don’t you find?” (Aug 8)
Actually, now that you mention it, grammar is the greatest joy in life.
“How to avoid getting your bike stolen [in] Montréal?” (Aug 25)
Sell bike, and buy Bixi pass with the proceeds.
“How to get your thesis bound at McGill” (July 27)
You gotta do it yourself, I’m afraid. You can get Acco-Press binders at the bookstore.
I’ve walked past this storefront countless times in the past two years, but it wasn’t until about a week ago that I got the joke. The major street that runs through my neighbourhood is called “Chemin Queen-Marie.” The laundry place is called “Nettoyeur Clean-Marie.”
These people are now my heroes. This is the greatest thing I’ve heard since my mother defined the olympic luge as “when you don’t winge.”
I remember in September, I joked with my supervisor about how I was sure that Apple was tracking me through my iPod. I sort of assumed that Apple was doing that. I was okay with it. I thought maybe some day it might provide a much-needed alibi for a crime I don’t plan on committing.
Then this past week, there was a big scandal about how some people found a file on everyone’s iPhone that has a whole bunch of locations and times tagged. I even downloaded the application for the Mac that allows me to view the file on a map of the world. I thought it was pretty cool. It wasn’t very accurate though. Sometimes it would tag me as having been kilometres away from my actual position.
By my house, there’s a Double Pizza, and for the last little while, there’s been a big poster in their front window advertising for cheap pizza. A couple days ago, I guess they decided that the promotion was over, and put stickers on the glass in front of the poster.
This makes me smile. I think it’s because the original numbers are clearly visible behind the stickers. It’s like they’re saying, “Yeah, prices went up. Oh well.”
One day while I was living in China, my roommate woke me up at 7h on a Saturday morning. This was not his usual custom, nor was it mine to wake up so early on a weekend.
He woke me up because he heard a sound coming from the bathroom. The big drain in the middle of the floor was backing up. By this, I mean that whereas usually the drain is the final receptacle of the unwanted fluids coming from our apartment, in this case, it was the burbling and gushing provider.
At first, the flow was manageable. We waited for a little bit, to see if it would stop. The floor of the bathroom of our apartment was lower than the floor of the rest of our apartment, so for the moment, the liquid was contained. We tried the plunger. No effect. When it burst over the threshold into our dining room, we knew something had to be done.
So I called the landlord, who speaks no English, and in my broken Chinese, I told him, “你好。我租你房子。我的厕所有几个问题，” which means, roughly, “Hi, I rent your apartment. My bathroom has some problems.”
Fortunately, the guy got the picture and came over more-or-less right away.
In the meantime, me and my roommate were unplugging everything electric, and using a broom to try to redirect the flow of sewage from the overflowing bathroom drain to the kitchen drain (which was working fine, thankfully). We pulled the tablecloth up on the table, and picked up the kitchen stool and put it, inverted on the kitchen table.
When the landlord showed up, he was startled to see what was happening. In a way, it was both comforting and unsettling to see him shocked by it. On the one hand, it was comforting because if he was shocked, it meant that it didn’t happen very often. On the other hand, it was unsettling because if he didn’t know what to do, then I had no idea who would.
I saw him pull out his 手机 and I thought he was gonna call a plumber, but after a few minutes, to my disappointment, his 太太 showed up, carrying some big rubber boots for him. He tried using the plunger on it, to no effect. He stood back and looked like he was thinking for a while, and eventually called his 朋友 who had some sort of a machine with a long metal extension that could be inserted into the drain.
Upon turning a crank on the one end of the machine, it did whatever it was designed to do and eventually pulled out a grey bundle of what looked like a sweater that someone in the apartment above us must have flushed.
That day was supposed to be a day of alone-time for me, and the first one I had been able to have for a few months, so as soon as the crisis was averted, my roommate graciously offered to mop the floor. I should have taken the time to shower after all that, but I was stressed and I just wanted to get out of that foul-smelling place. It was really 特别麻烦.
When I returned, I was feeling sick (that’s what happens when you fail to shower after spending your morning wading through human waste) but the apartment was in good order, thanks to my roommate.
I walked into the kitchen and looked around—the only thing that remained was just a few pieces of furniture that were inverted and left on the top of the kitchen table. I wanted to make sure they were clean before I put them away, so I asked my roommate, “Did you wipe the stool off?”