Chez Ben in Granby, QC

Poutine Burger
Poutine Burger

Québec is full of wonderful poutine restaurants. Chez Ben is a restaurant in Granby that sells pretty good poutine, and really small hamburgers.

I was very strongly tempted to order the “poutine burger.” And yes, a “poutine burger” is exactly what it appears in the photograph to be: A big aluminium foil pie-plate full of poutine, with a hamburger patty on it.

I love Québec.

The slogan for the restaurant is, “On s’bourre la bedaine,” meaning roughly, “We stuff our bellies.”

Here’s a fun bit of French vocabulary. If you wanted to say that someone is “shirtless,” you’d say he is “en bedaine.”

In the attached video, please note that the big giant figure of “Ben” moves, demonstrating that he is stuffing his “bedaine” in front of the restaurant.

How to pick up chicks

Picking up chicks
Picking up chicks

This is how you pick up chicks:

  • Go to a farm.
  • Ask the owner if you can see their chicks.
  • Run and catch one.
  • Really, they don’t run that fast. That said, check out the video I posted of the chicks running away from me.
  • It’s so fluffy! I’m gonna die!

Wait, isn’t that what you thought I meant by “picking up chicks?”

A trip down memory lane

While finishing up an application for next year, I went through my “Actually useful” folder inside my “Documents” folder on my computer. I was looking for my CV at the time, but I found some amazing stuff in there.

I found a file in there named “09.05.22 UWO parting survey.txt”. I had forgotten this for years, but shortly after I graduated, UWO sent me an email, asking me for any feedback I had for them regarding my experience as a student there. Did I ever. I must have been angry when I wrote this thing. It’s in three chapters, and I quote the entire thing at length for your enjoyment.

Chapter I – the water situation

There is nowhere to get potable water in Talbot College for less than $2. One day I had a twoonie, and I was very thirsty, and the only way for me to get something to drink was to get on a bus and go to my home. It was a half-hour wait, and a 15-minute bus ride.

The water fountain in Talbot College has been broken since (at least) my first year, 2003. It has been broken so long that the custodians put a big clear plastic bag over it and a sign that says, “Temporarily out of service,” which has since been vandalised to say, “How long is temporary?” “Months,” and “I think it has to do with the $2.75 for a bottle of water in the cafeteria.”

Of some historical interest, that same cafeteria in Talbot College actually burned to the ground and was built again. And in the time it took you guys to do that, the water fountain was never fixed.

In case you were wondering why I do not just go to the tap in the bathroom, there is a gross smell in the 2nd-floor men’s bathroom in Talbot College. I’m serious. Try going there and filling up a water bottle. Tell me if you want to drink the water. You don’t. It’s nasty.

Chapter II – WebCT

I think I have complained about WebCT in every course that has used it. The following are a *few* of the problems with WebCT.

1. Basic unusability

WebCT crashes my browser. Always has, and after three revisions (WebCT, WebCT Vista and WebCT OWL), I’m reasonably convinced it always will. It would crash yours too, if you gave it half a chance. Many of the problems with WebCT flow from the fact that WebCT crashes my browser. For example, WebCT tests that crash in the middle of tests, and then won’t allow me to finish, because my session has ended or something.

To add to the basic unusability problem, every time I want to log in, there’s a certificate that I have to say I trust and a pop-up thing that I have to get rid of. Minor annoyances, I know, but it’s just two more unnecessary steps between me and my schoolwork.

2. Inability to reliably communicate course content

In my first year, I took a critical thinking course, and my prof would post notes on WebCT, and because he used logical operators, it got all messed up going from his computer to WebCT and then to my computer. WebCT continues the tradition today with professors who post their notes as .docx files, which no one can open unless they pay for a copy of Microsoft Word, which of course, I can’t afford because OSAP has started to withdraw money from my account prematurely. (See chapter III.)

Further, when profs have some documents scanned as PDF’s, they are scanned at ridiculously huge sizes. This isn’t a problem if you just print them off, because your printer will automatically scale your PDF to the size of the page, and you won’t even notice. But if you’re trying to save money, and trying to actually follow the Department of Philosophy’s guidelines on the use of paper, and you take notes on the PDF itself and read it off your computer screen, then what you’ll notice is that when a document has been scanned to a PDF at an inappropriate size, and you add a notation to the document, the notation is *tiny*, because the width of the letter M is 5cm or something. And so when a normal-sized notation is added to a page that size, it is small, and useless. I can send you an example if you don’t understand what I’m talking about.

3. A potentially infinite source of new examinable content

In some of my bigger classes, professors would make TA’s available on WebCT to answer our questions. That’s fine, but then in-class, the professor would spend half his time referring to discussions that had occurred online, and the answers that the TA’s would post immediately became examinable material. I am not exaggerating. This actually happened to me. I don’t like the fact that, by the use of WebCT there is a potentially *infinite* source of new examinable material that I have to be constantly checking.

4. Hidden “features”

WebCT has a million places for professors to hide things that I should have known about. (But they were on WebCT, so of course I knew about it, right? :| ) Did you know that WebCT has a calendar? It does. And a professor could put a test date in there, and I wouldn’t have the first clue until it was too late. Do you know what “campus bookmarks” in WebCT does? No one does. I graduated last month and I just discovered *now* (while answering this survey question) that I can receive emails through WebCT. It says that my inbox has 20 unread emails. I would have liked to know during the school year about the typo in assignment 8. And you know what? It looks like there’s a separate WebCT inbox for every single course!

What is a “learning module”? Who knows? What is the difference between “notes” and “course content”? I’ll give you $2 if you can tell me off the top of your head. I’m not asking for better education on WebCT. I’m asking for less WebCT to be educated about.

5. Classroom experience

I think what really bugs me is that if I wanted to take an online course, I would sign up for an online course. I am paying for an in-class experience. I want an in-class experience.

6. It’s difficult to administer

Professors hate WebCT as much as students. I have had some profs at Western who preferred to put their materials on their own password-protected site. Students liked those better too. Less extraneous stuff to navigate around.

Conclusion: Please do not allow professors to include mandatory WebCT evaluations or materials. The problem is not how WebCT is used. The problem is WebCT itself. Please make professors and students very happy and make it go away.

Chapter III – OSAP

I don’t know if you have the power to do anything about this, but every year, I have to go to the Registrar’s Office and tell him, “O great Registrar, please tell OSAP not to start automatically withdrawing money from my bank account again this year!” And then I fill out forms, and then if I’m lucky, the Registrar’s Office tells OSAP and then they know that I’m still a student, and I don’t have to pay back my OSAP.

This is rather minor compared to the WebCT issue, but do I seriously need to remind you guys that I’m still in school?

Gingerbread Tardis

"Hello, I'm the Doctor."

In light of some difficult family circumstances, I decided to take a night and do something silly. I had a friend over, one with whom I am in the habit of watching Doctor Who. While the result wasn’t quite as good as some other gingerbread Tardises on the internet, I am very happy to present photographs from last night’s project.

Usually, when I make something creative with gingerbread, I use a lot of red food colouring. You know, for the blood.

This time, however, the carnage was only an afterthought. I didn’t mean for there to be such a high death toll. Honest! And further, I think that the massacre was relatively tasteful for me.

The only cookie cutters I own
The only cookie cutters I own

The real reason why there was so many dead people is not because of the (very adorable) gingerbread Daleks. It’s mostly because I only own cookie cutters that have pieces missing from them. (Thanks for the present, Steph!)

You’ll note that even the gingerbread man who I assume is supposed to be the Doctor (the one who is halfway inside the Tardis) is missing his hand. My interpretation of this is that this is a scene from the few seconds during which the Doctor had his hand cut off by the Sycorax before it regenerated. This makes sense, because that happened during the “Christmas Invasion Special,” and it’s a gingerbread Tardis, so it should be on a Christmas theme, after all.

Tardis and bodies

A bacon-related death

I used to have the phone number for my little sister’s landlord programmed into my phone. I forget why, exactly, but one day, a couple years ago, I accidentally sent the following text to the landlord’s number rather than my little sister’s:

“I am about to die a bacon-related death.”

My little sister’s landlord replied, “I don’t know who you are, but whoever you are, stop eating bacon!”

The Quidditch World Cup 2010

The team gathering around our coach
The team gathering around our coach

This weekend past, as you may recall from seeing on various news stations, was the 2010 Quidditch World Cup in New York City. I was on the McGill team that competed, and I had a fantastic time. We played well, won more games than we lost, and beat the team from Harvard University. :)

For me, the highlight from the World Cup was watching the brilliant performances of the Golden Snitches. These were some amazing athletes. I can think of no other sport where there is a position that combines long distance running, wrestling and acrobatic showmanship.

I'm number 25
I'm number 25

There are few rules for the conduct of a snitch in a game. This means that the snitch can pull a seeker off his broom, interfere with players from another game, or wrestle a seeker to the ground, in an attempt to prevent the seekers from catching him or her.

People attending the Cup who were unfamiliar with the snitch were especially fun to listen to. I overheard a person behind me, at the beginning of a game ask her friend in a very confused voice, “Wait. He just ran off the field. Is he supposed to do that?”

This is why we won the spirit award
This is why we won the spirit award

Or later in the day, I heard someone else declare, “I don’t know. I just think something’s not right when you see a snitch hailing a cab.”

I have compiled a short list of some of the most entertaining things that I personally watched a snitch do in the course of a game.

  • Climb up a fence
  • Climb on top of a nearby building
  • Run onto the field of another game and interfere with the gameplay by bludgeoning one of the seekers
  • Return to the field riding a unicycle that he got somehow
  • Taunt one team’s seeker by pulling off his cape and holding it in front of him in the manner of a Spanish bull-fighter
  • Pick up the quaffle and offer it to a spectator on one knee, as if it were a token of his affection
  • Pull off two team members headbands and exchange them (coloured headbands are used to designate positions)
  • Pull a hoop off its stand and pass himself through it three times, before declaring to the crowd, “I have thirty points now!”
Playing against Carleton
Playing against Carleton

But my favourite moment was in the final game between Middlebury and the Tufflepuffs (the team from Tufts). For starters, the snitch for that game was brilliant. He could run faster backward than the seekers could run forward. He could flip a seeker on his back without losing his own momentum. It was amazing to watch.

Toward the end, the snitch returned to the field, and with him came all the other snitches who had snitched the other games for the Cup. They arranged themselves around the real snitch, like a Roman Phalanx, so the seekers couldn’t catch him, and after a few seconds, they all ran around the field in a big blur of yellow, so it was impossible to tell from the sides where the real snitch was, and I’m sure it was equally confusing for the seekers, who were just returning to the field from chasing the snitch. Eventually, the false snitches left the field, and the snitch was caught by the Tufts team, but the playfulness and the athleticism of the snitches were really remarkable.

I think that I want to work on my distance running this year and maybe next year I’ll be good enough to be a Golden Snitch at the World Cup. :)

Which is worse?

Velociraptor on a bicycle
Velociraptor on a bicycle

Which is worse? A velociraptor on a bicycle or a bear with an automobile?

And yes, there is a correct answer.

I asked Pickles, and she says, “They are both unimaginable evils.”

Four points to whoever makes the most persuasive argument. If you can also give a feasible plan for escaping a bicyclic velociraptor or automotive bear, you will also have the satisfaction of probably having saved us all.

"Who's been driving in my car?"
"Who's been driving in my car?"

Why not volunteers [sic]?

"Why not volunteers?"
"Why not volunteers?"

As an MA student in bioethics, I am very interested in the advertisements on the Métro for participation in phase I drug studies.

And that’s not just because they were very tempting back when I had no job and no prospects at the end of the school year in April.

I have found the evolution of this particular advertisement to be very notable indeed. A few months ago, when I first noticed it, it went something like this:

“Up to $4000 for healthy men, 18–45 / A clinical trial? Why not!”

It would run in English first, then in French, and in the version that they were running a few months ago, there was no translation problem.

Now, it is the same message, except instead of “A clinical trial? Why not!” it says, “Why not volunteers [sic]?”

English mistranslation aside, the emphasis of the message has changed. At first, the tone was more on the “Why not?”—it was more like the advertisers were saying, “Yeah, we know it’s a clinical trial, but let’s throw caution to the wind! What could go wrong?”

Now, the emphasis has changed. It’s like the advertisers are now trying to go for more of the “It’s for a good cause” feel. “Volunteer. Why wouldn’t you? It’s so that these kind people can develop drugs that will help all of us.”

“Why not volunteers?”