August 2006

Vote Robot Nixon! [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on August 28, 2006

As long as I’m on the topic of recontextualized images of U.S. presidents, here’s a “Vote Robot Nixon” poster courtesy of strk3:

'Vote Robot Nixon' poster.

It turns out that you can buy the poster!

(If the “Robot Nixon” reference flew over your head, it’s from this episode of Futurama.)

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George W. Bush is Our New Favourite Pitchman

by Joey deVilla on August 27, 2006

George W. Bush’s Face Rides Again!

Hot on the heels of simplyaudiobooks.ca’s billboard featuring a picture of George W. Bush beside the headline Don’t Read Enough?

'Don't Read Enough?' billboard featuring photo George W. Bush.
Photo by Hamish Grant.

…comes another ad disparaging the Shrub’s cognitive capabilities — Yale Shmale:

Lakehead University's 'Yale Shmale' logo.

Where the Campaign Hits

Playing on Bush’s perceived mental midgetry — for which there is ample evidence — is like shooting fish in a barrel as far as the university-bound crowd goes.

“Graduating from an Ivy League university doesn’t necessarily mean you’re smart,” reads the copy on the site whose message is that going to a prestigious university is no guarantee that you’re going to come out as a brilliant person. And on that part, they’re right: despite having gone to the character-building Yale for his undergrad, he somehow ended up becoming a boozehound and cokehead. As for his much-vaunted degree from Harvard Business School, there’s the matter of investors in his businesses losing 55 cents for every dollar they invested in him; in fact, his businesses were so lossy that they made pretty good tax shelters. Bush’s major business success — the Arlington Ballpark, home of the Texas Rangers — was largely tax-subsidized.

Where the Campaign Misses

What diminishes the Yale Shmale site’s impact is the set of promotions at the bottom of the page. One is a contest for a Smart Car, the other is for a PlayStation Portable. It makes the place appear second- or third-rate, and given how much smaller the differential in tuitions between the least and most prestigious schools in Canada is, it seems cheap. A promo like this is suitable for a jeans store, not a university. I’m reminded of the college that Mallory, the dumb sister from the 1980s sitcom Family Ties went to; if you enrolled, you were entitled to a “nice thick juicy steak cooked just the way you like it.”


Come November 2008, Bush could make a decent living as a self-deprecating product pitchman. At least it’s an honest living.

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Travel Diary, Part 2

by Joey deVilla on August 26, 2006

(If you missed Part 1, it’s here.)

Volunteers

1:09 p.m.: An announcement comes over the public address system: the plane is too heavily loaded with luggage. They’re asking for three volunteers to take a later flight.

“Unless we get three Good Samaritans to volunteer not to board this flight but take the next one, this plane will not be able to take off,” the announcer says. “We will provide a travel voucher of two hundred dollars U.S. to the three who stay behind.

I was planning to enjoy a six-hour wait in Newark, whose Terminal C has considerably more amenities than Toronto’s Terminal 3. I was even thinking of getting a one-day pass and hanging out in the Continental Presidents Club. However, getting a two hundred dollar voucher and hanging out at the rather “ghetto” Terminal 3 was probably a better move than spending money at the shopping mall-like Terminal C.

I went to the desk and asked for details about the next flight to Newark. If I took that flight, I would still have almost three hours to catch the connecting flight to Belfast. The weather in Newark was good, so there was little chance of the flight being delayed.

“Okay then,” I said, “I volunteer.”

1:15 p.m.: Nobody whose final destination is Newark volunteers. It’s me and two other people, both of whom have missed their connections. One of them has brought a pillow with her; she’s been at the airport for about seven hours already. All she wants to do is get back to Little Rock.

2:10 p.m.: Once the plane takes off, we gather around the counter to collect our reward for being considerate travellers. We let Little Rock go first, since she’s been here the longest. It doesn’t go well: it turns out that since she’s travelled on reward miles, she’s not eligible for a voucher. She looks as though she’s about to cry.

“Oh, come on,” I say, “that’s not fair. Regulations or no, she just did you a big favour.”

2:30 p.m.: They shoo me away from the counter, and after about ten minutes of discussion and much hand-waving later, she leaves with a travel voucher. The next guy spends ten minutes at the counter, and then it’s my turn.

“Here you go, sir,” says the woman behind the counter. “One hundred dollars.”

“Excuse me, but didn’t you offer two hundred dollars?”

She pauses pause and gives me a look of exasperation, and then switches to “I hold all the cards, and you’re going to take what I’m giving you” mode.

“The regulations specifically state that we can offer one hundred dollars,” she says curtly.

“But when you made the announcement, you offered two hundred. You’re pulling a bait-and-switch on me,” I reply. I like to think of myself as an easy-going guy, but I’m not about to get jerked around by an airline after doing them a favour.

I pull out a pen and start writing the name on the counter person’s nametag on my boarding pass envelope. “We can settle this here, or I can give Continental a call, maybe with the two other people who volunteered. I’m sure they’ll remember how much you offered over the P.A….”

Another counter agent, having witnessed the whole thing, steps in.

“I can print out another voucher for you, sir,” she says, “for a total of two hundred, if you could have a seat. I’ll bring it to you.”

“That would be acceptable,” I say. I take a seat near the counter. Five minutes later, she presents me with another voucher and is careful to show me that the serial numbers of both my vouchers are different. After the near bait-and-switch, I appreciate this demonstration of good faith.

'Denki anma' dramatization of how the Continental Airlines counter staff handled the voucher situation.
A slight dramatization of what happened at the counter, denki anma style.


Next: A little trouble at Newark.

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It Sounds Like Liberal Whining

by Joey deVilla on August 25, 2006

You get three guesses as to where the article titled Power of the Pen and subtitled with “The president uses signing statements to decree which laws apply to him” comes from. Here’s the article’s penultimate paragraph:

Americans may have to wait many years to learn what the rule of law meant in 2006. The truth may be suppressed until Bush’s aides begin publishing their memoirs or until the Supreme Court has a change of mood and decides that the executive branch is not entitled to boundless secrecy. In the meantime, don’t count on the legislative branch to right the balance: Bush has encountered almost no effective resistance in his own party to his power grabs. One Republican senator recently told author Elizabeth Drew: “We’ve got to hang with the president because if you start splitting with him or say the president has been abusing power we’ll all go down.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently denounced criticism of the NSA warrantless wiretapping as “insulting” to the president, Drew reported. Apparently, some prominent Republicans believe that the president cannot be criticized even after he admits breaking the law.

On which leftist site did this appear? Mother Jones? Daily Kos? The Huffington Post?

Actually, it’s from The American Conservative.

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Back from Northern Ireland

by Joey deVilla on August 25, 2006

It was a whirlwind trip — I landed in Belfast International Airport at about 9:00 a.m. local time on Tuesday and departed on Thursday at 11:40 a.m., but I do make it a point not to miss big family events like weddings or opportunities for travel to countries I’ve never been to.

Here are the first two photos I’ve ever shot in Northern Ireland. The first is the view looking out onto the North Channel from Coast Road in Balleygally, about 45 kilometres (30-ish miles) north of Belfast:

The Irish Sea, as seen from Coast Road in Balleygally, Northern Ireland.

(For the geographically curious, this map will give you an idea of the relative locations of Belfast and Balleygally.)

The photo above was taken immediately across the street from where I stayed, the Ballygally Castle Hotel. It’s a three-star hotel, and it came by those three stars honestly:

Ballygally Castle Hotel, Ballygally, Northern Ireland.

More postings about the trip, including the continuation of my travel diary, will follow.

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Travel Diary, Part 1

by Joey deVilla on August 23, 2006

The Airport Rocket

At the risk of flooding High Park with stewardess fetishists, I have observed a number of flight attendants and other people in airline uniforms emerging from High Park subway station. That’s what piqued my curiosity about the “Airport Rocket” bus.

My natural tendency is to take the car to the airport and park at either Park’N Fly (as cheap as CDN$8 a day), or if pressed for time, airport parking (CDN$22 a day). Since Wendy couldn’t come to the wedding on account of having recently started a new job, I decided not take the car and leave it at the airport.

I could have taken a cab (CDN$20 each way from my current place in High Park, closer to CDN$40 when I lived near Queen and Spadina), but since I wasn’t carrying much with me on this quick trip, I decided to take the cheap route and travel to the airport like the stewardesses do. The price is right — it’s the standard subway fare (CDN$2.75) each way.

For me, it’s not a bad option. I live practically on top of the subway, which means that I don’t have to drag my luggage very far. Better still, it’s only a 10-minute ride to Kipling Station, from which the Airport Rocket departs. During the day, the bus arrives on the hour, as well as 20 and 40 minutes past the hour. The bus gets a little crowded, but the ride is short — it pulled out of Kipling Station at 11:40 a.m. and arrived at Terminal 3 in under 15 minutes.

I think I’ll make more use of the Airport Rocket, at least in cases where my flights don’t depart or arrive at oh-dark-thirty.

Security

The security line was a little slower than usual. It was probably becuase everyone is now required to take off their shoes and put them through the x-ray machine, but it could also be attributed to what seems to be a little extra scrutiny that the security people are giving everyone. Their pace appears to be a little more deliberate.

The magazine store normally sells bottled drinks, but the fridge was padlocked and a security advisory was posted on its door. The advisory says that if you want drinks, you need to get them from the snack bar. The snack bar also carries bottled drinks, but as dictated by the advisory, they have to take the bottle from you, pour your drink into a cup and discard the bottle for you.

The Doctor is In

12:30 p.m.: Sitting in the departure lounge, waiting for the Embraer puddle-jumper to take me to Newark. Flight departs 1:40, arrives just after 3 p.m., giving me plenty of time to kill until the 8:55 p.m. direct to Belfast.

As is the case with most airports these days, a number of people — myself included — do that little moth dance in which they do an ever-widening circular walk in the search for power outlets. Most of the outlets have been staked, but I managed to find a nice spot, where I’m currently seated on the floor in the lotus position, with my back to the corner.

Here’s a little trick for you laptop travellers: always bring a two-prong extension cord with you. The obvious benefit it that it lets more than two people use the power, and from a greater distance to boot. The less-obvious benefit is in the case where the electrical socket is loose from overuse and won’t “grip” the plug (more common than you might think). To solve this problem, bend one of the prongs of the extension cord slightly outward so that the prongs aren’t quite parallel anymore. The extension cord’s plug will stay in, and you won’t ruin your laptop’s plug.

12:37 p.m.: Not far from me, a woman in a khaki business suit and short silver hair is pacing back and forth as she chats on her headset phone. She’s too close for me not to overhear the conversation. It’s not the usual business chatter; the cadence is different. I recongnize her tone, possibly from all those years I worked at a university campus pub: she’s trying to “talk someone down”.

I try not to eavesdrop, but it’s too hard. “Just remember what it is that made you two fall in love in the first place,” she says.

Ooh. Therapy session. Free entertainment!

It’s not clear to me whether she’s a therapist or marriage counseller, but the she’s using the boilerplate phrases associated with the trade. “It can happen if you want to it happen. It’ll take a lot of work, but it will happen.”

Relationship counselling — of which I know little — sounds a lot like negotiation — which is something I do know about. In both cases, the mediator tries to find the wants and expectations of both parties and what each party considers to be “the line cannot be crossed” and tries to hammer out an agreement acceptable to both parties. At least that what it sounded like, what with my hearing only half the conversation.

12:50 p.m.: The conversation sounds like it’s coming to a close. The counsellor is now going through a laundry list of next steps — it sounds like she’s going to put some kind of mediated meeting over dinner. She hangs up and calls someone else.

12:58 p.m.: She’s now providing a brief recap of the couple’s situation: she left him, he was initially distraught but has moved on to make the best of the situation, she’s not handling her new situation well and now she wants him back. It’s like watching Dr. Phil.

I wonder if it’s considered to be a violation of doctor-patient privilege to have this sort of phone conversation in a crowded room. We may hearing only first names and half the conversation, but it’s still airing someone’s dirty laundry.


Next: Win some, lose some.

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Comic: Why Some People Stop Blogging

by Joey deVilla on August 22, 2006

(This has been posted automatically in my absence. Ain’t technology grand?)

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