Friday, December 30, 2005

Book Review: Necessary Illusions

Any time I read a book by Noam Chomsky, I get multiple things happening in my head.

First of all, I start feeling superior to people. “Why can’t everyone see what is so obvious to me?” (When Chomsky points it out to me, of course...) This effect is heightened by the fact that sometimes he points out things that I had always sort of secretly believed, but never with any kind of analysis, or with the hard evidence that he brings to his books. Definitely nothing I could ever articulate, but when I read it in his books, it has a feeling of familiarity to it.

The other feeling I get, unfortunately, is a deep-seated feeling of helplessness; I feel like things will never change, and the ruling powers will always rule, because they’ve been doing it for so long, and they’re so good at removing opposition.

In any event, I present to you another book by Chomsky, which will make it onto my Recommended Reading list right after I’ve finished writing this review: Necessary Illusions. The thesis for this book, if I may clumsily sum it up in one sentence, is that the media in North America (specifically the States, but not exclusively) is not much more than a propaganda machine for the US government. “Wow,” you may be thinking, “that sounds a bit extreme, Chomsky. Surely that’s an exaggeration, in order to make a point.” But it’s not.

Chomsky’s argument is that there are certain pre-conceived notions in North America, which everyone must hold to: the U.S. is benevolent; the U.S. is pursuing democracy, and helping to foster democracy, throughout the world; any violent acts committed by U.S. enemies is an act of terrorism, while any act of violence taken by the U.S. is retaliatory, and, by definition, not an act of terrorism; etc. He points out, throughout the book, that while the media often portrays itself as presenting divergent viewpoints, those viewpoints are always within the confines of the pre-conceived notions.

As Chomsky himself states it:

In the democratic system, the necessary illusions cannot be imposed by force. Rather, they must be instilled in the public mind by more subtle means. A totalitarian state can be satisfied with lesser degrees of allegiance to required truths. It is sufficient that people obey; what they think is a secondary concern. But in a democratic political order, there is always the danger that independent thought might be translated into political action, so it is important to eliminate the threat at its root.

Debate cannot be stilled, and indeed, in a properly functioning system of propaganda, it should not be, because it has a system-reinforcing character if constrained within proper bounds. What is essential is to set the bounds firmly. Controversy may rage as long as it adheres to the presuppositions that define the consensus of elites, and it should furthermore be encouraged within these bounds, thus helping to establish these doctrines as the very condition of thinkable thought while reinforcing the belief that freedom reigns.

Most of the events studied by Chomsky in this book took place in the 1980s. The two main examples cited are the U.S. involvement in Nicaragua, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

So, for example, in the 80s the media presented multiple views on the situation in Nicaragua, debating whether Reagan’s policies would ultimately be successful in bringing democracy to that country or not, but never questioned the policies as to whether the U.S. should be there in the first place—financing a treasonous army, trying to overthrow a democratically elected and popular government, against international law (which is ignored by the U.S. when deemed necessary). In addition, because the U.S. decreed that Nicaragua was not a democracy—even though they’d had democratic elections, and elected a leader who had a 90% approval rating by the people—this is the position the media took: Nicaragua is a dictatorship, and we must free the people.

Chomsky also refutes the idea that acts of violence committed by U.S. enemies are acts of terrorism, while acts of violence taken by the U.S. (or its allies) are acts of retaliation. (In practice, this is a thought which is never specifically voiced in the media, for fear that people would draw their own conclusions; it’s simply taken as a given, any other position on the idea being “unthinkable”.)

As he says:

There are many terrorist states in the world, but the United States is unusual in that it is officially committed to international terrorism, and on a scale that puts rivals to shame. Take Iran, surely a terrorist state, as government and media rightly proclaim. Its major known contribution to international terrorism was revealed during the Iran-contra scandal: namely, Iran’s perhaps inadvertent involvement in the U.S. proxy war against Nicaragua, a topic of much attention by the media, which succeeded in not noticing this uncomfortable though perfectly evident fact. The U.S. commitment to international terrorism reaches to fine detail. Thus the proxy force attacking Nicaragua is directed to attack agricultural cooperatives—exactly what we denounce with horror on the part of Abu Nidal. In this case, the directives have explicit State Department authorization and the approval of media doves. The U.S.-organized security forces in El Salvador follow the same policy.

“Terrorism is a war against ordinary citizens”; “the terrorists—and the other states that aid and abet them—serve as grim reminders that democracy is fragile and needs to be guarded with vigilance.” So George Shultz thundered at the very moment of the U.S. terrorist attack against Libya. “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table,” he added, also condemning those who advocate “utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations, and the World Court, while ignoring the power element of the equation.” The sentiments are not without precedent in history.

It has required considerable discipline on the part of the “specialized class” to maintain its own studied ignorance while denouncing the terrorism of others on command and cue.

(emphasis his)

There are numerous other examples I was going to cite here, but the review is already getting long. (In fact, whenever I “review” books by Chomsky, I do much less “reviewing” and much more regurgitating facts—there’s not usually much I’m critical of in his writing.) I highly recommend this book, so do yourself a favour and go and buy it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Why Blog?

Be warned, before you start reading, that this is a pretty nasty post. So if you have a blog, you can skip this post, if you want, and save yourself the trouble of sending critical comments later...

The very first post I ever wrote on this blog dealt with the question of why I started it in the first place. (Well, okay, that was actually the second post. The first post just said “I have a blog now”. But I’m not counting that one.) Of course, that second post also included the phrase “I’m a writer and writers write!”, for which I lambasted myself in my third post. (Well, maybe “lambasted” is too strong of a word... I might have gone a bit easy on myself.)

Then, a bit later on, I put up another post questioning why anyone would bother reading this blog, since it’s of no importance to anyone. That one was important enough that I included a permanent link to it, off to the side, so that newcomers can go and read it, and realize that they don’t need to read any further.

So here we are, months later, and there is still no good reason why I would bother blogging. All of the reasons I put up earlier for why you shouldn’t bother reading this are still as true as ever (except that I can put up pictures now—but I hardly ever do).

In order to kill some spare hours, on my last work day before Christmas, I was about to start looking over some of my past posts—another task that I’ve made fun of myself for, in the past—when the futility of the whole thing struck me again.

But here’s the thing: It’s not like I’m the only one. It’s not like my blog is boring and narcissistic, while every other blog out there—or even most of them—are interesting or deep. Or useful. Or well written. Take a random sampling of the blogosphere, and see what you get. There’s even a handy Next Blog button at the top of this, and most other, Blogger blogs, that you can use to jump to a random blog. Try it, and here’s what you’ll get:

J. Random Person’s Blog
Monday, January 1, 2005
Another Boring Monday
Today I went to work. For lunch, I had a sandwich. It was so-so; not too good, not too bad. I’ll probably have another one tomorrow.

I watched Survivor again today. I love that show!

Sunday, December 31, 2004
Life, Love, and Happiness
Why can’t I find someone to love? I know there’s a perfect person out there, but I haven’t found [him | her] yet.

Blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc. So many of them are the same! And, of course, off to the right or left there will be a million links to other blogs, that may or may not be as interesting as this one. (I think people spend as much time adding links to their blogs as they do actually writing... It’s the blogosphere equivalent of yearning to be popular.)

There are definitely blogs out there that are exceptions to the rule. I find the Raymi the Minx blog pretty interesting to read on a consistent basis, because it’s different. (It also has nudity, occasionally, so be warned if you plan to go there.) Similarly, I read Philogynist’s blog on a regular basis. (He happens to be Raymi’s partner—that’s where I found out about his blog.) His blog isn’t interesting because of the interesting life he leads, but simply because I like the way he writes it. There is also a blog called Self Titled that I read on a regular basis, which is also very not normal. Actually, now that I think about it, I first heard about that blog from Raymi, too. Let that be a lesson, people: If you want your blog to be popular, suck up1 to Raymi, and maybe she’ll put up a link to it.

(For all of my Christian friends, I haven’t yet found a Christian blog which is interesting to read on a regular basis.)

And yet, there are millions of blogs out there. You can go to Blogger and start one for free, or if you’re on MSN you can start a space on Spaces, which will be integrated right into MSN Messenger. People all over the world are jumping on the blogging bandwagon. And a lot of them are using their blogs for interesting things; there are people out there blogging the news, or blogging about politics. I’m planning to publish a book online using Blogger, once I’ve finished the editing process (which may never happen). Some people are using their blogs to meet people.

But I’m not using my blog for anything. It’s a pure waste of bandwidth, to which I add on a fairly regular basis. And which I’ve spent a lot of effort on! I went to a lot of work to create the little “definition hyperlinks”, that you can click on for the little pop-ups. And customizing HTML-Kit so that I could create these [useless] posts as quick as possible. And uploading all of the MSN Messenger emoticons for use when I post Messenger conversations—which I still haven’t used. (That last link wasn’t 100% related; only about 90% related.)

So there. I’ve vented, and I feel better. By the way, please keep in mind that I’ve blasted my own blog as much as I’ve blasted anyone else’s. So if you read this and got personally insulted, thinking that I’ve made fun of your blog, before you post a comment, take a moment to ask yourself whether I’m right. Is your blog as much of a waste of bandwidth as mine is? If so, deal with it first. (Then post your nasty comment...) Not that I’m telling you to stop blogging—I’m sure not going to. Just be self-aware about it. And if your blog is nothing more than an online diary, then don’t be too disappointed if nobody visits it. I’m sure not disappointed if nobody visits mine—as I’ve said many times, there’s no point in reading this thing, so I’m not expecting anyone to.

1 Actually, I don’t know if you’d have to suck up to Raymi to get your link on her blog; I’ve never met her or talked with her—maybe she’d put up a link out of the kindness of her heart. Or maybe she’d turn you down flat, and think you were a loser for trying to be popular like that. Who am I to say? Just because I read her blog, doesn’t mean I know anything about her...

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and Everything

Since I don’t tend to blog too much when I’m at home, I might not write anything new here until the new year. So, just in case that’s what ends up happening, I should say all of my “happy holidays” wishes now.

But... on the other hand... what’s the point? Are you really going to feel a warming in your heart when you read “happy holidays” from some blog? Especially when the best I can do is a general “happy holidays” to the world, rather than a specific “happy holidays” to you?

I don’t think so.

So, although I do hope everyone who reads my blog (and everyone else in the world who have holidays at this time of the year) have happy holidays, there’s not much point in saying so here. And don’t comment on this accusing me of being lazy—it took more typing to say all this then it would have to just say “happy holidays” and be done with it.

Waiting is the Hardest Thing

“Even harder than lifting a car over your head?” you might ask.

Yes. Yes it is.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Poor serna. Poor, poor serna...

I’m tired, and I have a headache, and I just want to go home and lie down. But I can’t... I’m stuck at work, waiting for an email to come, so that I can compile some code, so that I can be ready to come in early tomorrow morning, to test it.


Where does the day go?

Hey, look at that! It’s 2:00 already, and I haven’t even had lunch yet.

It’s the week before Christmas; I’m supposed to be taking it easy! Why am I so swamped with work?!?


Just some random thoughts:

  • I realized today that I haven’t posted any MSN Messenger conversations, since I went to all the bother of uploading all of those emoticon images. Was it wasted work? Only time will tell. Is it because I haven’t had any interesting conversations on Messenger lately? Meh. What I consider an interesting conversation changes from day to day; there very well might have been some interesting conversations that I could have posted, and just didn’t bother.
  • There is a particular blog that I tend to read pretty much every day, and it takes forever to load in my browser. I don’t know what she’s done to the formatting of that thing that makes it take so long...
  • I read a conspiracy theory today as to why Chappelle’s Show might have gone off the air. I don’t think I believe it... but I read it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


I was reading a blog just now (no, not yours) (probably), and I realized something:

My life may be boring, but it’s not that boring.

So, uh... yeah. Burn, ’n stuff.

Conservative Party Update

Luckily, my saga ends here, and it was a very short story: The Conservative Party people came and removed the signs from our fence yesterday.

For those who provided suggestions on how to handle the situation (burn the signs, or write “I won’t be voting for” at the top), please note that these suggestions might have landed me in the slammer. Well, maybe not, but I might have been slapped with some fines or something; there are laws about interfering with a campaign. So the most I would have done is remove the signs myself. The only reason we wanted them to remove the signs was for the principle of the thing.


Illness still abounds in the serna household. Andrea still has a sore throat—the darn thing just won’t go away, and it’s been almost a month now.

And I was feeling better, but just noticed today that I have a bit of a sore throat again.

Let’s hope this doesn’t affect the Christmas holidays too much—not that we had any big plans, or anything, but I’ll hate the three hour drive to my parents’ house if I’m not feeling well.

And let’s also hope that Andrea gets better soon. She sounds really pathetic, these days, what with the constant coughing and throat clearing. She’s suffered long enough, I say.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Conservative Party

I’m having a minor dispute with the Conservative Party right now. They put some signs—really big ones, actually, and two of them—up on my fence, without my permission. Now, I’m not a fan of putting up signs in general, but even if I were, it wouldn’t be for the Conservative Party! They’re the last people who would ever get my vote.

So Andrea called them yesterday, and demanded that they take the signs down. They tried to “explain the situation” to her, but she wasn’t having any of it—she was pissed. (As was I, when she called me about it after.) But they didn’t take the signs down.

So I called again this morning, and they promised again to take the signs down. They still gave me some song and dance—oh, sometimes the people who are putting up the signs get confused about the addresses, blah blah blah—but they at least promised to take them down. Again.

So, to sum up, here is what the Conservative Party has done so far:

  1. They broke the law, by putting signs up on private property, without getting permission from the owners.
  2. They broke their promise, when they told Andrea they’d take the signs down.
I would love to be able to report them for doing this, but Andrea is pretty sure there’s nobody we can report it to, except possibly our MP (who is apparently a Liberal).

Monday, December 19, 2005

My Book

I’ve sort of decided not to bother trying to get my Christian book published. Instead, what I think I will do is publish it online; I’ve even been thinking about ways that I can just publish it through Blogger. That way, it can reach a much wider audience, which is all I care about for that one—I didn’t write it for the money. And it’ll be free, which is a plus.

I’ve given it to a couple of people to read, and one of them got back to me with feedback. And now I owe her an email to answer a bunch of questions she asked.

Of course, if I ever finish either of the other two books I currently have on the go, I don’t think I’ll go for the online publishing route; those I’ll try to get properly published, in book form. Unless I can’t, but still think that they’re good, in which case I might do it just to generate “buzz”, or something...

Been a long time...

I’m sure I’ve created a post before with this same title.

I realize I haven’t posted in a while—it just didn’t happen. I must have been busy or something.

The Jehovah Shalom concert went well on Saturday, I thought. Soon Andrea and I will have to fix the JS website again, because the concert is no longer “upcoming”, it’s now “recently passed”.

I got a coffee from Tim’s this morning, but when I got back to my desk, and took a sip, I felt something in my mouth (besides coffee, that is); when I looked to see what it was, I realized that the cream was bad, and there were big lumps of it floating in my coffee. So I had a quick internal debate as to whether I should take the coffee back, and demand a new one, or just pour it down the sink, and go and buy a new one. Now, I know that 90% or more of the people reading this blog will be thinking “Why did you even have to debate it? Just get your money back!” Which is reasonable, and is where I was initially leaning. But then I just decided it was too much hassle, and poured it and went and got a new one. I know, I know... $1.20 down the drain.

And that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll post again later today, but probably not. I have to drive across the city this afternoon, so I think much of my day will be spent just driving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Venezuela Pictures

Edited post

I’ve finally got my pictures of Venezuela edited, and put online. If you wish to see them, you can do so at this web site. There are a few different albums there, for different sections of pictures. (Along with the old pictures from Guyana and Barbados, of course.)

Be warned, before you go, that there are over 400 pictures there, so it might take you a while to go through them. Also, for some reason, when I upload photos to Yahoo Photos, they end up in a completely random order. (Unless I upload them one-by-one, which I just don’t have the time to do.) Also, because of the way they were uploaded, they’re in the wrong order. Not that I think it makes a difference, for the most part, but it bugs me, when I look at them online.

Unfortunately, the photos didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped. But I looked through them again tonight, and there are still a lot of good ones in there.

Since there were so many, I broke them down into separate albums. Here is a breakdown of the different albums, and what they contain:
  • Venezuela: This is the main album, and contains any of the pictures that aren’t in the other albums.
  • Tourist Trap: This is a village where every tourist to Venezuela has to go. My relatives kept calling it “the tourist trap”, so that’s what I kept calling it too. At any rate, whatever it’s called, we had a good time—as we did everywhere else.
  • Glass Factory: As the name implies, this was a famous glass factory, where we were able to go in and see them making things out of glass. (Actually, there were two that we went to; the last two pictures in this album are of the second factory.) I also got some videos of the glass being blown, but of course I can’t post those.
  • Parade Ground: This is where the Venezuelan army marches, on special days. I... don’t have anything really to say about it, other than that.
  • Coffee Plantation: This place was an old coffee plantation, and is now a museum. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get as many pictures as I would have liked, because we weren’t allowed to take pictures in most of the rooms. (And it was pretty dark in there anyway.) In fact, when we first got there, there was a group of school kids going through, and they let us just wander around, until they were ready for us—and the first couple of pictures in here I shouldn’t have taken. Whoops. I took them before I noticed the signs...
  • Mountain: This one’s exactly what it says. We took a trip in a jeep up onto a mountain. It wasn’t foggy that day, those are clouds that we’re driving through. I also got some great shots of Caracas from up there—or, what I thought were great shots of Caracas. Some of them didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped. And, just because it seemed like a good idea at the time, some pictures of some advertisements that interested me.
  • Park: These were some pictures of a park we went to. (I did a pretty good job of naming these albums, eh?) The inexplicable pictures of a bunch of people in front of a blue screen had nothing to do with the park, per se—they were just there filming for something at the same time we were there.
  • German Village: These are pictures of Colonia Tovar, the “German Village”. There’s an interesting story, behind this one. At one point, one of the previous dictators of Venezuela decided that he wanted more European blood going around Venezuela, so he brought in a group of German settlers. But when they got there, they decided that they wanted to stay separated from everyone else, and so they built their own little village. It was interesting to see the German architecture (and signs printed in German) in the middle of this Spanish-speaking country. (Source: Our tour guide for the day.)
  • University: These are pictures of the Universidad Simón Bolívar. Andrea’s cousin taught there. And, yes, there are indeed a lot of pictures of ducks. They were wandering around the grounds, and... well, I don’t know why I took so many pictures of them.
So there you have it. My Venezuela pictures.

For those of you who were on the trip with me, if there were any pictures you were expecting to be here that you can’t find, I apologize. A lot of pictures didn’t come out very good at all, so I deleted them.


I was talking to Andrea about this briefly this morning. I really like the way Ludacris raps. I think he’s immensely talented, he’s got great rhythm, and he’s creative in the way he puts words together, and paces his rhymes. He’s also playful, which makes it really fun to listen to his music. Also, for the most part, he’s also very creative when it comes to his background music, which makes it interesting to listen to.

If only his lyrics weren’t so filthy! Every song I’ve heard from the man has been X-rated; after I hear one of his songs, I feel like I should go to God in repentance.

Monday, December 12, 2005


I should be in bed by now, or at least heading in the direction, but I felt it was important to say this one last thing, first:

I hate folding laundry. I don’t mind doing laundry, but I hate folding it, after. I don’t know why—whether it’s the tedium of it, or what. But I don’t like it.

That is all.

Photos, Photos, and More Photos

Still not done uploading the photos from Venezuela, yet. There are a little over a hundred still left to go. Hopefully I’ll get to do them tomorrow, and then I can stop worrying about it—and posting useless blog entries about it.


If you would like to understand this post, go and read this article, first.

I haven’t yet formed an opinion of this device. The article raises some points why I might be against it, but it doesn’t mention one important one: How effective would it be? By “effective”, I mean could it reliably be used in a way that would harm the man but not the woman? Is it hard to use correctly?

Also, probably just as important, if not more so, is the fact that most rapes are committed by men who know the victim; this brings a dynamic to the problem that I’m not sure if this device can really help with.

But even if it’s effective, I’m not sure if I’m for it. One of the important things they mention in the article (although only in passing):

Charlene Smith, an anti-rape campaigner, said it “goes back to the concept of chastity belts” and would incite injured rapists to kill their victims.

(emphasis mine) This is the most dangerous part of it, I think.

Another point raised:

Some women’s activists call the device regressive, putting the onus on women to address a male problem.

So I don’t know what to think.

My first step will be to pass this on to Andrea; she works on violence against women and children issues all day long; she will have a better analysis on first glance than I ever would.

Pictures of Venezuela Still Not Up

I know, the weekend has come and gone, and there aren’t any more pictures of Venezuela up then there were on Thursday. I was pretty busy this weekend, and didn’t have a couple of hours to sit down in front of the computer and upload.

Maybe tonight, but probably not, since I think Andrea already has a couple of things planned that we need to do tonight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

No title. Live with it.

One of the more annoying things in the world: My coworker’s cell phone ring tone. Which he seldom brings with him, when he leaves his desk, meaning that I hear it all day.

Another thing, which is just as annoying: The other ring tone it uses, when he gets a voice mail. This often follows the first ring (mentioned above).

Geeky Apostrophe Thing

That last post got me to thinking:

If I’m writing the word “em”—as in, “that’ll show ’em”—should I use the ‘ open quote or the ’ close quote in front of the “em”? Should it be ‘em or ’em?

Funnily enough, I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter too much, in this font, because they look basically the same. Let’s try again, in another font:

If I’m writing the word “em”—as in, “that’ll show ’em”—should I use the ‘ open quote or the ’ close quote in front of the “em”? Should it be ‘em or ’em?

These are the types of things I worry about, that nobody else in the world cares about...

My MSN Messenger List

I know, I know, I spend too much time blogging about my MSN Messenger list. We already know I’m a geek; let’s just move on, eh?

That being said, I have two things to share:

  • There are two (2), count ’em, two, people on my MSN Messenger list named “me”. That’s a bit confusing.
  • There is someone else whose name says “Ughh! Finals are brutal! Its a good thing I’m so smart”—which I find funny for two reasons. And I won’t tell you what either one of those reasons is.
You might guess, based on the nature of this post, that I’m bored today. The thing is... I don’t know if I am or not.


There’s a song by Run DMC called Peter Piper, which uses a set of bells in its beat. (Originally sampled from a song called Take Me To The Mardis Gras, by Bob James.) I hear these bells all the time, in other hop-hop songs, and every time I hear it, I think to myself “I have to get a copy of Raising Hell on CD!”

So I heard another song today that had those bells, on Flow, and as usual I thought to myself “I have to get a copy of Raising Hell on CD!” And right after, as I was still thinking about it, they announced that they’d be playing a Run DMC song, next, as a “flow back”. And I thought to myself “quite a coincidence—but I bet it will be one of the newer Run DMC songs”. But, as it turned out, they played Peter Piper! Maybe someone at Flow was making the same connection I did?

Unfortunately, they played it just as I was getting to work, so I only heard the first little bit of it. (Because of the snow I was already late this morning, so I didn’t feel comfortable sitting in the parking lot listening to the rest of the song.)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Partial Venezuela Pictures

Edited post

I have started to upload my pictures from Venezuela—however, it’s taking forever for the files to upload. If you want to see what’s there so far, feel free. They’re at my photos site.

When I’m finished uploading them all (there will be multiple albums), I’ll post a description of the albums here. I don’t know when that will be, though—apparently, I’ll have to set aside a couple more hours to get them all up there.

(Frankly, I don’t even know how long it will take. When I look at the upload status for the pictures as I’m uploading, it’s all over the place. It’ll say 30 minutes, then 9 seconds, then 3 minutes... So who knows?)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Device Update

A further update on my two current device choices, if I switch my mobile phone:

  • I looked more into the SMT5600, and found out that the operating system is Windows Mobile 2003. I emailed Audiovox, and asked them if there would be an upgrade, to Windows Mobile 5. They got back to me—very quickly, I might add—but unfortunately the answer they gave was that no, they won’t be providing an upgrade to WM5.
  • I happened to be in a Rogers store the other day, and I took a look at the display model for the RAZR. But it felt really cheap and flimsy. I’m hoping that that’s just because it’s a display model—I hate the fact that they make display models out of a different type of plastic; the whole reason for having one is so that people like me can see what the device feels like in your hand!—but now I’m kind of leery, until I can find a RAZR I can hold in my hands, and investigate the heft, solidity, etc.

Traffic Limits on Spaces?

A few of my friends have blogs on Spaces (since it integrates so nicely with MSN Messenger), and every once in a while I go there to check up, only to get this message from MSN:

Space not available
This space is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Is this because there are limits for how much traffic you can get to your Spaces site, and these people are always going over? Or does Spaces just suck?


Although I’m sick, I had a real craving for coffee yesterday. But I withstood my temptations, because coffee doesn’t help your immune system.

But now I say: screw that noise. I’m getting a coffee today. I’m not that sick—I barely have any symptoms. So why deprive myself?

Okay, okay, the question “why deprive myself” brings up a slew of religious issues; but drinking coffee isn’t immoral, so I think I’m on solid ground here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Alternate Title: Yes, I know that I’m a nerd! Stop reminding me!

You know what I miss? A good, fun internet chat room. I’m sure there are some out there, but all of the ones I used to go to are either no longer in existence, or just aren’t fun anymore.

Unlike most internet chat geeks, I never really got into IRC; I just couldn’t be bothered. So the first chat room I got involved in was Chathouse, which was actually HTML-based; you’d type in your message, and click Submit, and it would load the next screen of stuff people had said. You wouldn’t see others’ messages unless you refreshed. Sounds strange, eh? But it was a great place, with a lot of really fun people. But it’s dead now; all of the fun people I used to chat with don’t go there anymore, and the last time I checked, it was literally empty.

After Chathouse, I wasn’t really into chatting as much, until years later, when Andrea and I broke up for a while. I started looking around for ways to fill my time, and tried going back to Chathouse—only to find out how little of the fun remained. And then I discovered the MSN chat rooms, and specifically the Kisses room. Yes, I know what you’re thinking when you read the name. And I can’t say that I blame you. But the room was really fun. I made a lot of friends in there (many of whom I no longer talk to, because I’m not good at keeping up with people like that...), and really felt free to just talk and have a good time.

And then MSN started charging for the chat rooms. Which was fine, sort of, because by that time Andrea and I were back together, and engaged, so I didn’t have as much time for chatting anyway.

But... every once in a while, I get a couple of hours of free time, and I get to reminiscing about the fun chatting can be. And when I do, there’s nowhere to go. Any time I do see a chat room advertised, it’s usually in connection with some type of dating service, which I’m not really interested in. I tried another chat room, but the people there just aren’t fun, like the ones I used to chat with.

As with most of my posts, there isn’t a point to this one. (So no, I don’t need anyone to send suggestions for chat rooms I can try.) This post is just serna killing some time, since he has nowhere to chat anymore...

Fisherman's Friend

I’m really getting sick of the taste of Fisherman’s Friend. Blech!

Politics Revisited

I had promised to start covering some of the issues in Canadian politics, in preparation for the upcoming election. However, I’m having trouble finding the web site I was hoping to use as one of my main sources; I know it’s out there, but Andrea can’t remember the location, so I’m resorting to Googling for political information.

Hopefully I’ll have something soon...

What's wrong with my ears?!?

I went out to grab something for lunch today, and on my way past the security desk there was a guy talking to the security guards, and I could have swore I heard him say “I just want to fondle your bum”.

But I probably heard incorrectly. As you know, if we’ve met in person—or as you tell me over and over again, if you’re Andrea—my ears don’t work very well.

P.S. for lunch I grabbed a Montreal smoked meat sandwich from Druxy’s, which turned out to be not very good at all. Which surprised me, because I’ve gone there a couple of times in the past, for the same thing, and it’s always been great. The Rice Krispie Square was good, but let’s face it: it’s not hard to make a decent Rice Krispie Square. (Comparatively speaking, of course).

P.P.S. But if you want a really good Montreal smoked meat sandwich, go to Montreal. (I love to state the obvious...) There is even a specific deli that I would have sent you to, because they had great smoked meat sandwiches there (along with some local Montreal-brewed beer), but it closed down. So, I guess if you do go to Montreal, you should go to Reuben’s. I’ve never actually been, myself, but everyone says that’s the place to go, so you should go. Because everyone said to.


Still sick. Picked up some Fisherman’s Friend lozenges on the way to work, but haven’t taken any yet (as of time of writing), because I’m still drinking my orange juice.

I wish I had something more clever to say, but I don’t.

There is a particular blog that I read almost every day, and the writer of that blog is constantly being interviewed by people. (I know this, because she posts the interviews.) Now, notwithstanding the fact that most of the interviews are really boring, because the interviewers are intimidated by the fact that the interviewee is very cool, so they try and make their questions cool too, and it ends up sounding really stupid... but notwithstanding that, I’m still jealous of the fact that she’s getting interviewed all the time—albeit by idiots, and I can’t get past that point, apparently—whereas I can only get interviewed by myself.

Before you read this, and volunteer to interview me: No, I don’t want to be interviewed. I’m just sayin’, is all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Formatting Change

I decided that if I’m going to gripe about people who have blogs on Spaces, and have tiny, tiny text that I can barely read, then I should probably increase the text size on my blog, too.

I have now done so. Which means that I’m free to complain about people who have blogs on Spaces, and have tiny, tiny text that I can barely read. Which I will now proceed to do:

People, there must be an option in Spaces somewhere where you can adjust the font size! (Also, you must be able to use the Enter key from time to time, to include multiple paragraphs in your post... They can’t have set Spaces up to force you to enter one long paragraph for every post...)

Editor’s note: Don’t be fooled by the rhetorical devices included here. I know for a fact that you can change the font size, because I have a friend who changed her font size on Spaces. Because of my complaining.


To celebrate the fact that I’m now using Andrea’s real name, I’d like to mention that I’m sick, and I caught the sickness from her. She’s been banging around the house sick as a dog for the last couple of weeks, telling me that it’s too late for me to get sick, because she’s past the contagious phase—if I was going to catch it from her, I would have caught it by now.

Well... I’ve caught it. It hit me very suddenly, too; I was fine this morning, felt a bit of a throat thing at about 1:00, and it’s been getting steadily worse for the last couple of hours. (I think I have some nose symptoms, and I definitely have a headache now.)

I foresee sick days in my future, because I don’t tend to handle illness very well.

My Wife

My wife took a quick look through my blog the other day, and told me that she doesn’t want to be referred to as “my wife” on here anymore. I told her that this was pretty unavoidable, since I don’t want to use her real name.

So she told me that she would rather I use her name than keep saying “my wife”. So, from now on, I’ll be referring to my wife as Andrea (which is her name).

Sunday, December 04, 2005


I had a dream the other night that I was invited to spend the weekend with a couple of people. The thing is, the people I dreamt I was staying with aren’t people that I actually know—they’re just people who have blogs that I read. Which is weird; I don’t even know these people, but apparently I think about their blogs enough that I actually dream about them. Luckily I don’t tend to put any real details in here about my own life, so complete strangers probably aren’t having dreams that they’re staying over at my house for the weekend.

Oh, and if it matters, the people live in an apartment (according to their blogs), but in the dream they had a really nice house. And I was a good guest, but they were even better hosts—if they ever invite me to stay over for real, I’ll probably go, because I had a really nice time in the dream.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I’ve been staring at this for the last hour. Talk about a productive morning! (He said, sarcastically.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Traffic Updates

If you live in Toronto, and drive a car, you probably listen to 680 News (AM 680) on a regular basis, for their traffic updates. (“Every ten minutes on the ones, at 1, 11, 21, 31, 41, and 51 minutes past each hour...”) But sometimes I’m leaving the office at just the wrong time—it’s 4:43, and I’ve just missed the traffic, and won’t hear it again for 8 more minutes, but I need to decide which highway to take now.

Luckily, 680 News has introduced a new feature where you can get traffic reports on demand, on your mobile phone. If you text message the word “traffic” to the number 680680, a computer will call you back on your cell phone, and play back a recording of the last traffic report that was given. (For some reason, they will also send you a text message back, to let you know that they’ll be calling you, which is kind of unnecessary. Also, my phone often rings with the call before the text message even arrives, which kind of defeats the purpose.)

If you want to try this feature, keep in mind that it costs fifty cents per call.

New Toy?

I was thinking about my devices over the last couple of days, and I thought that maybe I should change my approach. What I’d been hoping to do was get one device, preferably running the PocketPC (now called Windows Mobile) operating system, that would be both my phone and my PDA. The front-runner was the SMT5600, which is currently being sold by Rogers.

SMT 5600

However, I’m now thinking that maybe I should go another route; instead of getting one device, maybe I should just get a really simple phone, but one that has Bluetooth capabilities, and just keep my Axim. (For more information on the Axim, refer back to the “I’m such a nerd” post, here.) Then I can just maintain all of my contacts and stuff on there, and when I want to call someone, I can get the Axim to make my phone dial the number. I’ve never actually tried this, because I don’t have a phone with Bluetooth, so I don’t know how cumbersome that will be.

So, if I do go that route, I think I know what phone I would get. Which would be the Razr, pictured below.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Book Review: The Summer That Never Was

As I mentioned previously, I read a lot of books while I was on vacation. (Just to name a few: Einstein for Dummies, by Carlos I. Calle, which wasn’t bad; The Chancellor Manuscript, by Robert Ludlum, which was also pretty good; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré, which was up to le Carré’s usual standard of brilliance; Valhalla Rising, by Clive Cussler, which I thought was crap; The Dark Half, by Stephen King, which I liked.) However, I’m not going to bother posting reviews of all of them, because it’s too much work, and I’m a lazy, lazy man.

However, I just finished another book last night, The Summer that Never Was, by Peter Robinson. It’s a mystery novel, apparently one of a series involving Inspector Alan Banks, one of the main characters in the book. (There is a blurb on the front cover, by Stephen King: “The Alan Banks mystery-suspense novels are, simply put, the best series now on the market.... Try one and tell me I’m wrong.”) I thought the book was great; there are actually two mysteries going on at the same time, and I liked the way Robinson cut back and forth between them.

If you’re into mysteries, I highly recommend this one. The writing is good, the plot is good, and the characters are good. What more could you want?

Why serna Is Dumb

Alternate Title: stupidferna

Here is the thought that ran through my head last week: “Huh. It’s snowing. I guess that means it’s time to throw the umbrella into the trunk, and get the ice scraper out. No need for an umbrella when it’s snow season!”

Here is the thought that ran through my head last night, as I left work: “Huh. It’s pouring rain. Boy, I wish I had an umbrella...”

Incidentally, the title of this post is misleading; it doesn’t actually go into any reasons why I’m dumb. A more accurate title would have been “Further Proof That serna Is Dumb” I should have gone with the alternate title...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Election in Canada

Well, the vote of “no-confidence” passed today, which means there will be an election in Canada. They’re saying probably on January the 23rd, but, when I wrote this, it wasn’t official yet.

Which means that I have to bone up on my Canadian politics; although I’ve been reading The Nation lately—and watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, of course—I haven’t been following Canadian politics as I should. I need to research the issues a bit, and especially who will be running in my particular ward. If you’re Canadian, I also urge you to please—please!—research the issues, and make an informed decision! Don’t just say “I’m a conservative, so I’m going to vote Conservative”, or “I’m a liberal so I’m going to vote Liberal”—that way lies madness!

Well, that’s a bit over the top... But consider this article (American, unfortunately): If asked in a survey, 30% of Americans would call themselves “conservatives”, while only 18% would call themselves “liberals”. However, when asked about actual issues—not just “are you a conservative or a liberal”, but “how do you feel about X”, where X is health insurance, or raising the minimum wage, or protecting the environment, or “do you think the troops should come home from Iraq”—an overwhelming majority of Americans respond in a very “liberal” way. Regardless of what they may call themselves, they are actually responding very “liberally” to the issues.

This is especially important for Christians to consider. (I know that most of the people who read my blog are personal friends of mine, meaning that a lot of them are Christians.) It’s very tempting, if you’re a Christian, to just say “well, Christian = conservative”, and vote for a conservative party—whether that’s the Conservatives in Canada, or the Republicans in America. But if you look at the actual issues for which these parties stand—and I mean all of them, not just the ones emphasized when the neocons are talking to church groups—you’ll find that they don’t agree with Christian teachings most of the time. How do you feel about the poor? Well, conservatives aren’t big fans; they’d much prefer that the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. How do you feel about the environment? Well, conservatives would rather loosen environmental laws, because they say that would be good for business, while liberals would prefer to have strong environmental laws, so that people don’t have to live next to un-advertised toxic waste dumps. (I am, of course, very much over-simplifying, to make a point; however, I’m hoping to research the issues more, and post more about them here, and I think you’ll find that it’s true much of the time.)

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, things aren’t simple. For example, if you’re a Christian, and have really given some thought and analysis to the issues, you probably have certain stances on some things1. For example:

  • You may be against abortion, which would make you a conservative
  • You may be in favour of environmental protection, which would make you a liberal
  • You may be against gay marriage, which would make you a conservative
  • You may feel that the richer you are, the more taxes you should pay, and the poorer you are, the less taxes, which would make you a liberal—conservatives tend to believe in something called “trickle down economics”, also called “supply-side economics” (this is the current trendy term), also called “voodoo economics”, under which they want to make it so that rich people don’t have to pay taxes, because they feel it would be good for business.
These are a few examples; there are others. The point is, there won’t be a political party which matches your beliefs 100%. So you’re going to have to decide what’s important to you, and what you can let slide.

As a Christian, you may be surprised to find that I take a more “liberal” stance, overall. I’d rather feed the poor, and help the hungry, even if it does mean that gay people can get married. It doesn’t mean that I’m for gay marriage; it just means that I care more about the issue of feeding the poor than I do about whether gay people can get married. There is a good portion of the book What’s So Amazing About Grace, by Philip Yancey, that sort of applies:

When I went to the White House to visit President Clinton, I knew well that his reputation among conservative Christians hinged on two issues: abortion and homosexual rights. I agree fully that these are important moral issues which Christians must address. But when I went through the New Testament I could find very little related to either one. Both practices existed then, in a different and more egregious form. Roman citizens did not rely principally on abortion for birth control. The women bore their babies, then abandoned them by the side of the road for wild animals or vultures. Likewise, Romans and Greeks also practiced a form of same-gender sex: older men commonly used young boys as their sex slaves, in pederasty.

Thus in Jesus’ and Paul’s day both these moral issues asserted themselves in ways that today would be criminal in any civilized country on earth[sic]. No country allows a person to kill a full-term, delivered baby. No country legally permits sex with children. Jesus and Paul doubtless knew of these deplorable practices. And yet Jesus said nothing about either one, and Paul made only a few references to cross-gender sex. Both concentrated not on the pagan kingdom around them but on the alternative kingdom of God.

For this reason, I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention. How will we feel if historians of the future look back on the evengelical church of the 1990s and declare, “They fought bravely on the moral fronts of abortion and homosexual rights,” while at the same time reporting that we did little to fulfil the Great Commission, and we did little to spread the aroma of grace in the world?

One more thing to think about, for those of us living in Rexdale: In the last election, in Ward 1 (where I live), 140 people voted. One hundred and forty. People always say that their vote doesn’t count, but when your vote is only one in 140, it counts a lot more!

Anyway, I have a lot more to say on the topic, but I’m hoping to do some research on the actual issues, and post some real information here. I’m going to try not to sway you my way, politically, and just present the issues, and where the different parties stand—but we all know that it will be hard for me to do that, and my views will probably come through. So too bad!

1You may disagree with me on some aspects of this post, by the way. When it comes to politics, things aren’t always as cut and dried as we’d like. There will be some issues where I can take a hard-line stance, and say “if you’re a Christian”, you should believe this, but there are a bunch of other issues where it’s not that simple.

serna vs. Serna

I’ve realized that I’m not always consistent with how I spell my name; sometimes I use a small “s”, as in “serna”, and sometimes I use a big “S”, as in “Serna”. The rule, in my head, is that it should be a small “s”, as in “serna”; any time I write “Serna”, I’m just breaking my own rule.

If I can’t even get my own name right, how will I ever get others’ names right?!?

Deceptively Busy

Don’t be fooled by the number of [useless] posts I’ve put up today; I was actually pretty busy at work. It’s mostly just during the end of the day—when I was waiting for my wife to call, so that I could go home—that I had time to kill for the really useless posts. (I realize that they’re all useless, to one degree or another, but by the end of the day today, I was just getting silly...)

Of course, it really sucks that my wife had to work late tonight. Since I was up so early for work this morning—and since I have to be up late tonight, also for work—I was really hoping to go home early today, so that I could at least get some sleep, before I have to get back up. Oh well; c’est la vie.

Of course, the other reason I was able to post so much is that I’ve customized the heck out of my HTML editor, so I can tear these posts off in no time flat.

Minor Formatting Update

I have changed the formatting of links to not be so big. I don’t know why I made them so big in the first place, but whatever the reason, I changed my mind, and made them smaller.

That’s all I have to say. You may now resume your life, which is already in progress.

An Interview With Serna

The editors of this blog would like to present an interview with the creative “man behind the scenes”, sernaferna. All of the posts on this site are written by serna, and self-edited. Um... yes, technically this does mean I’m talking to myself, for this post—but I’m doing it in blog form, which is different. Also, I’m doing it in the third person, so it doesn’t look as weird.

Question: We understand that you’re a nerd; exactly how much of a nerd are you?
Answer: Well, let me give you an example: I have just spent about an hour uploading tiny little images, to Blogger’s image upload tool, to represent a bunch of emoticons I use in MSN Messenger. These aren’t images I would ever use in the blog itself—just for posts where I’m relaying a conversation I had in MSN.

Q:Wow. That is pretty nerdy.
A: Yeah, I told you. But I was bored, waiting for my wife to get off work, so that I could go pick her up, and—

Q: No, I mean that’s really nerdy. Like “you should get some help” kind of nerdy.
A: Yeah, uh... next question please?

Q: Right, right. So where do you get your ideas, when you’re creating a new bl— I’m sorry, I can’t get over this. An hour?!?
A: Uh, yeah, it takes a while to upload them all, and then I had to create a macro in HTML-Kit to insert them into the posts, and—

Q: Sorry, wait... a macro? You created a macro? Uploading the images wasn’t enough, and you had to do some programming, too???
A: Look, the images wouldn’t be much use if there wasn’t an easy way to include them in a post, would they? Are we going to talk about anything else?

Q: Well, I... [checking notes] No, not really. All of my questions are about how nerdy it is to spend so much time on images for posts—
A: MSN Messenger posts, not regular posts.
Q: Yes, MSN Posts. So... I didn’t bring any questions on anything else.
A: Okay, interview over.

And that’s all for today. Tune in for future interviews with the “man behind the blog”, sernaferna.

MSN Emoticons

Since I occasionally post conversations that I’ve had in MSN, and got tired of replacing all of the emoticons with textual descriptions of the emoticons, I decided to upload a bunch of emoticons into Blogger, so that I can use them in my posts. For example:

some person says:
What are you doing?

sernaferna says:
nothing, but I still don't want to talk to you!

some person says:

Of course, I’ll only use emoticons for MSN conversations that I transcribe—I don’t want to start using them in regular posts. It’s just too... I don’t know. Too lazy, to use emoticons in blog entries. (Yes, I realize I probably just insulted all of my friends who have blogs on Spaces...)

Venezuela Pictures

Edited post

I’ve finished making a first pass through the pictures we took in Venezuela, doing whatever cropping or brightness adjustments that needed to be made. (And deleting pictures that were too blurry, or pictures of my feet, or whatever.) Unfortunately, they didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped they would, overall.

When we went to Guyana and Barbados last year, I brought the same camera along, and took almost as many pictures, which came out great. (If you’d like, you can go here and see them, along with any other pictures that I’ve put online for public consumption. There are separate albums for “Guyana” and “Barbados”, and will be soon a third album for “Venezuela”—if it isn’t there already, by the time you go. Actually, because there are so many pictures, I’ve been toying with the idea of making multiple albums, by subject, so we’ll see how the mood takes me...)

So I was expecting similar quality, which, unfortunately, I didn’t get. It just goes to show that you really do need skill to take pictures—you can’t just expect your camera to do all of the work for you, even if it’s a good one.

The only mystery is why last year’s pictures came out so great...

A Revisit of the Olfactory Enhancement Revisit

It happened again. This time it was a man with too much cologne, on the elevator.

I don’t think it’s as bad as last time, though. It’s only been about 5 minutes, and the taste is already leaving my mouth.


You know what I hate? Getting up early in the morning. For example, say around 5:00AM. That’s early—and I hate being up then.

You know what I hate even more? Getting up early in the morning—say 5:00AM or so—for no reason. That’s worse.

On the plus side, I visited a friend’s blog today, that I haven’t been to in a while, and the first thing I saw was a picture of myself. That helped out the ol’ ego.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Short, and to the point

Disclaimer: I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but since the person I’m referring to probably doesn’t read my blog, it’s probably not an issue.

Every once in a while, I get a conversation like this in MSN Messenger:

Anonymous says:
R you there

Anonymous says:

sernaferna says:
Yep. What;s up?

Then... nothing happens for like a half hour or an hour. If at all.

I don’t know if he’s starting the conversation and then getting bored of it, or just checking up on me to make sure I’m still at my desk.

Anyway, anonymous-person-whose-name-I’m-not-mentioning, if you do read my blog, don’t be embarrassed. I find it kind of humourous, that’s all...


Today was just one of those days, I guess. Three posts before 9:30AM, and then nothing for the rest of the day, while I ran around and tried to get a bunch of things done.

So, just to kill some time, I’ll give you some of the names (or messages) people are using on my MSN Messenger list right now, that are weather-related:

  • omg, its JUST snow (not happy with the way others are driving, perhaps?)
  • Dear Mother Nature: bite me
  • one guy is currentlytoday is a good day”, but this morning was something like “ snow falling from the sky” His version was more eloquent, but it did include the f-word...
  • gotta love this weather (sarcastic?)
There were probably others, throughout the day, but by this point maybe people have logged off and gone home.

Spam Comments

Further to my post yesterday, in which I mentioned that I was worried about the fact that people can spam comments now, I looked into Blogspot’s Moderate Comments feature, and I’m not worried anymore. If it comes to it, and I start getting a lot of spam, I’ll just turn on that feature.


Google Video

I just found out that there’s something called Google Video, and I’m tempted to sign up and upload the cartoon I created. (For those of you who don’t know, I created a short cartoon. It’s only about two minutes long, but it’s pretty safe to say that it’s the most brilliant thing anyone has ever created, in the history of the world. Ever.)

But I don’t really know much about this Google Video thing, so I’m hesitant...

Breath Capture

I just thought I’d share this with you. This article is ripped off 100% word-for-word from; see the real thing here.

Just when you think you’ve heard of everything, something like this comes along. Breath Capture offers a novel way to show you care: “Capture the breath of a loved one or friend and keep them close. Forever.”

Literally. In a capsule, which can be mounted on a base of solid oak, or worn as a pendant of various designs. And for those unscrupulous individuals who might be tempted to sell a knock-off version, take note of this plainly posted statement: “Breath Capture is a patent-pending method and apparatus for collecting human breath as a keepsake display.”

Posted by Mike Yamamoto

Thursday, November 24, 2005


On my vacation, I did a lot of reading. I mean a lot of reading. I went through at least half a dozen novels, as well as a book on Einstein’s life and work. (Einstein for Dummies, since I’m an idiot when it comes to physics... But I really want to understand the theory (theories) of Relativity, etc., because I hate feeling stupid.)

Incidentally, I also read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carré, which was great. I say this all the time, but if you’re into spy novels, I recommend this book, or anything else by this guy.

So, partially because I spent so much time reading, and partially because I was so well rested, I really wanted to do some writing. (I had been tempted to bring my laptop with me, just in case I got that urge, but didn’t bother because I didn’t know if Venezuela has the right type of electrical sockets. Of course they did, so I could have, but in retrospect it’s probably better that I didn’t, and just enjoyed my vacation.)

I had hoped to start writing as soon as I got home, but then I ended up spending my two extra days off on my pictures (which still aren’t done), and then I ended up back at work. Suddenly, now that I’m back in the grind, my urge to write has gone down again—when I’m stressed, I have much less of an urge to write, even if it’s just a little bit of stress.

But one thing I did want to work on was my descriptive writing, which, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t normally do. So I wanted to beef up my novel, and add some in. I even had a couple of parts where I thought could use some description—not the least of which is my main character, who isn’t described at all yet.

I gave it a shot last night, and I think I got mixed results. I didn’t even get to the part I wanted to beef up, because right at the beginning I saw an opportunity, and I took it. With a vengeance. Man, did I do some describin’. And I think I went way, way too far... So, at some point, when I can take a step back and read it critically, I’ll have to go over it again, and maybe take some of that description back out.

But I will say this: It was fun.

Deleted Comments

I should have mentioned this earlier, but it didn’t occur to me...

I don’t normally censor the comments on this blog, but a day or two ago I removed two comments that I’m absolutely sure were spam. (It left a feeling of dread in my stomach, as I assumed I’d be spending the next six months of my life constantly removing spam comments from my blog, but no others have yet shown up.)

So I’m just posting this on the off chance that it wasn’t actually spam, but someone who really thought that I needed to know about a website where I can get MSN Messenger emoticons. And if that’s the case, then I apologize for removing your comments.


I don’t feel so well today, and I’m not really sure why. I’m not even sure what’s wrong—it’s not my stomach, or my head, or anything else I can put my finger on. I just feel weird. I had a good night’s sleep last night, so I shouldn’t be tired. (In fact, I just got back from a vacation that was almost three weeks long, so I really shouldn’t be tired.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Some Random Thoughts

I’m at work just waiting to go home, so I thought I’d throw in some random thoughts for y’all.

  • I just noticed someone on my MSN Messenger list that I don’t recognize; I wonder who it is? I’m sure I’ll remember at some point...
  • After my 3 week absence, I was too lazy to completely read all of the posts I missed on the blogs that I follow. So I just read the last few posts on each, and I’ll go from this point forward.
  • In addition, another friend of mine has started a blog—not that the ones I currently follow are written by “friends” of mine—so I guess I need to start reading that every day too... Unless s/he doesn’t post that often, as most people who have blogs do.
  • Today was my first day back at work, after my vacation, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I was gone for [a day less than] 3 working weeks, so I had quite a few emails to read when I got back, but very few of them required attention, which was nice.
  • I had been planning on doing a whole bunch of posts about Venezuela—what it’s like, particular posts about certain places, a quick post on [Venezuelan] Spanish pronunciation, etc. But I’ve decided that I’m not as interested as I was, so I probably won’t bother. Burn.
  • On a similar note, I’m well on my way to getting all of the pictures edited, that I took on the trip. I’ll be posting them online as soon as I can. Be warned that there are a lot, so you probably won’t feel like going through the whole set.
  • We had shark steaks for supper last night, which were quite good. I think I like them better than salmon steaks. But, of course, nowhere near as much as I like beef steak. (That should have gone without saying, but I thought I’d throw it in on the off chance that someone comes to my blog who doesn’t actually know me personally.)


I had once mentioned a couple of experiments that were done in the past. I’ve just come across another one, the Stanford Prison Experiment, that I also found interesting.

Frigging Messenger

I got a notice from MSN Messenger this morning that there is an updated version available, and would I like to download it? “Sure!” said I. “Let’s go for it, and see what happens!” In fact, I’ve already downloaded it at home, and although I was only using it for a few minutes, it looked like there might be some new features, and/or upgraded functionality.

Unfortunately, the new version disabled a feature that was critical for me to be able to use Messenger at work! I used to be able to set Messenger to use a different proxy server than I set Internet Explorer to use—which I did, because I have to use a proxy for Messenger at work, but not for Explorer. That feature is no longer available—I now have to use the same settings for both. (You have to set it in Explorer, and then Messenger uses the same settings.)

This is supposed to be Rule #1 for application development: Never take away a feature that the product used to have. I’m surprised that they did this.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Frigging Norton

I like Norton AntiVirus much better than McAfee. However, there is one thing I hate about it: it really, really wants to scan MSN Messenger. If I tell it not to, it gives me a warning every time I start Windows, and tries to tell me that there is an item which is “affecting my status”.

But, if I turn that feature on, then Norton has a nasty habit of automatically starting Windows Messenger behind the scenes once in a while—and on my computer, when Windows Messenger starts, it automatically signs me in. What’s worse, when Norton automatically opens Windows Messenger, it opens it up running in the background—not even the little icon in the taskbar shows up! So I don’t even know it’s running, but I’m signed in, and people can send me messages.

So, my apologies to Macker and Tara, who sent me messages today, when I was away from my computer, because Messenger told them I was online. I wasn’t ignoring you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Venezuela, Day 2

I’m here in Venezuela, and luckily my cousins-in-law have internet access, so here I am writing a quick blog entry. Of course, I haven’t done much for the last couple of days, so there isn’t anything to write about yet—maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

MSN conversation, on the last day before my vacation

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
what kind of shoes are you wearing?

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
(Running shoes)

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
wow. you wear running shoes to work? What kind of pants are you wearing?

sernaferna says:
Jeans. [wink]

sernaferna says:
It's the last day before my vacation, and I'm not planning ot work very hard today. [tongue-out emoticon]

sernaferna says:
So I'm wearing jeans, and a dress shirt and suit jacket on top. [tongue-out emoticon] I figure if I do that, I'm allowed the jeans part... [tongue-out emoticon]

sernaferna says:

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
wow. you're so stylish [smiley face]

sernaferna says:
(REally? It seems so 1980's...) (HE typed as he stepped away from the [computer icon]...)

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
<<being facetious. Yes, it's 1980s. Particularly if your jeans are black. [tongue-out emoticon]

sernaferna says:
lol No, they're regular blue jeans.

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
acid washed? faded?

sernaferna says:
None of the above. [wink]

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
whew [smiley face]

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
you're still fashion forward, serna [smiley face]

sernaferna says:

sernaferna says:
Can I post this conversation on my blog? [tongue-out emoticon] There's a good chance I'll be bored this afternoon, because I'm trying not to do work on my last day before vacation. [wink]

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
you most certainly may [smiley face]

Don't piss in my ear and then tell me it's raining says:
I enjoy the fame *blush*

sernaferna says:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Still just killing time...

If you had wanted to email me, today would have been a good day. Whenever I have a lot of time to kill at work, I always find myself checking my email compulsively, over and over, just in case there is a new email for me, that I can read and waste some time on.

What’s that you say? This is the most useless thing I’ve ever posted? Oh come now. I’m sure it’s not the most useless thing... I post useless things here all the time. Surely something I’ve posted in the past must be less useful than this...

Probably not a record, but still impressive, for me.

Wow, I’ve already posted five times today (including this post), and the day’s not even over yet!

I must be pretty bored.

Vacation, Sweet Vacation

I only have a couple of days left at work, and then I’ll be gone for a couple of weeks on vacation, to Venezuela. (Yes, I’m starting my vacation in the middle of the week. It’ll give me a chance to rest up, before leaving on my trip.)

So if you don’t see any posts here for a couple of weeks, that’s why. Either that or I’ve been kidnapped in Venezuela, and they’re holding me hostage. In which case I’ll probably never be posting here again, because nobody I know would have enough money to pay off the kidnappers, and they’d have to just kill me. Which would be sad, because, frankly, I like myself, and I think it would be a pity if I were to die. Oh sure, it’s bound to happen some day—I recognize this. It’s just that I think the world would probably like me to be around for as long as possible.

Flavour Shots, from Tim Horton's

Tim Horton’s has introduced Flavour Shots, which can be included in their coffee. I thought this was a great idea; they have Butter Caramel, Raspberry, Hazelnut, and Orange. (They also have something called Hot Smoothees, which seem to be along the lines of hot chocolate, but using the same flavours as the flavour shots.)

Unfortunately, I tried the Butter Caramel flavour shot, and didn’t like it. Not only does it give a strange after taste (to me, anyway), but it also makes my coffee breath even worse.

I’d be interested to hear what others think of this. As I said, the idea sounded great to me, and I was really looking forward to the flavour shots—Butter Caramel especially, because it sounded delicious—but I was disappointed with the result.

Olfactory Enhancements Revisited

It happened again. This time I can actually taste it. In my mouth.

At the risk of stating the obvious, perfume isn’t supposed to be for your mouth. It’s supposed to be for your nose.


No Title Required

You know how sometimes you meet someone on the street whom you barely know, but you accidentally make eye contact, and because of that you have to make small talk, but it’s hard because you don’t know anything about them, and you forget their name?

That’s sort of what it’s like to comment on someone’s blog, and wish them a happy anniversary, even though you don’t know them, you just sometimes read their blog.

Not that I know from experience. Because I don’t.

But in any event, happy belated anniversary “shout outs” to Fil and Raymi the Minx.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bored at work

I don’t get bored at work very often anymore. There’s too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

We interrupt this blog entry to award sernaferna the Cliché of the Year award, for his use of the phrase “too much to do and not enough time to do it”. By using this phrase, serna has demonstrated a total lack of original thought and creativity. Well done, serna! Based on the writings in this blog, we’re sure you’ll receive many more Cliché of the Year awards...

But since I never have any free time at work, when I do get some time, I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve already read all of the news sites I normally read, as well as the blogs I usually look through. I’ve gone through the latest articles on Snopes. I’ve written a couple of blog entries, neither of which was important, and I’m writing another—which is still not important.

Then I took a look at my novel, which I’ve realized needs lots of work. I tend to just water ski through everything—I need to take more time, with some sections, and develop things. Fast-paced is one thing, but this is more than fast-paced. So I won’t be submitting it to any publishers any time soon.

So I guess there’s only one thing left to do: I’ll have to go downstairs to Tim Horton’s, and get a coffee. That will kill five minutes—ten if I really take my time with it.


Caveat: By the time you read this, it will already be out of date.

I really need to go to the bathroom, but it’s currently closed for cleaning. I don’t know what it is about this building, but they close my bathroom about two or three times a day to clean it! How much cleaning does one bathroom need?!?

Even worse, sometimes they finish cleaning it, but forget to take the “closed for cleaning” sign off the door. Once I tried to go to the bathroom, saw that it was closed, and then went down the bathroom two floors down—which also said that it was closed! When I went back upstairs, I realized that mine wasn’t actually closed, they’d just forgotten to take the sign down.

Descriptive Writing

One thing that I don’t tend to do that much in my writing is description. I tend to be very bare-bones with my descriptions, and leave everything up to the readers’ imaginations. So it’s always interesting when I read a book where the author has done a lot of description—and some writers really seem to get into it.

Take this example, from The Chancellor Manuscript, by Robert Ludlum. Right away, from page 1, he launches into a lengthy piece of description about a character:

The dark-haired man stared at the wall in front of him. His chair, like the rest of the furniture, was pleasing to the eye but not made for comfort. The style was Early American, the theme Spartan, as if those about to be granted an audience with the occupant of the inner office should reflect on their awesome opportunity in stern surroundings.

The man was in his late twenties, his face angular, the features sharp, each pronounced and definite as if carved by a crafstman more aware of details than the whole. It was a face in quiet conflict with itself, striking and yet unsettled. The eyes were engaging, deep set, and very light blue, with an open, even questioning quality about them. They seemed at the moment to be the eyes of a blue-eyed animal, swift to level in any direction, steady, apprehensive.

The young man’s name was Peter Chancellor, and the expression on his face was as rigid as his posture in the chair. His eyes were angry.

There was one other person in the outer office: a middle-aged secretary whose thin, colourless lips were set in constant tension, her grey hair stretched and spun into a bun that took on the appearance of a faded flaxen helmet. She was the Praetorian Guard, the attack dog who protected the sanctuary of the main behind the oak door beyond her desk.


When I’m reading a book and see passages like this, I always think to myself “I would never have written something like that”. It’s not that I think the writing is good or bad—just that it’s not what I do, because I don’t include very much description in my fiction writing. It seems to indicate a real comfort and joy with the written word on the part of the author, that I don’t know if my writing shows.

I don’t think it’s wrong to write with very little description; as I said, I think it’s good to leave things up to the imaginations of the readers. But at the same time, I also can’t help but wonder if my writing is lacking, because there isn’t any (or much) description.

Incidentally, it may or may not be legal for me to include that huge section of the book on my blog; but since this isn’t exactly a highly-trafficked site, I doubt they’ll come after me. And if they do, I’ll just take it down...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Puttin' on the Pounds

In the last 6 months, I’ve had this conversation twice:

J Random Person serna hasn’t seen in years: Wow, you’ve put on weight!
serna: Um...
J Random Person serna hasn’t seen in years: No, it looks good. It fills out your face.
serna: Um...

I don’t tend to get complexes about these things, but being told twice by people I haven’t seen in years that I’ve put on weight is enough to give me pause. I know they think they can redeem the comment by following it with “no, it looks good, because it fills in your face”, but that just means that I looked gaunt and sickly before.