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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for June 2008

Oh, monkey trumpets!

Even though I had it marked on my calendar, I missed my court date on Friday afternoon. I fell asleep. I chose the wrong week to stop sniffing glue – er, the wrong month to stop drinking coffee.

And I was going to get out of that parking ticket, too….

That went well

Day One recaffeinated: no sluggish afternoon.

Now, if I could only deal so easily with the neighbour who choose 8:00 to 10:00 a.m. as the time to rev up the woodchipper and get through the two hours of chipping he had to do today.

This went less well: the worst Web site I’ve ever seen. Even if everything worked the way it was supposed to, it would still be crap.

Giving up giving up

About three weeks ago, I gave up caffeine, mostly. Really what I gave up was regular coffee. I still down Coke Zero, about one a day.

I’d drink a cup of coffee a day, sometimes two or three if I I iced it or I’m teaching. I need something to lubricate my throat when I teach or I go hoarse after 15 minutes and coffee with cream does the trick better than something purely water-based, and it’s sugar-free, which is important because my body turns carbohydrates into blood triglycerides and that’s not healthy.

The caffeine never seemed to have much effect on me. I never needed a coffee in the morning to get going. I mostly drink coffee for the taste and as often as not, it’s in the afternoon. Juices are out because of sugar content and I get tired of diet soft drinks. I do drink a lot of tea as well. My metabolism handles caffeine, I suppose, like it handles opiates, which also don’t have much effect on me. I can take enough painkillers during a migraine to knock out a mule, but all they do is make me chatty and make the inside of my nose itch.

Why then did I give up caffeine? While the presence of caffeine didn’t seem to propel me, when I did miss the fix because I was too lazy to try to learn how to make a decent pot (Elvi is the coffee master at home) and too involved in work to take a break to go get some at a cafe, I would get a caffeine headache. I can always tell it’s a caffeine headache by its location on the occipital region of my head (low back of the head). I was getting tired of the headaches, which seemed to be coming more and more often.

I’ve stopped drinking regular coffee about once a year over the last few years and after a few days reliance on ibuprofen, I’ve shaken the habit easily. These last few weeks, however, have been terrible.

I’ve been feeling like crap. I’ve been going to bed at a reasonable hour – midnight or so – and waking up after seven and a half to eight hours of sleep. I’d still be tired, though, and in a bit of a daze and come 2:00 or 3:00 p.m., I’d go lie down and sleep for three or more hours. It’s ridiculous how much time I’ve spent asleep.

Now, I have nothing but a hunch to show that this is due to a lack of coffee. I have not gone completely caffeine free, because I still drink the Coke Zero, but maybe that can a day is just enough caffeine to keep my physiology craving the amount I used to feed it. Maybe it has something to do with my allergy to whatever sort of grass pollenates in June, although I only take non-drowsy allergy pills and then only about three days a week.

Regardless, it has to stop. Between meetings at the kids’ schools, teaching, faculty meetings, and four evenings filled with sports, I just haven’t been able to write more than one slug line in two weeks. It’s amazing how your time disappears when you sleep 13 hours a day.

I’m going to head downstairs and make myself a tall glass of iced coffee. Wish me luck.

Another swing at NSD

I find all these nifty Web sites that are too good not to share, and my old creative juices boil, and I have to let them out. That’s what blogs are for, no?

Cracked was once Mad Magazine’s drug-addled younger brother, but the magazine has really spread its wings since moving online. “The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses”, an article at the, analyzes nine passages from the Old Testament and rates them for sexual and violent content – mostly violent. The sequence starts at the ninth most badass passage (these are not all limited to one verse, strictly speaking), and the best action-hero line in the whole article – “looks like someone bit off more than he could Jew” – but keep reading, all the way to number one, in which David proves how much he really wants to marry Michal. Our favourite? Number eight.

Are you a freelance writer? Want to be one? Freelance Folder offers a list of 20 must-read blogs for freelancers. A successful freelance career is as much business as it is writing, and these suggested readings don’t overlook that. Freelance Folder is itself a blog, and is 20th on the list, so I suppose this is really a list of 19 must-reads. Best of all, this gives you someplace to pretend to work while you procrastinate.

A few Web sites out there let you build your own fonts, but not all of them let you share your fonts in a gallery or tutor you on creating fonts, and even fewer still do it all as elegantly as FontStruct. Creating the fonts is easy. It’s like drawing on a sheet of graph paper, but with many differently tipped pencils. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but if you watch a video that FontStruct creator Rob Meeks put together, you’ll at least grasp how to use the tools at your disposal and you can concentrate on design.

Hmmm. Those seem short, even for NSD. Well, at least it clears three URLs off my desktop.

Bonus accolades:

IPMS/USA (the American division of the International Plastic Modelgeek Society) has a positive review of the Avia S-199 book. I wonder how much they’d offer a copy editor?


I had an odd dream last night, one that starred three of my current students and possibly a man I play hockey with (possibly, because I think he was a composite character).

I met them in a Metro station, one that doesn’t exist. I drove them around downtown Montreal in a car, but it wasn’t really downtown Montreal and it certainly wasn’t my car.

The weird part came after that. You know those dreams when you have to take a test and realize you’re naked? I had what must be the other side of that coin. I had a date with one of the students. I think I parked at the top of McTavish, and as we walked toward the McGill ghetto, I realized I was only in my burgundy boxers (those are real). We returned to the car so I could put my clothes on, but the student said it was fine and got down to her underwear. Then we got a parking ticket.

I spent most of Friday looking for more paying work. The most immediate dividend was an interview for a Web community position on Wednesday. Friday, I go to court to resolve this. That must be where the dream’s parking ticket came in.

The Indy that could have been

While I teach, correct, teach, correct, and hand out story advice in exchange for $5 worth of overpriced mediocre coffee, I don’t have much to relate to both you readers out there.

The wife, Child Two, and I did manage to go see “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” Saturday night and we walked out unimpressed. The logic of the thing stretched our belief to the breaking point.

If I were as energetically eloquent as Mystery Man, I could post 50 ways the movie could have been improved, but he’s already done that – in particular, with a comparison to the Frank Darabont take on the story that George Lucas rejected. Looky here.

Bonus fantasy baseball update:

Second place, baby. Go, Russ Branyan, go!

.284 batting average (1st)
112 HR (4th)
444 RBI (1st)
64 SB (4th)
4.17 ERA (4th)
1.34 WHIP (3rd)
30 wins (10th)
19 saves (8th)

I’m so low in wins because my two keeper starters, John Smoltz and Chris Young, have been out most of the year. I’m trying to trade my surplus shortstops for pitching, but all deals offered instead focus on stealing Beltran from me.

New hockey anthem

Jim Henshaw has found the perfect song for the next Hockey Night in Canada theme song: “Stick Boy” by the Hanson Brothers (named after the movie trio but not them – and not the pretty-boy American kids, either). The song may even top the recently discarded standby.

It’s Canadian, it’s about hockey, and it’s hoppy Ramones-y punk. Let’s get this going on Facebook.

Here’s a live version, in the punk tradition of live performances that suck and approach in no way the refinement of the recorded version.



Back in… – January was it? – I wrote an e-mail to Heritage Minister Josee Verner concerning the impending introduction of a new Canadian copyright bill. I received a form letter back, and I was hardly the only Canadian to complain. The rumored introduction of the bill never happened and one of my professional tenets is that I don’t discuss rumour. That goes for this blog, too.

This past week, however, that bill, called C-61, did finally make it to the floor of Parliament. My address must have been placed on some sort of mailing list because I found this in my inbox on Thursday:

The Government of Canada has introduced Bill C-61, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act. The proposed legislation is a made-in-Canada approach that balances the needs of Canadian consumers and copyright owners, promoting culture, innovation and competition in the digital age.

What does Bill C-61 mean to Canadians?

Specifically, it includes measures that would:

• expressly allow you to record TV shows for later viewing; copy legally purchased music onto other devices, such as MP3 players or cell phones; make back-up copies of legally purchased books, newspapers, videocassettes and photographs onto devices you own; and limit the “statutory damages” a court could award for all private use copyright infringements;

• implement new rights and protections for copyright holders, tailored to the Internet, to encourage participation in the online economy, as well as stronger legal remedies to address Internet piracy;

• clarify the roles and responsibilities of Internet Service Providers related to the copyright content flowing over their network facilities; and

• provide photographers with the same rights as other creators.

What Bill C-61 does not do:

• it would not empower border agents to seize your iPod or laptop at border crossings, contrary to recent public speculation

What this Bill is not:

• it is not a mirror image of U.S. copyright laws. Our Bill is made-in-Canada with different exceptions for educators, consumers and others and brings us into line with more than 60 countries including Japan, France, Germany and Australia

Bill C-61 was introduced in the Commons on June 12, 2008 by Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Heritage Minister Josée Verner.

For more information, please visit the Copyright Reform Process website at

Thank you for sharing your views on this important matter.

The Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Industry

The Honourable Josée Verner, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women
and Official Languages and Minister for
La Francophonie

You can read the bill a few links in at the Web site linked above.

This bill is a direct descendant of a ruling the Copyright Board made in 2003 and the subsequent legal rulings that upheld it.

Since the 1970s, consumers in Canada have paid an extra levy built into the price of all blank media. When blank cassette tapes and videocassettes became common, the associations representing the music and entertainment industry cried foul to the government, claiming that they would lose business to people who’d copy music and movies rather than buy them. To compensate them, Canada instituted a fee to be imposed on all blank media, which would be collected and forwarded to the film distributors and music labels.

As part of that legislation, the government protected the right of Canadians to copy music. It has since been legal for canadians to record songs off the radio or copy an album borrowed from a friend.

This fee also applied to blank CDs and DVDs when these media became commonplace. As part of the 2003 ruling, the Copyright Board also slapped that fee on portable media players (but not hard drives).

I bet you thought I’d start slagging Bill C-61 in this paragraph. Let’s instead admire some aspects of it. Firstly, C-61 enshrines some rights Canadians have taken for granted. Time-shifting television, that is recording it for later viewing, has always been taken for granted but C-61 explicitly legalizes the practice. It also affirms the rights of Canadians to make copies of media for personal use, one copy per device. If I own a CD, two computers, and an iPod, I can legally make and use four copies of every song on that CD. I can scan books for use on my computer, too.

Another excellent aspect of C-61 is that it removes ISPs from the chain of copyright responsibility. In the US, ISPs are in essence liable for the content of their customers, in the sense that they must immediately shut down a customer’s content if a complaint is made under the provisions of the DMCA. That has become a point of abuse as companies and individuals make DMCA claims against content they find objectionable whether or not it violates the DMCA – and the ISPs are obligated to block the content without any sort of hearing.

C-61 Encodes a “notice and notice” approach to this problem. Complainants may notify the ISP of suspected infringement, but the ISP is only required to pass that notice on to the content owner. The ISP has no obligation to control the content or access to it in any way. It’s less totalitarian and I like it that way.

Here’s the bad part: if any content is protected against copying in any way, Canadians may not break that copy-protection in order to copy the content. This provision overrides any right to make personal copies, thus rendering those rights moot.

This provision is renders the rest of the bill stillborn. All a company has to do to prevent you or I from copying a CD is to put some cheap outdated copy protection scheme on it, say CSS encryption. It invalidates 30 odd years of paying fees on blank media in order to ensure that right. On top of that, any new encryption will be broken. I promise you that. All this bill does is make throw up obstacles in the path of consumers who will break laws to enjoy what they’ve purchased the way they want to. I promise you that, too.

I suspect C-61 will not change anyone’s practices. Downloaders will keep on downloading, which, while perfectly legal, has always been dubious morally, extra fees or no. Strict followers of the rules will continue to do their thing, too. But what C-61 does is move that line so that more of the people occupying the gray area between those extremes become liable for penalties. It’s a bad act.

For more discussion, see Michael Geist and this article from the CBC.

Slow week

I don’t have a whole lot to write. Elvi returned Saturday afternoon and we braved the F1 crowds on Crescent with some WarBirds buddies in town from B.C. We worked our way down Crescent to Hurley’s, then moved up Bishop to Le Social where we partook of some surprisingly delicious shrimp and played swizzle-stick Shakespeare.

The stifling heat has moved on with the thunderstorm winds that overturned trucks and brought trees down on cars.

I’ve been spending most of my time reading and giving notes for Robert the director. He has a script that structurally reminds me of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

My hair has reached thistle-head length. Thank goodness for Paul Mitchell.

Elvi has applied to be an astronaut.

I need to write more coherent blog posts.

Nope, not at all

This in no way resembles any part of my life.

(Fast forward to the three-minute mark, when the show actually starts.)

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