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I recently had breakfast at the Insomniac Capriform Cafe.

I’ve mentioned (grep tells me) the ICC fourteen (fifteen now) times in the last two years; it’s the only eating-out-place that I’ve talked about that much so you can probably infer that I kind of like it. It’s existence is sort of Albert Einstein’s fault — if ‘fault’ is the right word. It probably isn’t.

I’ve mentioned more than once that I spent several years in grad school studying nothing. I shared an office with three other students, not one of whom was studying nothing. (Naked singularities, relativistic shock fronts and trying to drive me insane — but all of those are something, not nothing.) In the adjacent offices were another half-dozen grads. All of them were studying something too.

There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding physicists (They’re arrogant. They’re irritating know-it-alls. They’re socially inept.) and there are germs of truth in all of them. (For example, on my very first day at university, it was drilled into me/us that “All physicists are arrogant bastards”; that’s one of only two things I remember from that day.) The entertainment industry — always tasteful and restrained — shamelessly exploits these stereotypes whenever they think they can use them to make a quick buck. (Because, after all, there aren’t many stereotypes left that it’s socially acceptable to
exploit so they better do it while they can.)

Flying in the face of the various stereotypes, though, one of the grad students in a nearby office actually had (gasp) a family: a wife. A First Born that called me a hairy toad. A Second Born that didn’t. It was almost like he was a regular human being.

So was his wife. She was also motivated, skilled and efficient; while her husband was working on (and solving) a problem that had defied solution since 1942 (I had already tried and failed miserably) she helped open a restaurant and became one of its first pastry chefs.

The restaurant was, of course, the Insomniac Capriform Cafe.

The ICC was/is a lot of things. It had (still has) an eclectic clientele — you find students, teachers, parents, grandparents, doctors, lawyers…  All sorts of things. (Time was, you’d find a booth full of librarians every Sunday morning.) It had (still has) a fairly quirky staff — men, women, musicians, artists and even the odd mayoral candidate. And it had/has a somewhat contradictory menu: at heart I think it would ‘like’ to be a vegetarian restaurant (and, indeed, most of the dishes are) but they do a brisk breakfast business and for a lot of people ‘breakfast’ means ‘bacon and eggs.’

When I was eating my non-vegetarian breakfast (The ICC is pretty much the only place that I eat bacon: two slices a week, more or less. There is a certain irony in this.) I happened to glance at the blackboard; it said that the soup-of-the-day was “vegan cream of mushroom.”

This made me stop and think for two reasons. First of all, that sort of thing confuses me. I mean, following the word ‘vegan’ with another word that by definition means ‘not vegan’, well, I just don’t get it. I have tons of things I don’t eat but I don’t feel a need to look for ersatz versions of them. Whatever — if it makes people happy, why do I care?  But this also underlines the weird relationship that vegetarian (or near-vegetarian) restaurants often seem to have with dairy products.

And that dredged up a memory.

A few years back, Ms. Rose and I were in Los Angeles to see friends, ride roller coasters and pay a visit to acres of travertine and a rose named after a cookie. While we were there (the city, not the travertine) we needed lunch so one day we went to a place not completely unlike the ICC except that it was ‘officially’ vegetarian; no bacon could be found on the premises. Not even for breakfast.

We consulted the menu. We looked at the daily specials. Oo, that looked good: it was a cheese sandwich made with four different kinds of cheese and a bunch of other things. It sounded good. I saw someone eating one at a table over in a corner; it looked good too. I’ll have one of those, I told the waitress.

She didn’t say ‘perfect.’ She said “There’s dairy in that.” But she didn’t say it in an informational, I’m-telling-you-a-factoid-that-you-might-not-have-noticed-and-may-find-interesting sort of voice. No, she said it as if it was a warning. Sort of like “As you know, the cook is a convicted serial poisoner; the merest mouthful of one of his cheese sandwiches could lead to a painful, messy death.” While I appreciated the warning, it was a cheese sandwich and was one of the daily specials, so I repeated my order. She shrugged with the obvious subtext of “It’s your everlasting soul, not to mention funeral.” I can’t help but think I’ve seen that scene in a movie; one character makes light of a danger that another character — wiser, more experienced, more sensible — warns him about. It never ends well. Since I couldn’t remember which movie I saw it in, I said I’d risk it because, after all, one expects to find dairy in a CHEESE SANDWICH. Eventually she was convinced and moved on to beverages — what did we want to drink?

One of the other daily specials was a milkshake, made with fresh, local, in-season strawberries. I said I would have one of those.

Her reaction? “There’s dairy in that.”




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To every thing there is a season.

So says King Solomon. Also Pete Seeger. But of course it’s not entirely true.

Hockey, for example. Hockey is thought of as a winter sport because it’s played on ice and that much ice is a winter sort of thing. Where I live there’s ice on the outdoor rinks for a couple of months a year; when it’s in there’s a continuous hockey game on every rink from early in the morning until the lights are turned off in the evening. Players arrive and depart all day long so the teams are constantly changing but the game never (well, hardly ever) stops. (Some years ‘enough’ of the lake freezes for people to play hockey there as well.) Famous Canadian Writers win awards with stories about it. It’s a thing.

So hockey is a winter sport.

Except that it’s not. This year, for example, the professionals (well, some of them) played until June 13th and could have played longer. It’s the same thing for amateurs: for years ‘our’ season ended in May and started again in July. A few years ago, though, ‘they’ built a massively expensive arena in an industrial park (and closed all the neighbourhood rinks — but I’m not bitter) and now there is ice twelve months of the year; some people (waves hand) play (for a suitably relaxed definition of ‘play’) year ’round.

There is no season for hockey anymore. Not really.

Things are a little different in ‘my’ other ice sport. There are several reasons for that; one of them is money. (It almost always is.)

Hockey arenas are often publicly owned and ice is rented to ‘the community’ on an hourly (ish — prominent signs remind you than an hour equals fifty minutes) basis and it’s not cheap. (The only reason that it’s remotely affordable is that the costs are split twenty ways.) It’s even less cheap during the summer — after all, maintaining a building full of ice takes a lot of energy when it’s hot out.

Curling clubs are (as I’ve sort of mentioned before) a little different. Not only that, curling is rather less popular. (The CBC says that something over a million adult Canadians play hockey. The Canadian Curling Association claims that roughly half that number curl. I have no idea where they get their numbers but the ratio strikes me as being not totally unbelievable.) There are ‘enough’ people to pay to keep hockey arenas full of ice all summer. Are there enough to do the same with curling clubs? Probably not, especially when you consider that many (most?) curlers are ready to hang up their gear when it’s warm out. (Certainly most of the ones I know are.)

That means that curling still has a season. (Almost three of them if you want to get picky.) And it’s approaching. Which means that Preparations are in order.


I checked on my brooms – I have a black one to sweep with and a white one to yell with (because yelling requires careful colour coordination). Both looked okay. I looked at my sissy crutch thing (I actually have more than one sissy crutch thing because I’ve broken several of them over the years) — it looks good enough for another year. My shoes? Hmm. The left one is almost twenty years old, the right one about ten (they don’t match) and they’re both wearing out. Perhaps it’s time to invest in my first-ever pair of Real Curling Shoes. Unfortunately the club store has nothing in my size; maybe in a month or two. I looked at the right knee of my sweatpants — probably okay for a while. (I thought about buying new pants but the shipping costs made me balk. I hate shipping.) Do I have enough curling shirts? Well, the tie-dye pile is tall enough; I won’t have to wash one until November or so. How about my stopwatch/sports timer? There are at least three in my bag and it looks like one of them works (which is in itsef a minor miracle: stopwatches these days break if you look at them funny. Insert obligatory rant (and song!) about them not making things like they used to). And my least-efficient-beverage-delivery-device-ever-made?

Hm. It appears to be missing.

Not to worry, there’s a couple of stores downtown that deal in such things. In the one named after a bird I found something promising. Slightly less ugly than the one I was replacing, slightly more practical (well, it would have to be), no potentially brain-damaging chemicals, Canadian and it also came in several decorator colours: pink, black and stainless steel.


My first impulse was ‘pink.’ Not only do I like pink (My phone is pink. My second-favorite softball bat is pink. At least one of the shirts in my big pile of tie-dye is pink.) but pink is marginally more visible so there’s a small chance of me seeing it if I forget where I left it. After all, I have a long history of losing things. Then I checked the prices — the pink one was a dollar more than the black one.

Black it is.



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So I was in the supermarket standing in front of a wall of hair ‘accessories.’

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I last visited a hair adjustment professional something over thirty years ago. After that long, things tend to get… that long. Which means that sometimes you need hair manipulation devices. Like when you have to wear a helmet. Or mow the lawn on a hot day. Or walk around town with a tail wind. At times like that some sort of hair control scheme is called for — which usually requires apparatus.

In short, an ‘accessory.’ (What a stupid name.)

Now, most hair ‘accessory’ companies don’t really cater to my particular demographic (creepy old men with a poor grasp of personal grooming) because there aren’t, after all, that many of us. In fact, in a three meter wall of clips, scrunchies and objects-with-no-purpose-that-I-can-discern, there are usually a hundred things that frighten me and approximately four that don’t. But a long, long time ago I found something useful (kind of like this) in that tiny-group-of-about-four: efficient (efficient enough, anyway), robust (made of steel) and inexpensive. (A little gaudy, perhaps, but scraping the paint off helps with that.)

I don’t think I ever broke one (made of steel, remember), but I tend to lose them at a steady rate so I have to get new ones about once a year. That poses no problem — they were cheap and ubiquitous; the only real problem was the time it took to scrape the paint off of a new package.

Until now.

I recently lost my last one (I probably dropped it in a locker room after a hockey game) which meant it was time to make my annual pilgrimage to buy another package. Only…


Only it turns out they don’t make them any more — I tried half a dozen different stores (they used to be everywhere!) and bupkis. They’ve been made for at least thirty years (that I know) but I guess ‘they’ finally decided that one guy in Canada buying one package a year didn’t give them the profit margin they wanted. (Or something. It may not have just been me buying them — I found someone selling them online for five times the old price; twenty bucks for a package of hair clips strikes me as just a little steep.) The supermarket was my final hope.

Supermarkets are, as you know, all about disappointment.

But just then a guy walked by wearing the a picture of a mass murderer on his chest.

Supermarkets are clearly about more than disappointment. A lot more.

They also have ice cream.



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In these days of the 500-channel universe certain aspects of the past seem remote and alien. (Of course, in the last twenty years the term itself has become obsolete; it’s pretty clear that something akin to Moore’s Law applies to television.)


Once upon a time, the city where I lived had three television channels — one for each of the Big Two Canadian TV networks and one for a French-language CBC station that les maudit anglais didn’t normally watch except for occasional hockey games, usually with the sound off.

Of course, cable TV arrived sometime in the mid 1960s. This brought a comparative glut of channels which in turn gave access to several important cultural phenomena. Early picture quality was often questionable — I remember watching a guy named Bob fight himself in a negative space wedgie while the vertical and horizontal hold went berserk. Apparently there are constant blizzards in negative space wedgies as well.

Where was I? Oh yeah…

A fourth broadcast channel appeared in early 1974. Early on they showed lots of movies; I’ve always assumed this was because they didn’t have enough other programming to fill their schedule. A fifth broadcast station arrived that fall — a French-language UHF station. They showed movies too; the ones they showed Friday evenings under the banner ‘Cinerotique’ generated a lot of… talk. (A lot of anglos tuned in religiously to Cinerotique — for some things, language isn’t a barrier.)


I like movies. Lots of people do. For me, one part of the movie ‘process’ is reading the closing credits.  (When possible — it mostly isn’t on TV these days.) You can learn what that song was that you thought you recognized. You can see who the system administrator was. And you can find out who played ‘mustachioed guard’ or ‘train person #3′ or ‘man in diner.’ Looking at the ‘little’ roles is kind of a game.

(So of course someone made a game about it. The game is all about playing minor roles: ‘Man falling off roof.’ ‘Crying woman.’ Roles that would make any actor stretch.)

Like a lot of other people, I don’t Go To The Movies as much as I used to (there’s no theatre within walking distance any more and two dollar Tuesdays are long gone) but when I do I still watch the credits. A couple of weeks ago Ms. Rose and I went to a movie and, because we’re like that, we stayed til the end of the credits. We weren’t disappointed either: there were four system administrators and there, on the screen, was the credit for ‘Rubik’s cube boy.’ It was a subtle and nuanced performance.

But it was no ‘man falling off roof.’



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No, not that kind.

Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife might not be ironic, but it is unfortunate. Add your own verse, stanza, or story of badly-timed annoyance to Alanis Morissette’s classic

I sit here in my dramatically irrelevant squid shirt and contemplate Ben’s suggestion to add a verse to an incredibly successful song from the 1990s. Well, I can’t write lyrics. I especially can’t write lyrics that add anything to a song that sold thirty million copies, received multiple awards and made the songwriter a household name. For one thing, I don’t understand music well enough (‘…written in the key of B major.’ What does that even mean?). For another, I can’t write poetry — really I can’t. I can’t rhyme (not even Moon/June/Spoon) and the less said about my sense of rhythm the better. For a third, if I could write a song that would have made me a multi-millionaire, don’t you think I would have done it by now?

It’s made even harder because none of the ‘examples’ in the lyrics is ironic. I believe that Ms. Morissette and her co-author (unlike Baldrick) were quite aware of this. They’re meant to look ironic, but only if you don’t look too closely. The real irony – the meta-irony, if you will — is that a song called ‘Ironic’ has nothing whatsoever to say about irony. They were looking for unfortunate situations that scanned properly, rhymed appropriately and fit into an album that had the themes of anger, bitterness and deep psychological trauma.

I definitely can’t do that.

I can do ‘unfortunate’, though.

I was driving to a funeral. It was my grandfather’s funeral. He was an important figure in my life because, well…

When I was ‘small’ I spent my time hurling bowling balls, getting my stomach pumped and breaking bones (mostly mine, although there was that time I hit someone in the head with a golf club). Sir Rose, for her part, spent some time in a hospital due to a nasty disease that I had nothing whatsoever to do with giving her. (Honest.) Anyway, due to the numerical depletion of my Supervisory Parental Units, my grandfather spent time with us to try to keep the mayhem at an acceptable level. Whether or not he succeeded I can’t say.

I have some clear memories of those days. I remember him putting ketchup on french toast; it was one of his habits that I picked up (much to the horror of every waitress along 3500 kilometres of Trans-Canada highway) and still retain. My father and I both shared a name with him so there were three generations of ‘Rose’ living under the same roof; I remember phone calls asking for ‘Rose’ and the caller never getting precisely the one he wanted. I remember sleeve garters.

He was a big part of my early life.

His funeral was about a four hour drive away so I climbed in the Rosemobile (that one was named GW) and hit the road.

These days, ‘most’ cars have doors over the gas cap; those doors are typically opened via a lever or switch inside the car. In those days, however, the doors were often opened with the ignition key. Those days also represented the transition from full-service to self-service gas stations. The lock, then, didn’t represent much of an inconvenience: you would stop the car, turn off the ignition, remove the key, get out of the car, open the filler door and pump long-dead dinosaurs into your fuel tank. Full-service stations still existed, of course — they were just getting scarcer.

Except on the ‘local’ high-speed controlled-access highway that ran almost directly from my door to the funeral. On that road there are moderately frequent ‘official service centres.’ These long had a reputation for being quick and convenient if somewhat dingy and overpriced. And along with ‘overpriced’ came ‘attendants.’ The locking filler door still didn’t present a problem: turn off the ignition, hand the key to the attendant and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

After waiting for longer than seemed absolutely necessary, I looked out the window. He hadn’t started yet — he was staring at my ignition key with a look of absolute horror on his face.

Scratch that. He was looking at half of my ignition key. The other half was in the filler door lock.

Ironic? Nope. Unfortunate? Yup. Annoying and inconvenient? Definitely. Something worth condensing and setting to music? That, as they say, is left as an exercise for the reader.