Content Consumption

One thing about unemployment, it does give one a little more time to enjoy one’s leisure hobbies.

Terry Pratchett has always been a bit of blind spot for me because I’ve not read a lot of fantasy and one of the worst people I know was a huge Pratchett fan so it sort of coloured my opinion. Yet I would always comes across passages from his Discworld novels and kept thinking, “This is the type of thing I could enjoy.” So I’ve started in on them and so far, they’re pretty funny and extremely well thought out in terms of the world he builds. This is all old news to Discworld fans but I’m enjoying the discovery.

I also recently finished How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu and Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. Both of which will be going on my favourite books of 2022 list.

The HBO genre-defying “Barry” just wrapped its third season and who knew SNL alum Bill Hader was such a great writer/director? Hader plays a Barry, a hitman for hire who pursues and acting career in L.A. while trying and failing to avoid having his past (and present) catch up with him. Like “Breaking Bad” or any prestige drama with criminal protagonists, it’s a difficult line to walk between creating a compelling character and making the mistake of having the audience sympathize with him. “Barry” pulls it off.

Wilco are back with “Cruel Country,” a 21 track double album recorded live in studio and with a sound that harkens back to their earlier days as Uncle Tupelo. I can say I enjoy it while while enjoying a local craft beer while barbecuing.

Did I mention New Brunswick has great craft beers? Seriously, come on down sometime if that’s your thing.

One of my favourites, Foghorn, has a weekly trivia night where my brother and I are frequent champs. Golden Grover, named after the country road my own street intersects with, is my usual go to beer.

So what are you all up to?

Job Update

As Mr. Richard Ross once declared, everyday I’m hustlin’. While Mr. Ross’ song was about expanding his cocaine dealing network, my hustlin’ is more modest in that I’m just trying to get someone to hire me.

This month I’ve had a few interviews, all of which have been very positive but with varying degrees of follow up from the employers. I used to simply wait for HR to confirm if I had the job or not. However, an employment counsellor once said to me, “Did your previous employer ask your permission to cut your job? No. So don’t ask someone’s permission to inquire if you got the job you’re applying for. Just call or email them.”

There are a couple of options on the table, depending which, if any of the jobs I get. One of which would be to return to Saint John (this has a whole list of pros and cons) and the other is to stay in Montreal but most likely work in the city.

Three weeks ago I had an interview for what I’d call “the fun job,” which is at a major brewer. It went pretty well. My French was shaky but not disastrous. But despite a recent assurance from the HR rep the job has not been filled yet, it seems the process is taking a long time.

Last week, someone I met a networking event for Olds Without Work mentioned my name to her new employer. They were hiring someone with my skills so I sent my CV and ended up having two very positive interviews within the space of a week. It’s for a big law firm and in an emerging field where my experience would be put to an interesting use.

It highlighted to me the importance of networking. I’ve always bristled at the practice because it always seemed as though I would be just connecting with people who could do something for me. I don’t like the idea of forging relationships which are just transactional in nature. But in reality, it’s more than that. It’s about building a social network that is going to help you in your career, even if it’s just putting you in touch with the right people. And if your company needs someone with specific skills, you may be able to call on someone from your own network so it’s mutually beneficial to build and maintain these relationships, provided the intent behind them is always genuine and based on good, solid principles.

Yes, I even had business cards made up.


So I’m getting pretty good at searching jobs now.

But I’d really like to get good at landing and keeping them.

On memories, Switchback, and Chubby Checker

On Monday, I received the above Twitter notification and was surprised to find I had been mentioned in a blog piece by Taddle Creak editor-in-chief and founder Conan Tobias. Conan was a childhood friend back in Saint John. We both shared a love of comic books, science fiction, and broadcasting in general.

Back in the early 80s, CBC aired a Sunday morning sort of free-wheeling variety show for kids called Switchback that aired different editions, depending where in Canada you lived. The Atlantic Canada edition was hosted by Stan Johnson. Imagine the CBC of today attempting to air four or five independent versions of one show.

The piece recalls how Switchback came to our elementary school as they often interviewed kids for various bits. I got on camera responding to the question, “Insecurity is…” (which was “Getting your test back and your teacher has an evil look in his eye.” I was a witty 11 year old, no?).

Aside: This was the beginning of my broadcasting career. The end of my broadcasting career was in 2000 when I appeared on the briefly lived CTV cable channel TalkTV (it became MTV in 2006). A friend who knew the producer invited me on to be part of a panel doing an “armchair review” of a Drew Barrymore movie. Despite my comfort doing campus radio for years before that, as soon as the camera went on, I froze. After that point, beyond a few additional appearances on the channel via webcam, I avoided broadcasting and even today, the thought of speaking in front of people gives me anxiety. But I got to meet Ben Mulroney and Seamus O’Regan so there’s that.

Anyway, the piece recalls how we also went to the mall as the crew was making an appearance there as well. It goes on to explain the importance of mentors in young lives and how this meeting with the show’s producer led to Conan’s own career in publishing. The thing is, I don’t remember this trip to the mall at all.

I guess that makes for a good reason to stay in touch with your childhood friends. They can help access memories that have been locked away for years.

I do remember our other brush with greatness.

Around the same time in our lives, a local car dealership was advertising an appearance by Chubby Checker. I liked 60s music thanks to another friend who listened exclusively to late 50s/early 60s rock n’ roll (specifically Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys). So we rode our bikes the five kilometers it takes to get there where waited for Chubby to arrive. And we waited. And we waited. Then his bus arrived. And we waited some more. Finally, he got out, signed his autograph for us and….went back into the bus.

Later, we learned the station was giving out tickets to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. There may have been a trivia question involved. Anyway, we won them and went to the movie and saw Kirk destroy the Enterprise. This was sad but also cool because we just assumed they’d get the Excelsior after that. Instead they got another version of the Enterprise. But hey, Sulu got the Excelsior so it’s not all bad.

On Irish Origins, Yarmouth Blue, and the Price of Beer

Two weeks ago, we were in New Brunswick to visit friends and family. As I often do, I went through old photographs of my family in generations past to see if I could find anything new. This time, I found my aunt’s birth certificate from the 1930s. She died in the 1950s, years before I was born.

On the certificate, it listed the “racial origin” of her father as “Scotch,” and “Irish,” for her mother, aka my grandparents. My grandmother had complicated and difficult childhood, due to her own mother burying three husbands and before dying relatively young herself. At one point she was placed in a Catholic orphanage when she could find nobody in her extended family to take her.

All of this was relatively new to me as the only thing I really knew about my grandparents is that their families rejected them when they were married due to the religious differences: She was Catholic, he was Anglican (for my own part, my parents were married Anglican and baptised us Anglican but raised us in the United Church). There was more to the story: their eldest child was born out of wedlock and that, I think, was a bigger scandal than the religious one in 1920-whatever.

This is all to say that I’m discovering stuff about my family’s past as I get older that I had no idea about. Not because it’s all coming to light or something, but because I just never asked,

Elsewhere on the trip, I managed to see some friends I hadn’t seen in a while which was nice because in my day to day life these days, I don’t have a friend locally who I can just call up and go do something with. Many of my high school friends ended up in Toronto but I do have a few in town I should make an effort to see more of.

Now that we’ve bought a house, the plan to move back to NB is on hold. But in eight years, I will have been at my job 25 years. Retiring in my fifties and moving to a cheap part of the country might be nice way to spend a retirement. Not sure my Montreal-born son would ever forgive us for moving him back to the boonies, though.

Speaking of housing, I’ve had a few friends and co-workers tell me the only paint to buy is Benjamin Moore or Behr. I’m keen to do the majority of the house in Yarmouth Blue, which I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine and felt it really spoke to my WASP sense of taste. But I’m pretty sure we can find a close approximation somewhere else. But would we just be painting the dark red and brown (I know!) walls six times over because we bought cheaper paint? I dunno. If money were no object, I’d just hand the L.L. Bean home catalogue to an interior designer and say, “Make it look like that!” But then, if money were no object, we wouldn’t be buying a 44 year old condo townhouse.

It’s weird that the minute I signed to buy a house, that whole section of the magazine stand opened itself up to me where it was a blind spot in my field of vision for years.

Suddenly I am at once interested at intimidated by the concept of home renos. But I imagine I can tackle anything on a weekend with enough beer, a how to guide on YouTube, and decent tunes on the iPod.

Which brings me to one of the biggest impediments to moving back to NB: The price of beer is easily twice what you’d pay in Quebec. This is a shame because NB has some great brewers like Picaroons, Pumphouse, and the new Hammond River Brewing. Now, to be honest, I don’t drink beer like I once did. I like a pint now and again but I rarely keep it in the fridge (but I do love me some scotch). I just think a truly visionary government would make this their top priority instead of, you know, jobs and shit.

2013: The Shatnerian Review

I think like a lot of bloggers, I’m constantly on the cusp of being a former blogger. Social media ultimately serves a more satisfying purpose for link-sharing with limited commentary. I certainly spent a lot of time on Twitter and Tumblr these days and, to a lesser degree, Google+. Facebook is where I share light-hearted PG-rated stuff because my mother reads everything.

But if I want to take a little time and just ramble on for a spell, my blog is always here for me.

So this was 2013.



We rang in 2013 quietly, as has been the habit we’ve acquired this past few years, with curry and beer from the Indian restaurant down the road from our place.

I also interviewed for a job in Saint John. It was one of those remote interview things where I sit in a conference room and talk to people on a TV screen, Star Trek-style. Except Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko, and Janeway never had to deal with the video feed just cutting out. I didn’t get the position but over the past year, I noticed it kept getting posted and, twice, I was contacted via LinkedIn to see if I was interested in applying. The recruiter didn’t know I had already interviewed.

So I’m not sure who they think they need for the job. I hope they found him or her but somehow I don’t think they have.


We took a trip to Saint John in February to visit family and do some old school Maritime candle pin bowling. Seriously, It was like being back in the Maritimes in the 1980’s. I kept expecting Richard Hatfield to walk in and order a bottle of Moosehead Golden Light from the bar where people still smoke indoors.


Pope Benedict XVI resigned and was replaced by an Argentinian who criticizes trickle down economics. And he was named Time’s Person of the Year.

So that was unexpected. That has pretty much been my reaction to everything he does as pope: “Oh, that was unexpected.”

But I’m not a Catholic, nor a Christian, nor a believer of any kind, really, but I do find these things interesting.


The first big concert of the year was Disney Princesses on Ice at the Bell Centre and en français. Hey, the tickets were free, the plastic souvenir sword was stupid pricey and James was afraid of Ursula.

The second big concert of the year wasn’t quite Disney on Ice but it was Sigur Ros.

By the way, that song is this:

In addition to Sigur Ros, I also got excited about some new music again. Frank Turner released his fifth studio album, Tape Deck Heart in March and it took up residence in the car for Spring and Summer.

In less edifying cultural news, Canada got its own version of Big Brother which was like all the other worldwide Big Brothers in that it started with a lot of promise and then you realize there’s no way you’re watching this for three hours a week.

I do know that a woman named Jillian from Nova Scotia won because the person casting the deciding vote messed up.

So that was a first. proud, Canada?


Was it a shit winter? Yeah, it was a shit winter. Luckily, we were given a free stay in a small beach condo in Ormond Beach, Florida. So, of course that meant taking the wee lad to Disneyworld.
He didn’t know we were going until we got there, which is odd given that the minute you land in Orlando, you are reminded that the entirety of Central Florida is owned by that mouse.

It was a last minute, unexpected vacation and I hadn’t been to Florida since 1981 and, really, after four months of winter, it was just nice to go somewhere with palm trees. Even without Disney or hand feeding giraffes at the Brevard County zoo, if I could sit quietly with a drink and look at the Atlantic Ocean, I would have been happy.

But Florida’s a weird state. On one hand it’s all tourist destinations like the theme parks, and the beach bars and Margaritaville and on the other hand, it’s places where you can pawn gold to buy a gun before hiring your “males only” divorce attorney. I avoided turning on the local news.


After spending a small fortune in car repairs, the old Corolla was finally retired and replaced with a gently used Mazda 5. I’m not sure how long I’ve lived this long without sliding doors and seats that lay down flat. The stereotype is that middle-aged men have a crisis about their faded youth and run out and get a sports car but a) current family budget does not allow for impulse purchases and b) I’ve always had a thing for practicality.

And that’s pretty much what I was doing in May.


In June, I received a beer kit for Father’s Day from the Brooklyn Brew Shop. Kerry thought it would be nice for me to have a hobby and well, I do enjoy the beer from time to time. Beer making is a actually a very relaxing process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail.

Because this is me we’re talking about, naturally, the bottled beer exploded all over the kitchen. So that experiment failed. But I may want to do it again, perhaps with an easier kit until I know what I’m doing.


It has been one year since we got married. To celebrate, we went to the UK for the first time since James spent his first Christmas in Scotland. The main point of the trip was to attend Langholm Common Riding which is basically an old home week for the Borders towns.


But we also spent some time in London, Somerset (to see Kerry’s childhood home), and Edinburgh.

Seriously, go see Edinburgh. It’s beautiful.


I also turned 42 in a pub near Paddington station in London where I enjoyed some real ales while Kerry and James were passed out in the hotel around the corner after a full day of walking around Covent Garden and Hyde Park, not to mention the bus tour and boat tour on the Thames. When James started falling asleep face first into his fish n’ chips, we figured we were pushing our luck with an almost five year old. We were also around the corner from where Prince George was to be born but we missed it by three days, fortunately. I think our part of London would have been insane.

I watched the news of the royal birth from a hotel bar in Edinburgh (yes, pubs and bars often feature prominently in our trips to the UK). The Scots weren’t quite as excited by news as the English but it didn’t exactly go uncelebrated either. I did have an interesting discussion about progenitor laws with a gentleman in there. We both noted that Elizabeth is Elizabeth I in Scotland as they never had a Queen Elizabeth before. He bitterly pointed out that the mailboxes are all stamped “ERII,” even in Scotland. Perhaps now that the Royal Mail has been privatized, that policy may change.


In August, my sister got married at our family church, followed by a backyard reception at our other sister’s place. My new brother in law is a great guy and I’m very happy for them both.


A new chapter in our lives began as our child entered kindergarten. It’s more expensive than daycare, if that’s possible.

Over the past year, we learned our child has a developmental disorder called Dyspraxia which explains a lot. Now that he’s been diagnosed, he’ll be getting some extra help at school. It’s been a challenge and a bit of learning curve but now that we know how to approach it, we’ve already seen improvement.

He also has a renewed interest in Lego now that he can get his fingers to listen to his brain.

Also, Janelle Monáe released The Electric Lady and all was right with the world. It’s like she’s invented her own genre of science-fiction inspired R&B/Hip-Hop. More sci-fi concept albums, I say!


The Mazda 5 had its first road test when we drove it from Montreal to Saint John for Thanksgiving. It still astounds me how long it takes just to get off the island of Montreal but when you’re doing it at rush hour, you’re just asking for trouble. We stayed the night in Riviére-du-Loup and saw snow geese flying over the St. Lawrence River. That was pretty much the highlight of the journey. The stretch between Quebec City and Edmundston may just be the dullest in Eastern Canada.

James is obsessed with superheroes. I may have nurtured that a bit. For Halloween, he got a Captain America costume and insisted on wearing it for days before the big day. Which was a good thing because Halloween night itself was kind of a miserable, rainy affair.


I interviewed for a new job which would see me moving into an IT-related role. I had two interviews in which I made the decision to be a little more frank than I usually am. That led to a second interview and that led to a third interview.

We’re also looking into moving to Saint John but I think the reality of that is that it will be a much longer plan. The career opportunities just aren’t as plentiful there as they are in larger centres.

For the first time since moving here, I wasn’t able to vote in the Montreal municipal election because I no longer live in Montreal. But Pointe-Claire got a new mayor. For the first time, I voted for the guy who won. It was between Morris Trudeau, a long time councillor and former cop, and businessman with little public service experience. I went with the former.


The Christmas season is full-swing at our house. The plastic tree is decorated with James’s homemade ornaments, 2012 Olympics Sydney Crosby, and Captain Kirk. James still believes in Santa Claus, which is nice. This, however, being his first year in school, some kids are trying to convince him the parents do it, like the mysterious American girl in Grade 2 who has no friends and is mean to everyone.

My parents are coming up for Christmas this year for the first time. I’m sure my father will somehow wrangle a trip to Chenoy’s for chopped liver.

Santa came early for us. The old PC and laptops were dying slow deaths (the latter was the result of an apple juice spill from someone who will not be named) so a new PC was ordered. And we got a Smart TV after 10 years of watching the old 27″ tube TV so we’re all technologically advanced these days. We’re running movies off the PC, we got the Netflix and YouTube and I’m getting caught up on movies I’ve been meaning to see.

Best science fiction movie of 2013? Pacific Rim. Hands down. I didn’t expect this much character development in a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters.

Or maybe Gravity is the best, but I haven’t seen that yet.


Oh, yes. I also finally saw Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel because I will always watch Star Trek, even when I hate it (and boy did I hate it) and will always watch comics-to-film adaptations.

I don’t so much hate the new movies (although they are aggressively dumb) so much as what they represent which is a discontinuation of the universe built by the shows and movies up until 2009. I have a long, really nerdy blog post about it but I’ll leave it at that.

Man of Steel seemed almost embarrassed that it was about Superman so they made their title character kind of dick. It was also two hours of this:

I’ve been a member of the NDP for the past couple of years but lately I’ve been thinking about giving up the membership and going unaffiliated again. But then Tom Mulcair went and sent me a Christmas card so now I feel guilty for wanting to leave.

How could I break that heart?

Nelson Mandela died. The only time I had ever been to Africa, he was still in jail but mere months away from being released. I was in Senegal, six thousand kilometers from South Africa but Mandela still loomed large there. I remember the taxis had one of two photos in their rear windows: Nelson Mandela or Marilyn Monroe.

Remember that third interview from last month? Sure you do. Well, that was the one that did it. I got me a job in a kind of/sort of I.T. field. It’s a completely different background from what I’ve been doing for the past eight years. But it’s a relief, in a way, to go into something that is completely new.

So there it is: 2013 turned out to be a pretty big year for us. Kid starting school, two big trips, a new career, and some new stuff. So what can we do in 2014?

How about a new member of the family?

A cat. I meant we’re going to the animal shelter to adopt a cat.

Happy Holidays, everyone!