Posts Tagged ‘Rants’


Folk Cures

May 28, 2011

It has been raining for days. I’ve actually lost count of how many days it’s been since I’ve seen the sun. Obviously, rain can be depressing. Humans crave sunlight. The cold and wet make the outside unappealing. But for me, the worst part is the sinus headaches.

My nasal cavities are a functional barometer. I can tell when rain is coming. I can certainly tell when it is raining. Unfortunately, the price for this superpower is a dull, persistent ache at my temples and under my eyes that makes me want to claw my face off.

Low Pressure: Why I’ll never climb Mt. Everest

Fortunately, a lifetime dealing with headaches has left me with an arsenal of fixes. Some are probably slightly less effective than rubbing myself with a chicken gizzard in the light of the full moon, but I’ll quite happily take the placebo effect as well.

Arvik’s Home Headache Remedies

Drugs. Not exactly a home remedy, but I tend to want pain relief more than anything else. I basically have my own pharmacy that I carry with me, and let me say… it does come in handy.

Sleep. Sometimes the best (and only) way to escape for a few hours and have a chance of feeling better after. Of course, there are mornings when I wake up thinking drugsdrugsdrugsdrugs. Those mornings usually don’t bode well.

Protein and/or Sugar. Low blood sugar can trigger and exacerbate headaches. Protein is awesome because it takes longer to digest- the body can go to work on it like a dog gnawing on a bone.

Cool cloths. Actually, I don’t have a cloth. I have a beanbag thing you stick in the fridge and then place over your eyes. I like it, though I always forget to put it back

Things I Wish Were Headache Cures

Unicorn Horn. Just press the horn (either still attached to the unicorn or not) to your head, and voila! Instant pain relief.

Time Machine. I would assume that people will find a lasting cure for headaches in the future. You could go forward in time, steal a few samples, and return. Alternatively, you could just go to a time when you don’t have a headache.

Witch’s Spell. Witches are notoriously pricey, but if it’s a skilled spell-caster, it may be worth it. Long gone are the days of bubbling broths of eye of newt and breath of fish. Modern witches are all about compacting their potions into efficient little capsules. No fuss, no muss, and no smell.

Magic Spring. Bathing in or drinking magic waters is likely to be less expensive than paying for a spell. They’re just harder to find. However, it should be noted that drinking from a magic spring ought to be doubly effective, since many headaches are caused/worsened by dehydration.

Madame Pomfrey. She can heal anything!

The Doctor. Ditto (actually, one of the main reasons I really like my doctor is because he reminds me of Voyager’s doctor).


The Doctor. Dealing with human brains and their pains has got to be easier than dealing with time streams, right?

Pillow stuffed with feathers from the wings of a sphinx. Sphinxes are clever. Not only would I imagine that this pillow would be good for your headache, it may enable some subliminal learning.

Alas, until these latter cures are most feasible… I’m off to grab my cool-pack and take a pill.




No more libraries???

May 19, 2011

I never thought it would happen, but apparently the days of the school library may be numbered.

On the surface, the idea seems absurd. Schools are places of learning. Having a huge collection of books in one place is an excellent way to facilitate learning. Therefore, leaving aside the issues of getting kids to enjoy reading (which I’ll get to in a second), it would seem a matter of practicality to equip schools with libraries.

Yes, technology is changing. We rely more on the Internet for research, and last I heard, Amazon was selling more e-books than actual print-and-paper books. However, that does not subtract from the importance of books as a research source. Do me a favour. The next time a set of encyclopediae is handy, look up a topic of your choosing. Then, boot up your computer, access the Internet, and search for the same topic. I’m willing to bet you’ll end up on Wikipedia.

I’m also willing to bet that it took much less time to simply open a book. Then, since I’m such a gamblin’ soul, I will make one final bet that the information in your print encyclopedia was reviewed and fact-checked, making it more reliable than the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit.”

And this is just looking at libraries from a purely academic point of view. These are school libraries on the chopping block. School libraries are instrumental in exposing kids to books and making the world of reading an accessible one. I cannot count the hours I spent in my elementary school library, devouring books that I found on my own as I perused the shelves, as well as those the librarian recommended to me. The Call of the Wild. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. From the Earth to the Moon. The Chronicles of Narnia. Sherlock Holmes. Ancient Myths and Legends. The War of the Worlds. Watership Down. Redwall. Silver Chief. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The Hobbit.

Notice, if you will, the presence of a lot of “older” books: Verne, Wells, London. While my school library certainly had books for a younger audience, it also carried the classics. So, when you read everything of interest in the “little kid” section, you naturally moved on to some literature that, in hindsight, was extremely good preparation for the rest of my schooling, as well as my current writing.

I don’t know that it would have been possible in a public library. Don’t get me wrong, I love public libraries too, but… many of them are a lot bigger. The librarians don’t often know you as personally, and can’t always provide that individualized recommendation. They can’t say, “It’s about a magical land, with a wicked queen and a lion who saves the day. It may be a little scary, but I think you’ll like it.”

Too often, we hear news stories about how kids don’t read, kids don’t use their imagination, kids don’t have any attention span anymore because they’re too hooked in to TV and video games. Growing up, my home was well-stocked with books because my parents were huge readers. But not every child is so fortunate. Nor does every child have a public library that’s close and easily accessed (which is a tragedy too).

And yet, if you give kids the opportunity to explore books freely and comfortably, they will eventually find something that makes their imaginations soar. Then you have a reader for life.

Reading is like drinking seawater. The more you drink, the thirstier you become.

Keep them thirsting for more.



On the Origins of the Easter Bunny

April 23, 2011


I hereby absolve myself of any lost innocence that results from reading this post.


I wasn’t sure how the Easter Bunny fit into Easter.

After all, it’s an invisible rabbit that hops around the world in a single night distributing eggs. I consulted Wikipedia, as I often do when the world confounds me. According to that highly academic source, the Easter Bunny/Hare originated in the former Holy Roman Empire, and seems to have been linked to Easter by virtue of the fact that rabbits are particularly blessed with fecundity (which makes me wonder if the Easter Bunny ever stops to… no, I can’t go on). So we have a symbol of fertility distributing more symbols of fertility (love those eggs) to innocent little boys and girls.

While this explanation was amusing, it wasn’t entirely satisfying.

I embarked on some original research. Following a hunch, I looked at the jackalope. Hey, with the Easter Bunny’s similarity to Santa, it made sense that it might be the product of a fecund rabbit and a reindeer.  Sure enough, the trail turned warm, albeit in an unexpected way: while jackalopes probably aren’t part reindeer, they might be part killer rabbit.

The most famous killer rabbit, of course, is the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog.


Yes, that Killer Rabbit: the one slain by King Arthur and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.



See a similarity?

My theory, then, is that the present-day Easter Bunny is a descendent of the original Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. The objects we’ve been interpreting as eggs of fertility, are in fact his attempts to recreate the Holy Hand Grenade, thus exacting ironic vengeance on humanity for killing his illustrious forebear.

Of course, this raises the question: why chocolate eggs? Why so colourful?

Alas, I fear it may be more mis-interpretation on our part. Doubtless, Easter Bunnies of yore used candy to lure small children near the cunningly-hidden grenades. Bright colours only added to the enticement. Placid adults, noticing this, assumed a connection between the pretty egg-shaped objects and appearance of candy (bunnies aren’t good at wiring- the grenades don’t go off very often) . There is a connection, just not the one we thought.

And so, while you’re hunting for eggs this weekend… you might want to find a long, long stick and poke them before picking them up.



The Dreaded Claw-Hand

April 19, 2011

I just emerged from writing furiously for three hours. Yes, it is exam season. I don’t actually mind the content of exams all that much. My grade eight science teacher used to swear that exams could be enjoyable, if you got into a sort of Zen “test zone.” I do think this is true, and in the midst of writing, I may not be actively enjoying the experience (unless it’s a topic I know really, really well and get to expound upon), but I’m certainly not unhappy. It is a kind of altered state, I guess, beyond un/happiness.

Except for the Claw-Hand.

I don’t write by hand all that much. I type almost as fast as I think, and for me, writing by hand is a forced, laborious process. Not so bad when I’m writing down notes and ponderings for a story (it’s good to be forced to slow down a little), but not so good when I’m rushing for time. Three hours of sustained, feverish writing, and trying to keep that writing somewhat legible, usually leaves my hand looking a bit like this.

But why do I get Claw-Hand so badly?

I blame society.

When I was a small child, I wrote and coloured with whichever hand happened to be closest to the crayon or marker I wanted.  I was ambidextrous. Unfortunately, because I used both hands equally, each hand only got 50% of the practice it would’ve normally received had I just chosen to become a leftie or a rightie. Eventually, noticing my handwriting was progressing about half as quickly as my peers’, my teachers stepped in.

A bit too late, as it happened. I yielded to their admonitions to use only my right hand, but I could never quite learn to hold pens and pencils properly, my already weak fine motor skills unable to cope with the prospect of using my right hand alone. Thus my handwriting that looks a ten-year-old’s if I’m being neat, and pure chickenscratch if I’m not. 

The handwriting’s a shame. I admire people who can do nice calligraphy. But the claw-hand bothers me more: the cramping and swelling. It’ll go away eventually. And I have to say, as someone who wants to write for a living, I am unbelievably grateful that we’re shifting into a society of typed words. Yes, handwriting is a dying art and it’s sad to see it go. But honestly?

I’m just glad I can write for hours without needing an ice-pack.

Anyone else a closet southpaw or ambie? Any similar experiences with the Claw?



Protecting yourself against those pesky ninjas (and the occasional pirate)

April 11, 2011

(without having everyone around you think you’re crazy.)

Today is another beautiful spring day… at least where I am. So, although I have much to do of the “sit-inside-and-stare-at-a-screen” variety, I figured I was more than justified in taking a stroll. And then…

Naturally, I went in. Soon enough, I was clutching my steaming cup of caffeinated goodness. That’s when I realized I faced a choice.

Where to sit?

Perspective and everything... aren't we fancy today?

Take a moment. Where would you have sat? Chair #1 or #2?

If you said Chair #1, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re putting yourself at risk in the event of a ninja attack. Chair #2 has several qualities which make it the superior seating choice. First and most importantly, its back faces the wall. That means you do not face the wall. Unless ninjas are planning on bursting through the wall from an adjoining room (which I’ll admit is a possibility), you are safe from attack from behind.

Furthermore, Chair #2 offers a view which faces the street and the door. (For those who are curious… yes, I am writing this post from inside the coffee shop. Call it blogging in the field.) As such, no one can get in or out of this coffee shop without my knowing. I wouldn’t put disguising one’s self past a ninja (or a pirate, for that matter), so this surveillance may well come in handy. Plus, I can see the street. That’s mostly because this coffee shop has nice big windows, but it’s a very attractive feature. Not only is it letting in natural light and making me feel connected to the world outside (this magical world I was starting to fear was myth), it’s going to give me first warning when the ninja and pirate armies team up with zombies to take over the downtown core.

Plus, you know, it’s nice for people-watching in the meantime.

So, to recap the paranoid person’s guide to restuarant seating:

  1. Choose seating arrangements which protect your back.
  2. Ensure you can monitor escape routes in and out of the establishment.
  3. Views of the street are an added bonus.
  4. Realize the ninjas/pirates/zombies probably won’t come until dessert… you’ll be too sleepy to run properly, and they can abscond with your dessert when it arrives.

One large coffee later, that’s all the advice I can give you. The rest is up to you.

Good luck!



Ah, morality

April 10, 2011

Imagine two scenarios (alas, I have no claims to either… they’re stories by Philippa Ballantine and Christof Laputka, respectively).


Scenario One

A misogynist pig of  a prince views women solely as sex toys. Then he’s cursed by witches. His attempts in escaping the curse lead to his kingdom being attacked. So, to protect his kingdom, he offers his life up to the witches… and doesn’t die, but is transfigured into a woman himself.

Scenario Two

A tough, resourceful secret agent bursts in at the last second to save the heroine. We know and like this agent well. With much derring-do, he subdues his enemy by firing a neurotoxin dart at him. Obviously, the enemy is now completely helpless. Nevertheless, our “Hero” proceeds to injure him further, punching him in the face so that the dart lodged there punctures his brain.

So what?

So, I think the First Scenario is an excellent example of the convergence of theme and plot. The prince is, as I’ve mentioned, a pig. He redeems himself at the end, so we don’t want him to die. But he’s not a good person, so we don’t want him to get away scot-free either. His punishment is wonderfully ironic- now he gets to feel and truly appreciate what life is like for the women he mistreated. And he’s not dead, so there is hope he actually will learn his lesson. Even though he remains an anti-hero, he earns our (perhaps grudging) respect and admiration.

The second, however… I lost pretty well all respect I had for our heroic secret agent. Up until that point, I had liked him. He was charming, and intelligent, and actually cared about other people. But this? Morally speaking, the agent makes a fatal choice. Killing the guy was not the problem; the evil genius was evil, and it was self-defence. But the agent’s actions shows the reader that he is in fact the kind of man who will kick someone when they’re down (or cram them full of more pain when they’re already dying). These are not the actions of a hero, and therefore, he can no longer be a hero. Furthermore, given that this was at the end of the story, I’m not optimistic for any further character development that will explain this less-than-heroic act, or that we were “supposed” to not like him anymore, setting up conflict down the road.

Bad guys can become good guys through their choices. Good guys can become bad guys. But for me, the worst is when the good guys (and perhaps the person writing them) don’t realize when they’ve crossed that line.



Ice Cream Consumption Linked to Shark Attacks

March 28, 2011

When ice cream consumption rises in the summer, so does the number of shark attacks, a new study shows.

The researchers, whose findings are published in the March issue of Causation/Correlation, monitored ice cream consumption in the coastal town of  Port Bull over three years.

The scientists say their findings reveal a link between increased ice cream consumption and a greater prevalance of shark attacks. “Basically,” says Dr. John McQuaig, a researcher from the University of Wroxton, “people ate the most ice cream in the summer; sharks attacks peaked at the same time. Then, in winter, when people ate less, shark attacks decreased.”

“This sheds intriguing light on the effects of diet on humans’ appeal to carnivores, suggesting that saturated fat and dairy may be particularly attractive to sharks,” he added in a release.

Scoops and Sharks

In the study, researchers documented the number of ice cream cones eaten per capita, along with the number of shark attacks. According to their data, shark attacks were lowest in the winter, when the populace ate the least ice cream, and highest in summer, when they ate the most. Those who had eaten ice cream purchased from boardwalk or beachside stands were most likely to be linked to a shark attack. 

While not usually man-eaters, sharks require highly-caloric food to power their muscular bodies. As fat contains more calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates, it is believed that humans with higher levels of body-fat would be more attractive to sharks.

“Ice cream itself has a lot of fat,” says Dr. Anita Bath, another researcher from the University of  Wroxton.

“It’s possible that eating more ice cream leads to weight gain, which would increase your appeal to sharks. Similarly, sharks may be able to sense recently-eaten ice cream in the stomach.”

Sharks have a highly developed sense of smell and sensitive electrical receptors.

Ice cream means screams?

The overall number of shark attacks in Port Bull remained near the national average, but chances of being involved in a shark attack increased significantly if ice cream had been eaten within the last week, with beachside ice cream being the most deadly. Scientists say more research is needed to fully understand the issue.

“We’re not sure if the sharks are reacting to the presence of ice cream itself in the human body, or to the elevated body fat that comes from eating ice cream,” says McQuaig.

“In any case, it shows another way in which eating junk food can potentially shorten your lifespan.”