Monday, July 27, 2009

Dichloromethane-Man, Dichloromethane-Man, does what ever Dichloromethane can

I do complain about Concordia from time to time. But we've had good times and bad times. Among the good times, is a recent experience I had in the lab. I was working with a chemical called dichloromethane, a toxic organic compound that is highly volatile. The liquid was in a bottle with a strange pump fastenned to the top. When I figured out how it worked, I was so excited I didn't realize there was a rubber cap blocking the spout. I forced down the plunger and was splashed with dichloromethane.

I may have gotten a drop on my hand. DCM, is so volatile it evaporates in seconds. I kept my cool, and looked up the safety information online. It attacks the central nervous system. That just happens to be my favourite nervous system. The MSDS (safety info) says in case you get some on your skin, you should rinse for 10 minutes with soap and water. I did that, but still wondered about my precious entral nervous system. Would the freak lab accident enhance my central nervous system to super-hero esque levels, giving me psychic powers?? Or would my IQ dwindle to the level of slack-jawed yokel??

I began to rant and rave as I often do, when someone suggested I call Info-Sante, perhaps hoping I would fret to them for a while. Sadly, I forgot to dial "9" for outgoing calls and I ended up getting in touch with a frenetic woman who worked at some kind of Concordia Emergency line. I excused myself, telling her it wasn't my intention to call her. Nevertheless, she asked me what hapenned. I made the mistake of telling her.

Lady: "Dye... cloro... what???"
Me: "Oh, it's okay, I just followed the directions online and..."
Lady: "An agent will be up to see you in a moment."

An agent??? I told her it wasn't necessary but in less than 5 minutes one security guard was in the lab looking around for a chemical spill. I told him there was a small splash and whatever was spilled probably evaporated before even hitting any surface. Two more agents came, one with a first aid kit, asking for my name, my supervisors name and the name of the reagent that I spilled. They were looking around the lab desperately to find the chemical spill. You can tell that before arriving they were anticipating a glowing green puddle, with red steam rising from it. They were dissapointed and asked if there was any burning on the spot where I had spilled DCM on my hand. I said no.

This didn't stop the 3 burly security guards from escorting me to the Concordia clinic where we met up with the safety officer from the chemistry department who deals with hazardous spills. He promptly went online to retrieve the information about what I had spilled (which I had already done). Following all that excitement there was a detailed report to fill out and a series of jokes about me dying, having my hand amputated and losing all of my skin pigmentation like Michael Jackson.

Good times. I came back to the lab where I was laughed at, nevertheless, impressed by the efficiency of the security guards. Does anyone remember when they suspected someone might have a gun in the school. It didn't take more than 10 minutes for them to muster a swat team, helicopters and snipers (only to discover that the potential assailant was carrying kendo sticks). But, it's good to know how efficient the security here is. Thanks to the men and women and Concordia Secuirty. I make jibes about Concordia, but at least we're pretty safe. That being said, next time I spill a chemical on me, I think I'll just suck it up and rinse with water.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Most people who go to the Sushi chain of restaurants called Kanda will normally attest to one thing: Those people are just plain rude. It doesn't matter which one you go to. They'll argue with you about your order after bringing you the wrong things. God forbid you ask them for a glass of water to wash down their salty rolls. But most sickenning to me was the strange goodbye that one of the hostesses gave our group as we were leaving. It was said with as much contempt as she could muster, as if the very words would end our lives.

But bad service is pervasive in our society, whether you're taking the bus or asking someone in the twisted beauracracy of the University to reimburse you for money that you're entitled to. But it was to my horror that one night after eating at Kanda, they calculated our tip into the bill. That was the first time I had experienced that. Exactly how does that work? How is it that they suddenly decide that for any group larger than 10 people, they can suddenly add 15% to your bill and call it a "tip"?

What is a tip anyway? You go to a restaurant and there are waiters and waitresses who are already paid to bring you your food. Why are they entitled to more money, on top of their salary, as if we the patrons haven't already paid too much money for a meal? Where do they come off asking for more?

I sometimes imagine where this concept came from. I imagine some old, rich man, probably an ancient Egyptian pharoah, pleased by the uncharacteristically good service of a waiter, giving the man a few extra gold coins for a job well done. "Thank you good sir! This eating experience was exceptional! Here's a reward!" Or perhaps he was just trying to show off to a good looking waitress. "Why thank you madam! Might I add your buttocks are looking rather firm and perky today! Perhaps some money will make me seem somewhat more endearing to you!"

Whatever his motivations, this man has changed our world forever. Whereby a tip may have originally been a reward for exceptionally good service, it has now degenerated into a standard, whereby good service isn't even prerequisite. As long as you are a waiter, you are entitled to a tip. If you bring the wrong dish, spill stuff, if you're rude... You can still expect a tip. Every waiter, taxi driver, beggar lives in a world of, "I know I'm already getting paid for my work, but I WANT MORE!!"

Yeah, so do I. But I already know what will happen if I put a jar on my lab bench... Even if I take a marker and lazily write the word, "Tips" on it. Perhaps I could write, "Haven't eaten for days!" The result would be the same. An empty jar.

And restaurants where you actually have waiters are bad enough, but have you ever been to a restaurant where you just go to pick up your food that has a tip jar? Have you ever been to a depanneur that had a jar for tips on the counter?!? At that point it's akin to begging. I mean, what is a person asking for tips doing beyond what they're otherwise supposed to be doing? Similarly, a pan-handler is doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing. Essentially we live in a world where people expect that if they are adjacent to any kind of receptacle, be it a jar, a hat, a fanny pack, anyone crossing their path should feel compelled to put money into it. They don't even have to be doing anything extraordinary. They could be singing, playing the guitar, or just sitting there looking dirty and bedraggled.

I'll tell you one thing, the day I see a bus driver with a tip jar, is the day they'll send me to jail for assault or worse.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


If you've known me long enough you might be familiar with a particularly bad joke that I tell with some regularity. Someone will say, "I'll give you a call." Then I'll ask, "On the phone?" To which the other person, baffled will respond.. "Yes." Then I'll ask, "Telephone or Saxophone?"

I attempted this joke on MSN talking to Vrej. Unfortunately I wrote "SaxA instead of SaxOphone." Anyone who knows Vrej knows that for him correcting spelling errors and grammar is as good as any auto-erotic recreation available on the internet. "Saxo " appeared in my msn window within seconds. While he went to clean himself up I wondered to myself, "I wonder where the word Saxophone comes from?"

A quick internet search yielded an answer that sounds almost made up. In fact, the inventor of the Saxophone was one Adolphe Sax who patented the invention in 1846. He was the son of Charles Sax who invented the less popular, Saxhorn.

The point is, if someone had asked me where the word saxophone comes from, that is probably exactly the story I would have invented, except I would have used the name, Steve Sax and he would have been trying to invent an auto-erotic device that one could use in the public without being noticed. The various openings and keys had the unfortunate side-effect of producing a sound that we now recognize as the saxophone, a fact discovered by his late mother Sandrine Sax, who walked in on him while he tested his new invention and died of a heart-attack. Though not inconspicuous enough to be used for its original purpose, the sexhorn produced a beautiful melody and the sound was soon pervasive in American music culture.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Foul Mouth (parental discretion is advised)

The other day in the elevator, I found a colleague holding a bunch of containers filled with food. They teetered precariously and I couldn't help but make the most obvious of mock aggressive gestures and pretend to knock them over. He asked pitifully, "Why would you do that??" I responded by saying, "Why? Why??? Because f**k that!!!! that's why!!!" Then I giggled my motha f**kin' ass off!! The man waved awkwardly and left.

Call it stress, call it insanity, but these days I can't help but give into what I will call, playful displays of aggression. This usually manifests itself as a playful punch... sometimes a playful kick... But most often, it manifests itself in a litany of carefully chosen swear words, not unlike the disgraceful display illustrated above.

When I was young, I didn't used to utter a single swear word, and would rarely even say the Lord's name in vain. As I grew older, I began to use gateway swear words like, "eff" or "damn." This soon evovled into an all out cussing streak, whereby I go out of my way to fit swearwords into my speech. Why? I find it funny for some reason. I first realized I had a problem when I let out a particularly foul curse word while a little girl ran by.

Swearing is a pretty filthy habit. It makes me sound like a real cretin. Why, oh why do I enjoy it so much? I want to blame rap music, movies... Certain friends... I've tried to stop. I even have a swear jar at home. But that doesn't really work. I don't really enforce it. Where's the motivation? Putting money in a jar doesn't seem like a penalty. It's my house.. my jar... So what am I losing?

In short, what I'm saying is, I can't stop. There is no cure for what I have. Even if I curb it for a month or so, I'll hear some charming use of the eff word and then I'll be back to my bad habit. I am at all times 1 rap song, 1 R rated movie, 1 vulgar friend away from regressing to the degenerate language of the street. My most recent return to swearing was after taking a particularly inane facebook quiz. What vicious animal are you? My result was, "Jesus f**king Christ you're a f**king bear!" Man, I laughed and laughed. Then I pondered how incredibly blasphemous it is when people incorporate the eff word into Jesus' name. Then I wondered to myself why people say, "Jesus H. Christ!!" What does the H stand for? Herbert? Harry? Hug?

Anyway, here are some videos of some people swearing that I enjoy.

1) I Hate Huckabees

2) Arty Lange Sings

3) Bad Santa

4) A long skit with Black Guys swearing about chicken