Weather Or Not

I woke up on Thursday morning, looked out my window, and was immediately outraged. “Nobody said it was going to snow!” I yelled. “Where the hell did all the snow come from?!” And my overreaction reminded me, yet again, that weather is arbitrary and weird and, despite the best efforts of every weather person out there, you never know what’s going to happen. For example:

A few years ago, Kate and I were driving back from town and the sky was really dark. Sure enough, the heavens opened up, and the resulting downpour turned roads in rivers, and parking lots into lakes. Literally. People had their basements flooded, and cars were floating in the streets. It didn’t last long, and the flooding was mostly due to backed-up storm drains, but on the news that night, the weather reporters were thrilled, having earlier predicted that a very large storm system might wreak havoc in our part of Ontario. Why “thrilled”, you ask? Because the week before, tornadoes had touched down in cities south of here and there had been NO WARNING from the weather people (we call them “Environment Canada”). In fact, the outcry was ridiculous, with people calling for an investigation into the most “egregious failure” of the year.

The weather people defended themselves by claiming that 90% of our weather comes from over the border, and that Michigan hadn’t alerted us to any impending storm systems, that it had just “popped up out of nowhere”. Sure, blame the Americans. But frankly, the whole thing is silly, and is yet more proof that we’ve become irrationally obsessed with weather. The mere fact that there is an entire segment devoted to the weather on every single news show is evidence of that. And the first part of the segment is invariably reporting on what the weather was like THAT DAY. I don’t need to know what the weather was ALREADY like—I WAS THERE. Then we move to “the current forecast”, which I ALSO know, because I’m looking out MY WINDOW. Finally, we get to “tomorrow” and the long-range forecast. But for all the technology, the radar, the system trackers, the low and high front graphics on the weather screen, being a weather person in Canada is a relatively simple task and these people are way overpaid, because, let’s face it—there’s not a lot of variation in the weather here:

News Anchor: So Bob, what’s the situation with the weather?
Weather Guy: Well, today it was f*cking cold. Tomorrow, it will also be f*cking cold.
News Anchor: You’re sure right there! What about the long range forecast?
Weather Guy: In a couple of months, it will be f*cking hot, with an increased chance of it getting even more f*cking hot.
News Anchor: Do your magic-y weather skills predict anything else for the near future, Bob?
Weather Guy: The only other thing on the horizon is periods of “when the hell is it going to rain?” interspersed with “when is this goddamned rain going to stop?” That’s about it, Nancy.
News Anchor: Thanks for those insights, Bob. We’ll get back to you later for a recap.

I honestly think we expect too much from weather reporters. Blaming them for sudden weather events is like blaming the sportscaster when your favourite team unexpectedly loses. You’d never do that—it would be irrational to call the Toronto Maple Leafs losing yet another Stanley Cup the most egregious failure of TSN Sportsdesk ever. Yet weather reporters get blamed for all kinds of things. For instance, you’re having an outdoor birthday party and it clouds over then starts raining. Suddenly it’s open season on the weather reporter, with people running around trying to get the cake inside before it gets ruined, and yelling, “Was this predicted?! I don’t remember Bob saying anything about rain! Now the f*cking piñata is all mushy! What the hell is this world coming to when you can’t even count on Bob for a good party?!!”

But you CAN’T count on the weather report. Weather reports are just filler in a broadcast, the same way that talking about the weather is just filler in a conversation. Consider how many times in your life you’ve had random and inconsequential conversations about the weather because you felt like you had to talk about SOMETHING or be seen as anti-social? This happens to me all the time in the elevator at work, when someone I barely know gets on. After “Hello”, what the hell else is there to say, except “Can you believe the weather?” And the other person will say, “Oh, I know. It’s just terrible/gorgeous out there.” The weather is safe and quick and makes us all feel that we’re capable of normal human interaction.

Again, though, I don’t think we need an entire network devoted to the continual reporting of the weather. An entire network, you say? Yes, because not only is every single news broadcast littered with weather clickbait (“Coming up next: Sharon will have some exciting information on the current state of the weather. Find out here first!”), we also have The Weather Network, where you can satisfy your need to know about the state of the environmental nation 24 hours a day. Local forecasts, regional forecasts, national forecasts—hell, you can even find out what it’s going to be like in Madrid tomorrow using an app on your phone (for the record—14 degrees and mostly sunny). My favourite, though, has got to be when, for want of anything else to talk about, there’s a “50 years ago today” segment, where the weather from the 70s is compared to the forecast today, and the reporter is like, “Can you believe it? The high on January 15, 1970 was 3 degrees lower than it is today. What a world we live in!”

A hundred years ago, there were no weather reporters. There was just your crazy old aunt, who claimed her gouty toe could predict when a storm was a-coming, or the one guy in every town who hung out at the General Store chewing on a hay stalk and muttering ominously, “Pine trees are puttin’ out cones early. Gonna be a hard winter.” And they were about as accurate as weather reporters today, who, despite all the bells and whistles, still can’t always predict when a tornado will develop. I like the guy they interviewed after that tornado who said that he hadn’t heard about it, but he looked out his window, saw it coming from across the field, and got his family into the basement. Then he went back upstairs and recorded the tornado with his cell phone. He predicted a tornado almost hitting his house better than Environment Canada did—The Weather Network should hire HIM.

My Week 210: Swimming in the Hockey Pool

Yesterday, one of my colleagues said, “I’ll be back in a bit. I have to go to the hockey pool meeting.” And I was like, “There’s a hockey pool? Why didn’t I know about this?”

She said, “Were you in it last year? Because I think the invitation only went out to people who did it last year, but you can come with me if you want. I’m sure it will be fine.”

And that was all well and good, but I hate to go places where I’m not invited. I also hate to go places where I AM invited, if you’ll remember my anxiety last week over meeting Gary Numan. But I had conquered my fear last week, so maybe I was on a roll. After a little hemming and hawing, at which point she said, “Ok, see you later,” I yelled, “Wait up!” and went with her, the words ‘I’m sure it will be fine’ ringing ominously in my ears.

Sure enough, there was a reason for the ominous-osity. I walked in the room and said cheerfully, “Hey, does anyone mind if I join the hockey pool?” I was met with glares and complete silence. My poor colleague sat down at the far end of the table while I waited. Finally, the organizer sighed and said, “It shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll just create another team. It’ll mean less players available for everyone, but that’s…OK.”

Let me just state for the record right now that I don’t even like hockey particularly, nor do I follow any team. I had no idea what a ‘hockey pool’ even was—I thought we would just pick a team to win the Stanley Cup and in about ten years from now when this year’s hockey season is finally over, the person who picked the winning team would get kudos or whatnot. But I realized that things were quite a bit more complicated when I looked around the room and realized that everyone else had roster sheets, statistical analyses, and printouts of players listed by position. I had nothing but a vague sense that I was doing this wrong. In fact, I had to leave within the first couple of minutes to get my cellphone, because I had to set myself up in an app that would track my team, which was a “fantasy team” made up of any players I wanted. I have no idea what was said in my absence, but when I came back, it was pretty obvious that there was a certain level of impatience in the room as I tried to log on and get this sh*t done as fast as possible so that the DRAFT could start. Yes, draft. All 12 ROUNDS of it. 

We had to pick a number out of a hat, and I got 15. There were 16 people, so that meant I got to pick almost last, which sounds sh*tty, but I was relieved because it gave me some time to think about hockey and any players that I knew the names of. There were 2: PK Subban and John Tavares. They were both picked before it was my turn. When it came to me, I looked at the player list projected on the board and yelled out a random name. Everyone murmured in approval, so I was feeling a little more confident, but because I was second-last and the next round started from the bottom, I had to pick again almost right away.

With all eyes on me, I picked another random name, and the guy across from me said, rather snarkily, “You can’t pick HIM. You already have a goalie” to which I replied “Oh, is that what the G after his name meant?” and everyone rolled their eyes. The man next to me shoved a roster over and said, “Here. Pick from the D list” and I was about to say, “Oh come on—I’m sure SOME of them are very nice men” when I realized that D must stand for Defence and not what I initially thought it meant. So I picked another name, and there was a visible sense of relaxation around the table as it became apparent that I was no threat to anyone who, for the twenty dollar buy-in, was trying to build a serious, winning team.

We got through 6 rounds before someone came to the door demanding the use of the room for a webinar. So far, here are the players I picked and why:

1) Frederick Anderson: I like his last name. It reminds me of The Matrix, and hopefully he has some special powers like Neo. But he’s a goalie so I hope he doesn’t do that bend-y thing to dodge the puck. If he lets in a goal, I’m going to say, “Mr. Anderson…you disappoint me.” Also, he plays for Toronto, and that’s where I live sometimes.

2) Tyler Seguin: There’s a character in my new novel named Seguin. Maybe it’s an omen. A GOOD omen, not like those Damian movies. He’s also Canadian. I just looked him up and he won the Stanley Cup in his rookie year, so maybe I’m good at this after all.

3) Morgan Rielly: I’ve always liked the name Morgan, and I like that he spells Rielly in an eccentric way. He also plays for Toronto, and I’m trying to build a Maple Leafs roster as best I can, because THIS IS THEIR YEAR. We say that about the Leafs every year, but now I’m on board with that.

4) William Nylander: Also a Maple Leaf. His name rhymes with Highlander. That was a great movie, and it would be f*cking fantastic if hockey was a competition where the teams fought with swords. I think the tagline for the movie was “There can be only one” and that’s just like winning the Stanley Cup.

5) Matthew Tkachuk: Early in my teaching career, in the year 1997, I had a student named Mike Tkachuk. I sent him to the office once for continually yelling out in class “This sucks!” He was talking about some music we were listening to—he wasn’t particularly inclined towards anything other than metal and spent a lot of time stoned (these are two separate facts about him—I’m not implying that people who like metal smoke a lot of marijuana). The principal made him write a list of 25 better ways to say “This sucks”. To his credit, he did it, and handed it to me at the end of the day. I laughed my ass off—number 10 was “Snow is better than this music”, number 15 was “This music is worse than vegetables”, and number 25 was “This isn’t music to my ears.” He was actually a pretty clever kid when he tried. He was so pleased that I found it funny that he never gave me a hard time again. I still have the list after 21 years. I hope Matthew Tkachuk is just like that. And he plays for Calgary, so at least he’s on a Canadian team.

And he carefully numbered it.

6) Mark Giordano: He was a panic pick. I had just realized that PK Subban’s brother Jordan plays for the Leafs so I was all set to pick him, but then everyone yelled at me that he was a rookie and probably would be playing in something called the AHL (?). My next pick was a guy who was 6 foot 5 because THAT’S TALL!!, but he was in some kind of contract negotiation, so I went with Giordano, who is the CAPTAIN of the Calgary Flames, so ha ha, hockey pool people.

Apparently, we have to do the last 6 rounds on Monday, but I’m getting pretty good at this. One of my favourite movies is Alien Vs. Predator, and not only is there a hockey team called the Predators, there’s a player on that team who looks just like the guy who works at the liquor store that I go to…

Thanks, Lord Stanley, for this awesome cup.

My Week 135: Leo Causes a Rift in the Universe, the Maple Leafs Save the Galaxy, and Other Musings

Things that make me go Hmm….

Last week was a long week, what with me getting up at 5:00 am and battling traffic to get into the GTA every day, working until 5, and then battling traffic to get back home again. I thought to myself, “If I had to do this every day for the rest of my career, I would gouge out my own eyes. And go on disability because of the blindness.” That might sound dramatic, (like when I said the other day that I didn’t want to go to lunch in the rain because “I don’t dry well”), because if worse came to worst, I could just quit, but that’s how much I absolutely f*cking hate driving on the 401, which gets more and more absurd every year, with traffic slowing down randomly and creeping along simply because of “volume”, which is radio-traffic-report lingo for TOO MANY GOD-DAMN CARS ON THE ROAD. And believe me, I would take public transit, if there was any available to my off-site work location. I would ride a BURRO ON A DIRT ROAD to my work location if that was possible (and if it got me there by 7:30, but burros are notoriously tardy, so…)

At any rate, I had a LOT of time in the car to ponder the state of the increasingly bizarre world. And it IS bizarre. And becoming more so every day. Why is that, you ask? Well, let me tell you exactly why, based on a theory developed by me and my work partner L one day early last year (I can’t remember who exactly said which bit, but this was an approximation of the conversation we had one gloomy day after Donald Trump was gaining traction in the polls:

Me: The world is going crazy. It’s like living in “backwards land”.
L: I blame Leo.
Me: Leonardo DiCaprio? Why?
L: When he finally won the Oscar for Best Actor, it ripped a hole in the universe.
Me: You mean like, an anomaly that destroyed the fabric of time and space?
L: Yup. It opened a portal into another dimension.
Me: Which will allow Trump to win, because that’s what has happened in a parallel universe?
L: Exactly.
Me: But “The Revenant” WAS pretty good.
L: Not THAT good.

And while we both have maybe watched a little too much Dr. Who, the theory makes sense. After Leo got his Oscar, celebrities started dying, Brexit happened, and Trump became the President-elect. And that’s just a drop in the bizarro bucket. I googled “the strangest things that happened in 2016” and got like over a thousand hits. When I did the same for 2015, I got 5 hits, and then “Weird and Wonderful Things that Happened at the Zoo”.

So yeah, 2016 was an anomaly, and although, right now, 2017 is like “Hold my beer”, because it’s just as f-ed up frankly, I think we’ll be seeing a course correction soon. Right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the play-offs. The last time this happened was 2004, the year that the Mayans predicted the world would end. And it didn’t, because the Leafs made the play-offs and closed another time/space rift that occurred in 2003 after Roman Polanski won an Oscar for best director, subsequently allowing George W. Bush to win a second term (and apparently Meryl Streep gave Polanski a standing ovation—this is true because I checked with And now I think Meryl Streep also has something to do with all of this, like she’s an interstellar, cross-universe traveller whose only job is to stir sh*t up like she did in 2003, and again at the 2017 Academy Awards where she slammed Donald Trump and started a war with North Korea. OK, that hasn’t happened YET, but who knows if it’s all part of her insidious plan?). Long story short, I am convinced that world events are simply the machinations of the dastardly Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences trying to mess with the space/time continuum. Luckily, we have the plucky heroes of Canada’s favourite hockey franchise, there to win the hearts and souls of the galaxy. They might never attain the Stanley Cup, but what’s that in the face of saving the universe?

Other Weird Things:

The Carlton Cinema audiences don’t understand drama:

The Carlton Cinema is very close to where I live in the city, but I have to stop going there, because the audiences are f*cking me up and making me think I don’t understand movies. A couple of years ago, my brother and I went to see a film there, purportedly a drama, but the audience kept laughing so hysterically that I got all stressed out. I asked my brother, who has a PhD, what was so funny, and he said, “I don’t know.” Then a while ago, within the same two week period, I saw both “Split” (M. Night Shyamalan’s film about a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder who kidnaps three girls), and “Get Out” (a psychological thriller by Jordan Peele). In both cases, the audience members at the Carlton laughed their asses off at every single scene, and I was soooo confused. Until last night, when I re-watched “Split” with Ken, K, and her girlfriend, and NO ONE LAUGHED, stupid Carlton Audience. You need to grow up.

When Doors Don’t Open:

Yesterday, Ken and I went out for Round Two of stool shopping (when I was finished writing this post, I asked Ken to read it and tell me if I needed to add anything, at which point he said, “A ‘stool’ joke. You really missed an opportunity for humour there.” OK, honey). At the third store, we approached the doors and they didn’t open. I stood there, completely befuddled and disoriented, until Ken said, “You need to pull the handle. Welcome back to the 1900s.” It was like the time the battery on my car fob died and I had no idea how to get into the car, until Ken reminded me that the key would still open the lock on the door. His timing was impeccable, because I was seriously considering just smashing the window in so that I wouldn’t be late to work.

As a side note, we didn’t find any stools AGAIN, which prompted me to say very loudly and angrily, “F*ck stool shopping. I have some fabric and a staple gun. Let’s just fix the ones we have.” Which we did, and I didn’t even need the fabric because once Ken repaired the broken seats, I got out-voted by everyone who thought the leather still looked really good. Even though I was like, “What do you want, this old leather, or this REALLY beautiful fabric?” and then I was accused of “being manipulative” and “trying to sway popular opinion with my adjectives.”

My Bluetooth Speaks Better Italian than Me:

The other day I needed to call a co-worker to tell her I was running late because of highway “volume”. I tried using her first name twice, but the Bluetooth Lady in my rental car just kept saying, “Do you mean ‘Margaret’? Do you mean ‘Marion”? (those are my aunts), and I was like NO!!! So I said my co-worker’s full name, but because her last name is Italian and the Bluetooth Lady was already struggling, I said it phonetically. And then the Bluetooth Lady said, “Do you mean _____?” and pronounced her last name with a perfect Italian accent, like she was schooling me or whatnot. And I was like “if you can figure this out, why did you have so much damn trouble with a perfectly easy to understand FIRST NAME and then claim you couldn’t understand my commands?!” She would fit right into the Carlton Cinema crowd.

Insects as Art and Neil Hedley:

This morning, Ken and I were watching the news (on CBC, because I no longer watch CTV since I got into a Twitter feud with a dude named Neil Hedley, who’s an announcer with some radio station called Zoom-a Radio, which I have never even heard of nor listened to, like most people, I imagine. The fact that CTV chooses someone like him with zero political knowledge and the thinnest skin possible makes me dismiss them as a serious news source. My Twitter feud with him started when Trump tried his initial Muslim ban. The news anchor asked Neil why he thought that Trump had only targeted 6 countries, to which Neil replied, “Maybe he knows something we don’t know. He’s the one who gets intelligence briefings.” So I tweeted to him that perhaps he had fanned the flames of racism by implying that the six countries were guilty of something more than NOT having oil or Trump Towers, and he just went off on me like the baby he apparently is. And he never did clarify what he meant, although he claimed I “missed his point”. Of course, the very next week, he made fun of Eastern Canadians by mocking them with a stereotyped accent but I left it alone on the grounds that he really is too stupid to bother with. People like that will never be self-reflective, only defensive. Kind of like what’s happening all around the world right now.) Anyway, Ken and I were watching CBC, and there was a story about a woman who has a new exhibit in an art gallery. Her “art” is pinning insects to the walls of said gallery in different patterns. Real insects. Dead insects. That she buys on Ebay. The art gallery owner was ecstatic and claimed that her exhibition was “perfect for Canada’s 150th birthday”. I said to Ken, “If I went to a graveyard and dug up a bunch of corpses, and laid them out in a Fibonacci sequence on the floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario, I could be famous too.” The Canadian Mint also put out a special $3 coin to celebrate our 150th. Not a coin worth $1.50, which might make SOME kind of sense, but no, three bucks. Except it costs $19.95 to buy one.  But if you think insects and nonsensical monetary denominations are yet another indicator of a world gone mad, just remember that the Toronto Maple Leafs are the REAL Guardians of the Galaxy, and one day they will save us all. Go Leafs Go.