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Archive for May, 2007

Today, on my drive home from work, I nearly witnessed an accident.  Had it been rush hour, I think there could have been one.

I was parked at a red light with two cars in front of me.  The left turn was onto a bridge (two lanes in each direction).  The red light had no turn light so the cars waiting to turn left, which included myself, would have to wait until opposing direction cars passed by.

Well, the light turned green and the driver in the front waiting to turn left made her turn in front of the drivers going in the opposite direction who were going straight.  Was there some honking?  Oh, you better believe it.  But the story doesn’t end there.  This driver who cut off the drivers in the opposite direction must have gotten freaked out because they drove into the wrong lane (ie, going into traffic) of the bridge!  They pulled forward but rather than backing up or pulling a U-turn, they continued driving forward against traffic, into oncoming cars.

I was thinking “Oh, man, this isn’t good.”  Not only did the driver continue to not back up or pull around, they decided to continue to drive all the way down the bridge into traffic.  At one point a large delivery truck honked at the motorist and had to swerve out of the way.  Other cars honked their horns as well as if to say “WTF?”  Note that there was a concrete barrier separating the right way from the wrong way.  I followed the car from the other direction watching to make sure that if there was an accident, I could stop by and help.

Finally, at the other end of the bridge, the driver turned off the bridge and went the right way.  But seriously, had this been rush hour it could have ended much, much worse.

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Got my busking pass

I had a busking audition today.  We were given 5 minutes to perform for the crowd and if they liked us we were given a pass.

I did pass the test and got my pass but I wasn’t too happy with my performance.  I was performing one of my better effects but at the end I messed it up.  I was revealing a card in the deck where it was supposed to be reversed amongst all of the others but it was the wrong way.  I tried to switch it around but I ended up springing it out of the deck and it fell to the ground.  <sigh>  Up until that point the trick was going great.  That sort of thing never happens but whatever; I’ll make it up in the next performance.

I followed it up with a Cut-and-Restored rope effect and that went off very nicely so overall I was happy.

But the problem is that about 15 minutes before I performed, another magician went up.  I did not like his performance at all.  For one thing, he didn’t dress like a magician, he looked like another spectator (unlike myself who wore a nice shirt and a round bowler hat).  For another thing, he got up on stage and said "I need some volunteers so whoever wants to come up just do that," and he proceeded to set up.  I couldn’t believe that was done so flippantly.  Audience members should be chosen not non-chalantly like "Yeah, whoever wants to come up, come up."

He then did some card tricks but he had his back turned to 2/3 of the audience so barely anyone could see.  He did a couple of tricks and then did a final one, the same one I performed 15 minutes later but he performed it terribly.  I sighed because the trick absolutely deserves a great presentation (I thought I could redeem it by performing it better and I did until the final climax).

As a magician, it bothers me when other magicians perform badly and this was a bad performance.  It makes magic look bad in general and makes people think that magicans are unskilled and talentless (which is untrue).  If you’re going to perform the art, give it the attention it requires.

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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to compete in a Quiz Night.  The year before, I competed with the same team in another Quiz Night.  In both competitions, my team came in second, losing by one point in both years.

Today, I had the chance to compete in a third Quiz Night.  If you don’t know what that is, you get a team together to take part in a trivia contest.  There are 8 different categories (or so), and 10 questions per category.  There is one 5-point bonus question per category for a maximum of 15 points per category.  I started forming my team this past week and hand-picked my people.  I selected them for their skills in music, the arts, and general trivia.  I decided to pick the name of my team as one with an ironic twist – The Runner Ups.  Grammatically, The Runners Up would be correct but I decided to be different.

This time was indeed going to be different, but after the first round my team was in a hole: we were down by 4 points.  We slowly dug our way out and by the fifth round we were in first.  We held onto our lead throughout the end of the regular rounds and were up by 5 points.

Then came the final super bonus question.  The bonus question consisted of three clues.  If you got the question right after the first clue, you got 20 points.  If you got it after the second round, you got 10 points, and if you got it after the third round, you got 2 points (only one guess is permitted).  Well, we couldn’t figure it out after the first two guesses and we got it on the third guess.  Unfortunately, another team got it on the second guess, capturing the 10-point reward and beating our team by 2 points.

Not so ironically, The Runner Ups once again came in second.

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An idea for 2008

For a while now I’ve been trying to think of where I would like to go on my next big trip.  It’s now the end of May in 2007 and I haven’t got anything planned over than a trip to central America in late December/early January for a week, a trip to California in early August for a conference for work, and trip in June to Minneapolis for a magician’s convention.

A friend of mine gave me the idea for a trans-Chinese-Mongolian-Russian trip.  This would be a train ride that originates in China, crosses over part of Mongolia and heads into Russia.  There is an option to span the entire Russian continent and end up in London.  For me, personally, that is a little long.  It’d be cool but I’d be spending tons of time on a train.  With no internet access I’d go crazy.  So, the alternative is to take a shorter trip and see some of the interesting sights in a place I’d never been to before, and those three countries qualify.

On the website, in the FAQ question, it asks "When should I go?"  They say that summer is more expensive but going in winter should not be a problem because the trains are heated.  Yeah, I’ll bet.  I don’t know about all of you, but I think that the possibililty of a Russian train breaking down in winter in the middle of no where doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.  In fact, given my opinion of Soviet-era technology (ie, it sucks), I think I’ll pass on a winter trip and stick to something in the summer.

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I recently signed up for Facebook a couple of weeks ago and I have learned a number of interesting things.

In the company where I work, in July 2004, 12 of us joined the company.  Of those 12, 8 of us are still there.  Of the original 8, I am one of the oldest guys of the bunch, and I was only 25 when I joined!  I found all of this out when I found a bunch of my co-workers on Facebook and started adding them.  Actually, not only am I one of the older ones when the company started, amongst my current group of co-workers I am one of the older ones. 

I determined all this because Facebook has people’s dates of birth (if they choose to reveal them).  In fact, one guy was only 21 when he joined.  I thought I was quite young to be in that company.  Turns out I was wrong about that.  Now let us never speak of it again.

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For the third year in a row (excluding the lockout season) the NHL playoffs are returning to Canada.  First it was the Calgary Flames, who took Tampa Bay to seven games, then it was the Edmonton Oilers who took the Carolina Hurricanes to seven games.  Now, we get the Ottawa Senators.

The last time a Canadian-based team won the Stanley Cup was in 1993 when the Montreal Canadiens defeated the Los Angeles Kings in 5 games.  The Vancouver Canucks lost to the New York Rangers in seven games the following year.  Then we had a long Canada-drought until Calgary made the finals.

The main difference in this year’s finals (we don’t know yet who Ottawa is playing) as opposed to the previous two is that Ottawa’s team finished much higher in the standings than either Edmonton or Calgary.  Both of those two teams finished 8th place in their conferences.  Ottawa finished 4th and they have defeated each of their opposing squads by 4-1 margins.  I have watched some of the playoff games and I have been suitably impressed; the team looks good.

So, will the Stanley Cup return to Canada?  I really can’t say but I think Ottawa represents a really good chance.  Go Senators, that’s what I say.

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A couple of weeks ago I predicted that based on a technical pattern that I saw in the Cdn-US dollar chart, the Cdn dollar had topped out.  Well, it turns out I was right… for five days.

The Canadian dollar has since long surged past its previous high and is now trading at 92.01 cents US.  It may very well head to par!  I don’t actually mind buying stuff in US funds anymore, it’s almost the same as paying for it in Cdn funds.  In fact, because the United States doesn’t have a federal sales tax it is nearly the same price.  Washington state has an 8.8% sales tax (which is ridiculous) but Manitoba has a combined 13% sales tax.  This means for a piece of merchandise that costs $10 US, in Washington state I pay $10.88 US = $11.82 Cdn.  In Manitoba, I would pay $11.30 US = $12.28 Cdn.  This is a difference of 46 cents, nearly on par.

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