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Cake vs. Pie


It is the eternal question. Humanity has been debating it for as long as there has been dessert. But before we can even attempt to address this most important of quandaries, the bias must be addressed.

Cake holds a place in our hearts. Cake is the go-to dessert for special occasions.  Birthday? Cake. Going-away party? Cake. Wedding? Cake. It is cake by default. I’ve never heard of a birthday pie. And I hardly think the loving couple would be very accepting of a wedding pie.

Does all of this suggest that cake is superior to pie? I think not. Pie is vastly superior to cake.

Let’s start with the filling. Pie is filled with fruit, jam, and any number of other flavourful substances. Cake, on the other hand, is filled with sponge. And what is sponge exactly? It’s mostly air and is entirely flavourless.

But cake has icing, there’s no icing on pie. Crust. Crust beats the sponge out of icing. Icing is just sugar. It’s sweet but that’s about it. Pie crust is crunchy, crumbly, and tasty. It’s a wonderful complement to the sweet syrupy filling inside.

Cake and ice cream; nothing beats that. Sure, you can have room temperature cake with ice cream. Or, you can have piping hot pie with ice cream. The heat of the pie slowly melting the ice cream, creating a deliciously sweet concoction. The mix of textures and temperatures, soft and crunchy, hot and cold, is heavenly.

Have your cake and eat it too. Just don’t save me a piece. I’m a pie guy.

Categories: Life

Manual vs Automatic

My last post was about control and how a manual transmission gives one a little more. And really, what is says about the driver. But let’s get deeper into it for a moment. Does a manual allow for more control?

I drive a manual. Always have always will. I control the car, the car doesn’t control me.

In newspapers, magazines and online, people babble about automatic being a safer choice of vehicle.  I read things like, “When you drive an automatic, you can always keep both hands on the steering wheel. You’re not distracted by the need to change gears.” Distracted by the need to change gears?

This rationale sounds a lot like the difference in writing with and without spell-check. What if I use the same logic to rationalize using spell-check. “Using spell-check allows the writer to concentrate more on writing and not get distracted with spelling.” Isn’t spelling part of writing? Does it work? Have you seen the way people write these days? English is being butchered on a daily basis. They aren’t as attached and involved with their writing. They have to think less about it, and therefore, they think less about it.

As a manual driver, you have to think about driving. More of your mind is focused on a single task. There’s less brain power available to think about what to eat for dinner tonight, or when to finish that proposal you’ve been putting off. You are actually less likely to be distracted.

Categories: Life

Are We Losing Control?

September 27, 2012 1 comment

Are we giving up control of our lives? Are we too busy to worry about things?

Pulled into the parking lot this morning right next to the same car in the same colour. Just as I was getting out, the owner of my doppelganger car came back to his. We ended up chatting for several minutes about our choice in vehicle. Turns out we both drive a stick. And we both lamented the fact that very few others still do.

I have always driven a stick. My parents have always driven a stick. They’ve never even owned an automatic. When I turned 16 and I wanted to borrow my parents’ cars, they told me I had to learn to drive stick. Boy am I glad I did. So when I went to  buy my car there was no question in my mind, it was going to be a stick.

It’s a control issue for me. I’m not a tuner. I don’t hang out at car clubs and talk about which exhaust system is the best for me or how to boost the horsepower in my car. To tell you the truth, I don’t know too much about my car, except how to drive it. And when I do drive it, I have more control over it than the guy in the next lane in his automatic.

But this got me thinking: Are we  so busy that we’re willing to give up control of things? It used to be that work ended when you left the office. That hasn’t been the case for a while now. We go home and spend the night on our smartphones checking our email, so we can’t control when we work.  The economy is in the toilet so we can’t control where we work. Even the NHL has gone so we can’t control what sports we watch!

In our society today with such a lack of control over our everyday lives, why not choose to have control? I choose to control one of the few things I still can control. Driving a stick says as much about the person as it does about the car. I don’t want outside forces to control everything I do.  In my car, I have control. Outside my car, well, that’s another question.

Categories: Life

The Bastardization Continues…

Media is the biggest culprit when it comes to corrupting the English language. Back when I was in school, it was the TV personalities and reporters who started saying ‘persons’ instead of ‘people’.

‘Functionality’ began with computer geeks who never bothered to check a dictionary and started using it online.

Now TV is back to throw English right down the toilet. If you ever watch crime scene investigation type shows, and there are so many now, you’ll have heard this before. When looking at a person who’s been shot, they often discuss the ‘directionality’ of the bullet.  Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?  Let me put it a different way. Does this sound correct to you? What directionality should I drive to get to the U.S. border? What directionality is the wind blowing today? DIRECTION! The correct word is direction. There is no directionality, just like there is no functionality.

The newest trend in the destruction of the English language is using adjectives and adverbs as nouns. There is a Foodland Ontario TV commercial that is currently airing which uses ‘good’ as a noun. And no, it’s not ‘good’ as in ‘goods and services’. The young lady who narrates the commercial says things like “buy the good”, “share the good” and “cook the good”. Good lord!

A second one I’ve seen now is a Reebok/Sportchek commercial, where the narrator talks about “your better”. My better what? I keep waiting for the narrator to finish his sentence. How about my better speaking ability? My English is clearly better than yours? Maybe you better buy a dictionary?

That’s good enough for now. And no, I don’t feel any better.

Realistic Medal Expectations

In the 2006 winter Olympics Cindy Klassen won 6 medals. We, in Canada, were rightfully quite proud of her. But I remember an athlete from another country questioning why we were so proud of her for winning 6 medals, but only 1 gold.

This got me thinking about our current Olympic performance. I am proud we have as many medals as we do at this point. We’re not really a summer Olympic country. Our specialty is the winter Olympics. I’m just happy we have medals, of any colour. But what should we realistically be expecting?

We’re a small country. The population of Canada is just slightly less than the greater Tokyo area! I think we do pretty well considering our tiny population base. In fact I would say we are overachieving.

So I decided to do a little research and break it down to the numbers. Based on our population and nominal GDP, what should our medal expectations be?


Population (mil.)


(tril.) *

Medal Count as of August 1st





















South Korea












Great Britain




















North Korea








*GDP based on CIA statistics



If we look strictly at the numbers, we are definitely overachieving. Looking at it another way, the top countries are underachieving. Comparing us to our big brother to the south, as we love to do, we should have about one tenth of their medals based on population or GDP. Taking this one step further, China should have about 39 times as many medals as Canada, based on population. The numbers are here for you to decide for yourself. Are we doing well?

Categories: Sports

The Bastardization of the English Language

I thought the English language was dead when someone decided they didn’t like the word people. Somehow it wasn’t good enough. So they started saying persons. It is to the point now where most legal and official documents use persons instead of people. That must be it. That is the end of the English language as we know it. As a former English teacher and current English nerd I was saddened by this development. What’s next, childs? There have to be others out there in the English-speaking world who agree this is a travesty of monumental proportions. But, apparently not. No one cares.

Well one little word doesn’t mean the whole language is on its way down a deep, dark, bottomless pit. If only that were the end of it. But there are, unfortunately, other reasons. For me the unholy trifecta consists of: administrate, orientate and commentate. What happened to administer, orient and comment? What does a commentator do? He comments. That’s right, comment is also a verb. This one is my personal favourite because you hear it on TV all the time. Commentators, political, sports or otherwise, are beamed into our living rooms and on our smart phones. They are authority figures, of one kind or another. And we take them at their word when they speak. Unfortunately no one has ever taught them how to speak English. They are not authority figures on the English language. Do not take them to be so.

Don’t even get me started on its vs. it’s, your vs. you’re, and any number of other mistakes a large portion of the population make on a daily basis.

And then of course there is the worst of the worst: functionality. This word didn’t exist before about ten years ago. How did English-speaking society survive without this word? How did we describe the ability of a device? Very easily actually. We used the preexisting word: function. Yes, function is also a noun. A device has function. We can increase the function of something.

I have another question for you: Is something ‘free’ or ‘for free’? It’s free. Free is an adjective, not a noun.  Don’t believe me, look it up in a dictionary. Oh, wait, that doesn’t work anymore.

It used to be that simple. If someone was mistaken and didn’t believe you when you corrected their English you could tell them to check the dictionary. Not anymore. The dictionary people have bowed to popular opinion and belief and now on a yearly basis infest the dictionary with made up and redundant words. Don’t believe me, look it up. Persons, functionality and a whole host of other ridiculous mutations of English words are now in the dictionary. I have in the past instructed my students not to use words such as functionality because it makes you sound less intelligent to anyone who actually understands the language. And I don’t mean to anyone whose first language is English because they don’t necessarily understand their own language.

Just because English is your first, and possibly your only, language doesn’t mean you understand it. It doesn’t mean you are an authority figure on it. I can play hockey, but I probably shouldn’t teach it. I can fry an egg, doesn’t mean I can teach cookery. The ability to do something doesn’t make one an authority figure on it. It doesn’t make one a good teacher. Ability doesn’t equal expertise.

English is difficult enough. But its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: it changes. Not all change is evolution though, some of it is mutation. And unwanted, dangerous mutations must be stamped out before they infect the entire language. I hope it’s not too late…


My wife was out last night with her friends and she snapped a picture. It was a picture of someone with a tattoo consisting of Chinese characters. My wife explained to me what the colloquial use of the phrase on the lady’s back actually means. In my wife’s country it means underwear. That’s right lady at the mall, you have ‘underwear’ tattooed on your back, permanently.

This happens all the time. My wife will see a Chinese tattoo and almost everytime she laughs as she tells me what it really means. Find out what your tattoo means! Don’t take the word of the guy, who obviously doesn’t speak the language, as to its meaning. Look it up. It’s not that difficult. Or just keep getting things like ‘underwear’ tattooed on your body. Sure gives us a good laugh.


Categories: Pet Peeves