February 26, 2012

Superman SaturdaySunday: When the levee breaks, we'll have no place to stay

This week's instalment is a day late: I was watching the recent David Tennant/Patrick Stewart production of Hamlet last evening, and it turned out to be longer than I'd planned. Not that I'm complaining. Anyway, Sunday is just as good a day for lazing around and watching bad old movies, so no harm done. Plus, it's still alliterative!

When we last left our heroes, Clark Kent and Lois Lane were on assignment in the city of Dyerville, population 30,000, which had been experiencing some mysterious disasters. Even while they were there—but for Clark's intervention as Superman—the bridge into town collapsed, and a barge loaded with gasoline tankers nearly plunged over a local waterfall. Then, Dyerville's woes were revealed as the work of none other than Superman's nemesis, the Yellow Mask—who, if he did not receive the sum of one million dollars! by midnight the next day, would destroy the city. His diabolical plan would, no doubt, involve a school of ill-tempered sea bass . . .

February 25, 2012

Saturday in the wild: February 25, 2012

Time once again for this week's roundup of the interesting parts of the blogosphere. So, without further ado . . .

dancingpastthedark listed 15 things about distressing near-death experiences (NDEs). Of particular interest to me was point 5:

NDEs do not play favorites: they appear across demographic bases including age, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual preference, education, occupation, socioeconomic status, religious background and beliefs, level of religious activity, expectations of afterlife. Despite limited demographic data about distressing NDEs, they appear to have the same universality.

[Read 15 Things We Know About Distressing NDEs]

In other words: Christians are just as likely to experience a hellish vision as anyone else, which suggests to me what I've suspected all along: NDEs aren't actually religious experiences as I would understand it. Psychological, perhaps, but I rather doubt they have any correspondence to a real afterlife.

Epicurious posted a video on making the perfect martini. Personally, I prefer more classic proportions of 2 ounces Bombay Sapphire gin to 3/4 ounces dry Noilly Prat vermouth, instead of the mixologist's proportions. But I share the mixer's lament that the martini has somehow morphed into a vodka drink. (For another, more interesting variation, substitute sake for the vermouth.)

Presumably in honour of the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's first spaceflight earlier this week, Cracked listed 5 famous space missions that almost ended in disaster. Good stuff, though as a fan of the early years of spaceflight, I knew about all but the STS-27 one. Glenn's own flight was hair-raising, as Friendship 7 lost its automatic control system during the first orbit, and then it was thought that the heat shield might be lost during re-entry. Fortunately a sensor was at fault, and Glenn finished the mission without incident.

John Bloom at Desiring God Blog writes about abolitionist William Wilberforce, one of my favourite historical Brits:

But if you had known him at age 20, you wouldn’t have predicted his end. William entered adulthood as a dilettante and socialite. He was naturally warm, gregarious, eloquent, and a great singer—the life of any party. He was an unmotivated student at Cambridge, not helped by the fact that through inheritance he was independently wealthy.

On a lark he ran for a seat in Parliament at age 21. He spent the equivalent of $500,000 of his own money on the campaign and won. Years later, his own assessment was, "the first years I was in Parliament I did nothing—nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object."

But in 1785, that all changed when William was powerfully converted to Jesus. It was nothing short of a revolution. Life and time and talent, and influence and wealth were to be stewarded and wielded for the cause of Jesus' kingdom. Everything took on a new weight and urgency. Jesus Christ transformed this dissolute aristocratic party boy into a resolute force against evil and for truth in the moral wilderness of his day.

[Read The Darling Object of William Wilberforce]

Finally, the O-Dot is a local satirical blog I recently discovered. It's not the comedic powerhouse that the Onion is, to be sure, but every so often it provides a chuckle. Thursday's story was particularly good:

Little Italy—The vibrant Italian neighbourhood that stretches along Preston Street from Carling to Somerset recently had new "Pay & Pasta" parking meters installed to help draw visitors to the area. A well known location for Italian cuisine, the City Of Ottawa in association with the Preston Street BIA, developed the concept of dispensing pasta last spring as a way to help boost enjoyment for paid parking.

[Read Little Italy Launches New "Pay & Pasta" Parking Meters]


February 24, 2012

F5 #4: Pod people

Welcome to the last installation of Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity (F5 for 2012. I'm going to do something just a little different from the norm this week: rather than blab on about my personal favourite stuff, I'm going to list and recommend a few of my favourite podcasts. And, finally, I'll close this year's series by revealing my one great weakness.

I lamented a few weeks ago that I've evolved from a primarily literary person, to a primarily visual person when it comes taking in information and entertainment: fewer books, more movies. (I'm watching one as I write this, in fact.) Then, I bought my favourite toy in 2007: a 4 GB iPod Nano—which I still have and am in no hurry to upgrade—and my tastes evolved from print to video to audio, as I discovered the wonders of podcasting. I had already started listening to several podcasts, but it was the ability to take them on the go that really opened up the medium for me.

February 21, 2012

Wi-Fi Luddites in Ottawa (Aaaah, they're closing in!)

Oh, brother.

Some west Ottawa parents are speaking out about their concerns with wireless internet connections in their children's school.

For both Ruth Ann Semple and Jessica Van Hees, the unknown is frightening. They believe there is not enough known about the dangers of long-term exposure to Wi-Fi, but the school board plans on making all their schools fully equipped.

"Our children should be dissecting rats, they shouldn't be functioning as lab rats," Van Hees said, "And this constitutes as a massive experiment on children."

[Full Story]

This story twice in a week? I see the stirrings of an extraordinary popular delusion on the horizon. Either that, or CBC is trying to manufacture a crisis.

Remember, folks: a typical Wi-Fi router puts out 0.021 watts in toto of low-energy microwaves. Stand out in the sun and receive more than 100 watts of high-energy light, including ionizing UV radiation. No one is calling to ban the sun.

February 20, 2012

F4 #3: All that jazz

Better late than never! While I knew what I wanted to write about, by Friday afternoon I had no idea what I wanted to say. Fortunately, sitting on it for a day or two made all the difference! The creative floodgates opened, and I managed to scribble out a few words on one of my favourite music genre. (Typing it, on the other hand . . . here I am late Monday night.) And, at the end, I'll reveal, at last, my one weakness.

I have been musically inclined for a long time. I began taking piano lessons when I was about 9 or 10, and then learned to play trumpet in high school, where I also joined the school band in grade 10. Although my piano training was classical, by the time I reached high school they no longer had a concert band program, only a stage band.

High-school band was my first exposure to jazz. Since a stage band is essentially a big band, it was big-band music that we played: from standards by Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman (I still have the trumpet solo to "In the Mood" committed to memory, even though I haven't picked a horn up in 20 years), to more contemporary numbers by Bobby Mintzer, Jay Chattaway and Rick Tait.

My interest in smaller jazz combos came later, and somewhat independently: my school didn't have a jazz combo for a couple more years, and I didn't play in it. (Never could improvise well enough.) It started by rifling the music department's large record collection, which consisted mainly of demo records and big-band albums. However, this eventually led to my sifting through my friend Jean-Yves' more eclectic record library. Though he is older than me, he is the youngest in his musically inclined family (in fact, his sister was my first piano teacher), and he had inherited a lot of hand-me-down albums. Of all us band geeks, he was probably the most musically ambitious—after high school, he became a music teacher and a modest local celebrity as a jazz player. He was always happy enough to show off some new sound he had discovered. So, in the end, I learned piano privately, trumpet in high school, and music appreciation from Jean-Yves' records.

February 18, 2012

Superman Saturday: Dyer Breaker

This week, we begin another exciting episode of The Adventures of Superman, courtesy of a prepackaged cereal product and the miracle of radio!

As promised last week, we see the return of the Yellow Mask, the Action Ace's first radio supervillain. We have already encountered the Yellow Mask, of course: he was the mastermind behind the attempted sabotage of the Silver Clipper and, when Clark Kent foiled that plan, he tried to get his revenge by atomizing the Daily Planet building with an atomic death ray. In the comics by this time, the Ultra-Humanite was already an established enemy of Superman,1 and in one story he, too, attempted to blow up the Planet with an atomic beam. So it would appear that the Yellow Mask is a radio proxy for Ultra, though with somewhat less of the mad-scientistiness and, as we shall soon see, not quite the same megalomanaical pretensions.

For this story, the producers started titling each serial, rather than each individual episode. Not only does it make the stories easier to track, but no doubt it will ease up on the inadvertent spoilers, as well!

So, with further ado, let's drop the needle on this amazing transcription feature, and start with . . .

Episode 18: The Mystery of Dyerville, Part 1 (1940/03/22)


The Wolf and Keno have arrived in Metropolis where, still pursued by the police, they make their way to the Yellow Mask's secret lair. The Wolfe, bitter because the Mask let them cool their heels in prison, tells Keno that he intends to challenge him. The Yellow Mask then reveals himself. He's played by the same actor as his last appearance: he still sounds like Sir Bedevere from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

"This is the last time you'll stand in the way," declares the Mask, "of high voltage."


"That finishes the Wolfe," he adds. Have I mentioned recently that this is a children's program?

Saturday a little bit in the wild: February 18, 2012

For various reasons, I've had not much to do with blogging this week (either posting or reading), so today's instalment of x in the Wild (where Thursday < x < Sunday) has just one brief item.

Tim Challies has announced the selection for the next run of "Reading Classics Together," and it's a doozy:

It is time to embark on a new reading project and it only seems right that we should go to the bestselling and most enduring Christian classic of them all—The Pilgrim’s Progress. This is a book most of us have read at one time or another, or perhaps at many times, but if any book bears repeated readings, this is the one. It is, after all, the most widely-published book in the English language, not to mention one of the most influential and beloved books ever written.

[Reading the Next Classic Together]

I love Bunyan, so I'm definitely in. The fun starts on March 8, so if you want to participate, read Chapter 1 by then. If you don't have a print edition, Tim will be following the format of the version at Christian Classics Ethereal Library. All of Bunyan's major works are available at the Chapel Library site (Pilgrim's Progress can be found in Volume 3). You can also find other formats at Project Gutenberg, and there's a free audiobook at LibriVox, if you prefer to listen. Either way: Enjoy!

Writer's block

Due to an acute case of being at a loss for words, and now that I've crossed the point where the blog entry could be realistically back-dated to yesterday, this week's F5 will be moved to Sunday, when hopefully I can flesh it out past about 50 words.

Which, I guess, makes it less of an F5 than an F4S. Sad, really.

February 16, 2012

Gary Carter (1954-2012)

Gary Carter, famed catcher for the Montreal Expos and New York Mets, has died of brain cancer. He was 57.

Nicknamed "The Kid" for his enthusiasm and cheerfulness, Carter began his career with the Expos in 1974 and played with them until 1984, after which he was traded to the Mets for five years. He played a season each with the SF Giants and LA Dodgers, before returning to Montreal for one more season in 1992. He was inducted in 2003 into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as an Expo.

I saw Carter play in Montreal in 1983, alongside other Expo greats such as Tim Raines, Andre Dawson and Al Oliver. Over the years I developed more of an appreciation for American League rules rather than National League, and evolved into a Toronto Blue Jays fan rather than the Expos. But as long as Gary Carter was playing for them, the 'Spos were my favourite team. RIP Kid.

February 14, 2012

The Luddites ride again

Arguably my favourite moment in the movie X-Men comes toward the end, when Magneto has the X-Men trapped in the Statue of Liberty.

"Fry him," team leader Cyclops orders Storm, who controls weather.

"Oh, yes, a bolt of lightning into a huge copper conductor," retorts Magneto. "I thought you lived at a school?"

I get the same feeling as Magneto when I read this news article:

An Ontario teachers' union is calling for an end to new Wi-Fi setups in the province's 1,400-plus Catholic schools.

The Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association says computers in all new schools should be hardwired instead of setting up wireless networks.

It also says Wi-Fi should not be installed in any more classrooms.

In a position paper released on Monday, the union—which represents 45,000 teachers—cites research by the World Health Organization.

Last year the global health agency warned about a possible link between radiation from wireless devices such as cellphones and cancer.

[Full Story]

I can only guess that there are no science teachers in the OECTA. There are so many things wrong with this statement that I hardly know where to begin.

February 11, 2012

Superman Saturday: Oooh, give me steam!

After a brief hiatus, Serial Saturday returns—this time, with a short two-episode Superman adventure. As promised last time, we meet up with some old friends: the Wolfe and his sidekick Keno, now officially the first two recurring villains of Supe's rogues' gallery. So, without further ado, on we go with . . .

Episode 16: The Prison Riot (1940/03/18)


At the Daily Planet office, Perry White commends Clark Kent for his story on the North Star Mining Company (from his previous adventure). Lois is on assignment: she's at the nearby San Miguel penitentiary, writing a feature on the modern prison system. Clark recognizes this prison as the one where Keno and the Wolfe were sent after their sabotage attempt on the Silver Clipper passenger train. Perry tells Clark to pick up Lois and bring her back, and so Clark finds himself a rental car and heads out.

While Lois is taking her tour of the prison, however, unrest is brewing, and it is masterminded by none other than the Wolfe himself. He and his henchman Keno plot inconspicuously in the prison yard. A prison break is planned during suppertime, which is only an hour away. While some of the inmates cause a disturbance at the gate, Keno and the Wolfe will slip into the steam plant, from which they will make their escape with the help of their boss, the Yellow Mask.

Whitney Houston (1963-2012)


Although she was never one of my favourite vocalists, it can hardly be denied that Whitney Houston had one of the most powerful and gorgeous voices in pop music in the 1980s. But she allowed her drug habits to destroy her voice and derail the potential of a legendary musical career.

Cause of death is not currently known (or at least not yet public), but it won't surprise me if we soon find out that Houston is yet another young life wrecked by her own excesses. 48 is too young for anyone.

Saturday in the wild: February 11, 2012

Another weekend, another pile of bloggy goodness for y'all to work through. Better late then never!

Xkcd pulled off another laugh-out-loud moment. If this happened to Alex Jones, it would be like the purest of poetic justice.

Douglas Wilson caught the nominally pro-life Ron Paul on the Piers Morgan program recently, flubbing on the "hard case" of rape:

On the pro-life thing, he was asked about abortion in the case of rape. The answer to this, incidentally, is straightforward—when a woman conceives as the result of a rape, there is one guilty party, and two innocent parties. What the pro-aborts want to do is change the ratios—they want one victim instead of two, and they want two perpetrators instead of one. They want the man who took what didn't belong to him to be joined by a woman who imitates him by taking what doesn't belong to her.

In response to this question, Ron Paul said that a woman who is raped should go to an emergency room immediately, and get a shot of estrogen, which would prevent the implantation of a conceived child in the uterine wall. Further, he said that he would administer that shot of estrogen. Piers Morgan, astonished, said that he thought Ron Paul believed life begins at conception. Ron Paul said that he did, but that we don't know at that point whether the woman is pregnant.

This, in effect, was saying that if we don't know if someone is living in a room then it must be okay to fill it up with poison gas. This example might seem beside the point because, if we did that, we would eventually have to carry a dead body out. But, in the case of this small victim, nobody ever needs to know. But, speaking frankly, and just between us, "nobody need ever know" is not exactly a pro-life rallying cry.

[Read Four/Fifths of the Brimstone]

The transcript of this program is also available.

February 10, 2012

F5 #2: The Master of Suspense

Looking back through the various F5 posts I've done over the years, I'm amazed I haven't touched on this particular guilty pleasure yet, although I certainly have mentioned Stephen King by name many times—more, possibly, than anyone other than myself or Jesus. (That is a perfectly unscientific assessment, made with exactly no research or data collection whatsoever. So it's time to give my favourite author his due. And, for the first time, I will reveal my one weakness at the end of this post.

My first Stephen King novel was Christine. I read it in 1984, in grade 9. He was one of my first exposures to contemporary adult fiction, after Agatha Christie and Ian Fleming. It was about a car that killed people. That was the only motivation I needed. At the time it was his newest novel except for Pet Sematary, which meant I had about nine or ten other novels to work through before the next one was published.

February 09, 2012

And now . . . this - Feb. 9/12

An undercover police officer "chased himself round the streets" for 20 minutes after a CCTV operator mistook him for suspect.

The junior officer, who has not been named, was monitoring an area hit by a series of burglaries in an unnamed market town in the country's south.

As the probationary officer from Sussex Police searched for suspects, the camera operator radioed that he had seen someone "acting suspiciously" in the area.

But he failed to realise that it was actually the plain-clothed officer he was watching on the screen, according to details leaked to an industry magazine.

[Full Story]

When the officer found out he'd been on a wild-goose chase for nearly half an hour, he was, naturally quite beside himself. Or so he thought.

February 07, 2012

In other book news

I would be negligent if I allowed the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens to pass without comment: he was born 200 years today, on February 7, 1802.

Dickens was arguably the greatest author of the Victorian period, which also makes him the greatest author I have never read enough of, and want to: I've read A Christmas Carol (who hasn't?), Oliver Twist (required reading), and about the first five chapters of Bleak House—which, coincidentally, I've got on my nightstand for the near future, as I've been meaning to read it for ages.

On the other hand, I've never read either of the typical "required reading" of his works: A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. So much great literature, so little time.

Beyond that, I'm embarrassed to say I know exactly two other things about Charles Dickens: his writing was about as socially conscious as English literature got during the mid-1800s, and also that he was a passionate public reader. I've heard tell, though the story might be apocryphal, that his dramatic reading style precipitated the strokes that eventually did him in. Certainly toward the end of his life, when he knew his time was coming, he embarked on a "farewell tour" of sorts. May the grim reaper find us all doing what we love when our time comes!

The curse of Karla

Just what is it with this book, anyway?

John le Carré's classic Cold War novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, about a Soviet mole working within British intelligence, has been on the top of my list of three "cursed books" for 10 years. This is a list of books that I have tried to finish multiple times but never succeeded. (The other two are Stephen King's The Dark Tower, volume 1, and Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book—ironically.)

Five times I have borrowed this book from the library—about once every four or five years since 1990. Five times I have returned it unfinished. I seem to always get to the point where George Smiley visits and commiserates with his drunken former secretary, and then the whole project fizzles out.

Unlike the other books on the cursed list, which I have honest trouble getting into, Tinker, Tailor is genuinely enjoyable. I rip my way through the first third, then I'm prevented from finishing by a conspiracy of small circumstances. I'm beginning to think it's an actual curse: the "curse of Karla" (after the codename of the Russian spymaster that recruited the mole). Heh. Not only does he not want Smiley to catch him, he doesn't want me to, either.

To make matters worse, Attempt Number Six is dragging my whole reading program down. I'm now two weeks behind. I'm going to have to make up for lost time with some easy-to-read potboilers. Fortunately, that's why God made Star Trek novels and Agatha Christie.

No comment necessary.

Florence Green, the world's last surviving First World War veteran has died, marking the end of an era in British history.

Mrs. Green passed away in her sleep at a care home in Norfolk just two weeks before her 111th birthday.

The great-grandmother signed up to the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) 93 years ago in September 1918, when she was aged just 17.

She was the last surviving person to have served in WWI following the death of British-born sailor Claude Choules in Australia last year.

[Full Story]

Take them for all in all, we shall not look upon their like again.

February 06, 2012

Barack Obama, theologian

Everyone's a theologian, as one of my pastors occasionally says. We all believe something about God. The real question is whether you're a good or bad one.

Barack Obama spoke last Thursday at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, as is traditional for American presidents since Eisenhower. In his speech, he described how his Christian faith drove his policies, particularly his economic ones. For example:

[W]hen I talk about shared responsibility, it's because I genuinely believe that in a time when many folks are struggling, at a time when we have enormous deficits, it's hard for me to ask seniors on a fixed income, or young people with student loans, or middle-class families who can barely pay the bills, to shoulder the burden alone. I think to myself, if I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually think that’s going to make economic sense.

But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that "for unto whom much is given, much shall be required." It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others, or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others.1

Long live our noble Queen

Today is the 60th anniversary of the ascendancy of Elizabeth II to the throne of the United Kingdom and the nations of the British Commonwealth, including Canada. Elizabeth became queen on February 6, 1952, upon the death of her father, George VI. It was Canada that first officially issued a proclamation of her accession, the same day. At the time, Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, were visiting Kenya. They immediately returned to England, and she was formally crowned Queen on June 2, 1953.

I am like many, perhaps even most, of Elizabeth's loyal subjects in one regard: in my lifetime, there has never been another monarch of Canada. She is now the second-longest reigning British monarch, after Victoria, and at 85 years old, the oldest ruling monarch in English history. An elected head of state, or a monarchical leader such as the Pope, who tends to ascend later in life, characteristically has a much shorter tenure, and thus it's the office, rather than the person, who becomes the institution. Change will inevitably come, but it will be harder at first to accept.

The lyrics to the Royal Anthem constitute a prayer: that the Queen will be blessed with a long life, and that her reign will be just and free of conflict. On the occasion of 60 years of faithful service to her subjects, we can thank God for answered prayer, but we can still continue to pray: "God save the Queen"!

February 03, 2012

Friday in the wild: February 3, 2011

Friday again! Time to round up the stuff on the blogosphere that made me stop and take notice.

Tim Challies posted his parents' story of their encounter with Francis Schaeffer, whose hundredth birthday would have been this past Tuesday:

Schaeffer and the workers at English L'Abri helped us lay a new foundation for Christian living—the Bible, the Bible, the Bible—known from cover to cover, as the foundation of all life and thought. Unchanging. Absolute. Knowable. Mirroring the unchanging, absolute, knowable God. No more theological chaos. Rest for our souls.

I know many appreciated Francis Schaeffer's philosophical and cultural insights. They were penetrating, timely, and prophetic—certainly what he is best known for. But, for us—primarily, he was our first Sola Scriptura expositor. The absolute biblical certainty behind the philosophical and cultural insights was what changed our lives. And for this, we are eternally grateful.

[Read How Francis Schaeffer Saved My Saved Soul]

Four February Fridays of Fabulous Frivolity . . .4.

Some years ago, I instituted a theme for the month of February: I would dedicate one post each Friday to one of my favourite things. Over the years I've covered such topics as food, literature, movies, even personal grooming.

It's been about three years since I last did this, so I've decided to revive the F5 tradition. Today and the next three Fridays, I'll have a few words about what I like to eat, drink, read, watch, do, or whatever else strikes me. I will also, for the first time on this blog, reveal my one food weakness.

But today we're going to start with . . .

F5 #1: Mmmm. Beer.

I can remember my first beer easily enough: it was my 19th birthday, and my roommate treated me to a pitcher of Labatt's Blue, as well as a rye and Coke or two, and a few B-52s. In the ensuing 22 years, I've grown up a bit and learned to hold my liquor better. But to this day I still have an aversion to both Blue and rye and Coke.

That aversion didn't extend to beer in general, fortunately. It wasn't long before I found Molson Canadian more to my liking. That was satisfactory for a year or so. Then, I started hearing good things about imported beers, and I was curious, and consequently I fell in love with the opposite extreme—Guinness. Draft Guinness, a beer so thick it's opaque, it has a pond-scum head so heavy you can draw a happy face in it and it will stay there until the pint is gone, and drinking it obviates the need for dinner. Of course, a diet of draft Guinness could get to be an expensive habit. Fortunately, at the time, it was still possible to buy bottled Guinness at the beer store (brewed under license by Labatt's), and although it wasn't as thick and rich, it was still mighty tasty.

In the intervening years, I've settled somewhere in the middle: my go-to beer is generally a dark ale of some kind. My brand of choice was Upper Canada Dark Ale for years, until Sleeman bought them out, and I wasn't as impressed. For everyday beer, I have since tended toward Rickard's Red, or Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. Yes, it's yellow, but it's still an ale. I also recently discovered the Guelph-based Wellington Brewery, whose superb beers suffer not a bit from being so close to Sleeman. Their Wellington County Dark Ale is an occasional treat.

At one time I went to the liquor store on a weekly basis, and picked out two different cans or bottles from the beer cooler, and in that way went through nearly everything the LCBO had to offer. German lagers and British or Irish stouts were good; Dutch lagers, less so. I tried Belgian Trappists' beer, but the first time I tried to open a bottle, the cork blasted out after I'd untwisted the wire cage all of a half-turn. It marked the ceiling, and that made me gun-shy. (I never found the wire cage.) But the threat of injury wasn't enough to dampen my enthusiasm for beer. There are too many varieties in the world, and too little time.

My one weakness: Potato chips

Nothing goes with an everyday beer quite like a bowl of chips, especially regular ones. But when the chips aren't meant to be a buffer for alcohol, I'd rather have flavoured ones. I have a particular soft spot for sour cream and onion. However, in Canada, we also have a range of President's Choice chips, in many interesting and exotic flavours—which, amazingly, almost always taste exactly like what they claim to be. The Buffalo Wings & Blue Cheese variety are the best of the current lot.