BY VINCENZO RAVINA
This St. Patrick’s Day, remember how lucky you are to live in Canada. Chuck Gillis wishes he had what we all take for granted: While we sit here in our ivory towers drinking all the Garrison and Keith’s we want, he’s stuck in Texas, unable to get either. And he loves Garrison and Keith’s.
Gillis is a fifth-generation Texan, and the director of a law firm in Dallas. His love affair with Canadian beer began when he was 19. He was in the National Guard and had the opportunity to come across the border. He never knew beer could be so good.
"A lot of it has to do with growing up with exceptionally poor quality beer here," Gillis says of his home state. He documents his passion for Canadian beer on his blog called The Unofficial Canadian Beer Embassy—- Texas (chuckgillis.tumblr.com).
Many of his posts are laments. He grouses about the difficulty he has getting his preferred brews in the US. When he goes to a restaurant and asks if they have Canadian beer, “you’d think I was asking for some radioactive isotope,” he says. “Getting something from Europe, not a problem. I can get a Guinness anywhere I go. It’s almost like I ask for fun now, because I know what the answer’s going to be.”
The Canuck brews readily available to Gillis are “Molson Golden, Labatt Blue and Molson Canadian. The nicer places carry all of the Unibroue, so I can get Trois Pistoles, Don de Dieu, La Fin Du Monde.”
He’d love to get a Keith’s, but the beer he wants most of all is “Garrison’s Nut Brown ale. I think it’s just absolutely wonderful. I have three bottles in my fridge down here and I’m saving them for, I don’t know, something special. If I find out the world’s gonna end, I’m popping all three.”
Over the years, Gillis has visited Canada nine or 10 times. “The first time that I came up to the Maritimes, we did a trip to New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia. It’s absolutely gorgeous, the people are nice, the food is wonderful, there’s lots to do and see and so I think my wife was very concerned that I wouldn’t come back.”
In addition to beer, Gillis has bought “dozens and dozens” of Canadian t-shirts, which he says he’s always wearing “if I’m not in a suit.” He has an inukshuk, a Canadian flag, PEI dirt and assorted Canadian rocks in his collection. He says he’s saved every Canadian beer bottle cap. He regularly gifts Canadian beer, as well as chocolate bars from Sugah!, to friends and co-workers.
"Half the people absolutely love the stuff and think it’s neat and kind of try to find it themselves, and then the other half just think I’m a lunatic," says Gillis about his friends. "The Canadian consulate is in my building…we’ve joked about having some beer brought down in a diplomatic pouch."
However, he hesitates to find a permanent source for his favourite beer. “It’s not like I need an excuse to go back to Halifax, but it’s kind of fun to say ‘Well, we’re out of beer. We’ve gotta go back up there.’”
When I travel, I like to load my phone up with apps that’ll help me out with travel issues and educate me about the sights, the culture, and food, without racking up roaming charges. These are the best such apps I know about.
mTrip’s apps are extremely useful, with listings and information for restaurants, attractions, hotels and much more. But if that’s all you needed, you could go with Ulmon‘s apps (free) or TripAdvisor City Guides (free). The thing that sets mTrip apart is their offline navigation. You can get GPS directions without any network connectivity. It’ll even tell you which subways to take. This is incredibly useful and can save you bundles. mTrip’s apps were absolutely indispensable on my trip through Europe.
TripAdvisor City Guides are also worth a download for the ratings and reviews of restaurants, hotels and attractions. They’re a great way to find the best restaurant wherever you are.
WikiSherpa allows you to download WikiVoyage (formerly WikiTravel) articles. These articles are an incredible resource when you’re on the ground. There are cultural tips, restaurant and activity recommendations. It’s all much more up to date than many travel books, and the articles are typically written by locals.
WikiVoyage also has “phrasebooks,” so be sure to download a few of those. The app is free, and the downloads are free. If you download enough, you’ll feel like you’ve got your own Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In my travels, I tend to go with safe choices on menus. Menus can be pretty vague on the contents of a meal and English menus are often very poorly translated. I’ve often wished for a food dictionary so I can be more adventurous with my meals overseas without having to pepper the server with a thousand questions. Global Eater Food Dictionary might be the ticket! It’s not exhaustive, but it offers 1,100 food terms for Chinese, French, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Thai foods.
You can stay at places way nicer than a hotel room for a fraction of the cost. I took a three-month-long trip to Europe in 2011, and if I’d known about Airbnb then, I estimate a savings of at least $1,000, and I would have stayed at much nicer places.
You need the internet to use the app, but it’s not the kind of thing that needs to incur roaming charges. Just grab some free wifi (see below). When you’re in a pinch, Hotel Tonight (free) and HostelWorld.com (free) are also useful apps to have.
These apps arrange your trip for you. You forward your confirmation emails for airline tickets, hotel reservations, and more to them, and they put everything together in an itinerary for you. TripCase offers free flight alerts: starting 48 hours before you depart, if your gate changes, or there’s a delay or a cancellation, TripCase lets you know.
This is a database of mapped WIFI locations that you can download for offline use. When you’re in a pinch and need to use an app that requires the internet, but you don’t want to incur roaming charges, pull this up and find the nearest WIFI hotspot. The app lists 145,000 hotspot locations worldwide, with new locations added daily.
Did I miss any fantastic travel apps? Let me know in the comments! I’m always looking for something better!
(This blog post appeared in a slightly different form on BackpackCEO.)
Endings are just about the most difficult thing to pull off well in writing. So much buildup, so much expectation, and it all has to pay off in just the right way and it all has to be earned. A bad ending can ruin everything that came before.
In trying to figure out what makes a good ending good, I came up with the criteria I’ve outlined below. I tried to follow these criteria in the writing of my forthcoming novel, Ungodly Trifles. I’m not sure if I succeeded in giving my novel a fully satisfying ending, but here is what I wanted out of my ending, and what I want out of all endings:
1. It should feel inevitable. Ideally, the reader or audience should say, “Of course! Of course it ended this way. There is no other way this could have ended.” It should make absolute, total sense that the story brought us to this resolution.
2. It should be unexpected or surprising. This seems to fly in the face of criteria number 1, but that’s what’s so wonderful about it: the reader or audience should only see that the ending was inevitable after the fact. Retroactive inevitability is so satisfying.
3. It should be ambiguous. There should be gaps for the reader to fill in for him- or herself. There should be some degree of interpretation left to the reader. A happy ending should come at a cost.
If you would like to see an ending perfectly match these criteria, please watch the TV show Six Feet Under from start to finish. It is worth watching all five seasons just to be able to experience the final ten minutes.
What are some other examples of satisfying endings? Do you disagree with any of my criteria, or have criteria to add? Let me know in the comments.
By Vincenzo Ravina
Chip Coffey, a TV “psychic,” is coming to Halifax on Thursday to peddle his snake oil. He claims to be able to speak to the dead. He can’t. Like Sylvia Browne and John Edward and every other “psychic” you’ve heard of, Coffey performs “cold reading,” a technique known to and used by many magicians and mentalists the world over to simulate psychic powers. The difference between mentalists and people like Coffey is that mentalists are not trying to pass off their tricks as legitimate psychic abilities.
When you go to see a magic show, you’re going for the entertainment. People like Coffey don’t have the skills to entertain and subsist on the desperation of vulnerable people, exploiting their emotions and finances.
Coffey regularly takes money from grieving parents, and in his A&E show, Psychic Kids, he indulged the delusions of children who think - or whose parents think - they are psychic. His behaviour is reprehensible and he is a disgusting person. Parents who have lost children would do anything to be in contact with them again. Chip Coffey is there to take their $500 (per telephone reading) and bullshit them into bankruptcy. A person who does this to other people, I can only conclude, is the lowest of the low, without one shred of decency or empathy or conscience. Chip Coffey is a con artist.
Cold reading, if you’ve never heard of it, is a technique in which the “reader” makes guesses, asks questions of you, and lies. The key is confidence and a sociopathic lack of shame. A cold reader will begin with something vague, like, “I see an S. Does that mean anything to you?” or “I see an older woman.”
The subject will says, “Yes, an S! My aunt Sylvia!” or, “Yes, an older woman! My aunt Sylvia!” Or perhaps there is no aunt Sylvia. Perhaps there’s no one with an S. Perhaps the subject says, “I don’t know anything about an S,” and the cold reader will say, “Oh, it’s hazy, it’s not an S. It’s an F.” They’ll go from vague descriptions to more specific statements as they slowly figure out what you want.
Chip Coffey, very wisely, hasn’t put any of his work on YouTube, but here are a few typical examples of cold reading from famous scam artists Theresa Caputo and James Van Praagh:
Based on suggestions and guesses, and hits and misses, the cold reader will pounce upon every hit and dismiss every miss. Have you ever read a fortune cookie or a horoscope that you felt applied to your life? That’s called cold reading. That’s called a hit.
As you can tell by the above clips, most people who claim to be psychics aren’t actually very good at it. If you want to see a really good cold reading, you go to a magician like Derren Brown:
In person, cold readers can seize upon facial expressions and body language. They can pull from what you say to them, what you’re wearing and your manner. “Hot readers” will investigate their subjects before doing a reading. At a performance with an audience, for instance, there may be an employee of the reader talking to people in line or in the audience, asking them why they are there and who they hope to contact.
If you believe in psychics, go to a psychic. Don’t respond to their suggestions. Sit in silence and allow them to suss out why you’re there and what your aunt’s name is. You’ll soon find that the spirits aren’t talking that day.
Lest you think that this kind of charlatanry is benign, observe as Sylvia Browne tells a grandparent that her missing grandchild has been sold into slavery (at 2:52):
For reports on Chip Coffey’s fakery, see this link.
Here’s a look why his Psychic Kids TV show is so harmful.
Finally, the James Randi Educational Foundation has had a $1-million prize available to anyone in the world who can demonstrate any form of observable paranormal activity. There have been hundreds of applicants since 1964, and none have claimed the prize.
For a more thorough examination of cold reading, see James Randi’s primer on it, or the Wikipedia article.