Friday, December 30, 2011

Train Show

We went to a model train show in November. Mainly, okay, soley for Owl Jr.'s benefit. It was at the local community centre, the gym which usully holds weekend warriors doing some approximation of a team sport they had done decades ago in highschool playing host to enthusiasts of recreating some aspects of industrial-era mass transportation infrastructure.

The hobbyists are nearly exclusively old men with beards wearing engineer's caps. Train engineer caps, to be precise. (I'm not sure if other engineers (mechanical, electrical, chemical, etc) have hats, although that could only be a boon to recruiting new blood. Just think, a solid iron baseball cap with oversized rivets for mech engies, a erlynmeyer flask breeding a hardy yeast species for industrial bread making for bioresource engineers, the mind staggers.) And some a bit younger folks who would not look amiss at a convention featuring dragons and swords and possibly magic. My kin, if you will. Or kin from a long forgotten arm of the family that has taken residence in some earthy, unmentionable region of the Appalachians.

There are gauges, as I understand it, different scales and rails and eras and whatnot. Large trains, small trains, mini-trains. There was even a Lego railway. Quite well done too, many almost recognizable buildings and intricate switchbacks, or,whatever you call those things (I was not into trains in any way, apparently).

Interestingly, Owl Jr. wasn't captivated by the Lego ones -- which I imagine the real hobbyists sneer at, you don't spend 8 hours in the workshop faithfully reproducing a 19th Century North Hampshire farmhouse to have some upstart do the same in 30 minutes with a few woodgrain decaled plastic bits --  he was interested in the intricate ones, the more ancient locomotives, that had lots of pistons and drive-shafts and bit and pieces moving. He also seemed to be into the scenary, which I imagine is at least half the job of these model trains. Tunnels, mountain ranges, trees, these were all appreciated. Factories, warehouses, even a dock were stared at for uncomfortable amounts of time.

The tricky bit was trying to avoid being engaged by the hobbyists, because I knew less than nothing and had no inclination to learn more. And while I can feign interest in things, it does tend to suck up my dwindling supply of energy which was being used up at the time holding a two year old at shoulder height so he could see all the action.

As a PC gamer, I'm all too aware of the pain of being interested in something that most people find childish, regressive, or perhaps even a little bit nerdy. I didn't want to get any of the vendors hopes up that I'd be soon recreating the splendour of a small coal mining concern in 17th century Newcastle.

But Owl Jr. was happy, Owlet was led back up to the library ages ago, and at the very least I got a pretty decent shoulder workout and the beginning designs for a Programmer's Hat.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bunk Bed

In August, I constructed a bunk bed. Assembled. From the standard Scandinavian outlet of fine particle-board based furniture.

Owl Jr had just come graduated from the crib. We made the sage decision to have Owlet and Owl Jr sleep in the same room, in a bunk bed, and leave the other room as a play room. (In actuality, now they have one tiny room for playing and sleeping, and one room with an infrequently used tent).

It took me 3 hours. Or 4, depending on how truthful I want to be, and how prepared I am for humiliation.

These things look so simple in the show room. Until you get it delievered in three flat boxes, each one absolutely packed with long 2x4's which look exactly alike. The wood pieces differ only slightly, by the position of the holes, by the number, by some currently indiscernible difference which you better discover before you get 80% of the way through and find that the 2x4 with the three holes on one side and two holes on the other is NOT interchangeable with the 2x4 with the two holes on one side and three holes on the other.

There is a hopelessness that is perhaps the closest I will come to understanding the Bataan Death March when opening the boxes. Thirty or so of these 2x4s, neatly arranged, a wordless instruction manual, with litigiously minded safety steps (Please ensure you are not constructing said bed in front of a lava pit, firing squad, fault line), oh, and an Allen wrench.

The instructions are trying to do the 'less is more' thing, where it uses friendly drawings and gross approximations to what you have in front of you to assemble something that will keep one of your children five feet in the air and the other hopefully uncrushed beneath. Due to the enormity of said retail furniture outlet, they cannot have written instructions, anywhere, I suppose that would cut into their costs and they might not be able to provide 24/7 free childcare for their workers or a comprehensive dental plan. Not that I begrudge said workers, if it wasn't for progress in labour we'd still be sending  five year olds down chimneys to clean them and contract exotic, lethal lung ailments.

But it does leave me turning said instructions this way and that, thinking that if only they had a single line saying, perhaps "Ensure you are using the smallest wood piece which doesn't really look that much smaller but it is, and you can tell by this small divot on both sides and is represented in the drawing by a whimsical X. Because if you don't the entire contraption will fall apart and possibly burst into flames". Just one line. A little hint. There's a reason we have moved from pictographs to a written language, as a species. 

I blustered through. It's made, it's stood up and has not fallen, crushing Owl Jr. on the bottom, yet. I take this as success.

I really cannot wait until they grow out of it and I can burn it in a large pagan pyre on some beach somewhere. Using the instructions as kindling.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Family Letter 2011

It was a hectic year for the Owl family. As it is every year for families with children of a certain age (where they cannot creditably threaten you with retirement homes). It ended on a very bad note, however, so let's start there.

In November, Mrs. Owl's dad passed away from a heart attack. It was sudden and hit the family  hard. Mrs. Owl and her sister rushed to their mother's side, in the Phillippines, where Mrs. Owl's mom and dad spend a good part of the year.

He was a well loved man , always with a song or a game for the kids. The songs were either  Tagalog or old songs that had the faint air of the Roaring Thirties and Spain. The games invariably involved the kids riding on his back.

His enormous, ready smile was big enough to include everyone, just like his post dinner impromptu programme in which anyone with even the slightest talent was called upon to perform.

He will be missed.

Mrs. Owl had a trying time in the Philippines, and I’m glad she had her mother and sister for support. Fortunately the most trying aspect, the Filipino wake, turned out to be a great help. Although when she heard about the days long period of staying with the body, even overnight, she had to contend with culture shock on top of grief. Luckily she found it cathartic, helpful, and not utterly terrifying like another, lesser person, like me, would have.

Dad is buried in the Philipines, in the backyard of the home he and Mom have there.

Mrs. Owl was gone for 17 days, so I had the, the, uh, the privilege of working full time and taking care of the kids. We got by on the mantra ‘She’ll be back in 10 days’ (miraculously this quelled questions about Mrs. Owl’s return for seven full days), the kids unwavering good cheer, and my mom and neighbours helping out tirelessly to look after the kids and get them to their various activities. Besides the endless frenetic pace, the bulwark of my sanity wavering every evening, and the terror of having my wife in a country where traffic laws are, at best, casually suggested, it was a snap.

All single parents should have an automatic sainthood.

And now on to the minutiae of our lives that I’m sure you’re all reading breathlessly on for.

In the summer we went down the Oregon Coast, for the first time since Owl Jr. was born. The trip down involved the various ways that the phrase “Are we there yet” can break down two adults’ previously healthy psyche.

The actual beach at Seaside was lovely. It was somewhere between pleasant and chilly, which, as this temperature mirrors a basement office with nothing but computers to keep one warm, suited me fine. The kids were enamoured with the waves. Owl Jr., on seeing the vast expanse of beach, tried many times to escape and perhaps set himself up as some kind of beach comber. Owlet had fun making and destroying small sand cities. God help us if either of them develop any sort of super powers.

There was also great fun with bumper cars, bike cars, and miniature trains. There was no tourist trap unsprung by the time we left Seaside.

Speaking of touristy things to do, Mrs. Owl and I went on a luxurious, very high class three day cruise from Vancouver, to Seattle, to Victoria, and back to Vancouver. We must have crossed at least, 10, 20 nautical miles.  Our fellow cruisers were older folks who I suspect make it a lifestyle, somewhat wild middle-aged women, and not a few people who mistook it for a ferry. It was just our pace, however. Nice dinners, quiet lounges to read or listen to a jazz ensemble, and those cruise shows to which most Theatre majors are bound.

Owlet is in kindergarten. Full time school, which is absurd, as she only just learned to walk last month. Or so it seems. She’s started that great journey where complete strangers and their children will have greater and greater influence on her.

She’s in a pilot program where she’s learning Mandarin. This seems to be the hip and progressive thing to do but I can’t help but think she’ll spend quite a lot of time doing inflections properly so that she somewhat misunderstand the Cantonese when we go to dim sum. 

The last big event that I can remember at her school was a dinosaur program where she sang a fugue-like song about a Stegosaurus. After the program they went to show us the dinosaurs they crafted out of cereal boxes, glue, construction paper, paint, and what we’ve been told is close adult supervision. It was, I can tell you as an objective parent, very much like stepping into Jurassic Park.

Owlet is also taking jazz dance and gymnastics this year. Both involve large groups of children following, in a very liberal interpretation of that word, what the teacher is saying. The only difference I can discern between the classes is one has falling mats.  Owlet, as in all things she does, enjoys it enormously, with lots of screaming and laughing and a natural clumsiness which I’m certain is one of my many unfortunate legacies to her.

Owl Jr. has come out of his very sad and sombre cocoon . It appears he was quiet all those months building up reserves of energy, mainly to resist all requests to : eat food that isn’t 1) hot dogs 2) a fruit of some sort; do his business on the potty. Fortunately you can look to the Owls to be that salve against your other family friends (you know the ones), whose children are reading by the age of two and doing UN recognized charity work by four. We have every expectation that we will be giving Owl Jr.’s prom date instruction on changing his diaper.

Oh, he’s generally a gentle, thoughtful little boy, but the things he  thinks about are his opinions on things, which cannot be moved (with regard to potties and Other Food). But his defiance is a bastion which will, for no reason at all, collapse under repeated requests. ‘Do you want to eat this rice?’ “NO!” “Do you want some rice?” “NONONO” “Do you want rice?” “Ok.”. It makes meal times baffling and randomly rewarding.

The other thing he thinks quiet, deep thoughts about are trains. Thomas the Tank Engine, mainly but anything on rails will do. We pooled money with the parents to get him a large train table with double level tracks and  a crane and a road system. When asked “What do you think of it Owl Jr.!?”, he paused his play with the crane to say, “Yes.”.

Mrs. Owl is stil part-time at a long term care facility assiduously watching what the old folks eat, possibly ‘tsking’ and making adjustments and the like. Her contract is up in March, so she might be looking for another place to watch over the eating habits of the elderly, I’m not sure.

I am still at UBC, programming. Interesting life I lead.

May this notoriously late holiday letter find you all well & happy, and our best wishes to you and yours for the new year.

Owl Family

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gabriel García Márquez Denies Your Firewall Request

Your request reached me just as the sun had set, and the sound of cicadas rising with the smell of frying onions and garlic and forgotten bits of lamb from yesterdays repast. It was not my intention to ignore it, indeed, it had done the unforgivable sin of reminding me of the years and months on days and hours since I had last been vigilant, that ever dwindling and ever so important virtue which holds the Group IV IT Security and Audit together, the shield against a rapacious public and the blind, unseeing corporation.

My heart is heavy, pendulous, dripping with, if not pain, then something much like it. If I were to excuse my age and the fading of my keener thoughts -- which were I an infinitely braver man, I'd have to admit was dementia --I still couldn't pinpoint why.

Your request, like so many others, seem reasonable. But the corridors and cobbled alley ways of networks and protocols and Virtual Firewalls and SANs all twisting between each other and over another and no one can say where one came from or where it's going only that it's important, a redolent mango, an untouched liana which would surely bring down the entire rotted ediface if altered.

And so your request must be queried and rethought. Rethought not out of some malice or out of a purposeful forgetfulness but out of a need to reconnect with how everything fits together, crisp bits of tile that clink together, that slowly, with a laziness of one drenched by an August sun, becomes clear.

In anycase, I doubt, quite strongly, that your BonziBuddy.exe needs to connect outside the network.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seaside Part 4 : Activities I

We were there only for a few days, hoping to avoid the dreaded affliction of boredom that runs rampant among kids 1 to 65. So the next day we had to pack in all the quaint and Kodak-moment worthy activities that any beach-side town has in abundance. The activities that look really fun and laugh-a-minute until you're on the bumper boat and the water smells like bilge from a recently decommissioned Ukranian cargo ship and your particular boat is persistently wreathed in engine smoke that smells faintly of burnt hot-dogs.

It wasn't as bad as all that, thankfully. There is a sheen though, isn't there, to all those whacky activities, like our first one: Bike Cars! A side-by-side tandem bike with seats in the front for the kids and pedalled seats in the back for the galley-slav--I mean parents. And to steer they give you an actual steering wheel! Oh the whimsy! There is a sheen, anyways, when you first see them, a novelty, a minor spastic scurrying of imagination, 'Wow! That's kinda NEAT!' you might think as you adjust your collection of Norman Rockwell buttons deftly arranged on your cardigan. But when you get there, it's the same sullen teenagers; the same iron-clad waiver agreements that makes one look about casually for Bike Car! sanctioned burial plots; the same state of the item you're going to rent: made of pig-iron and a type of pleather that's been outlawed thirty years ago due it's immediate carcinnogenic effects and indestructibility.

The kids had fun, more than I thought they would. I guess being at the front of a self-powered car without absolutely nothing in front of you has it's charms. A bit better than being in the back seat while strapped into a whatever government ministry approved child safety device that can withstand everything short of a direct RPG hit. View can't be that good.

We took a tour of Seaside, it was as quiant as you'd imagine. However, these car-bikes were supposed to follow proper right of way rules, like a, well, a car. But they'd have teenagers driving it, or moxie-filled tweens. So there were quite a few scenes that made me simultaneously cringe and bite down on the urge to shake my aged fist at a passing car-bike and yell 'Where'd ya learn how to drive?! And turn down the rock n roll!'.

Next up was -- and you'll forgive me for relating a phrase my 2-year-old says that I find cute  but that anyone else will find groan-inducing-- the bumpy cars. Zooming along in 1950's technology with safety straps from about the same era. Crammed with kids and adults and different cliques that quite clearly want to do each other massive harm, and, touchingly, are rather sorry if they hit you in the process. I drive the kids around, in turns. You can feel the butterflies just humming in their tiny bodies. A car!? Just the two of us?! That bumps?! I remember that. That's when driving was fun. Now driving is an exercise in maximal safety while calculating MPGs and best routes and avoid traffic and watching blind spots. I think everyone would have alot more fun in life if our cars had all of 3 horsepower and came equipped with massive rubber bumpers.

That is, of course, until the sheen wears off.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seaside Part 3 : Beach

It was finally time to make our way back to Owlet and Mrs. Owl.

It's a tricky thing toddlers, the Terrible Twos. That explosions of impotent rage are just under the surface most of the time, but it's something that I've come to empathize with. Imagine if you, after months and months of not really having an opinion about anything, suddenly, are YOU. You with all your preferences and ideas and wants. Now imagine that you need to communicate with an unreasonably large human who has complete and utter control over everything you do. Now imagine you can't quite speak English. Or can, perfectly, clearly, succinctly, but either the Ginormous Human has defective ears or you must, at all times, speak with your mouth filled with marbles.

I can see where the rage comes from. These episodes usually arise when the activity changes, especially if I'm taking Owl Jr. from an activity he likes, aimlessly following tire tracks, to one he might not like, joining up with the family.

As emotional and mercurial as kids are, I've found that what they want is to be reasoned with. They need to understand the logic, the why, the what, and they can be receptive to it. Or they can give you their reasoned rebuttal with screams of 'NO' that has the decibel level and chaotic clarity of a 80's hair band at the height of their powers.

So the reasoning begins, the simple, calm, quiet reasons. The trick is to not show fear, to not show the merest chink in your armour through which they can burst through and weather you down to the nub of a human you are after, say, a five hour drive running on nothing but diet red bull and a bag of corn nuts. It's a bit like you are the negotiator and what you're trying to get is a calm transition, and what they threaten, whether they know it or not, is an episode to rob from you the last precious bits of energy your frail, pathetic parenty body contains. The energy you were going to use to read a book when they were asleep, or something more luxurious, like brush your teeth, or breathe unassisted.

It's a relief that's quite hard to explain when Owl Jr. relents and gives me a pause, looks at me, thinks, then says, 'Otay'. It's quite possibly one of my mostest favoritist words at the moment. That and profligate. The other possible result the classic toddler meltdown. Nothing to do there but bunch up the shoulders, weather the storm, and try not to make eye contact with the appalled theatre-goers who just wanted to see "The Hangover 2" in peace (I kid, I'd never bring my kids to see that, explaining all the jokes, the references, the double entendres, the monkey? Come on).

In any case, it's a semi-meltdown. It's a crime against human rights and all that is just in the world that I should pull him away from following slight indentations in the sand just so he can go play with his sister in the sand. If she can't see the magic of actual rail road tracks in the beach that'll inevitably lead to Thomas, well, that's her loss, isn't it? Isn't it?!

We make it back to basecamp, with more, rather than less, tears cried. Instead of calmly making a castle or homestead or pyramid or whatever while Mrs. Owl relaxes, Owlet has taken on the job of MONSTER CRUSHER of things Mrs. Owl must make in the sand with increasing urgency. I never remember getting my parents to do that. More power to Owlet, I suppose.

And then, finally, it's time to brave the cool waters of the Oregon coast with the waves and the sand and the more waves.

We stand about where I think it'll be safe, outside the undertow zone, not high enough to sweep my children away from me as I hold onto their hands. In any activity that has even the slightest danger I don't think I'm alone in the dad-o-sphere in that I picture the worst case scenario, which, I should tell you, involves a tsunami, a pod of radioactive psychopathic killer whales and a nuclear submarine with a faulty firing safety protocol. So I don't so much hold their hands as clutch them tightly should I have to haul them both bodily out and run to the nearest abandoned Cold War era bombshelter with optional supply of killer whale repllent.

I look down at them, holding on for dear life as the waves sweep them up, they are hooting, howling, having a good time, and besides the odd smile coming to my face I realize that, at this moment, to them, I'm the strongest person ever. It's a little humbling, and a little disconcerting as I have the bones of a osteoporis addled hummingbird and the athleticism of someone who was personally offended by the TV character Urkel. But to be linked to all those kids who's parents haul them back onto their skiis, or lift them out of the pool, or do any number of hefting and lifting that's required of a parent of young kids.

We have a great time and of course Owl Jr. has to go back to the beach earlier than Owlet, as he's going to get chilled to the bone faster. Not that he'll admit it. The answer is always 'no' to the question of 'Are you cold?'. I have to watch for visible signs of mild hypothermia, and of course, haul him out of the water. That is my responsibility, after all, being the unreasonably large human, and Owl Jr. isn't communicating properly, mouth full of marbles notwithstanding.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Seaside Part 2 : Settling In

The rental house was a few blocks from the ocean, so not a beach house perse, but a close-enough-to-the-beach house. Which was fine by me. If you get one right on the beach (so I tell myself), you'd have to start driving cars with leases that could be confused with a mortgage,  have opinions about European soccer leagues, test cricket, various exchanges, and how often, or if you ever, press your chinos (you'd have to have chinos as well, come to think of it).

You'd be Upper Class, or Comfortable, as the Upper Class like to think of themselves. And I can't, I won't, have that. And not just because I can't afford it, not in the slightest. It's a principles thing.

The house itself was not the seedy, somewhat charming dive I expected it to be. It was rather done up and not altogether horrible. Which it had every right to be. As far as I'm concerned, these neglected, often empty houses have every expectation to be utterly run down and just this side of condemned.

After looking around the house we walked to the beach and enjoyed the sand and waves. The sand was soft and very, well, sandy. Not the mud and silt and sand affair you get in Vancouver, which, while biologically interesting and I'm sure greatly enhancing the first hunter gatherers diet in the region, makes for a pretty messy walk. But this Oregon sand that was powdery and soft and was sure to keep the kids entertained for hours while their weary parents sat back and got into some summer reading.

We have a sandbox at home, and they keep themselves remarkably content playing in the sand; but not in anyway that you might imagine. They don't make ordered castles or little pyramids or whatever. It's somewhat more chaotic, mostly they just sift it ,over and over like prospectors without the tattered overalls and mercury poisoning.

This is how we thought they'd take to the beach sand. However, Owl Jr., in seeing the beach, decided to go wandering, with me in tow, because at two and a bit, a kid just kinda wanders and isn't terribly worried about being lost. At least mine isn't. He's off and in his own personal quiet reverie about life and if his parents don't have the sharp-minded alertedness to keep a tab of him every 3 seconds, well, that's not exactly his problem. He doesn't make much noise, generally. Someday he'll make a great ninja or congressional archival librarian.

There was a lifeguard on duty, somewhere, anyways, the tracks of his truck or hilariously wide-stanced ATV traced across the beach. Owl Jr, in his infinite understanding how everything in the worlds relates to trains, decided these were train-tracks, and therefore must be followed. He had a grand old time following these tracks endlessly and I had a slightly less exciting time following him as he repeated "Thomas, thomas choo choo?".

It was relaxing, nevertheless, even if my job description for the day had been changed from 'stationary, reading concierge' to 'strolling butler'. The waves beckoned, those would offer some adventure, I'm sure. For another post.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Seaside Part 1

I find I'm trying to reconstruct my childhood in my vacations. Not purposely, but out of habit.

To that end i took the family to the Oregon coast, to experience the beach as I experienced it: chilly, windy, and with far too much Gore-Tex™. It's summer vacation as experienced by a son of immigrants. How were they to know a proper vacation was at a multi-billion dollar ride park festooned with anthopomorphic domestic animals, professionally-created childhood-focussed-grouped animated imagination avatars and other copyright protected IP? They wouldn't.

There is also the small problem of my parents being under the intermittent delusion that they enjoy the outdoors. (Memories of camping, such as it was, is dominated by twenty year old canvas tents that I now know smelled overwhelmingly of mildew with brief notes of a hardy, devastating killer mold; short-lived fires that were constructed with the quixotic idea that a roaring blaze could be had from warming rather large, damp logs with a handful of forest detritus; and by the recurring, never realized aspirations of going fly fishing at 4 AM.)

So, without knowing that 'going to the beach for our children to get partially blinded from short lived fires' was not a 'thing' to do, that's what we did as kids.

And so that's what I did with my family. Minus the fire bit.

The hardest part of the vacation was the drive, of course. With children, it seems, it's always the bit where they have to stay very still while confined with nylon straps and being told to 'look out the window'. Yes, we did have a device for playing the Dora's and Thomas the Tank Engine, but we wanted to wait until we really needed it, the Death Blossom of road-trip childcare if you will. Because if you play that card too early, and they get sick of it, well, then you're exhausted and they're tired and bored and you have absolutely no psychological backstop to stop you from offing yourself with an imaginative use of the automatic windows, a trick shoulder belt, and the judicious use of the e-brake.

If a kid is really young they don't actually care, and are happy to sleep and snack and look at the blurry things out the window while being flabberghasted and amazed by the most mundane things. Like trains, boats, an El Camino that has made the disastrous conversion to 'camper'. That's Owl Jr.

If a kid is really old, they, I'd assume, find a way to amuse themselves. With the bluetooth and the blackberries and the text-mess--why no I do not have a smart phone myself, why do you ask?

If a kid is in the Magic Zone of Maximal Annoyance (Owlet), then you're both in for a treat. They are like elves, these little guys, their attention has the ferocity and lifespan of a mongoose cross-bred with a mayfly. We brought colouring books and toys and games and oh look congratulations, you've just amused her for 27 minutes. 7.5 hours to go there, bucko.

And, thinking about it, trying to keep my blood pressure down as she complains that 'it's so tiring' even though I'm the one who had been driving for three hours, I can see where she's coming from. She has no reference for how much longer it'll be, or how to keep track of the progress, of having any indication that we won't, in fact, end up spending the rest of our days in that car driving steadily south on the I-5. I came to this realization as I tried to calculate when we'd get to the rental house given our current speed with rest stops.
But we all mustered through. We did this trick of leaving really early so the kids would sleep in the car for a few hours. And much to everyone's surprise, it mostly worked.

This karmic fluke would be paid back in full, later.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Pecha Kucha Vol. 17

In a shambling, unfocussed, and entirely inconsistent bid to Get Out More, and Do Stuff I Wouldn't Normally Do And Perhaps Get Inspired I decided to go to this talk, called Pecha Kucha. The idea is to present a number of speakers: each one has 20 images, and has 20 seconds for each image.

The one I went to covered West Coast Modernist Architecture. Everything I know enough about architecture could fit in a extra small fortune cookie. I think natural light might be important. I.M. Pei? Is that close to something that might be architecturally related? Arches, I'm sure, feature in some way.

It turns out that West Coast Modernist is all about clean lines, large, large windows, and a blurring between nature and living space. Also, what was unspoken but all too well understood, is that the only people who can ever experience it first hand, on a daily basis, are the sort people who have a passionate interest in capital gains tax and actually know what the hell a Turks and Caicos is.

We're all sitting there, admiring amazing houses and people's thoughts on these houses and the movements behind them and there is that idea floating around, unspoken. Most people in the room can't even afford a Vancouver Special let alone some delightful structure which features more philosophical thought and aesthetic attention than a well-funded private liberal arts college. Vancouver is famously (if only in Vancouver) ill-affordable? Unaffordable? It's damn hard to buy real estate here.

It seems it'd be a much better talk if it focussed on architecture in public spaces. The sorts of things that affect everyone's quality of life. But, then again, Pecha Kucha was first created for architects to talk shop with other architects.

It was a great night, nevertheless, some great speakers, some ... speakers who perhaps got a spot because of personal connections or a vast file of unpublishable photos of the director of Pecha Kucha and a small arctic hare. I'm not sure. The quality was a little erratic but overall, it was interesting.

Two thumbs up, would likely break my self-imposed cocoon of hermetic anti-social behaviour to go again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Brief Update : Fitness

Since February 7th I've been on a bit of a diet. And going to the gym. All which seems to have cut into creative time. Or, more sensibly, has cut into any energy I might have had to think up appropriate topics for the blog. So I'm just going to blog a post that's more.. bloggy.

The getting fit thing is something that I've been meaning to do for a while, but I finally snapped. Cumulative thing really. One of the straws was realizing that the amount I was overweight was like carrying my two kids strapped to me at all times. Another was I was getting short-winded typing.

My fitness regimen is a mix of things, really. The most important being diet, since it's far more important for weight loss.

I'm from the school of thought that goes, if it's too hard, I ain't gonna bother.¹ Which, granted, might be the Loser's Recipe for Life, but helped me to build the perfect program for me, so far.


A few notes:
  • in weight loss, diet is way more important than exercise.
  • keep it simple, calories in < calories out (there are no forbidden foods).
  • there are 3500 calories per pound of fat.
  • eat tons of veggies. I mean, a ton. I mean, 1/2 to 3/4 of my plate is heaped with broccoli or bell peppers or lettuce or some other leafy green, this is to keep me from getting hungry. Some veggies have a caloric punch to them, just look them up and count accordingly.
The first step is to  find how many calories your body burns doing nothing. Now, I'm a lazy lazy lazy man. I have no illlusions. I always enter activity level of 'sedentary', and that, only because there's no option that reads 'for all intents and purposes, functionally vegetative'.

The second is to count every goddamn calorie. This involves a calorie counting book/app/website of somesort, a weight scale, measuring cups, and severe OCD. Try and find a calorie deficit per day you can handle. A deficit that won't have you clawing at the walls for food. Keep in mind that there are about 3500 calories to a pound of fat. Plan your loss and expectations accordingly.

To keep you on the plan, I use the Seinfeld method.

To keep me from going insane from hunger, I eat food that's volumetric, which is a fancy way of saying 'pack as much water and vegetables and lean protein as you can handle so you feel full'. When that fails, diet coke.

Life is a constant balancing act and counting game. Trying to figure out if this weight of food will get me full, is a 'good deal' in my crazy diet parlance. It kinda consumes a shitton of mental room, but none of us are working for CERN, we can spare the brainpower.

One ends up having a weird knowledge of how many calories many common bits and pieces of food are. Slice of Bread= 100 cals, banana = 150, egg = 80, can of tuna = 120, bagel =300, big mac = 550.

And what I've found is that if I do count every calorie and try and pack lean protein (most satisfying filling for the buck) with tons of veggies (feeling full) plus some sort of carb (my body goes crazy on Atkins like things) I feel full², and can keep the diet going.

Inertia, I think, is the most important thing. Overcoming the inertia of doing nothing is the most hardest bit about getting fitter. The absolute hardest bit. I've been intending to do something about it for about, oh, five years? Likewise, the inertia to keep it going is even more important. Because I know how hard it is to GET going.


This is the graph I live by. You'll see that as you increase your effort, you get to a point where the additional effort you're putting in is TREMENDOUS, but the calories your burning per hour is hardly increasing at all. The trick is to find that sweet spot where it seems like you're barely exerting yourself at all, yet burning quite a bit.

I use cardio machines that have a heart rate monitor. Heart rate can be roughly mapped to your effort. If you can keep at that perfect pace, you'll never get that winded, 'going to die right now I swear drop down and die tell my wife I love her' feeling that you experienced in high school gym doing timed runs. It's that pain that keeps many from doing cardio, or at least me. Which will effect the all important inertia.

It will vary according to sex/age, but I find doing some cardio activity with a heart rate between 120-140 is sustainable for a ridiculous amount of time. 140-150 the sweat starts pouring in torrents, 150-170 is a full on sprint that is unsustainable.

You'll see that in both my diet and excercise, everything is planned to avoid pain, because pain (whether that be hunger or the sensation of your heart exploding like a pinata ) will bring your fitness and diet to a stop, will kill that all important inertia of keep on, keeping on.

That's all I have to say about that for now.  And as for results? I find bragging to be a character flaw, unless you're in a job interview. But it might be helpful to see if this crazy No Pain All Weight Loss system works.

February 7th 2011 : 211.7 lbs, ? % body fat
June 19th 2011     : 166.4 lbs, 19.2 % body fat

¹ Where 'hard' is defined as 'feeling fricking hungry all the time', or 'dying while exercising'.
² Example of a meal : 200g chicken breast diced (200cals), 1 cup cooked rice (200cals), 1 cup diced carrots (50cals), 1 cup diced onions (50cals). Cooked in a non-stick pan (oil is cals), mixed all together, seasoned with low to no calorie seasonings (soy sauce, hot sauce, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, even some chicken stock (very very low in cals)). The result is a heaping plateful of food. Total cals, 500.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Just Saying...

Oh breaking buddha on a babbling baboon. That goddamn phrase is among several makes me briefly consider that the mandatory sentences for 'murder by blunt force trauma' are tolerable.

It's not just that it's the needless blathering of a word-hipsters trying to fit in. It's not just that it precludes any sort of actual, real personality of the writer and steamrolls it with a snarky asstit blunderbutt who's first opinion about anything is mockery and sarcasm.

It's that it creates a sort of verbal short-hand. A personality stand-in. It's a phrase most often used by the sort of people whose desire to point out their lack of a television is only eclipsed by an urgent impulse to proclaim their simultaneous love for a multinational grocery chain (their Raw Rosemary & Kosher Salt Kissed Brazil Nuts are AMAZING)  as well as an even larger multinational which manages to charge 40% more for electronics by making them 100% more ostentatious.

It's the 'just saying..' and the 'natch' and the 'What is that, I don't even' mental shortcuts, verbal junk of minds and personalities too worried about what someone might think of them; if they don't conjure up the correct bon mot, the slyest opinion, the blinking beacon that they are, indeed, One of Them, the smart set, the group that was into whatever band you are into but ten years ago, they'll be reviled and marched down the aisles of aforementioned grocery chain, being pelted at with off-brand dried fruit candies and magazines with not enough bokeh.

It's a waving the white flag while you say your peace. The verbal camouflage, the  meagerest offering to the strongest, tightest skinny jean-wearing beard-growing oversized-aviator wearing uber hipster, that hypothetical god of all that's in the know and cool and with it. It has a powerful whiff of servility to it, the submitting to the uber hoard, the sacrificing of your voice, the exposing your tastiest nether regions to horde in hopes they won't pounce.

It reeks of automata, of the Given, of fear.

And that, that's all I'm saying.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Opening Lines of Cormac McCarthy's "The Cat In The Hat"

The boy and the girl were  inside. Outside it drizzled an unending fall of dead cloud. They both shivered. Their ball sat motionless in the middle of the room. Not waiting, not sleeping. Maybe dead. The boy looked at the girl.
Not much to do.
Too cold.
They sat and watched the grey splatting outside their window.
She frowned and it creased her face until it might have been a smile but then the shadows faded and there was only that frown.
They both heard it, who first, didn't matter. It was a bump. They jumped.
And then they saw him. Tall, a grin ringed with sharpened canines and a clownish hat, bent in the middle, or sagging, or broken.
Sitting around? He said.
The girl shrugged, the boy just stared.
I know some tricks. Might be worth your time.
They both stared back now. The girl's frown deepened.
Our mother?
She won't mind.
The fish swam to the edge of his bowl, made bubbles like the last sighs of a dry corpse.
That cat must leave. You don't want to play. And he shouldn't be here. Not when your mother is out.
The cat flicked at his hat, the brim jounced a nodding bobbing yes to whatever he was going to say. Chicken?
These are on the up and up. Nothing bad about them. Watch. Up up up, fish.
He grabbed at the bowl, and fish could do nothing, only squirm. Don't drop me.
I don't aim to.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Crushing, Secret HR Policies

  • while fraternization is frowned upon, sexual harassment complaints from someone lower on  the totem pole about someone who has, quite literally, carte blanche will always end poorly for the complainer.
  • the Kleenex in the break room are for make-up removal or runny noses. Please bring your own supply for crying jags or otherwise personal issues.
  • our wellness coordinator is actually a co-op/intern position that's shared with six other mulitnationals across three states. You may book an appointment with him/her in March and late October.
  • people who are inordinately thirsty during the day will have their cubicles moved furthest from the watercooler. 
  • our 'paid grief time' is for recruitment purposes only. 
  • the 'security cameras' are actually used to record the time you take for your breaks and lunch.
  • smokers and people who have been deemed 'generally unpleasant' get fewer, and less enthusiastic email reminders to join the Summer Company Picnic.
  • there is no typing test when we interview for receptionists.
  • all calls that may be monitored are, all calls that no one could reasonably assume would be monitored are. 
  • business texts are checked for spelling accuracy, all managers are reprimanded accordingly.
  • the heater isn't really broken in the bathrooms. That would assume there are heaters there to BE broken.
  • The new front door is a metal detector.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Waffling Waffle Salesman

Why hello there. You look like you're in the market for a waffle iron, am I right? Unless you're not, I mean there are plenty of perfectly acceptable breakfast foods in the bread group to satisfy the working man's needs, why only yesterday I had a...

Oh, you are?

Well then, well then. I have, I think, just the waffle iron for you. You live in an apartment don't you, or a condo, or a timeshare, or a sublet, or a parked RV, or perhaps a very large house tastefully decorated, or none at all, the bare look.

You.. well, that's not really important, I think you'll agree. What matters is that you are in the market for a waffle iron and I have it right here. The last iron you ever buy, unless you have need of more than one, or your residence catches fire and you don't have the opportunity to go back and get that iron and maybe choose to save a loved one or a photo album or a rather lazy cat, I understand.

We all have priorities.

I think you'll find this is a mighty fine waffle iron, the best money can buy, outside some gold encrusted one with rubies and diamonds and emeralds and maybe with a nice mother of pearl handle that you might have seen adorn the breakfast nook of Sylvester Stallone in a back issue of GQ where collarless tuxedos are actually recommended for weddings; let's just say this as much waffle iron as any reasonable man could wish from one. Not that you can't wish for more, this land was built on dreams and aspirations. We are nothing but apes if we don't have hopes and dreams.

Oh, I suppose we are apes, that's right. I mean the real ones, the ones with hair and live in the jungle and get shot in African civil wars that have raged for decades, those ones.

Let's get down to brass tacks shall we?

This waffle iron here, the Studger Rothsman 2900 has a preheat function, an auto shut off function, completely coated in industrial Teflon for easy cleanup.

But you're right, who knows what's in that Teflon or how much of it comes off in your waffle. I mean one day you're having a simple belgian waffle, maybe with a strawberry compote and the next you're in the CDC where all sorts of doctors are pushing needles and IVs and probes trying to figure out why your spleen and thyroid exploded at once. Not something that we should be paying for in a waffle iron, at least not extra. But you're probably right, where are we if we dont' take a few risks.

And isn't a hot, fresh waffle worth a few risks?

Unless you are averse to them. Or don't like waffles at all, come to think of it. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Various Interesting Things About The Napoleonic Era Part III

Killing On The High Seas

The battleship was the most complex machine of that era, requiring hundreds of sailors in addition to the many specialists (armorer, cook, cooper, surgeon, carpenter, etc). This is a machine (which, I know, sounds a bit wonky, one doesn't think of something that doesn't have an engine or at least a very prominent smoke stack to be a machine; a bit of rope, some sail, and alot of wood hardly constitutes one) which controlled the only means of overseas trade, --from the West or East Indies, from the Americas-- and therefore of wealth, and therefore, ultimately, of power. They were the Star Destroyers of their time.

Killing was done very simply, and much like on land, but with more cannons, heavier cannons. Iron balls of death that weighed as little as 6 to as much as 45lbs would be hurtled at the enemy. If you didn't get maimed or die outright from those, you'd die from splinters of all things, being broken off by impact and hurtling through the air to do the most untoward things to your major arteries, your lesser known internal organs, and generally spiling your blood all over the deck.

If they didn't kill you with roundshot they'd switch to grapeshot or canister shot, which would turn those massive beasts into the sort of shotguns you'd use to hunt elephants if you were interested in both killing the elephant and liquifiying its remains at the same time.

And if they didn't kill you with cannon fire (incidently, while you tried to do the same), they'd board you and you could both have an all out brawl trying to sever important bits off each other using axes and pikes and cutlasses. There was no room on a boarding action for any grace or parry or swordsmanship, much like when infantry would do a bayonet charge, it was all gutter fighting, moreso infact, since there was less room to move, and a drop into the ocean meant a drowning more often than not (many sailors never bothered how to swim, reasoning it was better to die quick than prolong it (this is as if all the sailors were the visitors from Alien Nation, touch water and you die, and you're surrounded by water)).

All the while this was happening they'd often have sharpshooters, as much as they could be, seeing as they had to use smoothbore guns, in the tops of the rigging to shoot down on you as you fired your cannons or steered the ship or tried not to be killed by screaming masses of iron being propelled by explosions.

It was a bloody, vicious affair, a fight of artillery at close range, full of a tsunami of noise and smoke and general chaos that generally accompanied war at that time.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Various Interesting Things About The Napoleonic Era Part II

Ah, you thought I'd given up on this dusty topic that can only be of interest to people who collect ascots and have an enduring love of Coronation Street. How wrong you are.

Killing - On Land
Whereas now all you need is a few billion dollars worth of laser guided ordnance dropped from tens of thousands of feet lit up by an elite military team that has more hours training in Killing The Enemy With Dental Floss than I have spent being alive, in the Napoleonic Era, killing was all about cojones. Not that modern day or soldiers in Korean and Vietnam and WWII etc etc didn't have cojones. But in the Napoleonic Era that's ALL there was. No real tactics perse, or situational awareness, it was more or less a gigantic game of chicken.

You had three main groups in a land battle: cannons, cavalry, and infantry. They work in a sloppy rock papers scissors fashion. Infantry can beat infantry, cannons soften or beat infantry. Calvary can, in certain circumstances, destroy infantry, but in other circumstances, the reverse is true. Calvary, from what I can tell, tries to stay out of the way of cannons altogether. Then you have different grades of calvary (lancers, heavy cavalry, cuirassiers, oh god you're falling asleep already), and different grades for the other two roles in the army. But we won't get into that.

But we were talking about cojones,and games of chicken. In that time, there is no 'spotting' the enemy, finding the ambush, looking for IEDs. The enemy is wearing some ridiculously garish uniform, marching in a very large group (column or line) right at you. They are marching at you because muskets are only accurate (for generous definitions of 'accurate') at about 50 yards. I think you're at about 50/50 for whether the musketball will even hit you. So the enemy marches at you, you can see your likely death walking in cadence.

Behind them are their cannons firing iron balls (between 10 and 24 lbs) at you. You have to march at them, doing the same thing, hoping that an cannon ball doesn't find you and decapitate you or cripple your or disembowel you in a shockingly sloppy manner. I mean, the cannons will most LIKELY not hit you. Unless the gunners are good, and learn how to graze the shot, meaning the shot hits the first line, then bounces, but not too high, and keeps doing carnage all down the column.

And all the while you march, and your best friend gets his legs removed at the pelvis and that annoying bloke who still owes you 10 shillings cops it some upper crust officer is yelling at sergeant to yell at you to close ranks. That's right, fill up the space left by the careening ball of death that just left guts and viscera all over your already garish uniform.

And then you finally get in range. You all move together. Present arms, fire, load, veeeeeeery slowly. A really well trained infantryman could fire 3 shots in a minute. After the first or second volley there's smoke everywhere, you can't actually see your enemy are are just firing into smoke, hoping that the smoke is parted for a musketball coming from their side to you.

That, I'll humbly submit, takes cojones. Loading, firing, staying with your platoon.

At some point, the calvary might charge you. Big, massive beasts, trained to trample and bite (although, what with the trampling, I'm sure the biting doesn't worry you so much), and ontop, some enormous fellow from the upper crust who has had better food and better training than the poor fellows he's about to ride over. Infantry. Usually peasants or thieves or murderers, the general trod-upon of society.  So this upper crust fellow is knee to knee with his fellow calvary men, charging you, swinging an enormous cavalry sabre to cut across your face or to sever your spine.

But remember that thing I said about 'in certain circumstances'? Well, there was one thing the infantry could do, which was form a square. Outer layer of soldiers put their muskets to the ground, bayonets facing out, the second and third ranks fire. Horses, for some inexplicable reason, will not charge into pointy sticks.

And, here again, cojones comes into play. If you hold the square, with your mates, you're ok. You're safe. If you panic,if you all start to break and run, well. That's what calvary is made for. Running down broken and scattering infantry. Complete slaughter.

Next post, Killing on the High Seas.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Various Interesting Things About The Napoleonic Era Part I

Having read through the entire Sharpe and Aubrey-Maturin series, I realize I know perhaps a little too much about the Napoleonic era given my age, general disposition to pipes, and my inability to procure a single piece of furniture that might be described as an 'ottoman'.

Without resorting to taking strolls through the retirement communities of British ex-pats and striking up conversations with fellows sporting luxuriant moustaches and alarmingly hopeful comb-overs, I doubt I'll have opportunity to discuss the various interesting things about the Napoleonic Era.

And there are many.

The Sharpe series follows a loud, rambunctious, go-getter in the Army with recurring money problems and a taste for the wench as he climbs the ladder of promotion by grit, luck, and raw love of violence. The Aubrey-Maturin series features Jack Aubrey, who well, is very similar to Sharpe except that he's in the Navy, his idea of 'fiscally destitute' is quite different from Sharpe's, and he plays the violin.

Obviously, there are many other differences, the general gist is that they are both underdogs, and who doesn't love a good underdog story? Even if it happens to be 20 odd books long, right?

That era, early 1800's to about 1820's or so, was kinda the zenith of Crap We Can Just Make With Your Hands. Before industrialization and the whole machines making machines making machines things came into play. It's radically noticeable with the Navy. On a ship, you'd have a cooper (barrels), armourer, carpenter, gunner, surgeon (staunch the flow, amputate at will, no real training), sailmaker, and, I'm sure, about 20 other REALLY important positions I'm forgetting. But the thing is, that ship, say, a frigate, could land anywhere, and make stuff work from the rawest of materials. They could make boats, they could repair their own boat, they could slaughter and salt and store their own food. This is mind blowing to me.

Consider now, a boat made of carbon fibre, or steel, about a trillion transistors worth of electronics and radar and GPS and doppler. If that thing breaks, yer screwed. The amount of civilization to make the smallest component of a modern ship is enormous. Advances in mathematics, hydrodynamics, laminar flow, materials processing, metallurgy.

What that era was like is, well, I was thinking. It's basically the most advanced we could hope to get within a reasonable time after the zombie apocalypse. Or. Or a apocalypse.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Vice Admiral of the Blue Alexander "Like A Steel Trap" Parakov's Last Rallying Speech Before the Great Mutiny Of 4962

I know I ask alot of all here today, what after the quasi-sentient bloodthirsty dark nebula 8301-wS, and the shockingly violent parasitic tribes of the Acbsenmil asteroid belt, there might be some trust issues in the fleet. I mean, never mind the Fzerom brain melters or the curiously strong limb-ripping pond scum from Aquas III. Only a machine, not unlike the Baader Hoff Decapitate-Maim-KILL! Kings of Circuita, to not appreciate that perhaps I'm asking too much; that perhaps every man and woman has a breaking point, as, indeed, the Gel Monsters of the Angel IV Outlander Colonial post found out for everyone there, in the longest time possible. Where was I.

Yes, breaking points. But we are the Inter Galactic Space Force Triumvirate Regiment! Conquerer of galaxies and usurpers of celestial dominions! Our people are made of harder stuff! Sterner stuff! Our suicide rate is nearly 0.000894% off the entire Imperial Navy. That's some real numbers! Sure it might be because we don't count murder-suicides but let's not quibble. I mean, we did include the Suicide Inducer Virus that rampaged through the fleet for nearly 30 years before someone thought that maybe doing a few autopsies might be in order. And it only took 3 more years until we realized that autopsies techinically only apply to the dead. That's a ten fold increase people.

But numbers shmumbers, right? I'm here to talk about victory! Something we haven't seen in anyone's lifetime but, our history assures us, has happened to a regiment that could very well be traced down to us.

And we can have it again.

Just like we shrugged off the Undead Infants of Barbyl 4 and the giant babooned faced multi-limbed Eviscerators off the moon Titus G, I'm sure we can shrug through these difficulties before us. Well, perhaps shrug is not the word. But 'screaming bloodily while rending each other limb from limb while narrowly averting fleet-wide hysterical madness' is hardly a rallying cry, now is it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Dream Within A Dream

I've been a little writerly blocked up lately. It's irksome. Last night I dreamed I had become friends with Patton Oswalt, although I didn't recognize him until I woke.

In any event, he was my new, real life friend! And we were walking down a street at night, and he looked at me and said, 'ok, GO!', basically asking me to riff on anything, it was an audition for his friendship, this is what I remember saying. 

Plus added fluff, because, really, who remembers their dreams?
I like blue drinks, the sort made by marginally paid scientists who's last work involved Dow chemical and horrific civilian casualties in some easily coerced Banana republic. Something that rings with a metallic taste and the undefinable comforting finish of something entirely man-made. Like the Constitution, the GMC Gremlin, and Lisa Carlise. Centuries of science and civilization and experimentation and the march of humankind bolstering a colour of drink that would only be found in nature if nature happened to have a lab full of copper sulfate.

It's not that I'm particularly pro-science, or pro-industrial chemical engineering, but literally years of bathroom cleaning product television advertising has convinced me that blue is the colour of the clean and fresh future; even if it's not that of what is always hopefully labelled 'berry' flavoured.

Or maybe it's my love of science fiction. Blue drinks always feature prominently in shows made with plenty of gold painted styrofoam, looped space battles and heroes who should have died from space VD about three seasons ago. It's like somewhere in our ape brain a fuse is being blown when we even consider an aqua marine drink. It shouldn't exist, it's existence refutes millions of years of hunting and gathering and eating reasonably coloured food. But no, there it is: BAM, the blue of progress, the blue of clean bathrooms, the blue made possible by trace amounts of a chemical banned in Europe due to it's nasty tendency to cause severe pancreatic failure.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

I Don't Understand This Mainstream Star Who Is So Popular

I don't understand how this mainstream star can be so popular. Sure he has the looks of a young Errol Flyn and the disarming charm of a Sean Connery during the golden age of Bond films, but please. Really? This guy? With the millions of albums sold and the half a dozen multi-million dollar movies to his credit? I mean, where does the public get off?

Sure he can dance and sing and seems to have the fashion sense of a high-end Parisian heroin dealer while retaining some of that down-home charm that makes even mothers swoon, but come on! It's entirely puzzling. Look at that face! And that skin! It's almost too perfect! How can the general public find him appealing in any way at all?

No one without a published genetic disorder has a chin that chiselled, or a self-effacing manner that calls to mind Carey Grant without some serious, serious personal issues.How is that so hard for Joe Six-Pack to understand?

He's only appeared in films where his natural charm, good looks, or brooding intensity can shine through as electrically charged anti-heroes or heart-stoppingly perfect romantic leads, right? I don't get it. I don't get the draw.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Failed Approaches to Defending Ship Memorabilia Purchases to Your Spouse

  • Oh my god, it's not like I said ANYTHING about you wanting to BRONZE Sebastien's shoes? And he has weird feet.
  • It's like this, OK, you loved Richard Gere in "An Officer and and Gentleman", right? Well, it's kinda like that. Except without the subtle gay subtext.
  • Well, you did make me eat kale. KALE. *looks meaningfully at 1/2 empty plate*
  • I could just get a Veritech fighter. 1/60 scale.
  • Oh, so your love of anachronism stops as soon as we need 2 feet of bookshelf space for a 110-gun Spanish Galleon with flammable rigging. What? It is.
  • I promise this has nothing to do with me calling it "Davey Jone's Locker" down there.
  • You said no to my rubber ducky, my rubber sheep, AND my inflatable Betty Boop, and NOW THIS? What is WRONG with you?
  • Don't you dare bring my LP collection of "The Captain and Tenille". They are TOO more important to 20th century pop culture than "Sonny & Cher".
  • Well, you DID make me learn all those knots. 
  • My interest in it has nothing to do with the fact that your lines have evolved from a schooner to a East Indiaman to a 120 gun 1st rate. Nothing at all.
  • I'll promise to stop christening and naming our cats. Or prepending their name with HMS, okay?

Prospective iPad 2 Owner With His Thoughts.

Look, I know I live in a state and a city which thinks quinoa is a reasonable substitute for a starch and that gears on bikes an abomination. I know that all my coworkers, immediate family, and extended family who live in this region all love "The Wire", "Arrested Development", and now slightly hate "Arcade Fire" ever since "the Grammy incident". I know there are almost more recycling bins outside my apartment complex than there are elements in the Periodic Table, but still.

I have some expectations.

It'd be nice if the lineup wasn't ten blocks long. Like, 15 people. I could handle waiting for 15 people. But only if those 15 people don't have an itemized list as to why the iPad 2 is really the one to get, and, in the long run, actually quite a bargain.

Also, could the people in my immediate vicinity please not have tumblrs or blogs or twitter accounts that they casually try and advertise? How many streams of information do I need about new Apple products and product rumours and supposed long-term strategy and finalized, objective data on battery lives? Like, ten, at the most, and I already got them.

I happen to like black mock turtle-necks, ok? And jeans. I liked them about two years before Jobs (our prayers and thoughts are with you Steve!) got the look, ok? It'd be awesome if no one pointed tha tout.Or asked me how much my impersonation fees are.

Also, Rio is a perfectly good company. And my iRiver doesn't need replacing. The first 10 hipsters in that lineup who make a crack at it, or the fact that all I have on it is 1/2 of "Razor's Edge" and the "Blues Brothers" soundtrack get a very very hostile stare.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Uncomfortable Movie Synopses

Ethnics die first. Austrian herrenfolk survives thermonuclear blast in a jungle without cover.

Death and the Maiden
Doctors who systematically rape and torture for a totalitarian regime can afford extremely expensive chamber music seats.

Only a horrifying amalgan of machine and half-dead man, funded by and developed for a private corporation for profit can save a major city in decay.

Ocean's Eleven
Eleven hardened life-time criminals are justified in robbing millions from a legitimate business man because he's somewhat cold and happens to be dating the head criminal's ex-wife.

Federal agent has nearly all his best friends killed in a bloody war over a substance that's legalized a few years later.

Red Dawn
Every conflict to ever descend upon Afganistan, transposed to Montana.

Breakfast Club
Over-privileged white kids in the suburbs feel hard done by, get high, have a make-over, collaborate on a letter.

Top Gun
Man learns about commitment only by having his best friend die in practice.

Barton Fink
Wrestling movies pay the bills, not Great American Films.

Monsters Inc.
Entire species are reduced from a warrior band who strike terror in the hearts of millions to a laughing stock of cheap-gag vaudevillians in a desperate bid to keep the lights on.

A hardened sociopath almost delves into pedophilia, a girl's family dies, and an entire SWAT team is killed so that a ficus can find a better life on private school grounds.

Belle Epoque
A softcore film is not identified as such due to foreign language, soft-focus, and a superb prop-master.

Run Lola, Run
A screenwriter with career ending writer's block writes the same plot out several times, with small variations, just to make his vignette feature-length.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Things I Would Miss From My 20's If I Had Them In My 20's

  • washboard abs.
    • any abs at all.
  • belonging to a team sport.
    • belonging, full stop.
  • having a nickname that wasn't used with derision.
  • keg parties.
    • scratch that.
  • having a secret handshake/hi-five ritual.
  • cruising down the strip.
    • having a car to cruise down the strip with.
    • knowing where said strip might be.
  • having a favourite band.
  • going to quirky cultural heritage days of which I'm weirdly proud.
  • beach volleyball.
    • not the "Top Gun" kind.
    • not  the "Dead or Alive" kind either.
    • I'm not sure what I mean here.
  • witheringly advanced political views.
  • handing out Beat Poetry flyers.
  • joining an amusingly mismatched club for a girl.
    • getting more interested in the club's activities than said girl.
  • a koi pond.

Monday, February 21, 2011

L4D2 NPC's and Infected Rejected Out Of Hand

Oil Derrick Worker:
You never see them, because, well, they're kinda isolated, but you hear reports about them, and they sound terrifying.

Tai Chi Master
If you ever swing that ax faster than an heavily sedated sea sponge, he goes down immediately. But should you go slower, HOO EEEEE!.

You only ever encounter their corpses, they go first.

He can be found dumpster diving, looking smug and eating rats.Organic rats.

A jazz flautist.

Sits in his car, a well-notated map of Toledo in his lap, a cold cup of coffee on the dash, and him, crying softly.

He stands, looking from the door to his front desk, torn behind a hunger for human flesh and a sense of duty.

Stands below the double rings, arms still on the rings, him looking up, moaning.

Fusses and pats you down, emits a low 'humming' noise as he considers, invariably leaves you alone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


In a fit of what only can be described as a radically unfounded enthusiasm for the outdoors we decided to take the kids tobagganing. Living in BC means ridiculous cost of living,  receiving way below the national median salary, but also that mountains are about 30 minutes away, turning the 1000 mm of rain we get at sea level into wonderful, if soggy, snow.

Capitalism dictates that where there are parents desperate to create 'memories' for their children there are cramped ticket booths at the end of interminable lines ready to charge money for it. And they do. For bringing your own sled to go down the mountain. Gravity is apparently a premium resource.

We borrow tobaggans from the neighbours, who have kids who are quite a bit older. This should have sent off alarms for me, cautious dad that I am. But on the other hand, I want my kids to be more or less fearless, and adventurous about things, so I don't really give it a second thought. It's a board, that you sit on, to take you down a very long sheet of ice. If that doesn't say safety I don't know... it does sound suspiciously like the sport that poor Georgian died doing in our Olympics.

We get there, pay the fees, and stand behind the impromptu lines. The hill looks kinda steepish, kinda longish. I do have all the coordination of a inebriated stork in a hurricane, but I figure I can keep things under control. I'm the Dad, for crying out loud. Evolved over the millions of years to, if nothing else, protect the young. From sabre-toothed tigers and rampaging bison and the odd rampaging tribe.

Nothing to it.

But somewhere in the profoundly careful part of me, there are doubts. Serious doubts. I'm the sort of geek who can sprain his ankle if the sidewalk he's strolling on hasn't been professionalliy resurfaced in more than say, eight days.

Owl Jr. and Mrs. Owl go down on a narrow bottomed contrivance, it cuts into the snow and doesn't go terribly fast. I think, oh, this isn't so bad. 

A younger teenager takes his turn, he kneels on his tobaggan, and it just screams down the hill. I suppose being on his knees increases the speed and possibility of quadrapelegia should he hit a large tree. Whee. There's something familiar about his trip down, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

We go down, and geez, it certainly feels faster when you're on the sled. I brake with my feet, sending snow spray everywhere, we do a little 360 at a very slow speed and spill out. The worst thing is that snow gets into Owlet's jacket. She doesn't exactly enjoy the snow down her neck but wants to go again.

We go down a second time. I slow down again. Except I guess not enough, or we hit a bump. In any case we spill, but don't necessarily get untangled from the tobaggan, Owlet's hand gets dragged across the aforementioned sheet of ice that masquerades as snow and she's screaming.

We get up.  Somehow through crushing guilt and impenetrable sense of failure as a dad and a person, I keep my wits, much to my surprise. I find the injured wrist, but I don't know what's happened yet, just that Owlet is really giving her lungs a proper workout. There's echoes off the mountain, I believe.

First thing's first, I go through basic range of motion, nothing broken, whew. Then I pull back her coat sleeve and really look at it. There's a patch about the size of a dollar bill that's completely white, and I know that a nice swath of skin has been left on the hill.  In about 2 minutes there's going to some serious blood. Gotta get her to the medic tent. We trudge up the mountain to the saddest excuse for a cafeteria I've ever seen and I spot some offical looking teenagers standing around. I ask politely where the medic is, they call one in.

During this waiting time her wrist starts bleeding and it looks ugly. The teenagers are terrible at hiding their shock or their welling pity but I'm keeping things cool yet concerned. At some point they realize that hey, I'm the dad, and maybe they shouldn't overreact. One can really amp up the suffering of a kid's injury by overreacting.

She's actually much more concerned with what the medic is going to do. At this point her body is throwing so much stuff at the injury I don't think she's feeling anything. I spend all my time comforting her that the medic won't give her a shot or something equally horriifying.  Never mind that her entire wrist is eclipse in a pool of red, the medic might put on a BAND-AID. Her chief concern is a Band-Aid that's removed too quickly, something she did herself and still remembers. The things that cause anxiety in kids are weird, funny, and familiar.

At some point another dad comes in with his son, who has some blood in his mouth, he biffed it good as well. He's about the same age. Owlet is then used as a pacifier for that kid, "Oh, look at her, she's much worse", well, at least something good came out of it.

The medic finally arrives, patches her up, and we go for ice-cream, because that's the only rational response to mild childhood trauma, in my book. While watching Owlet wolf down her vegetable oil frozen ice cream synthetic it suddenly dawns on me that the tobaggan that the hotdogging teenager was using was the same model  as the one we used: stiff, flat bottomed, built for maximum speed.

We'll have to go up again, if nothing else than to stave off a phobia of hills, lineups, and tobaggans that I'm sure has taken root in Owlet. But at least I know that my enthusiasm for the outdoors is indeed, unfounded.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

General Qualities Required for Yacht Captains Employed by Third World Drug Kingpins

  • ability to keep eye contact when addressing employer on the "hottub deck".
  • past experience with caring for a ficus.
  • general disinterest in female anatomy, especially on aforementioned deck.
  • experience with pH balance and chlorination of 1/4 Olympic sized pool.
  • enjoys 'Miami Vice'.
  • supportive, but not too supportive of recreational drug use.
  • able to remove tricky stains from snow-white uniform (mud, grass, human brain and skull fragments).
  • refrains from 'punching it' at the first sign of law enforcement.
  • comfortable with frequent small arms fire.
  • knows how to start and operate a Vecoplan K-Model RG70K Industrial Shredder unassisted.
  • can do light cleanup (mainly of bent spoons, dusty mirrors, various lengths of rubber hose).
  • fond of Billy Ocean.
  • equally comfortable talking out of a search and seizure from the Coast Guard as he is having light banter at the dinner table.
  • doesn't press the need to wear 'short shorts'.
  • competent enough to serve as a spare 4th for bridge, should the need arise

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend

I got a snazzy LCD flat screen whatever computer screen. Quite recently. Approximately fifty hojillion years after the whole CRT monitor technology had become obsolete. That meant I had to dispose of my current monitor, a behemoth, 19" Samsung Syncmaster 900NF. Weighs about 40 pounds and has the dimensions of a early CAT scan machine.

A google here and a clicky there and apparently there's a depot nearby that will take it. Situated in a byzantine maze of twisty turvy streets that have never heard of a 90 degree junction. A place where entire businesses and thrive or die or live a kind of half-life that crushes the dreams of anyone who tries to work there. Marble counter top re-installation? Got that. Double Decker bus storage? Yup. One gets  a sense of how many different sorts of things there are that people do to get food on the table. An entire life worrying about 'Industrial Outdoor Deck Design and Repair'.

I'm not usually a sentimental guy about stuff. I don't think I am, anyways. I'm cheap, which is why I hold onto stuff until mere molecules are left of it, past thread-bare, past donation. My Steam games library is made up of mostly $5 and cheaper games (made by Czech developers who are most famous for doing the conversion module for Quicken 2005) that seem like a good bang for my buck even though 99% of my gaming time is spent on games I've spent more than $20 on.

What I'm getting at is that I'm frugal, shop for clothes at Costco, books at Value Village and usually avoid spending money. So I guess i don't have alot of opportunity to get rid of stuff, as I have very little of it to get rid of.

I'm also not sentimental about technology, either. I watched that almost good movie, AI, and never once got hooked into the OH POOR ROBOT BOY sentiment that Spielberg was swinging for with all the subtleness of a $100 million budget under the aegis of the guy who used a robotic fricking shark in 1975.

But it could be this new kick I'm in, listening to Folk Rock, which is apparently a music genre.
And, foolishly, I was listening to this song.

 I grew up listening to John Denver and Simon and Garfunkel and this sorta of music is kinda ingrained in my DNA, for good or for bad. And after I heft the  behemoth of monitory goodness on the plastic dolly, I fire up this song. The man starts to dissemble it as I'm driving away, removing the stand. There was something about the way he kinda pushed it onto its side. Brusquely. Something inside me whimpered.

All around are palettes filled with other monitors, TVs, CRTs, massive projection TVs that might have featured in a Connery Bond film. All going to the grave. And there I'm thinking. There she goes. I'm driving out, and I'm watching my poor monitor being given up to the dead. To be sucked of it's component parts and rendered in such a way that will damage the earth the least.

I'd had that monitor for about 10 years. My not unconsiderable computer leisure time has been spent in front of that thing. Ill-thought out novels and laughable short stories and hours and hours of gaming.

I almost tear up, leaving there, but am struck by a nearby business, as I pull out of the parking lot,  'Hot Tub Reweathering', that's a thing?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Can't Afford To Lose Me, I'm The 37th Best Pilot In The Fleet

You can't ground me. I know you want to, I know in that hardened heart of a five star space admiral with oak clusters that you want to bust me down to private first class, have me bustling K-Rations across the fleet in the crappiest rust-bucket you can get out of mothballs.

Well, guess what, you can't. You can't afford to lose me. I'm your 37th best pilot.

Sure, after Stryker and Killion and Raybird, I mean, their kills together dwarf the next 150 pilots down the roster combined. Everybody knows that. And yeah, okay, number 34th on the list, Lieutenant Caberron, from the Xarglaac Nebula isn't exactly a fighter pilot but can fly a really mean intra-fleet transport, isn't exactly a slouch.

Okay, I get it. You got me. But how many pilots do you have like me?

Not counting number 36th and 38th and the fact that pilots 38-179 are separated by the thinnest scintilla of statistics which would hardly hold up to closer scrutiny.

So how many? That's right, one.

Well, sure, there are plenty of rookies that supposedly could replace me. Whose test scores and simulator results make me wake up in a cold sweat every night. But who would have my imp-- my physical fitness regimen? Not quality, sure. But quantity! Twenty years, Admiral. They can hardly accumulate that many mandatory physical checkups in that time. That many ANNUAL checkups. That's right, they can't. Physically impossible.

And what about that time I saved Stryker and Touchdown from that nasty brushup with the Anptwerk Empire? I think pointing out that I was piloting a battle cruiser at the time and I had warped in to save them with three Starreach frigates, a galaxy class IV Techrion Warlord, and a small sortie of Hyperion star-fighters is being nitpicky, don't you? The fact of the matter was that i was first on the. Yes, by 2 seconds. But 2 seconds, 2 weeks, what does it matter. 2 seconds can get you killed in space.

Which brings me to my ne-- oh, KP duty for a week? That sounds reasonable.