Ever felt like you were walking through tar? That's what I'm feeling as I quicksand my way through Moveable Type. I be impatient, and I want to be able to customize my currently totally lame-o site. I probably shouldn't be hard on myself, but my brain works in a weird way, and prevents me from processing what I need to know to make the site look half-decent, rather than Total Template City. Check it out.
Saw One Hour Photo today, and it left me feeling cold and antiseptic and distant, which is what I think Mark Romanek wanted us to feel. Witness the clinical, shiny clean feel to the store aisles - never an item out of place, never anything on the floor. Even the room in which Williams is interrogated is pure white - the walls, the table, everything except the chairs.
I spent too much time today installing Moveable Type, in my quest to move off Blogger and onto my own web site. I was successful after a few hours, not letting myself get frustrated in the process.
It's early Sunday morning in Winnipeg, and I can report that my parent's 50th wedding anniversary dinner party was a great success. My brother Chris and I arrived around 3:20 pm at Gulliver's Restaurant in Winnipeg, followed soon afterwards by our aunts and cousins, who began arriving to help set up the room. The staff at Gulliver's was amazing - the chef, sous chef, carving chef, and servers, all led by the incredible Debbie McKenzie, were outstanding in their service. The crowd numbered around 70, and featured family members from both sides, and a large contingent of my parents' closest friends.
We had a nice meal (preceded by hors d'oeuvres), and then the festivities began. I played a couple of tunes on the guitar, and Chris read all the official greetings from dignitaries, including Premier Gary Doer of Manitoba, Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson, and Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Then a number of friends and relatives shared their thoughts about my parents, all most gracious in their words. I spoke a few words about my folks, and we toasted the "bride and groom". The cake was presented, and Mom and Dad made a few ceremonial cuts to the delight of the many photographers present. Finally, the entire group repaired to two rooms on the second floor for dessert and coffee. The evening ended with a number of people meeting back at my parents' house for about two hours. I hope to have some pictures to share with you soon.
I am thankful that all went well. My folks were deeply touched, and genuinely enjoyed themselves, as did all those who attended. It was great to see so many of my cousins (and their children in some cases), and friends of my folks I had not seen for years or decades. A 50th anniversary is rare these days, a testament to commitment and determination and above all, love and compassion. I am grateful to be their son, and to be a part of my family. What a wonderful day we had today, and I wanted to share this with you. (Please note: this was written and posted at 1:00 am on Sunday Sept 22, but would not "publish" until now, being Monday, Sept 24).)
This is the best one, I think: "Samuel de Champlain and the stuff he wasn't good at ." Like, what is UP with THAT? For you non-Canadians, SdC was a French explorer who visited the New World in the early 1600s. He's mentioned on my site because I'm one of a zillion descendents of one passenger on one of his voyages, a man (young boy at the time) named Nicolas Marsolet. But "the stuff he wasn't good at"??? And the weirdest thing of all? My site is the first hit of that search.
I am leaving now for the airport to fly to Winnipeg. I'll be there until Sunday night. My parents' 50th wedding anniversary dinner party is on Saturday, and promises to be a wonderful event, with much fun and warm feelings.
In America, librarians are under surveillance by the FBI for the second time, and a retired San Francisco librarian, jailed in 1971 for refusing to cooperate with the feds, has seen it all before. Thanks, Derryl.
Randy, me, wants to go to NYC. I haven't been there since Oct 2001. I've spent the year convincing myself that I shouldn't go because I don't have the cash. Then I'm thinking, life is short, and I have credit cards that are at zero. So I booked a room just now for eight nights at Hotel 31. The dates are Nov 3-10. Actually, I want to fly to NYC on Oct 31 to see the 29th Annual Village Hallowe'en Parade, and on Nov 1st take the train to New Haven to visit friends there, then return and hang out in Manhattan for a week, spending time with the Usual Suspects. Jen, Fi, C, whatdya think?
That's what I'm thinking tonight. I don't know if it will happen.
Were you aware that a Near-Earth Object known as Asteroid 3753 is considered by some to be a second moon of our planet, but more correctly called a "companion"? It shares Earth's orbit, but its path is very complicated. Its name is Cruithne, also known 1986 TO. The previous link takes you to some nifty simulations, and if you drag your mouse, you can move the view point of each image.
I am near total exhaustion at this time, running on fumes. Last night I hosted a small bbq for a number of friends, and afterwards, my brother and I attended what was left of my cul-de-sac's annual fall bbq as well. We were up until 2:00 am, then up again in the morning to hit dim sum in Chinatown. This is the stretch drive of the organization of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party next Saturday in Winnipeg. Thankfully, it is coming together nicely, thanks in no small part to the help of my aunts, cousins and friends of my folks in town there. Even M & Da are working on their own party! Everyone is excited to be sure.
On Friday night I was on campus to attend the Ralph Nader lecture. He covered many topics, but his central theme focused on the responsibility of being a citizen, and the obligation to participate in your community, be it at the local, regional, national or international level. It was an inspiring speech, and he was warmly received by the participants. His speech was part of the first annual Green and Gold Eco-Conference, as well as being the first participant of the Revolutionary Speakers Series. Nader's drive and determination at the age of 68 is astounding, uplifting and inspiring. At a time in his life when most people would be relaxing and savouring their senior years, he continues to strive for justice and peace, unwavering in his belief that the world can be made a better place.
1. What was/is your favorite subject in school? Why? - to be honest, I can't remember. None of the subjects stood out for me.
2. Who was your favorite teacher?Why? - hmmm...maybe Mrs Provost in Grade 4, or Miss Hamm in Grade 6. They both were good teachers, and were kind to me as well. Miss Hamm was enthusiastic and taught us how to indent when we took notes, something I still do to this day. She would keep us after school and read to us as well.
3. What is your favorite memory of school? - moving in Grade 11 to a high school with a city-wide reputation for being dangerous, and discovering that the kids with whom I made friends there were great, and as a result, Grades 11 and 12 were the most memorable of my twelve years of school. Pity that their current web site really blows chunks.
4. What was your favorite recess game? - beats me.
5. What did you hate most about school? - dealing with bullies and assholes.
It is after 11 pm MDT, on 11 Sept 2002, and there is quiet comfort knowing that we survived the day unscathed and perhaps unlifted somewhat by the human spirit. On 11 Sept 2001, I awoke early because I had to teach a class at 8:00 am. I left my house at 6:50 am, about 6 minutes after the first plane hit Tower 1. I drove to work listening to CBC-FM, which played only classical music. I arrived at the university before the library opened, went in with my key, gathered up my instructional materials, and headed to the Chemical/Materials Engineering Bldg. I arrived around 7:45 to test the equipment, and then the students began to file in, about 60 of them. I lectured from 8:00 until 9:15 am, still unaware of anything happening in the world.
When the class ended, I approached the professor, Dr Suzanne Kresta, who told me one her students mentioned a plane hitting the World Trade Center in NYC. I didn't give it much thought, thinking it was probably a small aircraft, so we walked to her office to check the web. For minutes we tried to open news pages like CNN, The Globe and Mail, CBC, CTV, MSNBC, etc, to no avail. Finally we were able to open The Drudge Report, and the first words I read were, "Twin Towers Collapse". We stared at the screen, seemingly unable to comprehend what we read.
I walked back to my office in a daze, and upon entering the library could sense things had changed somewhat. People were acting differently, a radio was on describing events as they unfolded. I couldn't work, so walked outside to the Power Plant, a U of A student pub, and watched CNN on the big screen, numb with disbelief. I recalled the last time I was in the Power Plant watching a news report: 1986, when the space shuttle exploded.
By September 2001, I had visited NYC 9 times, and had developed tremendous affection for the city. I'd been in Tower 2 maybe seven or eight times to buy theatre tickets from the TKTS booth on the second floor (now located at the South Street Seaport), and in 1990 went to the top of the tower to the observation deck. So watching the events on television felt very surreal. Tonight I'm glad we've made it past one year. I don't understand why this happened, how people of any faith can be so calculatingly cold, as if ice water was coursing through their veins. On the PBS Frontline episode, Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, one of the commentators interviewed (whose name escapes me at the moment), mentioned that President Putin of the Russian Federation, when asked for his reaction to those who carried out the attacks, replied, "We are as dust to them." Somehow the rest of the world must convince men of this ilk that we are more than dust, and that we all matter in the end.
One of the nicest gestures made to me today came from within an e-mail from Suzanne, which contained the line, "Thinking of you on WTC day." Thanks, Suzanne.
Today is a sombre day, and this will lighten things up in a gently and hilarious way. This is the movie trailer for Comedian, a forthcoming movie about being on the road with Jerry Seinfeld. The trailer is brilliant and very, very funny. What's driving me nuts is that we all recognize the voice of the guy doing the voice-overs in the trailer, but I can't any information about him. As soon as you hear his voice, you'll know you've heard him on PBS, A&E, on other movie trailers, etc. Let me know if you know his name. Enjoy and smile! (Is Jerry related to Evan Seinfeld, bass player for Biohazard and cast member of Oz?
Yesterday I had what I might call a "bad sequence" as opposed to a bad day. A series of small vignettes, perhaps, but each of them somewhat negative, involving personalities (mostly mine) rubbing other personalities the wrong way. I think there are times when everything converges and aligns and the results are either good or bad - it doesn't need to be of major proportions, necessarily. There is much stress in the world, especially today, but is still no excuse for behaviour that sometimes needs an ethics and reality check. I suppose beating myself up isn't going to help either. I own a personality that can be hard-edged at the best of times, coupled with emotions that are worn on my sleeve(s). It's a question of knowing and recognizing when to reel it all in, and sometimes I forget. I am grateful for being surrounded by people who care and don't judge.
It's 3:30 am, I'm up for no apparent reason, and looked outside. It is the early morning of 11 Sept 2002, and there are northern lights, aurora borealis, in the skies above Edmonton and northern Alberta. I love these kinds of coincidences. The sky is pitch black and clear, the lights shimmering slowly. For a moment I wondered if God was letting us know He's watching over us. The world is tense and fragile today, more so than ever before, and it needs a bear hug.
Yesterday, I donated platelets at the local Canadian Blood Services clinic by the university. This is a procedure that takes about 2 hours in total. I learned that a two-year old baby boy needed Type A+ platelets in order to increase his chances of surviving a heart transplant, so CBS was calling donors with matching blood types. My worries and stresses suddenly paled in comparison. I don't know if he is still alive, but I hope so. If you take time today to reflect on the state of our planet, consider a moment or two of prayer for this little boy.
OK, this is straight from Derryl's blog, and it's freaking me out. There is a "sport" called cup stacking. Um, er, yah. You take 12 specially designed cups, and stack them into pre-determined pyramids, and then de-stack them. Er, sorry, downstack them. So would you then upstack them? I know Certain cups can help you get stacked. But I digress. What really scares me is that this cup-stacking activity is happening in schools, there are competitions, and world record holders. Which by extension means people, mostly kids, are seemingly having fun taking plastic cups and making them into pyramids and then taking them down again and then making more pyramids and then de-un-down stacking them to make more pyramids. I'm sorry, but I find this - I don't know what to call it - activity, really irritating.
Decades from now, winners proudly will tell their kids they won the 7-11 Walmart Plastic Cup Speed Stacking Championships, and point to their trophy with glee. Gosh, I'd be excited, wouldn't you? Good grief. How does one apply for a job at the factory that makes stacking cups? What kind of training do you need? Is there a stacking cup training program? What the hell is going on? And to prove that this really does exist, watch this kid stack, de-stack, re-stack, unstack, upstack and downstack these cups. The sounds she makes with the cups is really creepy - maybe Ben Burtt could use it in SWIII. Then imagine how much Ritalin she needs to come down from her stacking high.
You're craving something sweet, something chocolaty, something creamy. Your industrial-strength deep fryer is sitting on your stove, filled with boiling oil, and you've got nothing to put in it. Or don't you? Take those Twinkies and chocolate bars, mix up a batter, and deep fry the little buggers!
I work as a public services librarian at the University of Alberta, with a subject emphasis in engineering. One of our responsibilities when we instruct is to educate students to the fact that most of the information available freely on the Internet is not necessarily reliable or factual. Yesterday I presented to a class of 135 students in Chemical Engineering 200 (Introduction to Chemical and Materials Engineering), and used a number of different web sites to emphasize this point, including the very disturbing martinlutherking.org site (run by a white supremacy group), the hilarious DMHO.org site, and the FEMA full-text publication on the performance of the WTC after the Sept 11 attacks. Students (and anyone for that matter) need to be aware of ways to evaluate a web site when they find it.
An interesting article appeared in the Washington Post in July, dealing with this concern, and how instructors are spending more time warning students that the free Internet isn't the only place to look for information.
I sit here, in a reflective and unsettled mood tonight. Tomorrow another year of classes begin. At the end of April, I usually say that one goes to bed on April 30th, and wakes up the next morning on Sept 1st. I start my 19th year at the University of Alberta later this month (officially on the 19th, unofficially on the 14th), and the students beginning this year were born in 1984, a year after I started in some cases! Each year brings a new crop of students, eager to learn, at time lost and overwhelmed, having left high school to descend on the second largest campus in Canada (~32,000 students). It's our responsibility to help them cut through the crap and confusion, and make their learning experiences rewarding and fulfilling beyond their university years.
September is always a busy month, this one more so than ever before. In addition to the month in which more of my friends and relatives have birthdays than the other eleven, my parents celebrate 50 years of marriage on Sept 20th. I've been organizing a Sept 21st dinner party from afar (they're in Winnipeg, I'm in Edmonton), with help from some relatives. It's a time for celebration and reflection. Unfortunately, all who might be there won't be, because of other commitments, among other reasons. I'm pleased to be able to do this for my folks, who deserve the best, like anyone's parents. They worked hard to raise my brothers and I, sacrificing and seldom complaining, always loving, always encouraging. Neither finished Grade 12 in Winnipeg when they were kids, but proudly watched their sons all complete university degrees and move on to other things. I can say without reservation that I'm proud to be their son, and to be a member of my extended families on both sides. I have 27 first cousins, and stay in contact with many of them.
The organization of this dinner leaves me with mixed feelings, mostly positive mind you, but there are always issues that are left hanging, some never resolved. I long for times when we can all be at peace with each other, truly love one another, with respect and dignity. I am very grateful that I am close to my parents, who are very kind souls indeed (also quite talented too!). I learned from both of them not to be selfish, to treat others with grace, and to never take advantage of people, especially your friends. (I also learned to change underwear, make my bed, brush my teeth, and take a shower in the morning. Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
There is nothing more one needs to make the world a positive place than respect and dignity for others. My counsellor said to me recently, "resentment is like drinking poison and hoping someone else will get sick or die". I do harbour way too much resentment and anger, and give thanks that I can turn to someone who is objective and pour out my heart to her when I need to do so. We carry many demons for life, some never resolved. I am very emotional at times, which is why I tend to avoid confrontation - I lose my rationality, and tend to react like a cornered animal. I also tend to beat myself up as a result. In the end, I give thanks for the good things around me, too numerous to mention here, and work hard to look forward at all times. I believe my folks' dinner party will be a joyous occasion, and I'm so happy to be a small part of it for them.
If you read this far, God Bless you. Well, God Bless you anyway, because you deserve it. Now, what is important to you?
I was recently directed (no pun intended) to a video called "Forgotten Silver", by Kiwis Peter Jackson (of LOTR fame) and Costa Botes. This is a mockumentary that rivals This Is Spinal Tap in its brilliance - unless you watch closely, you may believe it to be true. It tells the story of lost NZ filmmaker Colin McKenzie, whose work was discovered in the 90s, after being lost for over 60 years. Turns out he invented the movie camera, movies with sound, the closeup, and experimented with colour as well. One piece of McKenzie's lost footage proves that another New Zealand inventor made the first heavier-than-air, machine powered flight in the spring of 1903, nine months before the Wright Brothers.
If you haven't seen this gem, made for NZ television (it's only 67 minutes long), rent it and enjoy yourself. The film is so realistic that the day after the film aired on NZ television, Jackson and Botes had to go on national television and explain that the story wasn't real.
If you want to key into the local indie music and zine scene in Edmonton, check Gabino Travassos' fine online mag, Mote. Speaking of zines ("fanzine" is a contraction for "fan magazine"), for those of you out there who give a rat's ass, fanzines were the domain of sf fans for about 60 years, until the rest of the Hip World caught up with us. I pubbed my first zine in 1969. It's fascinating to me that the term has been co-opted by indie music fans, among others. One gets the impression that fanzines have been around for only a short period of time, and that the indie music fans created them. Er, no. There are at least five histories of sf fandom, covering various time periods, beginning with the 1930s. If you want to read about the Real History of zines, check out these books (if you can find them anywhere). There is a web site devoted to the history of sf fandom, and within you can find a list of classic fanzines.