Wednesday, February 28, 2007

26.2 in the City of Angels

Good luck to BryGuy, his bro (aka Kevster), and his Dad (aka Hilario)... They are walking the LA Marathon this weekend.

If you think that walking a marathon is just like a bad day at the mall with your girlfriend, think again: it's wicked. I did it last year and though it was a lot of fun (due to our gang), by mile 20, I thought the tendons in my feet were pulling away from the bone.

It is still the largest event I've been in yet: thousands and thousands of people. Really great event.

Give 'em hell, BryGuy!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random Poll

Is there any circumstance where a 30ish woman can wear a ring on her left ring-finger and yet not be married/attached? Not a classic big ol' diamond ring, necessarily -- just a ring.

Let's assume that she's not Batwoman. Actually, as I start to anticipate the answers from the "peanut gallery", I'm beginning to question the wisdom of this poll. Not that the finest blog on the web doesn't have the finest readership, but many of you frighten me.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Go Canada #2

I recently watched a concert video of Rush. They were playing in Frankfurt, Germany. When he addressed the crowd, Geddy Lee said "hello Frankfurt! Let me try this on you..." and then gave a warm welcome in German that sounded well-practiced and authentic.

One got the feeling that they learn the language of most of their host countries. Along with the Barenaked Ladies (who can charm a crowd like nobody's business), they made me proud to be from the Motherland.

Go Canada #1

There have been a zillion computer languages since the 1950s, but there are relatively few Hall Of Fame languages. There are even fewer Monumentally Important languages.

I will argue that there are 3 languages that are absolutely monumental: Cobol, C, and Java. (Let the flame wars begin!)

Java was invented by a Canadian, who recently received major recognition: the Order of Canada. Many thanks to Fred for passing along the link (from the CBC no less!)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Good Day in a Good Life

8 am -- swam 2000 meters (1.6 miles)

10:30 am -- piano class. Choked on Danny Boy, rocked Loch Lomond.

12:30 pm -- library, lunch, nap

2:30 pm -- rare 2nd trip to gym. Ran 7 miles

4:30 pm -- read blogs and write this entry

5 pm -- catch up on magazines/taped political news

7:30 pm -- spend time with dear friend and his bro

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Loch Lomond

I've quietly started taking piano lessons again with my beloved, crazy teacher (aka Elton Ron). I'm almost back to where I was in March of 2005. (I essentially took the summer off due to triathlon and other pursuits, which explains my sheepish silence on one of my purportedly "favorite" hobbies).

This story isn't new, but it's a favorite. A couple of years ago in class, ol' Ron cranked out a little number from book 2. I had never heard of it before: Loch Lomond. As he played it, it struck me as being amazingly familiar to the Scot/Celtic tunes from back home. As usual, he made the piano sing blissfully, but there was just something about this particular day. It was also a new key for me (Eb major). I nearly teared up at the way he played the piece. The melody was gorgeous and the arrangement used deep, resonant chords way down low.

I quickly skipped ahead in the book to learn the tune. It was wicked arrangement but I got it in about 2 weeks. Delighted, I wrote to some people back home about my discovery of this "new" song. My Mom replied to the email saying that she was very familiar with the tune: it was a favorite of my grandfather.

I still love cranking it out. It uses a Scot pentatonic scale that gives it the distinctive melody, and I still love, love, love Eb major. I have always thought that the "brightness" and "darkness" of individual keys was just beyond my sensabilities but I have come to understand some of the keys (e.g. C major, G major, and now Eb major). It is a wonderfully warm key.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Review: Picasso's War

What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes? Far from it: he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, the passionate, the delightful... How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.
-- Pablo Picasso (paraphrased from 1945)

Picasso's War is the story of the 1937 bombing of Gernika, Spain. The attack was executed by nascent Nazi Germany, as a "dry run" of blitzkrieg, on behalf of Franco's rebel forces. There was no advance warning; the Nazis bombed and strafed the defenseless city into ruins in 3 hours. Hundreds of men, women, and children perished.

In particular, the book describes a painting by Picasso -- a rare political statement created in direct response to the attack. Though subject to mixed reviews at its opening in Paris, the work became a legend throughout Spain and, eventually, throughout the world. The Japanese (Hiroshima), Vietnamese (My Lai), and Americans (NYC) all claim a certain kinship with the sentiment.

Based on the strength of Beethoven's Hair, I have bought this book as a gift for friends. I think it is tremendously important work, and I'm grateful to have read it (*whispers* though Beethoven's Hair was more interesting on the whole). Definitely a must-read, but perhaps through the library.

Russell Martin

Russell Martin is another excellent nonfiction writer. He picks the most unusual topics: he has a book dedicated to a painting and another devoted to the story behind a lock of Beethoven's Hair.

Miss Gila gave me Beethoven's Hair as a gift sometime back. Delightful book, though perhaps not as "important" the next entry.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Good cops, Bad cops, and Vanity

I once heard an excellent description of Bugs Bunny versus Daffy Duck. The secure, happy-go-lucky Bugs was the one you wanted to be; the vain, petty Daffy was the one you feared you were.

Once I opened my eyes to this "good cop/bad cop" duality, it becomes apparent everywhere in pop culture:

-- Bugs and Daffy, as mentioned
-- Hawkeye and Major Frank Burns on MASH
-- Jerry and George Constanza on Seinfeld
-- Jim and Dwight on The Office

and the list goes on. This isn't a list of mere rivals: they are actually psychological archetypes who represent polar opposites on a spectrum of personality "attractiveness". Jim could not be more comfortable in his skin: he is smiley, affable; one senses that he doesn't startle easily. Dwight is wound up tighter than an underwater Swiss watch, and lusts for power and status.

An interesting tie-in to the recent book review (A Mind of Its Own): not only do I identify with the laidback member of these duos, I have actually fancied that I _look_ like some of these guys. I still have a cowboy hat that is a direct knockoff from Hawkeye's; Jim's antics and status in The Office is highly reminiscent to me of my previous regime at "the library company".

And yet, when I look in the mirror and am honest about it, I don't think I especially look like them at all. The vain brain strikes again.


ps. With the exception of Burns, I love, love, love the bad cop in all the duos above. Daffy is awesome. George killed me far more than Kramer ever did. And Dwight is simply divine: there is one show where he dons a volunteer deputy-sheriff outfit so that he can interrogate the staff over drug-testing, due to a half-smoked joint that was found in the parking lot. I haven't actually laughed-out-loud so much in years. He's in an conference room, towering over a petite woman and yells "Your ass is on the line, mister... My ass is on the line!"

I don't want to be like those characters but they are wonderfully ridiculous.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Blast from the Past

Oh, YouTube, how I love thee! Let me count the ways.... Twelve. Yes, indeed, 12 ways.

Click here for a blast from the past on Sesame Street

Props to Jess (aka JLC, artiste) for the link...

Looking back, who knew that we grew up on hardcore bop jazz and funk!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

DVD Junkie: Season 2

We be feelin' quite unwell at CC HQ lately, but found time to devour most of Season 2 of The Office.

For years now, I haven't understood watching fiction shows and certainly not Netflix/Tivo etc. I remain on guard against the "cult of Tivo" but having just watched four episodes of said program (from Netflix) and one full commentary, I have clearly ceded the shoreline to the Dark Side.

I blame BryGuy. You are on notice, sir!

Some thoughts (other than the usual plot-spoilers):

-- The theme song has gotta go. I like it as an instrumental though.
-- Less time spent on Michael the manager, please!
-- Of course, Jim and Pam have the most interesting interactions, but I love, love, love Jim and Dwight. Dwight is a Hall of Fame character and an excellent actor, against a backdrop of fantastic actors. Even as I write this, I'm not sure I can say he's my favorite.
-- So many plotlines and shots are fresh... They will hint at something or just get to it without a major song-and-dance. E.g. on Halloween, the staff shows up for work in costume. The manager chides the co-ordinators for not decorating. One woman says
that they had put up all kind of stuff. The shot goes to an ultra-brief flashback of the night before, where the cleaning crew dispassionately vacuum up a bunch of cobwebs. Genius but doubly-so because of the brevity.

I'm hooked.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Tri Results

Gah... what a day. I feel like I have been hit by a bus. I thought I had trained for the 1st tri but man today was a rough day. "Feeling the bang" indeed.

The results are in! I was 9th out of 28. But poignantly, I was 5th out of 6 in my agegroup with 2 dudes finishing within 15 seconds ahead of me. There are no words for the remorse of not pushing it a bit more. Grrr. It will irk me for days to come.

I forgot to mention that the dreaded Jim G was not in this contest. He's more into run-mode to get ready for the StL marathon.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Services

Our hero rises before daybreak and travels to the temple.

He is warmly greeted by the congregation. After the introductions, the group bows their head. Introspectively, they reflect on peace, on sin, on suffering. In fact, they suffer. Humbled, many completely accept the Original Sin and other trespasses.

After the service, in the glorious light of day, there is relief and merriment. The members of the congregation break bread together, and warmly exude the manifestations of their reflections, and yet somehow cannot fully express their experience, their soul-searching. It is a peaceful time.

A triathlon is not only a sporting event: it is a church.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Indoor Tri

The first tri of the season is Sunday! The swim is at 6:50 am which is pretty crazy, considering I have to be at the Chesterfield JCC 45 minutes prior to the swim. Gah!

I have to start to think about "packing" soon. Some advantages of an indoor:

-- no need for sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
-- no need for bike, pump, helmet, gloves

And, as I say every year, the major downside:

-- placing the treadmill on the back of the car

Car Talk

At a gas station, I noticed a guy filling a shiny, black Mini Cooper S. He was about 60, presumably traveling with his wife, and didn't look especially happy.

I wasn't feeling gregarious, but finally decided to stray over and hazard a "how do you like your ride?".

Well. The guy lit up into a broad smile and went on for 5 full minutes about his pride and joy. He was delighted to chat about the ride quality, the 17-inch wheels, the acceleration -- you name it. As our respective pumps shut off, he thanked me profusely for showing interest. His enthusiasm was great (and contagious).

I had forgotten one of my observations as a "street psychologist" -- everyone loves to talk about their ride.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Book Review: Thunderstruck

Every so often there is a book that makes me re-realize that TV is a scam, and spurs me to devour the author's oeuvre. This is one.

'Tis a pop history that weaves a murder mystery with the early days of wireless communication. To quote the Esquire review, "So good, you ask yourself how you could not know this already." Highly recommended.

Many thanks to my Uncle Jim and Aunt Barb who gave it to me for Christmas, probably on the recommendation of my sister (whose recommendations over the last few years have been stunning).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Nous Bloggons 2

1. Another addition to the blog family... This one from Kendall, a cousin from The Island, and a bit of a kindred spirit, only weirder and far more of an entrepeneur.

I have often thought that K could launch a "prior art" lawsuit against Seinfeld for the Kramer character. Growing up, we had our own young "Cosmo" long before that TV show.

Check it out here

2. Speaking of blogs, there is a major absence in cyberspace. BryGuy is planning a New Year's Eve wedding (which I think is brilliant) and is an uncle (again -- congrats to the fam!). But where's the blog, the portal to his universe?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Prescient of the United States

Long time readers will remember that in Vegas, July 2006, I picked the St Louis Cardinals to win the World Series.

I made 2 other bets that weekend, with BryGuy's bookie tutelage, in July 2006. One was for the Indianapolis Colts to win the Superbowl.

Though these weren't for big money, they do allow me to claim "Sports Prognosticator of the Year".

More proof positive that if my dear readers need help with their sports gambling, investment strategies, career planning, or personal lives: just turn to the Captain. We have you covered.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

January Book Review

A Mind of its Own is a non-fiction work about psychology -- particularly how the brain is spectacularly emotional and vain, to the point that it behaves in its own interests. The audience is the layperson, but there are zillions of references to scholarly works. The writing style is delightful: laidback, yet compelling, and with wonderful wit.

The gist is that many people tend to:

Bend statistics and logic towards reasoning that favours themselves

Abandon strong moral beliefs under certain (yet reasonable) circumstances

React in accordance to learned racial/gender stereotypes before the conscious mind has a chance to vote on the reaction

As one example, note that I wrote "many people" above. Chances are, you read the above list and thought "yes it is sad that so many people are guilty of that. Thank God my friends and I are educated and moved past that reptilian phase". Well, that very thinking is exactly what the book is about. The author argues that everyone has these behaviours, on a deep fundamental level. It is our burden to spot these traits and have the conscious brain override them.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Restaurant Recommendation

If you are in St Louis, go to Queen of Sheba at Olive and Kingsland. The cuisine is east-African food, and it's great stuff.