Saturday, December 29, 2007

One for the Ages

The plan for the trip home was 12 hours. That's almost optimal.

Stunningly, it was 26 hours, replete with weather delays, an all-nighter in the Montreal airport, and 4 layovers: Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, and Chicago.

Essentially, it was like 5 two-hour flights interspersed within 16 hours of waiting time.

Fun! But I'm home now.... a great trip otherwise. Pretty wiped out though.


epilogue: My checked bag showed up in StL immediately, as though the travel gods were saying "see? no harm, no foul". But I'm not buying it.

ps. At least I'm not sick. Last year was worse (I was very sick). Poor Colleen had consumption all through Christmas.

Friday, December 28, 2007

She's Shutdown Solid

My flight was canceled out of Ch'town, mostly due to fear of the storm.

We did get 15 cm (~6 inches) but it fell straight down and isn't a big deal. I fly out later today (Friday) and arrive in StL on Saturday morning after an all-nighter in Montreal.

Nothing is easy, eh?

The good news is that I booked with some slack before BryGuy's and Miss C's wedding (precisely for this kind of contingency).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Index

It has been another great trip.... I'm leaving in 5 hours (gah). There was snow on the ground for Christmas and another 2 inches tonight.

In the style of Harper's Index, here is a recap of the week....

# of homesteads visited: 9
# of wakes/funerals attended: 1 (this part was not 'great'. RIP.)
# of calories ingested: 200,000
# of miles run: 0
# of laughs: oodles
# of old memories: countless
# of new memories: we'll see

It was a pleasure to see each and every one... Peace out. Have a great New Year's Eve, eh?

Stay tuned for the CC year 2007 in review. It ain't gonna be pretty for my personal goals. How about you?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hello Stars, My Old Friend

(Ed's note: It is past 1 am local time. This post may prove to be as useful as trying to explain a dream to someone. We'll see in the morning.)

As a kid, Boxing Day meant traveling to the eastern part of the Island to visit relatives. Often, on the drive back from 'down east', I would look up at the night sky, full of stars. I appreciated them but never took the time to learn the constellations.

As I have lamented in the past, I had no idea how lucky I was, from an astronomical perspective: very little light pollution and a clean atmosphere.

Tonight, I was Down East, driving from Murray Harbor to home in Cornwall. Throughout the evening, I noticed the sky but on my way home, circa 11:30 pm, I pulled over on a long, dark, and desolate road outside of Montague.

The night air was still: crisp but not freezing. It was eeriely quiet. A full moon shone down like a photo-negative sun. And the stars were still there, as though I had never left. Dozens, in every direction. Big easies like Orion and the Dippers. Formations that were surely something but more difficult -- Cassiopia? And a myriad number of little anonymous clusters. Bright, dim, crisp, blurry.

The last time I lived on The Island was 1991. These stars, this view, was now both exotic, foreign, and yet familiar. In the north, the night sky has infinite patience: it greets the prodigal sons and daughters with unconditional, timeless beauty. No questions asked.

It is the sons and daughters who ask the questions.


ps. I drove through Charlottetown via University Avenue, just like old times. And partly to spite both progress and readers of this blog.

Friday, December 21, 2007

If You're Gonna Go Cheesy, Go All the Way

Christmas In Killarney

The holly green, the ivy green
The prettiest picture you've ever seen.
Is Christmas in Killarney
With all of the folks at home...

It's nice, you know, to kiss your beau,
While cuddling under the mistletoe.
And Santa Claus you know, of course
Is one of the boys from home...

The door is always open:
The neighbors pay a call;
And Father John before he's gone
Will bless the house and all...

How grand it feels to click your heels,
And join in the fun of the jigs and reels!
I'm handing you no blarney:
The likes you've never known,
Is Christmas in Killarney,
With all of the folks at home.

See you soon, PEI.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate and a Happy New Year to all....

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Appetite for Construction

St Louis will soon undergo a prolonged (2 year?) shutdown of a major highway: the dreaded I-40.

The town is abuzz with the prospect for chaos in early '08 and general suffering through '09.

For Islanders, imagine that University Avenue or the Stratford bridge were shutdown for 2 years. Wicked.

It will impact me only peripherally (I hope). I have been avoiding 40 for months just on principle.

I only post this because I think I coined the title before anyone else in this town. (hello, Guns n Roses fans).


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, Dad

Happy Birthday to Charles!

I hope it's a great day back home....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Travel Plans and New Year's Eve

Hey Islanders!

I'll be back on The Island soon.... arriving late Friday Dec 21 and teleporting back crazy early on Dec 28. She'll be a breezy trip but I'm looking forward to seeing you all!

I'm not a big New Year's person but this year will be great. Long time readers know that BryGuy and Miss C will be 'completing the merger' (no jokes from me) of Dogtown Inc! Very cool stuff....


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Like Night and Day

The Last Run

3 pm. Our hero looks ponderously through the windshield. He is at the base of Heartbreak Hill, the steep ascent at his apartment complex. It is the final run for the summer stickies on Rowdy, his black Honda.

Grimacing, he grips the wheel. And guns 'er. He knows from past experience that the ice & snow cover on this hill is treacherous. He has seen dozens of vehicles lose their momentum and merely polish their tires at the midway point.

However, Rowdy is front-wheel drive: this car requires more care. One cannot simply gun 'er, for if grip is lost, then so too is steering. And many cars are parked along the hill. A dangerous game.

Our hero zooms along the base, running a faux stop sign, hitting 12 mph. Any faster would be reckless. Any slower would be pointless. He guides the car into the curve and begins to climb.

The car loses grip immediately. Shifting into higher gears, the car gains a bit of speed and yet reduces torque. The speedo clocks in at 30 mph but the car is barely climbing the hill.

After a long 2 minutes, our hero crests the grade. Miraculously, he has done it.

He may be an absent-minded philosopher without mechanical skill or a sense of winter planning, but so too: he is a driver.

The First Run

5 pm. After a pleasant visit to the local NTB store, Rowdy and our hero sit again the base. Now, Rowdy is shoed with high performance all-season tires. Also, the alignment has been corrected. They both grin wickedly at this litmus test for the new rubber.

Without fanfare, our hero kicks Rowdy into gear. Intentionally, there are no momentum games and no exotic gear-shifts. This is is an honest test.

They come off the base at 7 mph... the tires bite into the snowpack. Slowly, and without wheelspin, the car climbs the hill with a sense of purpose and calm, almost as though being pulled by a tow-line at a ski hill.

Both runs had a sense of inevitability: however the latter is based on sound engineering principles, rather than clever skill and megalomania. It's less fun, but a lot more promising for the winter ahead.

ps. NTB = National Tire and Battery. I think I like them better than Dobbs. And certainly better than Sears re: Jennifer's experience. I miss Canadian Tire (separate post).

Silly Snowy Shutdown

Peter Jennings, the legendary ABC News anchor, was Canadian. One time, he confessed that he failed to give a particular snow storm enough coverage because winter weather is so common back in Canada: it wasn't newsworthy.

Pete is my only shred of dignity down here in St Louis.

The last years of Herbie (the Miata) were shameful in winter: many pushes, bummed rides, and general embarrassment as our hero, a Canadian, was stuck in 3-4 inches of snow while the Americans drove around freely.

Though the Miata is not a great winter car, one notes that St Louis does not have Great Winters: they are generally tame with the occasional bluster. The problem was a lack of 'Tire Awareness' on the part of the owner.

Tire Awareness

Tire awareness is roughly defined as knowing the current state of one's tires, both in terms of wear and their rating for snow & ice. It is perhaps my greatest weakness as a driver.

Alas, the story continues: a lack of tire awareness currently has the new car (Rowdy, a Honda) stuck at a gas station. Actually, it is tire negligence since I knew that the new ride had performance tires geared for dry, if not summer, conditions.

I tried to venture out to a birthday party last night. About 4 inches (10 cm) of snow had fallen... Not good. I made it about a mile away until stopped at an intersection with a slight incline. I've come to hate inclines. For a spell in 2005, I would plan entire routes based on favorable inclines.

No accidents or damage (I think) but the requisite push at an intersection and the Walk of Shame back to the apartment. Plus I nailed a couple of curbs.

A subtext here is the handling characteristics of a front-wheel drive car versus a rear-wheel drive car. I know the difference quite well, but it is astounding to see it in action. Essentially, rear-wheel drive cars are finicky but predictable. Front-wheel drive cars are stable until they ain't, and then, as Dad says "you go in a straight-line until you hit something". Fun!

And so after a blissful 6 months with no vehicular stress, we now face the prospect of buying all-season tires under duress, and the questions about what to do with the car in the mean time. After all, it is parked at a gas station, where the attendants don't really speak English and may soon believe that the car is a gift for their lackluster service.

Good times! Oh, and I'm flying home in 4 days. LOL. I may bring back some tires.

ps. That Subaru WRX STi is looking better and better. Perhaps the 15 MPG and hearing loss would have been worth it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

New Channel

I've started putting 'the tele' on BBC World in the mornings.... It's not the beloved CBC but it works for me: nice to get world news that doesn't directly involve a certain country *ahem*.

I suspect 2008 will be about keeping in touch with Canada. A recent thought: perhaps the CBC is available via satellite? Now we are talking. (I know they stream stuff online but that kinda bites, IMHO).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thermal Bliss

When in bed, I spend a lot of time thinking about how warm I am (or should be).

My apartment is about 67 F and kinda drafty. The first hour in bed is chilly but then my superhero metabolism cranks the temps way up.

Here is a quick inventory of the top layers:
  • lately, socks and shirt and/or PJs (4 CCTUs)
  • flannel sheet (1 CCTU = CC Thermal Unit)
  • a tightly knitted blanket (3 CCTUs)
  • a dark-blue afghan made by Mom (2 CCTUs but high sentimental value)
  • a down-filled comforter (5 CCTUs). This is the fire-starter. Bought over the Christmas holidays for $100 (down from $250!) circa 1997. Money well-spent.
I don't know why I'm writing this either, but that's 15 CCTUs. Comfy.

ps. I have another of Mom's afghans (tri-colour blue) on the couch. I have spent probably 5% of my life napping under an afghan. I still remember a giant one we had growing up. Green & gold... maybe some orange too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Late Summer on the Island

I'm working at the new gig with an old friend. A wonderful woman named Berlin.... she is hilarious and a patient, clever developer.

Big news from random dot com: her daughter is getting married next September, on Prince Edward Island! She visited a few years ago and loved it.

That's awesome..... Berlin forgot where I was from in Canada but the topic came up recently.

Beethoven's 5th

The comment on the last post has me in a writing mood.

In Mozart's day, the gist of a symphony was 4 movements: each one would basically have 2 musical ideas which were presented separately, then interplayed in a middle, 'development' section.

Mozart was very clever and would sometimes introduce 3 ideas. Sometimes, when 200 years of convention would dictate that an idea should be in a major key (given the previous idea), he would use a minor key. Subtle, but witty stuff.

Beethoven kicked down the door, ushering in the Romantic era. Though not the first example, the best example is the ubiquitous 5th symphony. It takes that single idea (you know it) and pursues it furiously -- almost insanely. It was terrifying for audiences of the day.

Beethoven broke all kinds of rules. The glorious 9th symphony re-uses ideas from other movements (crazy!) and of course employs a chorus in the finale, Ode to Joy (influencing a famous tech blogger some 200 years later).

ps. Their personal lives rivaled any rock star of today. Esp. Liszt and Paganinni.

Monday, December 10, 2007


(My apologies if I owe you an email... Things have been pretty crazy lately. Up at 4 am a lot, not from worry per se, but either excited about the new gig or awakened by my Neanderthal neigbours.)

In 1994, my GF and I joined a mail-order book club. 10 books free! The last one that I chose was a lark: What to Listen for in Mozart (click here).

The book changed my life. It explained the structure of classical music (in particular, the sonata form), and described Mozart's life in riveting detail. I plunged into a period of intense devotion to Mozart. I remember watching Amadeus during this time and noting historical inaccuracies. For about 3 months, I listened to Mozart every day.

The book analyzed 3 pieces, including the 41st symphony, known as The Jupiter. This was one of three symphonies written in a 6-week span in 1788. To this day, no one knows why Wolfgang wrote these symphonies: he had no 'buyers' for a work and was seriously down on his luck (he would die 3 years later).

As a birthday gift, BryGuy took his Pa and I to see the 41st at Powell Hall on Sunday. It was wonderful. A special treat was that the conductor/musical director gave an hour lecture before the performance. Among his thoughts on the 41st:
  • Mozart had been studying Bach's fugues (playing melodies against themselves) at this time. The influence appeared in many places, but none more so than the finale of The Jupiter. Wolfgang develops 5 distinct melodies and plays them off one another. With some study, it is easy to identify each of them: they pop up like old friends.
  • In the recap of the finale, Wolfgang pulls out all the stops and juggles all 5 melodies in various sections of the orchestra. To quote the conductor: "If you have taken a formal class in music theory, you know that writing a 5-part harmony is theoretically impossible". Such is Mozart.
  • Quoting the conductor again: for all the things the human race has done of which we cannot be proud, Mozart holds up The Jupiter as a shining example of what we can accomplish.
Thanks, BryGuy. It was a wonderful performance.

Check out Mozart's 41st symphony on iTunes. The first and esp. 4th movements are where it's at. If you like it, you may want to check out the magnificent 40th, a rare work in a minor key. I could write pages on the 40th. It is much more sinister, and even more gorgeous.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Random Acts of Genius

Check out this story... For Canadian readers, Goodwill is a non-profit organization which accepts donations of clothing and other goods and sells them at reasonable prices to less affluent shoppers.

Until now: in DC, they have people sifting through the clothing, looking for vintage apparel, which is very much in vogue these days, in the eyes of affluent shoppers. These hidden gems are sold on an online auction site for big bucks, which is then invested back into Goodwill.

Check out the story here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Grab Bag Update

Wow... I stop blogging for a week and ye olde mail bag is filled with requests! The interns at CC HQ are working around the clock to ensure peeps that all is well.

I've had some semi-serious stuff to think on lately and sort of went reclusive.

Also, I've been busy: started the 2nd stint at the new client site, which is going fantastic. I'm working with some of my favourite people and we are at the very beginning of a new version of the software. The software is for a medical device, so the cause is just, and we have a domain expert (microbiologist) who is very passionate about his product. Excellente'

Turning to sports, the dreaded Jim G and I teamed up with 2 others to run a marathon relay: a big ol' marathon chopped into 8 pieces. We each ran 2 x 5 K legs. Sadly, Jim G and I ran identically for both legs, and not fast. I have hardly worked out in 2 months but have been eating like an Ironman. It catches up. But, soon, the next tri is in February.

From the "hello?" files: hello, it's December ?? When did that happen.

In weather, the lil' hot hatchback will be interesting in winter. In part because the car is new to me: e.g. it heats up pretty quickly but not as fast as the Miata, which had roughly the same cabin space as a toaster oven. It's nice to have a rear window defroster. The big issue will be tires: it has some snazzy summer stickys on it and I can tell already that that situation will need to be altered soon.

That's a wrap from CC Central. Peace out.