Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fitness Update

As I may have blogged, I work in a public "war room" with about 5 other people. There are probably 5 more who come into the room all the time. It has become a warehouse for, well, wares and snacks.

It's hard to stay at a "fighting weight" in such an atmosphere. But good news... I'm doing a tri in early August and have signed up for the Lewis & Clark 1/2 marathon in September. This was my first 1/2 marathon back in 2004 or 2005 (I've only done 2 or 3). As Jennifer once noted, if I have a concrete goal ahead, then I snap into "workout mode" immediately.

In other news, huge props to Jess and the Insouciant Cyclists: the team raised enough money for the fight against diabetes to place in the top 15 teams for the event!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Octo-rennial Cleaning

Two weeks ago, I made a maintenance request to the apt complex for some plumbing work. They complied, and left a note stating I was in violation of my lease. The charge? "Housekeeping"


Well, though it is probably a paper tiger (the main complaint was piles of books that I had moved from my office when I changed jobs in 2006), I went to action. One weekend was dedicated to cleaning, recycling, and trashing. I threw out computer boxes that had not moved from my bedroom since the year 2000.

I'm in very good shape now, but I've decided to push it further and put some stuff up on Craig's List, the "local, easier eBay" website.

I've come to realize that this is a "pre-move" whirlwind. The big question: where shall I move?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Week in Review

Things have been quiet on here lately, as many of the CC staffers and interns are off frolicking on vacation. Here's a brief recap of some news:
  • Karen and Dan's baby is now at home! Wonderful news. (click for more)
  • Hegemom has returned to the gym after many weeks of chemo. Mad freaking props (click for more)
  • Vic, a CC mainstay and critic, is often berating my life choices as a "Peter Pan-esque combination of stunted emotional development and delusions of grandeur". No news there, but he is coming to visit in August which is very cool. I rarely have guests down here. The Vster is a big Springsteen fan so we are going to see a concert here.
  • Note that my cousin Richard was planning to visit, but those plans feel apart along with some critical pieces of his 1997 Porsche. Thankfully, he choice wisely and decided to get the Porsche fixed. (This is a rare instance of prioritizing a vehicle above family, but consider that he is now a high-school teacher, on summer break and driving a Porsche on PEI.)

Graph Jam

Offline, some CC readers and I have been enjoying the wonderful website GraphJam. The idea is to create a pop-culture pun through charts in Excel.

I borrowed the idea for my tech blog, with some success (though I have bigger plans).

Below is a great example if you know the AC/DC song....

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

And this one is an absolute Hall-of-Famer. Again, from music:

song chart memes
more graph humor and song chart memes

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Musical Crack Cocaine

I don't know if I can provide a link, but I discovered a podcast series on iTunes: a CBC Radio 2 series on Beethoven's 9 symphonies. It should be easy to find via a search.

This is as good as it gets. A 20-30 minute podcast on each symphony, with a musically literate interviewer and the conductor of the Vancouver symphony with the analysis, including short blurbs on piano. It does assume that one knows the basics of classical music (e.g. the sonata form, and the sense of musical key) but it is not esoteric. Personally, it matches my music level perfectly.

I'm actually slowly rationing these as I don't want them to end.

Here's a fun factoid from the 1st symphony (though you really have to hear it on the podcast): in the 4th movement, Beethoven starts the main melody with a joke. 2 notes start, then a pause. Then the same 2 notes with 2 more, and again a pause. Then, again, the theme starts and screeches to a halt, until finally it bursts through as though the band has come in. The joke is that it gives the effect that the orchestra is practicing, or playing the piece for the first time, as the pauses are precisely the effect in those situations.

For 1800, this was clever stuff. Though Beethoven was not especially known for it (unlike Haydn, or Heaven's own court jester: Mozart).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Commodore 64s party like its 1983

Here is a page about a recent geek fest in Cincinnati where 8 Commodore 64s were networked together for a game.

Geeks occasionally break out the vintage equipment but at this event, the C64s are using newer stuff to do things they never really did in the 1980s.

There are photos, but they are large and slow to appear. The page is being "slashdotted". Slashdot is a major geek website. When a lowly website appears on Slashdot, the traffic is so much that it overwhelms the servers. Hence, the bittersweet joy of being "slashdotted".

ps. My tech blog has never been Slashdotted. One day, perhaps.... Some friends of mine have had the impact.

Island Realization

I just left a comment on Binky's blog, celebrating an evening we shared when I was home.

It was a perfect summer evening in the backyard. My sister & bro-in-law, Binky & Shan, Richard, and the 2 little ones: Action Girl and Super Girl.

All we did was hang out and play soccer. Oh and in a dash of surrealism that only Richard Spenard could provide: a drive in the Porsche. Nothing else. Really modest, and it was perfect. Perfect.

No movies, no TV, just background conversation and laughter. My realization is that these elements were at each house (and cottage!) I visited, and are there almost every time I visit anyone back home.

Maybe people hit the mass media more when we see each other often, routinely. I don't know. But for the trip it was wonderful to talk to people.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Trick

hey gang,

It has been busy since I've been back.... I'm getting back into the groove on multiple levels.

Fitness has become a key concern. Just too much food at work. Although, amazingly, I am still #2 in the standings, I am not training per se and don't really have a tri planned. Normally, this time of year, I have several in the works.

But good news: yesterday I ran to my gym, worked out, and then ran home again. I don't know why I haven't thought of this before! My gym is about 1.5 miles away. I hope this becomes a trend.


Monday, July 07, 2008

RIP Dr Eliot

In senior year at UPEI, Vic famously cajoled me into taking Latin 101. He bailed syntactic water for a semester while I quite enjoyed it. There were probably 12 in the class.

For Latin 102, there were 2 left standing: a chap named Chris and I. Our new teacher for the term was Dr Eliot, the President of the University. (He passed away in May).

Well. I didn't know him closely (Vic and Colleen knew him much better, being in the Humanities fulltime) but that class held a couple of special memories. We would meet on wintry mornings at a large oak table in a darkly-lit conference room near his office. He was very well studied in the classics: once, he probably played the role of Dickensian taskmaster, but now this was an old lion enjoying his twilight years.

Amongst the datives, the genitives, and the ablatives, there were gentle corrections and cheerful observations about language.

And sometimes observations about the office itself: he had an elderly lady as a secretary who, though kind, would give hearty approval to visitors' jests by, well, braying loudly. One time, late in the semester, the woman had startled us yet again from her office. Dr E, in the midst of a point on Latin versus Old French, leaned toward us conspiratorially and whispered, as though grateful for finally having a sympathetic ear after all these years: "isn't that a wretched laugh?". As quickly as it came, the topic returned to irregular verbs.

The other story is more poignant. Graduation ceremonies included a banquet. I don't remember the name now. I do remember that Vic and I sat at a front table; one among a dozen or more. From the podium, mere feet away, Dr Eliot gave the keynote address. His theme was the purity of education and learning, as being more than merely an means to an end.

As he concluded his speech, the final paragraph began like so, "... and so no matter if you have come here from another continent for pre-med, or...", and then he looked directly at me and smiled, " or if you have come from the farm to learn Latin...". I doubt if anyone really noticed, but that moment was more precious to me than the math and science prizes I would be awarded later that week.

As he did for so many others, he made me feel like we had a pact.

Vic and I led the standing ovation.

Back in the Lou

It is funny that the title sounds like "back in the loo" which is not especially charming from a British perspective.

I'm back! The trip was fantastic. The weather was perfect and I was able to catch up with a lot of people.

No pics, alas (sorry Hege!). I find that there is no "half way" when it comes to pictures and/or getting gifts for people: they become all-consuming. So this was just a trip home with a carry-on bag and my ubiquitous backpack.

It's hard to summarize even 3 days but here is a quick recap:

-- I saw an open-air theatrical performance (Quebec a la carte) that featured 8 players from La Belle Province and 4 from The Island. It covered 400 years in 45 minutes and was a mix of English and French. As keen readers will know, I am moved by music and was suckered-punched at the end with an unexpected "Canada is..." I hadn't heard that song in 15? years.

-- Inspired by the songs and bilingual nature of the performance, I walked around my old elementary school. Very keen readers will know that from grades 2 through 6, about 30 students were in the same class, learning French. We were family. It is heartening to know that my cousin Shannon now teaches there.

-- I confirmed that there are some very high-tech companies at the Atlantic Technology Centre in Charlottetown. High-tech as in 3D gaming for mobile phones. That's wicked stuff, and hopefully a new era for The Island in terms of becoming a hot bed for tech. It is cool to see that UPEI has reacted to it with a CS degree with a specialty in video game programming.

-- I started to write about some personal stuff but I can't include everything/everyone and yet I hate to leave anything out. Wonderful summer days and evenings with very special people. Some powerful, thoughtful and at times, heavy, conversations. It would take me 8 hours to relay it all and then this post would be insufferable.

So, to recap: A great trip! My new rule is to come home every summer.... I will send some pic links later perhaps but a great source is this site. It was postcard-perfect when I was there. No Photoshop necessary.


ps. Jesserando and others will remember a fun gag in front of the Island webcam. This time, Miss Gila phoned out of the blue, and I was walking near it. So she went online and I waved :-) It was a hoot, eh?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Quick Notes

A belated Happy Canada Day to everyone. Happy 4th o' July tomorrow to the US!

And today, both "bonne fete" to my Mom and also Happy 400th anniversary, Quebec City. This week is the culmination of a year-long festival marking 400 years since Champlain founded New France, Quebec, and arguably Canada.

In other major news, check out the blog over at My Life Geography! Congrats to Karen and Dan....


ps. Finally, I am writing this from Prince Edward Island. I am home on a very short, stealth trip. So email is spotty and blog silence for a couple of days.

pps. It is gorgeous here. Breathtaking and very familiar at the same time. Powerful stuff.