Monday, December 28, 2009

Back in Town

I'm back in StL!

The trip home was smooth and uneventful. Definitely new procedures in place for security. Pat-downs are standard now and for international flights, you cannot have anything in your lap for the last hour of the flight. e.g. I had to put my book away. No getting into your carry-on etc. Just sit there.

Fine by me. I was home in 9 hours with my bags. That's good news.

My vacuous, absurd reunion with my apartment ("good to be back, fridge! How are ya, Mac?") has already worn off. It's good to be back, and now I'm reflecting on a great trip. Excited about many gifts, including some biographies of key Canadians (e.g. Trudeau and Tommy Douglas).


ps. I may have had this guy before, but my cab driver from the airport was a hoot. A Polish dude with a thick Russian accent, he claims common ancestry with the aristocracy in Russia (i.e. the czars). He said he loves Canada and knows some old players personally. He rattled off Tony and Phil Esposito, and Frank Mahovlich (certainly bona fide names).

pps. I missed Binky and the gang, but happy to know they went off to Disney World! I can't wait to hear how it went.

ppps. My friend (from last year's ordeal) Olga, and I, were going to get together but she fell off the radar. Hope all is well for her

pppps. My voice is back but there's not much volume or power... I think it is still going to be sore for awhile.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Trip update

Well, it's been a great trip... I've seen a lot of people and caught up on all the news. A major casualty has been my voice (I've been whispering for 3-4 days), but hopefully it will return.

I don't have much energy to recap the entire 10 days. The additional highlights are that the weather has been incredibly mild (Christmas was barely white), Dad was well feted for his birthday, and the gifts given/received were great. Lots of food, family, and friends.

It is, as always, weird to go back. I miss my friends and my life in St Louis, yet in a few short weeks I will miss the Maritimes again. At 40, I feel like I should make making some long-term strategic decisions with respect to my career. Alas, my strength is "short-term optimization" and not long-term strategy. Ah well. One goal was to seek counsel on this subject from some key people: great input from some corners (you know who you are! ;-)


ps. I guess the next thing on the agenda is the New Year (and New Decade) ! I've been thinking about the highlights of the 2000s. I'm not sure how much I'll post but it has certainly been a great decade personally, even if Time recently labeled it "The decade from hell" for the USA.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


The last post is a bit out of order. The big news is that I'm home on PEI! I came home early to celebrate my Dad's 70th. The birthday post was sincere but also a ruse.

My Dad was definitely surprised when I arrived, and also today at a gathering at my sister's. It was a special day all-around as it was her first big party in the new house (my sister and bro-in-law bought a place this summer). About a dozen family members, including all of Dad's siblings still on The Island (4 of 8). It was a good time and lots of good food...


ps. My flight went well, at a time when it was truly important. I braved both O'Hare and Trudeau and got away with it.

Christmas Songs

Binky wrote a post about favourite Christmas songs. Here is one of mine.

My folks had an old hi-fi stereo that played 16, 33 1/3, 45, and 78 rpm albums. There was a bunch of old records in the cabinet. My sister and discovered one by Bing Crosby and the Andrews sisters. This was not the famous "White Christmas" but rather one called "Merry Christmas". It is very difficult to find.

One side was religious tunes; the other was more secular pop. One could say this is cheese extraordinaire, but I just loved it. My sister and I dug out that record for a few years in a row.

One of my favourite tunes is Christmas in Killarney, loosely based on an Irish jig. Sure enough, it is on YouTube replete with a display of the album itself!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my Dad's birthday! Can you believe it!?

My grandmother started WWI and I guess my Dad started WWII. This is ironic since both are among the most kind-hearted people I have ever known.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I hope that you have a fantastic day....

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Tis the Season

This is a house near my apartment. The shot isn't very good, but the entire yard is full of lights and various figures.

One would think that the place would look too 'busy' or jammed, but I think it looks lovely. It is a treat to drive past it.

I've seen some houses/yards done up so well that people will drive by as a tour (if you know Webster Groves, you probably know where I mean). This place is a bit more modest than that, and in that way it endears itself to me even more.

I stood out in the chilly wind and snapped this pic. Not easy, with rush-hour traffic whizzing by.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


It is 10 pm on Saturday night... about 37 F and we have significant thunder and (very chilly) rain....

Quite unusual for mid-December.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Ghost of Christmas Pluperfect

Quote from Twitter:

I'm the ghost of Christmas Pluperfect. I'm what you had thought Christmas was, until a subsequent event. Confusing, I know.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


xkcd is a hilarious web comic for software developers. The guy intentionally named it so that it couldn't be pronounced. It is perhaps the iconic "stick figure" / "bad art but funny" presence on the web.

He also has a fun take on Can-Am relations (click here). LOL


Monday, December 07, 2009


It is no secret that FB and Twitter bend normal social boundaries, but here are some recent examples.

The mayor of St Louis has a Twitter feed. Though some updates are by his staff, he uses his initials (#fgs) on tweets that he writes. He publicly chatted with my pal Andy, which was really neat.

And tonight, the NHL tweeted that Martin Brodeur tied Terry Sawchuk's record for career shutouts. I like Brodeur but I was a huge fan of Sawchuk; I read about him a lot when I was a kid. He died circa 1970 (I have a penchant for tragic stories: Sawchuk, Rhoads, Mozart).

Anyway, I responded and the NHL replied (here)! Can you believe it?! Of course, it is just some punk at a computer, but holy cow! It is a thrill.


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Man versus Toddler

This video is fun... I don't know why but it must be the cognitive dissonance of the contest versus the kid's cheerful cluelessness.

So you want to live in Calgary?

Here is a pic from a recent snowstorm in Calgary. Yikes.

It certainly acts as a counter-balance to the gorgeous scenery of Banff and Lake Louise.


ps. No snow here in StL. About -3 C windchill today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Heat Is On

Well, I made it to late November before turning on the heat in the apartment.

I came home late one night to find the place at a chilly 55 F = 13 C. That's rough. I can sleep in 60s F with my famously warm bedroom gear, but it is hard to brush one's teeth below 60 F.

Strangely, 2 days later it was a breathtaking 70 F and sunny in St Louis. One of those days where it felt like a true moral imperative to go outside. (Which I did, running around CC Lake just like the old tri days.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Across The Miles

You may want to join me in sending love and prayers out to Binky. See his blog to understand his loss.

wishing you peace, my friend

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Still Brown

The title of this post comes from a comment on Facebook. Binky told me his daughter (5 years old?) said that I cannot be 40 today as I am "still brown". We believe she means the hair.

She's right. (Though I do have flecks of silver in my goatee, which may be the only attribute I have in common with Brad Pitt.)

Anyway, the comment made me laugh out loud. She is a sweetie, even if she does think I grew up in the United States (nothing wrong that -- if you did).

40. Vic is anticipating, with justification, some brooding blog post that intersects age, wisdom, and national identity. Sounds like work to me. Granted, it is definitely a toned down birthday, with wretched weather (November Rain indeed), but I think I have everything in perspective.

I'm really lucky and blessed. So far, so good.


ps. I must say the 'party' over on Facebook has been enjoyable. I've had birthday wishes from many corners. Elsewhere, I've received some email and a massive, heart-warming card blitz from my Mom's side of the family. Some of them had glitter, but we forgive.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where Are Islanders?

Check out this great idea by the CBC! I'm not on there yet, but will have to snap a pic.

Naturally, the Maritime area is a bit flooded with virtual pins on the map.


ps. The pic in Chicago is the Old Abby, a ferry that ran from PEI to NB for years and years. Many readers of this blog have been on it. It is now the club-house for the Chicago Yacht Club.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is an interesting piece on microbiology and superbugs.

It is especially interesting for me, because at my client gig, we talk about these bugs all the time. The device is used to identify and treat these infections.

I don't work on the actual biological computations (this is somewhat painful, given that I won math and biology awards in high school; don't get me started on French fluency), so I'm not doing any true science per se. However, our staff microbiologists talk about these things all the time. This is our domain, in every sense of the word.

Staph. Aureus is like an old friend, in a weird way. And extended-spectrum beta-lactamase -- well, that's just fun! MRSA is not, though, that's for sure.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I don't have a lot of words this year for November 11th.

I'd simply like to say that I am eternally grateful that I will (hopefully) not face war. I will (hopefully) be buried on Prince Edward Island.

In addition to my perennial link to Flanders Fields, I invite readers to read the series of postings over on Binky's blog. It sure puts things in perspective.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Unseasonably Pleasant

It is 9 pm in November and I have the windows open! Today was a balmy 78 F, and had people raving all day. Very sunny.... In fact, a local website says it is 70 F now.

The seniors back home would approve. To an individual, the elderly hate winter with a passion. If you have experienced a real winter, you know why.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Wikipedia And Forty-Fives

I am routinely astounded by Wikipedia. Here is the latest installment.

Back home, trump card games are popular. The two big ones are Auction and Forty-Fives. Both use a trump-scheme (card ranking) that is, simply put: insane. I remember being in the hospital at age 11(ish) and having my father teach me the scheme. (As an example, from the top down: 5 of trump, Jack of trump, Ace of Hearts, Ace of trump, and so on... i.e. You really want the 5.)

Since I left the Maritimes, I have never met anyone who was familiar with this crazy setup. I have often wondered about its origin.

Well, Wikipedia to the rescue. Even though Auction has a different description, the background on Forty-Fives (click here) is amazingly accurate.

The history is impressive:
Forty-Fives is a descendant of the Irish game Spoil_Five, which in turn is a descendant of a game that King James VI of Scotland popularized in the 17th century called Maw. Maw was first seen being played in 1511 and the earliest written rules come from 1576 Scotland.
Neat stuff!

ps. Our version of Auction uses the same trump-scheme as that of Forty-Fives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night

Check out this fantastic post over at The Cupcake Project.

Devilishly creative! I know the cast and I imagine they had a blast with this...


Monday, October 26, 2009

Green in Autumn

Here is a fun fact... I haven't run the heat yet in the new apartment. I did run some A/C in the summer but so far, no heat.

This is pretty easy lately, as the weather is nice. It was cooler a couple of weeks ago (low 60s F in the apt in the morning), but I have a monster down-filled quilt that is a prized possession. It is fantastic.

My electric bill for September was possibly the lowest I have ever had. We'll see how long this can go.


Sunday, October 25, 2009


Happy Birthday to dear friend and CC reader/critic: Vic!

He is the big 4-0h today... Back home, there were 2 photos in The Guardian that showed his various hair styles over the years. When I called this morning, the household was busily preparing for a gala afternoon. I'm sure a good time was had by all!


Saturday, October 24, 2009


This week, after a local conference, I hung out with "the cool kids"; i.e. some of the speakers and organizers. In conversation at a local bar, 3 new acquaintances and I were talking about Twitter. My compadres started raving about a certain Twitter feed with fake-geek headlines.

I think they knew the author was one of us at the bar, but weren't sure who it was. When I stated it was me, they were generous with sincere praise. A nice surprise to end the week.

It will never make money, and it has been slow to grow, but I may be onto something here. If the "big leagues" are The Onion and Colbert's "The Word", then my goal is to have some fine triple-A baseball: not pro level, but pretty darn good.


Thursday, October 22, 2009


I don't like ambiguous, diary-like posts but, as a writer -- as a person -- sometimes one needs to hammer one out.

I have several ideas, but no inclination to sort them into a coherent narrative.

I guess the gist is this:
  • Despite a sarcastic sense of humor, I am generally a "people pleaser" with a healthy fear of failure. Within the structure of school, this worked to my advantage. I am fine-tuned to respond to the risk/rewards within that setting.
  • Because of the above, I worked very hard to get to a certain place in my career. However, long outside of academia, I haven't had structure in a long time. I'm doing 'ok' now, but I don't feel as though I am doing 'excellent', in part because there is no feedback mechanism.
  • One potential venture could provide direct feedback, and could provide income: public speaking.
  • I have a maniacal love/hate relationship with public speaking. As described elsewhere, results range from euphoria to brooding. The euphoria is absolutely a drug: if I received it 2 out of 10 times, it would be worth it. (Except for the total blow-ups, which are truly devastating).
  • The tragic rub is that my international situation can make things complicated: there is one "milestone" with respect to immigration that would certainly help. As part of crafting a career within structure, it would be a no-brainer. However, it involves national identity, emotion, and commitment. These ingredients form a toxic soup of indecision that flies in the face of everything I have tried to build.

The upshot is that I may have opportunities to advance my career (*), but (a) I don't have a sense of structure to motivate me, and (b) there is some red-tape that has me in abject paralysis.

Given the work that I've put in this far, this is classified as a bummer.


(*) I fully realize that "advance my career" may be equivalent to "feed my seemingly insatiable vanity".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The big news here is that my client has moved us to a new building. Though tiny in the grand scheme of things, it has wreaked havoc on daily life and my usual routines.

The good news is that the commute is almost the same distance, and I'm still within lunching distance of Jim G. (I wish I was within lunch distance of Fred and Stacey!) Also the building is quite "green" and very bright and airy. Not a bad spot.

The minor bad news is that I share a cube with a friend of mine, which means I have nowhere to "hole up" during lunch. I am surprisingly introverted at lunch. However, we are in the big building now so when I do choose to dine in the big cafeteria, the social opportunities are outstanding.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charity Event

I recently discovered an organization called Coders 4 Charities. In various cities, they host weekends dedicated to helping non-profit organizations build software. It is sort of like Habitat for Humanity, only for their IT department.

I'm signed on for an event starting this Friday evening/weekend. We will be broken into teams; each is assigned to a charity.

I'm looking forward to it, but a bit apprehensive. Techies are notoriously opinionated. This will be far more free-form than using pre-fab housing, so we'll see if we can all pull in one direction. Also, I've been assigned to a team that is going to work with Microsoft technology: very much a weakness of mine.

We'll see how it goes! I'm cautiously optimistic, and grateful for the chance to give something back. I have been thinking a lot lately of doing something along these lines (more in a subsequent post).


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Congrats to my sister

My sister was recently promoted to manager at the famous bookstore back home. From her stories of work, especially the insane holiday rush, she really helps keep the place on the tracks, so it is great to hear of her recognition.

Congrats, Colleen!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone back home in Canada!

Per tradition, I invite readers to peruse the Wikipedia article on Thanksgiving.

I ask readers world-wide to reflect today and give thanks. We are all very fortunate to be here, both in time and geography. Perhaps in 2309, our time will seem primitive but I think living in an industrialized country in 2009 is fantastic.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Twitter Update

Aside from CC, I have a couple of other online ventures. Long time readers will know that my latest venture is a Twitter feed that features absurd, comic headlines, geared for an audience of geeks and software developers.

I usually post one headline per day, and measure success on the number of "re-tweets". That is, the number of people that like the joke enough to echo it to their own circle of friends. Since April, I have averaged 2-3 re-tweets per day, with 6 being a relatively huge day. This has been disappointing as I spend a fair amount of mental energy on the headlines. (Though I'm happy to say I don't spend much time -- I don't write spoof articles; only headlines. It is delightfully light weight and very much a Twitter-style angle.)

Well. The Nobel Peace Prize is manna from heaven for joke writers everywhere, regardless of political affiliation. And so it was on Friday that I offered up a headline about Obama, emboldened with the award, re-opening a controversial debate within the Java community. (It isn't funny if you don't know the niche, but within the niche it works.)

The response has been a new record. The response has been 3 pages of re-tweets and dozens of new followers.

Interestingly, the tech debate is the same one that rocketed my sticker schtick into the blogoverse in 2007. Also, one of the key Twitter people is the same person that gave me some publicity for the stickers. (He was embroiled in the controversy. He had a well-thought out proposal that was shot down somewhat unfairly.) I don't know if he realized I'm behind both ventures. It is relatively easy to figure that out, but one would have to do some clicking around.

It's nice to finally get some action on that front.

Monday, October 05, 2009

High School

In person, I probably talk about this idea too often, but a favourite thought of mine was from a friend in grad school. He explained that we are often defined by the reaction we evoke in others, as much as our view of ourselves.

This may explain why it can be so difficult to attend reunions, etc. When you meet people who haven't seen you since you were 19, they react (in a subtle way) in accordance with your social position/personality/etc when you were 19. We are ultimately immersed in a soup of emotion, reactions, etc that challenge our hard-won sense of security and sense of self.

A friend of mine from The Island recently described a holiday function back in Dec 2008. As he put it, he was 'surrounded by A-listers' from high school. He did not enjoy the experience. He wasn't 'cool' back then and, understandably, didn't feel too 'cool' in the present (see above). He felt anxiety that he hadn't felt in years and years.

I just browsed some folks on the dreaded Facebook (oh you've done it too -- just peeking around, not 'friending' people) and somehow managed to trigger the same feeling, after stumbling on various crowds from high school and lower grades.

Seriously, my heart started racing! Though I have chosen a life of singleness, and routinely flaunt the absurdity of my life as comedy, I am quite comfortable with who I am, and most of my goals.

It is embarrassing to have been vaulted back into a more insecure time.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Buzzard Pre-Flight Check

Jim G and I went for a run on Saturday. Neither of us were elegant or fast, though he has a better excuse, having suffered the motorbike wreck 10 months ago.

At about 9 am, we finished. The early fall air was still crisp and a bit dew-ey from the evening before. We looked up and saw a large buzzard perched in a tree. We watched it for awhile... and then it opened it wings and just hung out for 5-10 minutes.

We realized that it was drying its wings from the dew. One doesn't think of this word often for the species, but it was majestic.

Here is a similar pic of what we saw, though this is in North Carolina on a random Flickr account. It is the very same pose.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Netflix Is Serious About Fun

Here is a great quote from this article on Netflix:

"When people connect with a movie, it really makes them happy, and that's fundamentally what we're trying to do," he says. "Today you love one out of three movies that you watch. If we can raise that to two out of three, we can completely transform the market and increase human happiness."

Alas, Netflix doesn't serve Canada, but for those in the US -- Netflix is one serious company. The amount of engineering that they put into their recommendation system is on par with Google's indexing algorithm, in that they hire PhDs in computer science and math, and go all out towards improving the system.

They famously offered a prize for a recommendation algorithm that could beat their stated benchmark (it has been awarded, and I'm sure that the winners could write a doctoral thesis on the work).

For years, I had no interest in Netflix, but having been on it for a couple of years, I really enjoy it. It is a convenient, cheap way to catch up on some great shows (I'm currently devouring The Big Bang Theory at every opportunity).


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Baseball Revisited

I didn't see the first-pitch by Ann G (wife of Jim G), but I heard about it from Jim and loved the story.

Recall that she was honoured with the first-pitch at a sellout Cards-Cubs game, as part of recognition for being Teacher of the Year in her district.

As it turned out, she completely hammed it up. After being announced, she used exaggerated motions to place the ball in her glove, and leaned into read the sign from the catcher. With a big shake of her head, she called off the first sign, which was echoed by the stadium announcer and delighted the crowd. She nodded to the second signal, and slinged one homeward.

Apparently the place just loved it. We are trying to locate some video (there is a clip but it is in an internal section of the school district's website).


Monday, September 21, 2009

Geek Technique in the NY Times

Here is a neat story in the NY Times about pair-programming. This is a technique for software development that has come to the fore in the last 5-10 years or so. Alas, not everywhere uses it, as it controversial to managers and some developers (everyone is terrified by it, at first). We use it at my current gig, though not exclusively.

This quote from the article sums it up nicely, especially if you consider that software was once finished, printed out, and then reviewed by a team in a boardroom, looking for bugs:

Consider the game “Where’s Waldo,” in which a cartoon character is hidden in an intricate design. Most people can eventually find Waldo after poring over the drawing. Similarly, when programmers check code for errors, it takes time to examine the logic and find mistakes.

Now imagine if someone sat next to the artist from the very beginning. Obviously, the onlooker should be able to find Waldo more easily. The character would stand out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Big Day at the Ballgame

If you are in St Louis, this might be interesting: Jim G's wife, Anne, will be throwing out the first pitch at the Cards-Cubs game on Friday night!

She is a teacher and won a major prize last year for her efforts. Part of the recognition is throwing out the pitch. She has known about it for months, and from what I hear, has been practicing. (I have been urging her to throw a 'slurve' but no word on her mechanics.)

For those not into baseball, this is quite a peach: the Cardinals - Cubs rivalry is huge, and so it will easily be a sell-out at the stadium and high on TV ratings.

Good luck, Anne!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hedging the Food Gamble

Many readers know T (from AZ-IL-MO-CO) and her parents.

Her father made the news with this hedge bet (click here). As someone who hates waiting in line, I love it!

The photo is probably feigned irritation. He is a hilarious, funny man with a great smile and outlook (not unlike his offspring).


Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Maritimes Win Again

Readers will recall that my coworker, B, had a daughter who was married on PEI in Sept 08.

This year, a coworker named C, went to the Maritimes with her husband for a wedding anniversary. She consulted with me (and B) on places to go.

We both recommended Cape Breton. I'm always a little nervous to push PEI, but B wasn't shy. B especially suggested a meal at Inn at Fortune Bay, which hosted the wedding.

Well, C and her man had lovely weather and were blown away. Upon her return, she exclaimed that the Maritimes "just has to be the prettiest place in the whole world". They did love Cape Breton and PEI. I think they found the Inn to be a bit stuffy compared to the B&B's, but they had a good time.

I enjoyed the photos they brought back. It was good to see good red soil, the way God intended. In Ontario and elsewhere in North America, the soil looks sickly to me.


ps. Interestingly, C didn't really understand the differences in locales. She assumed that I had been to Cape Breton many times, since it is so close. I think I've been there twice!

pps. Weird fact... A few people in St Louis call PEI by the name "Prince Edward". e.g. "When was the last time you were back to Prince Edward?"

I guess many people call an island by its first name, but this is highly weird for me because no one in the Maritimes would ever say that. It is either the full name, "The Island", or most commonly, "PEI".

Monday, September 07, 2009

In Recognition

I'm a bit behind on all the news, but wanted to echo some news on my father. Last week, he was invited to Government House and presented with the Firefighter's Exemplary Service Medal. This was in honour of 28 years of service with a local fire department.

Along with many other fine people, he sacrificed a lot during those years. Imagine getting out of bed at 3 am in the dead of winter because someone's house is on fire. Or losing a Sunday afternoon of R&R because a farmer let a grass fire get out of control. It was like that all the time.

Though not as dramatic, Dad kept the books for years, and fixed a lot of stuff up at the venerable fire hall.

Congrats, Dad!

Saturday, September 05, 2009


I received 2 postcards from Action Girl and Super Girl (protagonists on Binky's blog).

I was utterly delighted!

In other news, I met 2 babies that are new to the gang in St Louis. Adorable...

Finally, a military helicopter landed (part of a planned PR event) in a field next to work on Friday. It was very cool. If you are interested in pics, send me an email.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Love Letter to Leonard

This past summer, the legendary poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen, hit the tour and interview circuit. I heard 2 poignant interviews with him: one on NPR and the other on CBC. Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely by choice: the aging artist was forced to leave his Montreal home, hit the road, and sing for his supper. Cohen had been swindled out of fortune by a nefarious manager.

Hearing the interviews stirred up many memories and emotions. Here are some:

The Era of Ignorance and Growth

When I was first introduced to Cohen, as a university student, I didn't get it. He had weird Zen lyrics that I couldn't appreciate. Many of the arrangements were too simple.

Over time, I began to understand the point. Leonard's songs weren't simple stories: they were open to interpretation, and often, mirror-like, reflected more of what we brought to them than what they offered outright.

The Concerts

In the early 1990s, I saw Leonard twice. One show in Kitchener, Ontario, was spell-binding. The audience was entralled by his smoky baritone, beautiful melodies, and showmanship. I believe I have blogged before that he returned from an intermission to announce the score of the Montreal-LA Stanley Cup playoff game (Montreal led 4-1).


Some friends and I looked out at the Pacific while playing a cover of Hallelujah. The Jeff Buckley version is much better known, but I had heard the song well before and always thought it beautiful. It is a treasured memory.


In July 2006, BryGuy, Matt, and I went to see a documentary about Leonard. Though the doc was mostly boring, I'll never forget a few details:
  • Near 2005, Leonard went to a Zen monastery in California. Matt was at the same monastery at the same time! I can't remember if he met Leonard, but he knew LC was there.
  • The monastic experience was the same time that Leonard was being truly ripped off by his management. (Not in the film, but this summer's interviews).
  • Within the 2-hour span of the documentary, a vicious windstorm decimated St Louis. We emerged from the Tivoli to find serious tree damage. The lights had flickered a bit during the film, but we had no idea it had stormed so badly.

And so, this summer, I heard the podcasts with the old songsmith. The interviews were a mix of his legacy, and his new chapter (chapter 13?).

Terri Gross (NPR) really probed his psyche, about his lyrics, which deal with sensuality and love, but in a way that is never easy. A modern-day Hamlet, he loves romance but can never seem to capture it -- or doesn't want to capture it. Interestingly, his lyrics are deeply personal: the song Chelsea Hotel famously describes a tryst between him and a woman who "usually prefers handsome man, but for me would make an exception". (The woman was later revealed to be Janis Joplin). His contradictions are real, not an act.

Where Terri really hit home though, was with an unoriginal but fitting point: Leonard is brilliant and insightful about his own lot in life, and the human condition, but at the same time seems utterly powerless to change his circumstances.

It was an electric moment for me. I don't compare to King Leonard, but I think it is an apt description of this blog, and especially the recent Saturday Night posts. Not with respect to love, per se, but the general sentiment of watching one's life from the outside in, capturing it in song and verse, and yet being unable to do anything about it.

Good luck, Leonard. Thanks for everything.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Random Email

I've been somewhat bummed about the tech blog lately for various reasons. But this buoyed my spirits... a random email (Ed's note: obscured to protect identity):

Hope you don't think this too weird. I saw a bumper sticker not long ago that had [tech blog -- Ed] on it whilst driving in St. Louis. Curious, I Google'd it and came across your blog.

Anyhow, just wanted to drop a line and say how much I enjoy the site. It's obvious you enjoy your work, which is nice to see in folks.

Pretty neat....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tell Me A Story: RIP Don Hewitt

I just saw a 60 Minutes show that commemorated producer and innovator Don Hewitt. It was outstanding.

I have loved 60 Minutes ever since I was a teenager, long before coming to the USA. It is routinely the best hour of TV in a given week, and has been that way for 40 years.

I wish that Don Hewitt's passing received even 5% of the media coverage that Michael Jackson's did. I think they should play that tribute in every high-school class in this country.

He is a role-model for life, as he pursued his passion with dogged determination. As for journalism and TV production, he had one motto: "tell me a story".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Big News

Some big news for my friends Stef and Jonathan:
  • J has branched out into photography and things seem to be going very well.
  • Stef famously runs Cupcake Project and has been scoring some big gigs, including a mention by the NY Times and a guest spot on Paula Deen's website.
  • Oh, and by the way: Stef recently gave birth to a baby boy! Huge news! Mazel tov to all!

Saturday Night

I had a chance to see Nickelback in concert tonight (a Saturday night), but passed on it.

I wonder if they will play the song below. I'm sure I blogged on this before but it is a cover of the old Elton John song.

As is well-documented on here, it is a perfect match for hockey: Saturday night as been hockey night in Canada since 1931. It is every bit as synonymous (if not more so) as Monday night with football in the US. This cover is so genius for hockey that I can't believe no one did before.

I had contemplated dyeing my hair blonde like the Nickelback lead singer, and even bought a decent "Canada" t-shirt back home for the show. (Though I'm not sure how that would go over with a hard-rock crowd in the midwest -- hard to say.)

It was probably an error to pass on it, but if I find out they played this song (and it is a Saturday), then I will be really bummed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Canadian, Please

This is hilarious! Thanks to the anon commenter who turned me on to it....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Successful Summer Rerun

I wrote a spoof piece on my tech blog back on April 1, 2008. On a lark, I winged it out on Twitter this past Friday.

The response was better than when I originally released it. It has pinged around Twitter and some other sites: 1,500 hits on a Saturday. That isn't a big deal for some friends of mine, but my blog has been quiet so it's nice to have a bit of comeback.

This especially true because I paid for some stock photography and took about 3 hours to write the piece. Thankfully, it made me laugh, which is always the primary goal (if that goal is achieved, then the work is worth it). But the gravy is nice too.

For SiteMeter fans, here is a pic below. Not exactly "viral" but not bad.


I work in a war room that seats about 12 people. Several of my colleagues are from diverse backgrounds: one guy is from Turkey.

One day after a meeting, said chap came over to my desk. He had seen my browser onscreen, with the background image on Twitter (at right). From that alone, said he didn't realize I was Canadian.

I'm glad that the mighty Maple Leaf has such good recognition.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIP Les Paul

Quoteth (from Wikipedia):

In January 1948, Paul was injured in a near-fatal automobile accident in Oklahoma, which shattered his right arm and elbow. Doctors told Paul that there was no way for them to rebuild his elbow in a way that would let him regain movement, and that his arm would remain permanently in whatever position they placed it. Paul then instructed the surgeons to set his arm at an angle that would allow him to cradle and pick the guitar. It took him a year and a half to recover.

For non-guitar players, Les Paul not only invented the guitar that bears his name, but also was a fantastic player and a true innovator regarding studio equipment. He is credited as a pioneer with respect to multi-track recording.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whale Dance

I saw this via online news from PEI. Humpback whales spotted off the north shore!

(Please note that the music is by Coldplay, and Joe Satriani has a lawsuit against them for ripping off his song. If you like the tune, by it from Joe.)

Nonetheless, it is stirring video, especially at the beginning. Whales near PEI are fairly rare. I hope it isn't due to climate change.

Don't Talk: Watch

The video below is rated R for language and violent sentiments. Definitely not for everyone.

The gist is that it is an opening vid to a movie, with namby-pamby (and risque) characters asking people to mind their manners. Then some metal meanies burst in, with a stronger message (from a song by some neo-extreme metal band).

I love it... I was raised to stay damn quiet in a formal setting: at a movie, church, concert, meeting, tech talk, etc. I am less formal at someone's house, but if more than a few people are seated in chairs, you have 3 seconds to make a quiet, discreet point (e.g. "do you hear a smoke detector?").

A funny thing: this is how I expected to watch major-league baseball years ago, but I was surprised to learn that at a baseball game, everyone talks and it's fine. It was a true culture shock for me to learn that baseball is a big picnic where the game is more in the background.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Heat Hammer

We got away with a rather miraculously mild July, but the heat hammer is coming down on us in St Louis. This weekend was high 90's F, with the wretched heat index.

I don't know if I'll ever really get used to this. Long-time readers will know that I grew up in an environment where the dog days of August, replete with stifling humidity, would reach 85 F or maybe -- call us crazy -- 87 F.

As part of my body's natural reaction of shock, I have a cold with serious snufflies and weird gland pain, though that is subsiding. Bah.

I could continue to gripe and moan, but instead another heat-related story: this weekend is roughly the 2nd anniversary of my 1/3 Iron Man at Mattoon, IL. As documented in this post (when I actually wrote decent posts), I endured unbelievable heat and finished, in ignominious fashion. To this day, it is the longest tri I have done, and with Blackbird gone, will likely be one of my crowning achievements.

Many readers may remember that race as the one where I ended up in the ER. True enough, yes. However, I repeat here: I finished. It was hell on earth, but I finished.


ps. Another point on growing up: being on The Island, every hint of a breeze is a refreshing kiss from nature, because it brings sweet relief. It wasn't until that I moved to Ontario that I discovered that a breeze does not have to be a "cool breeze". In both Ontario and Missoura, the breeze can feel like a thousand hair-dryers.

pps. And don't get me started on Arizona! I have only visited once, but Holy Moley!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Does this taste offal to you?

Many years ago, I was at The Scottish Arms with the Dinner Club Gang for brunch (not for dinner club). I remember it being very good, but I don't remember what I ate.

I was there last night, and I shant forget the meal: I went for the gold, and ordered haggis.

It was very good! Quite heavy and a bit, well, gamey, but tasty. It came with a side of honey-roasted rutabaga and mashed potatoes. As with everything at The Scottish Arms, it was quite authentic. A friend in attendance has traveled the world (including Scotland) and vouched for the place.

I like food, but I can't say I'm a gourmand / foodie. I'm not one who raves about a dish, saying that the amount of nutmeg perfectly balances the amount of ginger.

With that as a modest disclaimer, I've had the following:
  • shark-fin soup (though I felt guilty and never again)
  • alligator (in several places)
  • cow's tongue (a delicacy on PEI)
  • raw oysters (in New Orleans)
  • and now haggis
I should write about the texture of each dish and how it brought me closer to the local culture. Alas, I don't really remember (see above). I was hungry.

How about you? What is the most exotic thing you've had?

Monday, August 03, 2009


Long before the advent of digital cameras, my family has been interested in photography. I remember many a Sunday, while visiting, with talk about F-stops, lenses, and film. In particular, my father and my Uncle Roland were big fans, back in a day where every roll of film had both a cost and a sense of apprehension (would they turn out?).

Back in the day, Dad was more utilitarian as a photographer, and interested in the science: a camera was a fascinating invention. My uncle understood the science but was much more interested in the aesthetics of the shot: dew on flowers, and especially cars. He often entered contests with worthy material, as I remember.

Today, they both snap pics in a different world. My father has a better sense of artistry now: Pedaling PEI is getting hits that rivals even the mighty CC.

I'm not sure how often my uncle plays shutterbug, but he sent me these photos, and I thought I would share. These cars must have gleamed in the summer sun of The Island. (There are several car shows there each year.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More Than Words

Our laundry rooms are in the basement of the building. They require a keycode to get in, and are fairly large, if empty, spaces.

I came across this sight last evening. The table is about 8 feet long.

I offer the pic without further comment, and will let you make up your own jokes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lack of Comments

I had thought of this before, but I just consciously realized why it is hard for me to leave comments on blogs.

I have Google Reader setup under my tech persona. So when I read blogs, I have to switch Google accounts to morph into CC. This is not difficult, but enough of a deterrent that I don't leave comments.

The solution of course, is to move stuff over to the other Google Reader account. Bah.... no time for that.

Until then, my apologies....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heinz 57

This is a mix of neat stuff for which I don't have time to mention in a full post. The title comes from an old marketing campaign by Heinz. I once worked at a hardware store with a guy that said it all the time (usually derisively towards an unnecessary mess).
  • Did you know: The term kerosene may have been coined in Charlottetown, PEI?
  • I'm enjoying CBC's Quirks and Quarks. I haven't heard host Bob Macdonald in a long time.
  • Tidbit from Quirks: Komodo dragons do not have nasty, symbiotic bacteria in their mouths. 'Tis a myth. As it turns out, they have a venom which has anti-clot properties and is a potent 2-punch to their horrific bite.
  • Most people know that Tom Watson cracked at the British Open. However, the commentator on ABC (a friend of TW) jinxed him by predicting a successful putt and victory. To me, golf is like baseball: you don't talk about a no-hitter.
  • The Cardinals have finally made some trades! So far, so good. Even though we have been pummeled by the Phillies, we are hitting. The new guys are producing and it has taken the pressure off of some of the other guys. I'm optimistic for the NL Central division title.
  • The new apartment is working out fairly well. I've setup the guitar in such a way that I suspect I'll play more, as it is more accessible.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Movin' On Up (Redux)

Congrats to my sister and bro-in-law for closing the deal on a new house!

Very exciting stuff... They'll live just outside of Charlottetown.

Best of luck with the new digs!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Pics

Continuing in the series, here is the view from the breezeway at the apartment. The view from my windows is pretty much the same. The building in the distance, 'above' the fire hydrant is my gym/YMCA.

Note the sharp black Honda Civic Si. That's my ride these days.

Here is the breezeway. My apt is on the left, with the blinds open.

I used iPhoto (on the Mac) to blur the license plate on the vehicles. The Honda looks better without one!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The New CC Headquarters

I was taking some photos for Craiglist and thought I would share some of the new place. Nothing on the walls yet, and my decor is quite utilitarian... I'm a philosopher, not an interior designer!

Here is HQ. The big news here is using the swivel chair to conserve space for the computer/keyboard arrangement. Alas the guitar/amp rig is not yet set up (forgive me, Dave).

This is the view from the computer. An open space into the kitchen. Most of the stuff on the fridge is pictures of family, and magnets from various trips.

This is the entertainment stand in the living room (which was to my back for the first pic). I now have four (4) remotes. Photos of family on the stand (I don't know why I am stressing this). Notice the little guy perched precariously at top right. More on this later.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What would you do, if I sang out of tune?

I've been thinking about the topic of singing lately.

I once read "All I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten". All I really remember is the author pointing out:
  • If you ask a group of children "who can sing?", they will all raise their hands enthusiastically.
  • If you ask a group of adults "who can sing?", you'll get crickets.
He went on to say how we are bombarded with virtuosity. And this was before American Idol.

However, karaoke is huge: surely some people think they can sing. (And despite the extreme urge to mock, many karaoke participants are very good, actually).

I can hold a tune, but I'm not doing karaoke without serious preparation (and I have no time or interest for that). As a youth, I used to sing a lot when I was alone. It made me happy. When I was very young, I listened to The Beatles often and I probably sang to that.

I have noticed that since taking up piano, I hum and sing much better. I have a better sense of key, something that guitar never afforded me. I have no idea how to breathe properly, though, which seems vital. I learned this from an ill-fated COCA class which I dropped out of frustration -- another story.

Interestingly, my family does not sing in church. That's a pity. Ah well... As is well-documented on here, I enjoy some key singers in my church back home, especially at Christmas time.

Though you'll never hear me, here are some favourite songs of mine, to sing:
  • Amazing Grace
  • Blackbird
  • Wasn't that a party? (by the Irish Rovers!)
  • Sweet Child o Mine (a lovely song, despite Axl's attempts to kill it)
I don't sing them often but the following are a short list of 'perfect' songs, when it comes to melody and lyrics:
  • Eleanor Rigby (dear heaven, what a song)
  • Yesterday
  • Christmas in the Trenches (John McCutcheon), more so for story
  • You Had Time (Ani Difranco), more so for lyrics and sentiment
I once met John M at a bluegrass festival, and gushingly told him that I thought Yesterday and Christmas in the Trenches were the 2 perfect songs. He was unimpressed but kind.

What a random post on a Friday night....


ps. Do you sing? Which songs?

pps. Yes, my favourite Beatle is Paul. John was divine, but if I have to pick...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

As It Happens

I just told some friends tonight about my cousin being pregnant, and a law on PEI that the doctors cannot disclose the gender of a child during pregnancy. (One of the friends, Stef, is expecting in 3 weeks.)

Then I came home to read an email that my cousin had a girl! What a hoot!

Congrats to Teena and Andy! Fantastic news....


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Musial's Missed Moment

They had great weather for the allstar game but many of the highly knowledgeable baseball fans were pretty angry about the political (even if bipartisan) appearance and the weak tribute to Stan Musial.

Word on talk radio is that MLB did not want a repeat of the 10 minute love fest for Ted Williams in 1999. However, they overcompensated, without even a video tribute to Stan the Man.

I haven't read the blogs yet but the sports-talk media is very angry. They had 5 hall-of-fame Cardinals and even their introduction was rushed.

Shame on MLB!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Apple Blood

Our music man, over at Lick of the Day, has a video called Apple Blood.

It won "video pick of the month" at Riffworks!

Check out the announcement here...



Monday, July 13, 2009

A Combo Post

This post combines two ideas.

First, I love watching interviews with actors. They are among the most insightful people. Since I took a drama class at the mighty COCA (circa 2004), I've paid more attention to the craft of acting and its practitioners.

Here are two quick insights:
  • In real life, those with dementia will (quickly) lose the ability to detect sarcasm.
  • Many actors overplay being drunk: staggering around and being loud. Many people, when drunk, try to hide it from others.
A third insight pertains to this post:
  • Guys converse and socialize by telling stories, in series. We rarely interrupt or respond. We respond with another story.
Tonight, I had dinner with my confidant JimO (not Jim G). He is getting older now (near retirement) and a bit hard of hearing, but other wise doing well.

Back and forth over dinner, we told stories. The initial ones were recent stories used to catch up on the news. As the evening progressed, we told classic stories. Jim would ask me if I had heard the one about X. I had indeed, but I denied it: it was time for it again. And it was a dandy.

We told stories for 2 hours. Many of mine were about back home, on PEI. e.g. I retold my famous motorbike crash when I was 12. Jim followed up with one of his crashes.

It was a fine evening. We never embrace, but shook hands at the end of the evening. I haven't seen him since February but he is a close friend.


ps. Speaking of stories, The Island is no stranger to the art of a good tale. Most of my visits during the last trip, and the last evening with my family, were filled with good tales.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Food Inc

If you haven't read some of the latest books on the food industry (e.g. The Omnivore's Dilemma, 100 Mile Diet, or Fast Food Nation), then I recommend checking out the new documentary, Food Inc. It is very good.

I could write a lot on it but I suspect that most readers will eventually see it, or already get the idea.

The gist is a close look at Big Agriculture in the US. It is pretty scary.
  • e.g. 4 meat processing companies handle 80% of the beef in the US.
  • Chickens and other livestock are often raised in conditions that are neither fit for the livestock nor the workers.
  • Runoff from fertilizer and especially manure causes unbelievable damage.
  • St Louis' own Monsanto has a patent on a soy seed and protects its patent viciously: they have engaged farmers in legal battles and have won through sheer attrition. One farmer says that "justice is indeed blindfolded, and the side that puts the most money on the scales tends to win".
In fact, that was the best part of the movie: the farmers. One chicken farmer (a woman in KY) and an organic farmer (not sure where) really steal the show. They are principled, articulate, and, in the case of the organic operation, dedicated to old-fashioned values of quality product.

In one scene, on the organic farm, a chicken is killed. There is no ritual. There is no mystique. But there is a sense of respect -- an ingredient that is far removed from the giant agri-factories.

United Breaks Guitars

Steven Tyler once said: when someone crosses me, I don't just get mad... I write a song.

Well, that's what Dave Carroll (from Nova Scotia, no less) did when United Airlines broke his guitar. And he has become the latest Internet sensation. Guess what? When United caught wind of it, they settled rather quickly!

What a great story... a potent mix of ridicule, the Internet, and excellent production (the video is quite good). (Plus, honestly, it probably the best thing to happen to this guy's career).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

C'est drôle!

Here's a special moment from my trip back home...

Binky and S have a daughter, ActionGirl. She is studying French immersion, as I once did, many moons ago. Unlike her younger sister, ActionGirl is quiet and a bit shy.

We were all down at a cottage (near the Confederation Bridge), playing on the beach, where the tide was out. I had forgotten how the beach is a natural amusement park for kids: there are all kinds of things to explore. (And it's all genuine, which is the best part).

As we walked along the rocks and shells, I thought about how to broach French with ActionGirl. I had to tread carefully. I remember very well being about 8 years-old and having every adult imaginable try to goad me into speaking French. It never worked: I would retreat into my shell even more. With ActionGirl, this approach would very likely produce the same effect.

(I wonder though if she gets it as often as I did: I was in a pilot program for The Island, and so it might have been more of a novelty back in the day. Thankfully, for the good of French Canada and the entire country, it is much more common now.)

I was in a pickle. Tentatively, I asked ActionGirl how school was going and received a one-word, bored reply. Then a bolt of lightning from the heavens: her Uncle R said the only French he remembered was:

J'aime manger la fromage dans la piscine.

(I love to eat cheese in the pool.)

Bingo! ActionGirl laughed, and Uncle R gave me a huge opening. Let the games begin.

My trick was to repeat the phrase, but to replace 'cheese' with various words. On the walk back to the cottage from the beach, I must have done this with a dozen words. The repetition and pun-effect was vaguely reminiscent from a previously successful game we played during the previous summer.

However, this one was so much better. I have no words for the feeling of making a child laugh in another language. I would just say a phrase, each more ridiculous than the one before, and she would laugh. She never replied. She never asked what it meant. She would simply walk along, and laugh, completely 'getting it' and smiling, be out of her shell at last.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Midsummer Classic

I feel like I haven't really recapped the trip to PEI, but as with every trip, I am bursting with ideas, some of which I will blog, and some of which are too personal/alienating. Stay tuned, dear readers.

For now, some news from StL. The big news is that the Cardinals are hosting the baseball all-star game. On TV, you'll see the snazzy new (somewhat retro) stadium, which I quite like. What you won't see is the mess that is surrounding the place.

Part of the deal between the owners and the city was a "ballpark village" which would have all kinds of amenities and revitalize the long-flagging downtown area. (I live about 25 miles from downtown). Alas, the ballpark village has not materialized (primarily because the owners realized they can exploit the city even further). Virtually nothing is built; it is an unfinished construction site.

But, urban politics, aside, my main thought here is this: I enjoy baseball, but the pomp and circumstance of the all-star game is a bit much. I wish that our society spent 1/10th the money and applause on the all-star teachers.


ps. That said, go Cards! I hope Albert Pujols gets some quality at-bats during the game.

C-64 versus the iPhone

I wish I had thought to show this to my father, when I was home.

Recently, someone wrote a Commodore-64 emulator on the iPhone. There was a big hubbub because Apple blocked it, but more interesting (to me) is this article, which contains a stat comparison.

e.g. The C-64 came out at $600. The iPhone starts at $99.

The C-64 runs at 1 MHz with 64 KB of memory.
The iPhone runs at 600 MHz with 256 MB of memory.

Naturally, the iPhone has 27 years of tech on which to rest, but still interesting.

It's a shame that the legal stuff barred the emulator. Imagine playing Gateway to Apshai while in line at a store!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Made 'er

I made 'er back to St Louis!

Much to recap on the trip, but for now, I can say that the travelling was smooth. Really fast trip home: 3 flights (between 50 and 90 minutes) and 2 layovers of about 1 hour. As part of my ongoing miscalculation of timing, I caught just part of the 5th set between Federer/Roddick, while in Montreal. Then I had to board. Never, ever fly during the Wimbledon finals!

I flew out at 11 am which makes life a lot easier, certainly for Dad. I don't think I'll fly at 6 am again (out of PEI).

The last evening was traditional: my bro-in-law and sister came to my parents and we ate dinner and hung out. This has been a standard since roughly 1994.

Going home twice a year definitely helps me stay connected with PEI! The weather was rather lame this year, but gorgeous weather is for the tourists :-) I am an Islander.


ps. My Mom, my sister, and I attended an open-air performance by Youth Canada. Last year they celebrated Quebec. This year it was good old PEI. A great moment was when a young girl did a lymerick that basically said she was born on the boat and not considered a true Islander as the doctor cut the umbilical cord before they docked. LOL. It was wonderful!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Bare Essentials of Air Safety

Air New Zealand has scored a coup with this video: it is an instructional vid on air safety, with a twist -- the staff are only wearing body-paint!

It has zoomed to 2+ million views in about a week. (Mostly on hype: it doesn't deliver the 'goods' but rather brilliantly teases throughout.)

I know that BryGuy and C-Book are going to NZ later in the year. I wonder if Air NZ is on the itinerary?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

A quick note to wish my Mom a Happy Birthday!

The trip is going fine, and it is nice to be home for Mom's day.

An in-trip report:
  • The weather has been generally overcast and very non-postcard. However, it hasn't rained a lot.
  • My Dad and I went biking on the famous Confederation Trail for about an hour. That was fun...
  • I'm visiting people left and right, getting to see a lot of people. Highlights include longtime friends over at Pater Audio and Poplar Point. I had a whirlwind trip in Kings County, making 6 stops in the span of about 3 hours. Not exactly quality time, but at least no one is upset (a perennial consideration).
  • I spent Canada Day evening in a pub with my cousin, R. No fireworks viewing for us: we have a tradition of bailing at the first hint of chilly weather.
  • I miscalculated the timing of the trip, with respect to cultural events. Plays, concerts, etc, really start in mid-July. e.g. Highlights include Stompin' Tom (!) and an all-Chopin concert by Alan Fraser, plus innumerable local acts. Ah well. A la prochaine fois!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day

A quick note to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day!

The trip has been grand so far... Weather has been only fair, but good times all around, including a big meal (all food within 20 km) at Vic and Colleen's. The downsides include Mom feeling quite unwell (though she is on the upswing).

This morning, my father and I went to a pancake breakfast (for Canada Day) and sat with Federal MP Wayne Easter (distant relation). That was pretty neat.

On Twitter, I put this quote:

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée, protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

1000 CC award points for anyone who identifies it.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Home Sweet Home

The big news here is that I'm going home to PEI on Saturday!

I am not looking forward to the usual crap at airports but it will be worth it to get home in the summer. Christmas is for family but summer is for fun and easy living.

Take a look at these pictures! Now imagine me in them. Nice. Especially considering you can fry an egg -- nay, roast the chicken -- on the sidewalks in St Louis.

if you are on The Island, I'll see you soon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Peace and Quiet (and Speed)

I've been tempted to write recently about how much noise there is in the city. Between equipment at work, and insanely loud AC at home, I am constantly bombarded with sound.

So, it was interesting to read this article about Ashley Fiolek.

She is 18 years-old, 5'2" and 105 lbs. She is winning motocross races left and right: as a rookie she won the championship for the Women's Motocross Association.

Oh, and by the way: she's deaf.

This may seem stunning but especially when you read the details about riding a motorbike. It has been years since I've been on one, but riders rely intimately on hearing for knowing when to shift. This is especially true when they occasionally 'catch neutral'. This young girl does have some trouble with neutral (a helluva problem), but her coach says she is uncanny at shifting at the right place in the powerband.

A terrific story.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Quote of the Week

Burt and Verona are two characters rarely seen in the movies: thirtysomething, educated, healthy, self-employed, gentle, thoughtful, whimsical, not neurotic and really truly in love... For every such character(s) I’ve seen in the last 12 months, I’ve seen 20, maybe 30, mass murderers.

-- Roger Ebert
From the review for Away We Go.

I saw this flick last night. Not a great film, but fun in several places, profound in one or two. Worth seeing. Some reviews harp on the 'superiority complex' among the main protagonists, but I think it is more of a commentary that we all see everyone else as slightly crazy and just "not getting it" (and vice-versa).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

Here is a Happy Father's Day wish to my father and all the Dad-readers (and Dads-to-be) of the blog.

My one-line summary of motherhood, as is well-documented, is that there is no stronger force in nature than a mother defending her young.

For fatherhood, I think my summary is that, aside from primal elements like hunger, nothing occupies a man's mind more than trying to live up to his father's example and legacy.

There are countless examples in history, sports, and film where a guy is driven to formidable heights, all predicated on just trying to make Dad proud. From Tiger Woods to Mozart, I'd say it is one of the motivating forces of civilization.

Personally, my father set the bar extremely high, and I'm grateful.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pushing Up Daisies

Click here for a great (implicit) commentary on the print media....

This is actually a sincere idea for old news boxes. But, the imagery is too good to pass up. Pushing up daisies, indeed.


ps. I realize those may not be daisies!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Baby Train

One dear group of friends has had a lot of weddings in the past couple of years, and now, you guessed it, here come the babies! They aren't all here yet, but the train is steaming toward the station. At a recent baby shower/BBQ/party, there were several expectant couples.

(Ed's note: I'm playing it super-safe, and not naming names because I don't know who is truly 'public', and I shy away from that kind of thing in general.)

Naturally, one is excited both for the individual couples, and also collectively. This is quite a special, tight-knit group. I wonder if the children will play together -- grow up together?

Artifacts of a Move

Over the last few weeks, I've found the following stuff:
  • A photo of me standing next to Herbie, the Miata, in either PEI or South Carolina (the soil looks quite similar). The photo was taken circa 1998. In the photo, I was wearing the same t-shirt that I was wearing as I stared at it, here in 2009. Though I don't wear this shirt to public functions, I think I need to update my wardrobe.
  • I found a hand-written letter in a 'memory box'. I couldn't imagine why I had kept it, until I saw the sign-off at the bottom. The author was my cousin, who has passed away.
  • For years, on my fridge, I have had a print/drawing of our church, celebrating its 150(?)-th anniversary. I turned it over and found a note from my mother. Nothing particularly dramatic, though she mentioned the wedding of a next-door neighbour. It was dated 1994. (Due to wear, this print did not survive the move, though I did take a picture of it.)
Just some of the things that make one stop and think.... There was a lot more, but it is too difficult to summarize, or much too personal (even above the bar I have revealed here).

One of the many issues with moving is that every box has the potential to stop you in your tracks with a blast from the past, and its concomitant introspection.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Stanley Cup!

Game 7 was awesome! A great game.... Here are some thoughts:
  • Talbot (sp?) for the Penguins, scored 2 goals that were just as a kid would dream, skating on a flooded backyard as a lad. One was a massive giveaway right in front of the net; the other was a strong slapshot to the top corner of the net (also known as "he roofed it").
  • Congrats to Pittsburgh, but everyone in Canada knows that Sidney Crosby's home town and province will be wild with jubilation. He will never have to wait for a retaurant table again (though if he is smart, like Steve Yzerman, he will insist that he queue up with normal folks).
  • It is true that Detroit beat Pittsburgh last year. This is unconfirmed but I heard a player left Pittsburgh this year for Detroit, for the express intent of winning the Stanley Cup. i.e. He has lost in the finals 2 years in a row, with the same 2 teams playing. This is a classic tragedy that is part of the Cup legend.
  • I ran 6 miles for part of the game and watched the rest with some cool peeps. A great evening.
  • Detroit really pressed in the final minutes. Every 20 years or so, a rookie goalie will win the Cup (Ken Dryden led Montreal to the Promised Land many years ago). Late in the game, there were some VERY close calls for the Penguin netminder, Fleury. I thought for a minute that the crossbar would win the MVP award.
I'm just delighted with that game.....

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Stephen Colbert Cannot Be Stopped

Stephen Colbert is 'guest editor' of Newsweek magazine this week. It is a fun issue and a rather bold move by the magazine. I'll be very interested in seeing the Letters to the Ed next week.

(I imagine most know this, but if not: Stephen C hosts a satirical TV news show. It is brilliant.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Game 7

Earlier today, I wrote a sentiment (in email), identical to the following quote (from this article). Because of the coincidence, I had to blog it.

"You would spend your whole life as a kid, at least in Canada...when you don't even have a net but you had little snowplows on the street, and you're dreaming of scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.

Friday night is the ultimate in the NHL: Game 7 for The Cup.

I suspect much of eastern Canada is rooting for Pittsburgh, partly due to the underdog status but also because wunderkind Sid Crosby is from Nova Scotia.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


2009 has been fairly rough. My detractors are never small in number but it seems like a lot lately, and probably with justification.

I remember hearing a young George Clooney say once that his father (an eminent journalist) would offer this advice:
You're never as good as they say, and you're never as bad as they say.
I guess this presumes no laws have been broken (e.g. a felony charge would put a kink in it). At times like this, we thank the senior Clooney for the perspective.

How To Reclaim 21,000 Miles

Great news! I am back in black with American Airlines: 21,000 miles.

I called them some time ago (when I received the dire expiration message), and received some ideas. The agent told me that if I had used one of their partners (and everyone is a partner) since the last flight, that would count. I just had to call the partner and attach my AA number to the transaction.

I used a rental car last September in Detroit, and bingo, 6 weeks later, I am ready to roll.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

Minor Update

I had my first workout today since the move.... My gym is a 5 minute walk (if that). Very nice indeed....

Still no internet yet and no cable TV. Working through options on that one... Plus it has been a busy week so I essentially just have the bed and bathroom set up. Everything else is still in boxes.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Turn Off The Lights

I've moved! I'm writing from the new complex's office centre.

It has been a tantric experience. Saturday morning was a high point of suffering, as there seemed no end to the amount of "stuff", but the payoff has been worth it.

Thankfully the weather was very good, and miraculous for the pro movers: book-ended perfectly by rain. Pro movers are astounding, though I think anyone at a pro-level for anything is generally impressive.

My new place is full to the gills, despite some major sell-offs and the use of a storage space in the basement. The move really isn't over but definitely in the end-game.


ps. Fun fact: A married couple lives next door. During introductions, I told them straight-faced that I was a concert-level tuba player and that I practice rather loudly at night. The guy's body language got highly defensive before I told them I was joking.

pps. I lived at the old place for a long time. I feel like I should post a retrospective but to be honest, I feel unsentimental. I had some good memories there but stayed 3 years too long.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Into The Twilight Zone

I'm writing on Friday PM and will be offline for awhile... I haven't ordered Internet/cable/phone for my new place yet, but the clubhouse at the new complex has Wifi.

Things will be 'interesting' tomorrow but I think I'm good shape. A productive night last night and tonight. Alas, as everyone knows, it is the last 10% of nitty-gritty stuff that really drives you crazy.

peace out... see you on the other side!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Couldn't Stand The Weather

The good news is that since the weird WD-40 deal with the AC unit, I haven't had to run heat or AC during May. It has been lovely, and I have had the windows open for an unbelievably long stretch of time.

However, Missouri's spring is no longer quaint.

Several moons ago, I took a class in aviation weather. In the class, we learned how thunderstorms formed, and why they are especially prevalent in the spring in the midwest of the US.

All very nice, and moderately interesting from an intellectual standpoint.

But when one is TRYING TO SHUTTLE one's stuff from one apartment to another, they are NO LONGER interesting. Especially after the 5th day IN A ROW, where the weather is lovely during the day and then a CRUSHING DOWNPOUR from 5 to 7 pm.

I only gave myself a week to work with, and it's gonna get interesting. I can't afford downtime in the evenings.


ps. Many friends have offered to help me move. Unfortunately, I have chosen to 'shuttle' rather than pack-haul-unpack, and 'shuttling' doesn't scale very well. Also, I have a strong aversion to asking people for help for moves. Perhaps more in another post. However, I am sincerely grateful for all offers. It is nice to be acknowledged, as I have tried to help others move.

pps. The title of this post comes from one of the greatest songs of all time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Free Stuff ! (and some Not-Yet Free Stuff)

I'm moving soon and have been jamming since Saturday.

It has been intense and occasionally emotional: everyone knows that people purge when moving but when you are single, you may very well touch every single item that you own. That's crazy.

I have some free stuff if anyone wants it. I'm not naming names but I will stare at Eric B.
  • Some strong bathroom cleaners such as Tilex, Bleach, etc.
  • I have a couple of bottles of anti-freeze for the car. I have no idea where to get rid of it.
  • I have some potentially old bottles of hooch: vodka from 2004 and Jagermeister from 2003-4. Yikes. The good news is that there are no insects in that cupboard.
  • I have rusty deck chairs that might be salvaged with some paint. Also a table with the glass top blown out. My deck looks pretty rough. I don't think I'm up for a beautification award.
I have already posted this to Craig's List but, here is some Not-Yet Free Stuff:
  • I am selling my iconic BBQ Grill. It is in rough shape and needs the hoses checked. $50 including 2 half-full propane tanks (that's value right there)
  • I have some laptop bags for sale. They are good stuff.
  • It is unclear why this is true, but I have many Maxim and Stuff magazines from 1999-2000. Potentially a real collector's item. These are the early editions where the writing was brilliant and hadn't dipped completely into sophomoric mediocrity.
  • I also have a broken hammock frame. The wood is shot but the metal joints are prime. Plus I still have the hammock -- it has stayed inside. The latter is quality stuff. Contact me for EZ pricing.
That's it from Moving HQ.


Friday, May 22, 2009

A Moment of Silence

My community back home lost someone very special recently.

I have been quiet. It feels wrong not to mention it, yet writing my thoughts seems inappropriate. She was not family, and yet is family to some readers of this blog. She was a mother and aunt to several kids on our road. She and her husband are among my parents' dearest, closest friends, and have been for 40+ years.

My condolences to anyone who knew her, for it is a sad time. Jean will be truly be missed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Oak Tree and the Cypress

As alluded to in the previous post, my sister and Dave asked me to read this poem at their wedding: On Marriage by Khalil Gibran.

Though it is popular, I hadn't really heard of it, and as I practiced it over and over again, I grew to appreciate it deeply. I loved its jazzy dissonance against the traditional parts of the ceremony: here is a poem from the 1920s, written by a Lebanese-American, that has both elements of celebration and warning within it. When reading it, I tried to accent the text in such a way that balanced that tension in the poem.

Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup.

I remember being being stunned at how the author had nailed an idea that I had barely considered. Though I have a few different aesthetics that I admire as a lifelong union, this one is close to a personal manifesto. There were several readings at the nuptials: I wondered if my sister paired me with this particular one as some kind of Buddhist message. ("See? There is a middle way.") Or perhaps because it fit rather well: my own personal narrative and experience, as the scarred embodiment of caution. (Of course, any rationale was probably more personal to the couple's style than 'me', as it should be.)

10 years later, I have some new perspectives on it, naturally. But, for now, that stays with me. Maybe more on my birthday.

ps. Binky, am I correct that this was a reading at your wedding?

(Readers, 'Supermom' is a dear cousin to my sister and I, and especially close to my sister growing up. She and Binky married 12 years ago. We're very lucky to have him as well.)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Party Like It's 1999: Happy 10th

It's not for a couple of days yet, but I want to wish my sister and bro-in-law a

Happy Tenth Anniversary!

Wow, 10 years. That is hard to believe. I'm truly happy for them, and our family is blessed to have such a cool guy join the family. (Dave and I would have been friends in high school... very similar interests)

I will probably blog more thoughts, but here are some things I remember:
  • It was really special to see my sister get married in our church. We have been going to the same one since we were little.
  • I vaguely remember that my father and I didn't quite set up the reception hall correctly with respect to balloons. Let's just say that we thought we did a fine, if utilitarian, job. When the work was surveyed by the supervisor, there was much disagreement. Yikes.
  • I was asked to read at the wedding. I thought the poem was a nice touch, as it was used by others in the fam, but upon reading it closely, I was stunned. It was gorgeous and articulated a thought that had barely surfaced in my own mind. I practiced it so loudly and so long (in different voices) that my sister nearly laughed at the actual reading in the church. More on this one later. Massively influential.
  • Everyone looked great (my sister was radiant, my bro-in-law: dashing), and it was a lovely day.
  • I'm pretty sure that they were married by a female minister who was really fantastic. Alas, she joined our church just after I went "away" to Ontario and then the US. She was really cool and I regret not getting to know her better.
  • At the reception, our Dad constructed a mini-putt golf course. To get the couple to kiss, one had to sink a putt. The course wasn't groomed to PGA standards and it quickly became a par-3.
  • My bro-in-law mentioned guitar during his thank-yous but I didn't realize at the time that he was a huge fan of Randy Rhoads and Steve Vai, and could play a lot of RR stuff. (This is like winning the in-law lottery).
  • I spoke at the reception. As a public speaking performance, it is the only time where I have no self-criticism: A+. This is fortunate because it was one of the few times it was truly, profoundly important. As Mom would say, "you only have one sister". I have told the story to several people, in person. The gist is that it was, by turns, heavy and funny; but the main thing was reciting a poetry verse to my sister. I didn't write it, but it was highly personal. It seems crass and a betrayal to write it here. Though sad, it remains the most beautiful (and haunting) thing I've ever read, and I can still recite it effortlessly.
  • The 2nd part of the reception moved to the very same fire hall as mentioned in the post about Uncle R and C. I remember that the couple danced to "From This Moment On" by Shania Twain. It was cool to meet Dave's family. I vaguely remember his Mom trying to set me up with someone... ha! I had forgotten.
I'm comfortable with my lifestyle, and am at peace with the Beethoven-esque golden years that probably await me, but as I've written many times, I'm a sucker for a good wedding. This one was great.

Here's toasting the next 10....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dance The Night Away

A friend is appearing in a bellydance concert on Saturday night.

Here are some details (look for Nisaa presents A Thousand and One Nights-An Evening of Middle Eastern Dance, at the StCharles Community College)

I'll be there, as will some of 'the gang'. Come on out! It is really neat and truly a show put on by women, for women.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

A note to wish a Happy Mom's Day to my Mom, and all Moms who stop by here.

I wanted to post a YouTube video of a mother defending her young, but everything is either too graphic or just weird.

Let's just say that I pity the fool that messes with Mom!

Saturday, May 09, 2009


It has been a fairly rough week. The icing was that I inadvertently offended the wife of a very dear colleague at work. Our team had heard a lot about her, and finally got to meet her as she picked up her man to go to an afternoon Cards game.

As they left, I called out "nice to finally meet you: you are our 5th Beatle!".

Apparently she heard "5th wheel" and interrogated her husband (our main biologist) for 7 innings.


But life beats you up and then gives back. Two items you should see...

YouTube Phenom

First, check out this vid. It is truly joyous and the music really makes it:

It makes me happy that this video has been watched 21 million times. Someone's music, someone's voice, has been heard just as often.

The Timeless Original

Second, and infinitely longer lasting, is that the StL Symphony orchestra is playing Beethoven's 9th this weekend. The finale is known as the Ode to Joy -- the inspiration for my tech blog.

I'm no musicologist but among the amazing things of the piece are:
  • Beethoven was pretty much deaf. At the end of the piece, people had to turn him around to face the audience so that he could see the wild adulation.
  • The libreto (words) come from a poem by Schiller. It celebrates the unity of humankind.
  • Symphonies rarely (if ever) used a choir. Beethoven regularly took traditions that stood for 100+ years and kicked them over.
  • The main melody is taken from a simple major scale that any 7-year-old piano student could play. You and I could noodle with a major scale continually for a decade and not write a better melody.
This is the best audio I could find. The graphic is very weird but the music is good.

Today, we are joyous. Life goes on....