Sunday, January 30, 2005

On Classic Queen

Background

Picture it, 1992, three 11-12 year old kids at Summer camp with almost no good music whatsoever. I just had a few books on tape to listen to and Justin had a tape with a bunch of WWF wrestlers singing rock'n'roll songs (holy shit I found it at Amazon: The Wrestling Album) (with humourous interviews with Mean Gene Okerlund in between the songs.) and the Wayne's World Soundtrack. So naturally we listened to a lot of Bohemian Rhapsody for a good week. We would put the tape on, the first song would be the Wayne's World theme sung by Wayne and Garth themselves, which was pretty fun, then Bohemian Rhapsody, then a bunch of other songs we usually got bored with pretty quickly before re-winding the tape again.

So naturally the camp counselors would get pretty damn sick of our awful music. Now the important thing to understand about the entire dynamic of myself, Justin and Taylor at camp was that the counselors and all the staff all loved Justin. So when the camp director saw how obsessed with this one Queen song Justin was, she just went out and bought him the tape of Classic Queen.

One of the counselors there, Carl, was huge into Queen for quite a while so he just thought it was fantastic that we were getting into good music. So we would ask him all sorts of questions about the history of the band, how popular were they, and of course many many questions about Freddie and what happened to him.

It was probably our first introduction to the idea of homosexuality and AIDS, and the way Carl talked about how Freddie died was, for me, the frame of reference that I would always think from later in life. Freddie was just Freddie, if he was gay or not didn't have an effect on his talent or his accomplishments, and the disease he got wasn't his fault so much as a product of the time and people not knowing.

For the three of us Freddie was our first big rock star hero. (Excepting that I had a good collection of Beach Boys tapes at home and have always loved them as well.) So we each took with us from camp the same musical hero, and enough knowledge and understanding to not be bothered by the meathead idiots who would say “you're a fag if you listen to that” and other witticisms.

Taylor and I each went and bought the tape ourselves shortly afterwards, and I know for me it was practically the only thing I listened to for a good year of my life. The diversity of the songs on the album meant that I had hard-charging straight-ahead rock songs, and a few ballads and some pretty weird songs like “I'm Going Slightly Mad” and “Under Pressure”.

Revisited

So last night I was over at Justin's place and we're listening to some tunes, as always, and another friend, Sarah, is also over. Sarah and Justin are monumentally obsessed with Pearl Jam (“Wow, what tour did you get that T-Shirt from?”) but fortunately we could only listen to Netscape Radio's Pearl Jam channel for so long before getting bored. The first album we put on was Black Sabbath's Sabotage, from his Complete Original Black Sabbath box. We got totally into that, rocking out to each of the wicket Tony Iommi blasts of original heavy metal energy. “This song sounds like an angry nightmare version of a happy Led Zeppelin song.” Then: J: “We should listen to Black Sabbath more often so we'd argue about music less”. A: “Yes, you should listen to good music more often.”

Some time after that, after a few run-throughs of Rubber Soul and some Elliott Smith, Justin goes over to his CDs, quietly takes one out and sticks it in his changer and smiles. I had no idea what he was up to. At least not until the first half-second of “A Kind of Magic” started, then I knew. Poor Sarah was in for some sad musical enthusiasm, to be sure.

Now, I hadn't listened to Classic Queen since I had it on tape and it either got lost or eaten sometime before high school. So it's been a good 10 years since I had listened to a lot of the songs on that tape. Didn't matter, though, I still knew every word and every note. I'm sure there's a cubic centimeter of my brain matter dedicated to Classic Queen and nothing else.

Even the kind of dumb songs on the album evoked enough memories and appreciation that we would catch ourselves singing along or drumming our fingers to something like “One Year of Love” or “The Miracle”.

1. Kind of Magic
J: “I had no idea this was from the Highlander soundtrack. All that “this reign that lasts 1000 years’ stuff never clued me in, either.”

J: “Is this solo hard to play?”
A: “No, it's mostly just scales. But Brian May's guitar makes it sound a thousand times better than anyone else could playing the same notes.”

2. Bohemian Rhapsody
J: “There's really no point in us listening to this album. We know it all by heart already.”

3. Under Pressure
A: "David Bowie does a great job in this song."
J: "When Freddie hits that high note after that long buildup I used to think it was sexual the amount of pleasure I'd get from listening to it. I knew I had hit puberty when I stopped being able to hit every note of this song. One day I went up to my mom and said ' mom, last week I could sing all of Under Pressure and now I can't, what's going on?'"

A: "Every time that intro would come on the radio I would think "please not Vanilla Ice, please not Vanilla Ice', and I'd be waiting for that third bar to be either relieved or sickened. Stupid sampling."

4. Hammer to Fall
A: "I had no idea when I was a kid that this song was about nuclear war and the end of the world. The music was always so upbeat-sounding."

5. Stone Cold Crazy
J: "Did you ever read the interview with James Hetfield about doing the Queen tribute show, and stepping into a room to rehearse Stone Cold Crazy and seeing Brian May and Tony Iommi there and how he had to stop for a second to believe that he was actually going to play with these guys?"

S. was especially impressed with our knowledge of the quick lyrics to this one.

6. One Year of Love
J: "Now this is a terrible sequencing decision, how do you go from the hardest, awesomest Queen song there is to this thing? What are they trying to do to people?"

7. Radio Ga Ga
A: "Oh my God that's a Trent Reznor beat! Listen to that, that's exactly the same as the drum line in 'Closer'!"
J: "Someone has to record the words to 'Head Like a Hole' on top of Radio Ga Ga."

J: "Al, Trent would have loved Queen, right?"
A: "Of course."
J: "Do you think?"
A: "I wouldn't doubt it."

8. I'm Going Slightly Mad
J: "The words to this are so incredibly bizarre. I read that when Freddie was sick he would take acid and see all sorts of crazy shit, and that's what this song is about, the 1000 yellow daffodils, the knitting with only one needle, it's all about him on acid."
A: "My mom loved this song, I wonder if she knew?"

9. I Want It All
J: "This is my mom's favourite Queen song. I'd be in my room rocking out to it and she'd come in with her laundry basket, put it down and start rocking our right along with me."

10. Tie Your Mother Down
A: "Whoah, wait, we didn't have to change the side of the tape? This changes everything.. the two sides of this album have a totally different feel to them, having them run together like that is just strange."

J: "I only found out recently that 'tie your mother down' means to get totally and completely fucked."

11. Miracle
J: "Can I make a confession? I always disliked this song."
A: "Justin, the man was dying and wanted to write a song about the nice things in the world, and you're sitting there criticizing him? Have a heart."
J: "Fuck you, Al."

12. These Are the Days of Our Lives
J: "This is another one he wrote when he was dying, very sentimental.."

13. One Vision
J: "During their last tour they would always open the show with this song, they'd start off playing the freaky part through the sound system, then Brian would step out like a god onto the stage and start to play."

14. Keep Yourself Alive
J: "This is the first ever queen song, on Queen I. The rock stuff was always the best, when they sounded kind of like Led Zeppelin."

15. Headlong
A: "This should be on the Greatest Hits album with 'Rock You' and 'We Are the Champions'. But shit I love this melody."

16. Who Wants to Live Forever
J: "OK, now we're into the really sad songs."

A: "I always never knew if he was singing to an imaginary woman or man in his love songs. I think he still liked the idea of singing to women, and that aesthetic.. but I always found the idea that it wasn't concrete almost comforting.. that it didn't matter."

17. Show Must Go On
A: "I can never listen to this song without wanting to bawl."
J: "I know, I'm gonna feel bummed in a second."

J: "Do you think when Brian wrote this song it was a message to Freddie that he knew he was dying, but it didn't matter?"
A: "Jesus, that would be intense singing those words that your bandmate wrote for you.."
J: "And his voice is still incredibly powerful in this song, not a hint of weakness at all.. OK, now I feel bummed."

I wouldn't normally write this much about just one album, but it took up quite a significant part of my musical background that I just wanted to put our comments when re-listening to it down do I could have them for myself.
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By al - 5:50 AM | (7) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

An Hour in the (sort of) Big City

Trying to find the passport office in Halifax today is an excellent example of why I think I'm just not made for big city life. (and yes, by my standards Halifax is a big enough city) Walking up and down one-way, hilly streets.. finally getting to the building where it's in, remember to take the correct set of elevators, as there are multiple sets for different parts of the Maritime mall complex.. To Charlottetown even the idea of an elevator is a bit of a novelty. Then it's up to te correct floor, in an elevator that gives you that queasy feeling, and down bland corridors until you find the office you're looking for.

And after all that you have to take a number and sit and wait your turn just to get a damn passport. I didn't want to go through my MP because my little sister had a truly awful experience getting hers, with it taking nearly 8 weeks and no end of problems. So I figured I'd just do it the direct route.

But in the end I'm now torn between thinking Halifax is too much city for me and wanting to move there because Charlottetown is too much of a joke in so many ways. Too many businesses trying to live off of being an 'island' business, likewise with bands and artists and writers. University Ave. is te ugliest damn street in Canada with all its big box stores.. About the only place I've seen with worse city planning is Halifax's suburbs, but I'll likely never have to worry about those :)

I'm critical of the Island because I'm more familiar with it, I suppose. I certainly have many things to say about Fredericton from my time there. I still like Freddie for its layout and happy memories from University days. It was sorely lacking in the good places to eat department. Charlottetown is the opposite, lot of places to eat out and of course there's City Cinema, but awful layout and still don't know many people here, only a few good friends. (but that's not a bad start, better than if I just picked up and moved someplace else.)

I guess for me my job will always be the main factor for where I go. I'd rather have a good job in a dull place than vice versa, since I seem to spend most of my waking hours working. :)
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By al - 11:18 PM | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Off to Halifax

Well, this is officially the shortest-notice trip ever. Because of the storm tomorrow (seriously getting sick of these) and because I need to get a fast-tracked passport application I decided to do it today.

Now it would have been nicer to have longer notice that I was being sent to Apple Developer Training in Cupertino, but if it all works out man will it ever be the experience of a life time to visit Apple HQ. One of the guys I might be going with here at work has a couple of contacts within Apple so I'll by lobbying to be taken on a grand tour. Basically the whole week will be:

"can we go on a tour yet?" "can we go on a tour yet?" "I wanna see the purple hall and the giant sphere!" (yes, I can put hyperlinks in my quotes, can't everyone speak in HTML?) Wow do I feel like a little kid thinking about this.

Also hopefully going to Mexico to see my sister Katherine for a few days, and she thought she might fly up during the course from Cabo because she's never seen San Francisco and wants to visit Northern California to see if it's less of a messed-up parallel universe than Los Angeles.

And while the developer training course will be terribly cool, they also want to send me to Apple's World Wide Developer Conference in June. I'll be at the center of the nerd universe for a few days.. it will either make me or break me, I should think.
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By al - 8:46 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I Rule Simpsons Trivia

I never ended up getting to go to the big Simpsons Trivia night in Summerside last December, and I was wondering how I would have done. Anyway, my cousin Dawn was kind enough to have a copy of the questions and she wrote them up in an email to me, and I replied in the space of about 4 minutes, answering them all from memory, and no googling. She also kept track of the score of the winning team. Here it is:
From: "Dawn MacInnis"
To: "Alexander O'Neill"
Subject: RE: simpsons trivia questions
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 18:24:42 -0400

yeh....so u woulda won...lol...

>From: Alexander O'Neill
>To: Dawn MacInnis
>Subject: RE: simpsons trivia questions
>Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 14:50:37 -0400
>
>
>
>>From: "Dawn MacInnis"
>>To: "Alexander O'Neill"
>>Subject: simpsons trivia questions
>>Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 14:40:11 -0400
>>
>>1. the 2 aliens on the simpsons are kang and kodos...which one is
>>the female?
>kodos
>>2. grandpa simpson lives in an old folks home...named what?
>springfield retirement home
>>3. the painting over the simpsons couch is of what?
>a sailboat
>>4. what is the name of the uni-brow baby who is maggies nemesis?
>gerald
>>5. spell the sea captains last name.
>mcallister
>>6. what is the name of mr. burns' autobiography?
>will there ever be a rainbow
>>7. what is reverend love joys first name?
>timothy
>>8. what is barts internet series called?
>angry dad
>>9. name the theme park maude flanders drew that ned built after
>>her death?
>praiseland
>>10. the flaming moe, was comprised of what 4 ingredients?
>krusty brand cough syurp, tequila, schnapps, crème de menthe
>>11."we started out like romeo and juliet, but it ended up in
>>tragedy!" who said this?
>milhouse
>>12. "I dont like being outdoors. for one thing, there are too many
>>fat children." who said this?
>mr. burns
>>13. "Rich people arent happy. from the day they are born to the
>>day they die they think they are happy but, trust me...they
>>arent." who said this?
>moe
>>14. what are the 2 phone area codes in springfield?
>??
>>15.what are the words on the front face plate of the statue of
>>jebedial springfield?
>a noble spirit embiggenst the smallest man
>>16. what was the date in 1987 when the simpsons made there debut?
>>(this was a tie breaker question)
>??
>>17. what was the date in 1987 when the simpsons debuted their
>>first half hour show? (this was also a tie breaker question)
>December 15th (wild guess, assuming it's the christmas episode)
>>there were 5 music clips and 5 pictures which u had to identify
>>too but i can't send them to u.
>>also there are a boatload of "snapper" questions but im not gonna
>>bother typing those out...lol...
>>and he had a wordsearch too...but again i cant really send that...
>>
>
So I would have won single-handedly. And apparently the prize was in the hundreds of dollars. Not having a car can suck.
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By al - 8:56 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Snowed In. . . . Again

Lucky for me, mother nature has been working with me as far as the timing of snow storms. Sunday/Monday storms are nice as I get to stay at home for an extra day. Also, I haven't had the problem of being snowed in while I was at my sister's place (cause that would just suck).

Jody decided to drop by Sunday before the storm hit and we spend most of Sunday and Monday playing D&D. . . which is a lot better than mindlessly surfing the internet.

Called in to work Monday expecting to hear a message that the office was closed. No dice. They closed the office only for the morning. Well, I headed out to shovel the driveway. By the time I was done, it was noon, it mostly stopped snowing however the wind was still blowing lots of snow around. So, I called into work and said I wasn't going to make it in at all on Monday. Then proceeded to make some food and play more D&D.

Perhaps we should have taken the hint when Jody was calling restaurants and no one was answering. The blowing snow stopped mid-afternoon, as forecasted, and we decided to get some food. Several calls and no answers. . . should have thought something was up. Instead, we jump into a car to find food. Bad idea. Although is was clear in front of my house, that wasn't the case two houses down and the car got stuck in a massive drift. As there is only one way out and it was blocked, we dug the car out, drove it back into the garage and continued to play D&D (after I made food at home and did some cleaning up).

They finally cleared my street around 11pm. . . I have to make up the half day I was stuck at home. Looks like I'll be stuck at work for quite a while now.

By Ming - 1:46 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Vote for Pedro!

By al - 1:28 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, January 24, 2005

You know you're living in a small town when...

... your boss calls you- on your time off- at the hair salon to get a hold of you.

...everyone in town knows who you are-and who your parents are- without introduction...AND use that instead of references.

By chantal - 7:58 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Pumpkin Soup

  • 500 g pumpkin chopped
  • 30 g butter
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic crushed
  • 3 c chicken stock
  • 1 tblsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Chop the pumpkin into large cubes discarding the skin and seeds. Sweat the onion and garlic in butter in a large saucepan until the onion is clear. Add the pumpkin and garlic and sweat for a minute. Add three cups of chicken stock and the tomato paste, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Rinse a blender in boiling water to warm and blend the soup mixture. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

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By al - 6:00 PM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

Bored

Okay this past week as been horrible. This makes for the third swim session cancelled. Yick...AHHHHHH insanity is setting in. Urg....Okay trying to recover will take a few more AHHHHs. I have been spending a good deal of time working on A woman's blade and spending some time here. Urg....I am not a big fan of being stuck inside. If I had of gotten out of bed earlier I would consider doing a lord of the rings marathon movie day. It would be great...10 or 11 hours of watching the movies...

By Sabrina - 11:58 AM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Why “Bastard Rules” are needed for Trivial Pursuit

Last night I was at my friend Danielle's place and we were having a bit of a board game night, after getting bored of Simpsons Road Rage on X-Box.

Now, there's a version of Murphy's Law that applies to Trivial Pursut: If you let another team off the hook for getting a question nearly right, and you let them roll again, they will get at least two pies on this same turn.

Last night the question was “What did 35 runners in the 2000 Berlin Marathon get disqualified for taking?” The other team's answer was 'public transportation', but the person answering the question, instead of saying 'be more specific', a la Jeopardy, they said “sure, close enough, it says 'subway'.” At that point I knew we were done for. The following questions and answers were agonizingly obvious to our team, but it took this other team a good 5 minutes to puzzle out each answer, but they would finally get it right out of sheer luck.

Which is why I also think Trivial Pursuit games should have a time limit of one minute per question, not so that people can't figure answers out, but to avoid the backtracking and second-guessing while everyone else just falls asleep.
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By al - 10:30 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Seriously, this never happens.

Had a fun night with PeopleTaylor last night, on a whim we decided we were both bored, and he had decided there was no way he was going to go see Matt Mayes at the Wave, “If I wanted to hear someone pretend he was Neil Young I'd go see a cover band” was the stated opinion.

So we decided to meet up and go to Baba's for a while. We got there and sat down in the far corner and just talked about politics and how much it sucks when people you hate like the same music as you. We didn't even notice that there was a trivia contest starting up. If we had we'd have been all over that shit, of course, but it was kind of better that we could just sit and continue our conversation while the rest of the bar agonized over which element is most abundant in the human body by weight (oxygen). The funniest part was that across from us were this team of people who try to be Taylor's rivals at trivia most of the time. One time Taylor and his friend beat them and didn't have time to drink the beer that was the prize, so they went over to this other team and said “Do you guys want this? We can't drink it, but we just wanted to win it.” So we were watching these guys argue over answers and we just sat back and looked smugly superior.

At one point a really pretty girl came over and asked us to answer a question for her. “Which sport, other than snowboarding, was introduced in the 1998 Olympics?” Now, once it's exposed that you are a trivia goldmine you are apt to get no end of people coming to mooch answers off of you, but neither of us can stand to not say an answer to a question if we know it. We chatted a bit and made her giggle for a while before I sent her off with the answer (women's hockey) so it wasn't so bad. Later she shared some of their prize with us so it all worked out. :)

After that we took a seat at the big round table between the bar and the stage, sort of the pivot point of the room, and had a fun time talking to quite a few people who were coming by on a pub crawl (ostensibly for the chemistry department at UPEI, I didn't meet any actual chemistry students), or later on to watch the band. Baba's is the most weirdly laid out bar on earth, it's like the Capital in Freddie, so long and thin that there's barely room to move past the bar. So everyone going from one end to the other pretty much ended up at our table. The band's name was Sugarcrook, I believe.. not too bad, they did a nice funky version of “Tax Man&rdqou;, but when they played actual funk songs like something by Sly and the Family Stone they fell a little flatter. But great to listen to, the perfect music for the mood I was in that night. Before they started playing we were talking to their keyboard player for a while, and I had no idea he was actually in the band until I said “I hope these guys start playing soon”. Yes, it's fun being in a parallel universe to one's surroundings.

But anyway, it was a fun night, and it's kind of scary how similar Taylor and I ended up being in so many ways, even though we pretty much parted ways before University.

By al - 3:22 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Using Wiki Software for Small-Scale Collaboration

At my company the development team is currently making heavy use of Wiki technology to allow us to easily share and edit documents with each other. A wiki essentially lets you edit content directly on the web server without having to upload HTML files or keep track of a local file tree. So, for example, you can go to a site like WikiPedia, click the 'edit' link, and suddenly you can make whatever changes you like to the page. The wiki software also helpfully keeps track of revisions people make, so if some unthinking soul deletes everything you just have to click the 'rollback to previous revision' button and the damage is undone.

We're finding this model very useful for editing and fixing up each other's work. We also don't seem to have any trouble with people feeling like they 'own' a piece of material. Everyone works on everyone else's stuff, to improve it and look for mistakes, and everyone also then has a better understanding of the overall project.

I was thinking about downloading the 1.4 beta version of MediaWiki, the collaboration software that powers WikiPedia. Beta software generally means unfinished but usable, but just in case people don't get their hopes up too much they included the following disclaimer:
This is a beta release; while most things are working, there are some

known problems and probably unknown problems. Don't run a public site
on this beta unless you're willing to help with investigating and
fixing any problems you encounter.

CARELESS USE OF THIS CODE MAY RENDER YOU STERILE, GROW WEEDS IN YOUR
YARD, AND FEED YOUR CAT TO A SEWER ALLIGATOR. DON'T SAY YOU WEREN'T
WARNED, CAUSE WE WARNED YOU.
I'm still considering it, so long as it runs slightly faster than the stable version.

At least MediaWiki is a heck of a lot faster than TWiki, the one we have currently going to do our online document and knowledge sharing. TWiki runs purely in Perl with no database back-end and the performance shows that maybe there really is something to this data storage optimization stuff.

MediaWiki, on the other hand, uses MySQL which is quite fast and easy to set up on Mac OS X. MediaWiki isn't quite as flexible, syntax-wise, as TWiki, but I'm sure none of us will ever really need the elaborate expression parsing that it gives you. And I find it so frustrating to have to wait for 5 seconds for one page to load that I often don't bother putting something on the wiki when I should. Hence the need to upgrade to faster software.
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By al - 11:06 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Memos: Drinking Tea Before Bedtime Edition

  • May be going to California next month for a training course in Cocoa Desktop Application Development at Apple. How cool is that? Me being me I'll surely go through a couple more OS X programming books between now and then, but the course looks pretty intensive and the setting, with the instructor showing you how to really do things quickly, should be a great help. That's something I've heard said about the value of directed education: while everyone has access to a library full of books, it's knowing which books to read that's the trick.
  • God I hate Ariel and Verdana and every other stupid ugly Windows font. I wish the rest of you could see how nice this blog looks in Helvetica. I always go through the trouble of using “proper curly quotes” but stupid Ariel just makes them look square anyway. boo-urns on ugly fonts.
  • Listening to Built to Spill's album Ancient Melodies of the Future at the moment. Enjoying it so far, very straight-forward grunge-tinged rock with a nice tendency to mash at a synth in interesting ways. My main criticism would be that the songs aren't very distinguishable from each other. I'm not familiar with their other albums so I don't know if this is par for the course for them, but I can't exactly pick out individual songs that stand above the rest. It's just a nice sounding album but one that tends to run together.
  • They still haven't bothered plowing my end of Grafton St. I've seen snowstorms before in Charlottetown, but this is the first that I can remember where, 3 days after a storm, the only plowing done on my street was a snaky one lane path by a plow driver who must have been drunk to make such a non-straight line. And of course the sidewalk clearing is limited to whichever neighbours decided to be good souls and eke out a little trench where the sidewalk might be, usually not connecting to the adjacent trenches. And while the thought counts, I just end up walking on the road anyway, avoiding the cars doing a slalom down our little twisty trail that used to be a road. Starting to hate this city.
  • I'm in the middle of 3 books right now, Hey, Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland (which I've left unfinished since Christmas), America: The Book by the “Daily Show” people, which is hilarious but after the US election I'm feeling rather laissez-faire about their impending demise, and No Logo by Naomi Klein which is one of those books I should have read a while ago but never got around to it. All good, can't ever decide which one to pick up at any given opportunity. I'd like to carry all three around with me but the last two are too damn big to bring anywhere.
  • I'm still waiting for the charming exterior to wear off the starbucks guy at the ATC. I'm beginning to suspect he's a coffee-slinging robot.

By al - 1:13 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Music At Work

I'm actually writing this post inside of an XML comment tag while at work.

I just wanted to make the observation that, aside from this little breeak, I seem to be much more productive when I have my headphones on. This is a little counter-intuitive because it is yet another sensory input.

But the thing is, when I have them on, I can't hear people's conversations in the background, and instead of just asking me random questions they'll use iChat which isn't too intrusive in my experience.

Which is good, because some of the random questions I've been asked today include: “Do you know where I can download the cartoon history of the United States video from Bowling for Columbine?”, “Seriously, though, how much do you weigh?”, and “are all those coffee cups from you?” I'd like to think my time is better spent doing up specifications for handling art resources rather than indulging people's curiousity about my strangeness.

I'd just rather stay focused on work. Then again, if I get on a rant about some political event or philosophical argument then work is going out the window for a while.

Thank the lord for iTunes' Chronix Aggression radio channel, and all their classical stations, especially WCPE. (yes, I have a wide musical taste)
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By al - 4:46 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

On Closeness

Cynthia Dunsford has a couple of posts on her blog about cuddling that have stuck in my brain for a while: Thoughts on Snuggling and Snuggling Part 2. Definitely worth the read. Here's a paragraph from the first post:
I'm talking about love.

The kind where you can attach yourself to a body without even having an inkling of a sexual thought, and not because that person turns you off, but because you just love the person. And then add another person...and bingo, you have plenty of snuggling.
It really got me to thinking how isolated most people seem to be from each other, myself certainly included. It's as if closeness, or much contact at all, is only considered normal if it's in a sexual relationship.

People crave the comfort of being next to someone but are ashamed of that feeling in most contexts. If you watch a room full of people fill up, you'll find people sitting as far away from anyone else as they can, with the first person to come in that has to actually sit next to someone feeling quite embarrassed most of the time. Or on a bus where people would seem to rather sit by themselves than sit down next to someone and actually have a conversation. What exactly is it about our society that has taught us to act this way? Is it merely the hypersexualization we see in our popular culture, where a man and a woman can't have a simple conversation without it having to lead somewhere?

I had a professor from Ukraine who really noticed this fear of contact students seemed to have, where people would sit one or two to tables that had four chairs each, and they would go right to the back of the room rather than sitting too close to someone else. He said the exact opposite would happen back home. Which would strike me as much more sensible, on an intellectual level, anyway. Practically speaking, I'm the type to apologize profusely if I accidentally nudge someone.

I just sometimes wonder why we don't simply realize that life would be much less difficult to get through if we could enjoy the comfort of being close to each other without it having to be sexual or uncomfortable. Instead we seem to be a world filled with people sitting alone in front of their televisions feeling lonely and wondering what's wrong with ourselves.

I hope that changes soon.
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By al - 10:57 PM | (12) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, January 17, 2005

Stuck at Home

If it wasn't obvious, I'm stuck in another snow storm. Though this time it's not too bad. Well, the storm isn't the worst I've seen. Last year took that prize. Fortunately I was stuck at home that time as well. I'd rather be stuck at home than stuck at someone else's home and especially work (I felt sorry for those guys last year, the ones that decided to stay at work 15 minutes longer than I did). it's nice being able to sleep in your own bed. Watch your own TV, not that I have anything to watch mind you. Just being home.

Normally not a problem, but as I was supposed to be in Moncton. . . I had no food in the house. Well not much anyways. I had that stick of balona which I got on special last week. . . and as of this moment, I will not be getting anymore of the stuff for a few months at least. I ran out of Pepsi over the weekend. Can't get out to get any at a store. No milk. Running low on orange juice.

I spend most of the day in my bedroom. Catching up on some sleep. Listening to CBC radio. Surfing the net (gotta love WiFi). Also, it's the only warm room in the house (got a little block heater running and the heat turned low to save on oil), so I haven't been out much except to make a few trips to the kitchen for food.

By Ming - 9:43 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

D&D Gone High Tech. . . .

Finding good role-players is a problem. Eventually, I will have to concede that I won't be able to travel to PEI as often to play D&D. So, after a rather poor gaming session, I spotted an old D&D buddy online and we started reflecting on the old days, mentioned a few things going on in my game, the whole catching up thing.

Through the conversation, he mentioned he hadn't played for years and would like to play via e-mail or something if it wasn't for a typing injury. After that, I remembered people using MSN to do video and voice conversations. . . put things together, I could start playing D&D with people across the province over the web with streaming video/audio. Now, how cool is that?

By Ming - 9:06 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

CBC's “The Current”'s reply re: blogging

Here is the reply I just received from the producers of “The Current” to the e-mail that I posted earlier today:
Subject: Re: Your story on blogging and credibility
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 17:40:54 -0500
From: The Current
To: Alexander O'Neill


Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention ... your feedback
is something we really do appreciate. There's lots here ... I will make
sure to pass this on to our host and staff to look at for their
consideration.

Sorry to be so short ... but I did want you to know that we received
your letter and will pass it on to the people here a the Current.

Take care,

Lisa Ayuso
The Current
Mostly what bugged me about the story was that accusations were repeated as fact, and they didn't seem to look below the surface of the ‘background noise’ of a story. The question of how one can sort out reliable information from the thousands of blogs writing about current events is definitely worth exploring. But let's be careful to establish a proper context, and also not take as given that journalists have some overarching code in the face of recent events.

Anyway it was nice to get a reply, and it will be interesting to see how CBC handles the subject of blogs in the future.

Oh well, that's enough metablogging for today, time to go out and shovel some snow.
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By al - 7:08 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

How to use Technorati tags in blog posts

Background

OK, so you may have noticed the cute little tags I have at the bottom of my blog posts now. If you click on them it takes you to a page that lists a bunch of recent blog posts by different people with that same tag, so if you click on the CBC tag, it takes you to a bunch of different people writing about good ol' CBC. This is the same idea as the tags on my del.icio.us links page, where I have tags like Apple, Economics and Music.

Here are a couple of Slashdot articles on tags: Technorati Does Tags and Folksonomies In Del.icio.us and Flickr.

How to Insert Tags in Your Posts

This is really easy. Just bookmark the link found here, (via Annekenstein.) I have it as one of my bookmark bar items in FireFox:



In FireFox just go to View -> Toolbars -> Bookmarks Toolbar (so it's checked), and then just drag the above link onto the toolbar. (You can bookmark your other commonly-visited pages this way too.)

Then, when you're writing your blog post, at the end just click on the 'Technorati Tags' bookmarklet (or go to that item in your Bookmarks menu). A popup box will appear asking you to type the tags in. Just type something like “Fantasy Fiction Writing” (if you are Sabrina ;) ) (don't use commas, just spaces, to separate the tags). Then press Enter.

Next, you'll see a box with some text already hilighted. Press Ctrl-C to copy this text, press Enter again to make the box go away, and then press Ctrl-V to insert the tag code into your blog post.

I think tags are a very cool way to organize things, and not as confining as having to pick from a long list of items. It's a much more organic, bottom-up approach which I find very appealing.
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By al - 2:36 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

E-Mail to CBC's “The Current” re: blogging

I haven't listened to CBC radio in so long, and now it seems to have captured my attention this morning as I stay home from work because of the snow storm.

Anyway, their news program, “The Current”, just did a story on blogging and credibility where they simply took the background noise as fact and as a basis for a story, rather than being inquisitive and actually looking for the truth of the story. For details on the controversy in question, which revolves around the Howard Dean presidential campaign, you can look at myDD.com.

Here is the e-mail I sent to CBC after the story aired:

Subject: Your story on blogging and credibility
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 09:53:13 -0400
From: Alexander O'Neill
To: thecurrent@cbc.ca

This morning when the host introduced the segment about blogging and credibility she used a throwaway line about two bloggers working for the Dean campaign having suspect credibility. This is a non-story, and has been blown out of proportion by knee-jerk outrage-prone US media.

Each of these sites have archives and you can actually go back to see what they were doing at the time of the primary campaign. Each site had a disclaimer that the writers were working as consultants for the Dean campaign, this was never a secret.

As for the work for Howard Dean, this was limited to technical matters, such as which blogging software to use, how to set up the Internet connections, etc.

Anna Maria just said "two bloggers were paid to say positive things about howard dean". This is absolutely false.

Given that the US was able to invade Iraq because of the laziness and corruption of the mainstream media (Judith Miller, et. al.), any worrying about blogs' credibility is ignoring the elephant in the room.

The follow-up post to this one, with their reply, is here.
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By al - 9:56 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

WTF?

Hah, a CBC host (Karen Mare) just used the word 'snafu' when talking about their storm cancellation website going down. I didn't know you could say 'situation normal: all fucked up' on the readio.

Next maybe they'll tell me that this weather is FUBAR.

I don't even know why I'm listening to CBC today, the only thing they're talking about is just a long list of cancellations. And since I work in an office with 5 or 6 people it's not like they're going to announce that my work is closed for the day. It will be more like “so can you make it in today? No? OK, don't bother.”

They haven't announced if the Atlantic Technology Centre is closed, so I assume they haven't closed it. Now the question is whether I will be able to get a coffee at Timothy's or Tim's or that nasty ATC Starbuck's coffee. If not I may have to go on strike for the day.
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By al - 8:29 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Rice from hell

Today was an odd sort of day for me. I woke up very late 10:30. And then I had pancakes did my laundry and then a few other things. When I realized it was almost 8 pm and I had not eaten since the blueberry pancakes. So I thought I would make some rice and a veggie stir fry. I got the rice started. Then when off and started to make the stir fry. When the stir fry was ready. I check the rice. The water was gone however the rice was still hard. I had never seen this before. So I tried again. Got the whole thing started over and 40 minutes later I had rice that was harder the Beebe pellets.
so I had my stir fry which was much less stiffens than that with some nice fluffy rice.
Rice experts got any suggestion? Never had this happen before unless I burnt it.

By Sabrina - 9:46 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

More Pet Peeves

Here are a few more annoyances:
  • Blogger, for just eating my excellent Pet Peeves post. Now I have to write it again, and I'll have to do it fast so it won't be as good.
  • Restaurant owners who serve the customers themselves and don't actually employ any waiters or waitresses but who still have a tip jar at the counter. Fuck you, tips are for the wait staff you would otherwise not be paying a living wage to, not you. ~~ Specific offender deleted because this page seems to be a Google magnet and PEI is a small, small place. ~~
  • When people place more importance on a rock star's personality and biography than to actually listening to music. Go watch “Pimp My Ride” and stop calling yourself a music fan.
  • Music fans who try to crowbar their out-of-place favourite band that doesn't fit with their chosen genre into it to justify their taste to their peer group. E.g.., quotes like "yeah, but they're [punk | prog. | metal] at heart”. This is an especially common offense among Rush fans who are largely afraid to say they like anything other than Rush without justifying their choice by saying “yeah, but they have some prog elements to their music.”
  • Any fan of a particular band who thinks that band's worst song is still better than any other band's best work and will hunt down tapes of their idol taking a shit just to have everything they can find.
  • ATMs, digital cameras, cell phones and every other piece of electronics that have to reward their Pavlovian users with loud beeps every time they push a button. This will soon lead to a culture of helpless, stimulation-hungry infants, as I mentioned in a comment below my ATM dream post.
  • Charlottetown businesses who think you should put up with high prices and shitty service in the name of supporting local businesses. There are local businesses that deserve support, but if I can get a better price at an online store, and have the order ship to me before you can get it from your supplier, you're probably in the wrong business.
  • When movies and television shows place too much emphasis on sex and relationships because it's easy to create seemingly compelling stories by just showing lots of good-looking characters doing their mating dances.
  • Blog snobs who think anyone gives a shit that they host their site on their own instead of using Blogspot. I hope you get Slashdotted and raped by your ISP for the extra bandwidth costs.
  • Wolf Blitzer, and every other CNN host who won't call out an interviewee on a lie if he was told the sky was green.
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By al - 7:03 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Pet Peeves

OK, stealing more posting ideas from lady k., here is a short list of things that annoy me:
  • When someone says “I have a theory,” and then proceeds to tell you a hypothesis. Note: if your little idea about why the girl at the coffee shop is rude to you hasn't been intensively peer-reviewed, it isn't a theory.
    • As an addendum to #1, especially irritating are the bible-thumper types who say “evolution is just a theory, you know.” Yes, yes it is a theory, and happens to be the best one we have, and will be replaced if the scientific method reveals a better explanation. Now, what if someone comes up with a better creation myth than your particular religion's, will you drop yours for this new and improved version?
  • People who can't be convinced of something through a well-constructed argument. Especially when said people happen to have somehow acquired the authority to make decisions in some environment. This is why it is necessary for otherwise thinking, rational human beings to construct showy stunts to try and 'show' why the might have a point. An example would be Homer setting fire to a dollar bill while giving the presentation his secretary, Karl, wrote for him, because it was a theatrical method to impress upon the muckymucks that the plant was wasting money. This idea is explained in that old book How to Win Friends and Influence People, but frankly, it's a depressing idea, that this wonderful thing human beings have invented called language can be subsumed by simple gestures.
  • George W. Bush and every thought he's ever had in that head of his.
  • There are more but apparently I'm much more wordy than Kayla, so I'll have to write a few more later.
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By al - 2:25 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Finally a new one

Okay I did it today. I walked up to the girl and said I would take it. Her name was Sheila. She was the one my mom bought hers from. I had looked at for before, it was always out of my price range, but it was on sale and I could get a frame and cover for it and still be able to afford it.
I can't wait until it is delivered. It is going to be so nice. I just can't wait.
Hopefully Monday night when it is quiet I will be sleeping in a brand new bed, queen size.
Those of you have seen the old bed I have been sleeping on will agree it was time for a new bed. The old day bed (something like 15 years) old was just coming apart.
I so can't wait.

By Sabrina - 1:46 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, January 14, 2005

Vera Drake - It's about class

Just saw a really excellent movie, Vera Drake. It's directed by Mike Leigh, and is about the most real picture of life in 1950s England that I've seen. The film revolves around a middle-aged woman named Vera who works as a servant in several well-off families' homes, cleaning, etc. As well, she helps out women who ‘can't manage’, i.e., they're pregnant and can't keep the baby. The whole movie is filled with very British euphemisms, about the only one to actually use the word ‘abortion’ was the police detective, and that was only because at some point he absolutely had to, because it was one of the unpleasantnesses of his job to be direct. Thankfully this doesn't afflict the rest of British society, where people can talk a mile-long detour around an unpleasant topic if need be.

The saddest part of the film was the realization that there was not going to be any courtroom drama, after she is arrested. No dramatic surprises, no impassioned arguments before a judge who might change his mind, no real mention of the fact that while this woman is on trial for performing abortions, there is a completely ubiquitous nudge-nudge culture in the medical profession that lets members of the upper class have doctors perform the same operation safely and cloaked in discreet acceptance. “No “Law & Order”-style surprise miracle confessions.. just a hopeless, but hence accurate picture of what it was like for people who had so little contact with the civil system that tried to ignore them when it could that they barely knew their rights under the law.

The film had an excellent manner of showing the ugliness and awkwardness of life for most people. Conversations were often stilted and trailed off, people never really knew the right thing to say, and sex was portrayed as it usually happens, awkwardly and really kind of messy.

This is how films should look: like life. If they are to be meaningful and tell us something about ourselves. Wiping the fog off the mirror so it shows our wrinkles and our flaws back to us instead of a false fuzzy smooth image of most movies.
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By al - 11:38 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Is TVT returning to Canada?

I'm just curious if anyone's heard from him. I expect life is better honeymooning in the tropics than shovelling snow in arctic temperatures, but I did expect him to return eventually....

By Silent_G - 1:17 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Dream Diary: European ATM Edition

So I'm apparently in Serbia for some unknown reason, and am with at least one guy who was in my lab at school. I realize I need to get some money, but that all I have is the Canadian money I had in my pocket.

So I go up to this giant bank machine, that looks like an arcade case, only huge. I have to stand on my tiptoes to read anything on the screen. I slide in my card and it asks me to put in my money to get it converted to Euros. So I started hunting through my pockets to find all the money I can, and mostly it's Canadian change. I put the loonies and toonie and quarters into the machine's coin slot, sometimes it gets stuck, sometimes I have to hammer them in. As I am putting in the coins, their value in Euros is displayed on the screen, and it is dismally small compared to the value in Canadian dollars that I had put in there.

The User Interface of the ATM was pretty awful as well. Everything was orange, and reminded me a lot of the website http://www.therandirhodesshow.com/ (even though I've only visited there a couple of times.) Orange is, in my mind, the prototypical 'bad' user interface colour, perhaps because it is opposite from blue on the colour wheel (when talking about light, not pigment). On the other hand, the orange was attention grabbing and urgent, where blue is sleep-inducing.

Speaking of attention grabbing, as I was desperately searching for Canadian coins in my pockets throwing away the papers and other random crap I had in my pocket today in real life (how's that for your brain tricking you into believing your dreams are real?), I look back up at the ATM and it says "session expired" and my money is gone. Or maybe not, but there's some long procedure to go through to exit the transaction and get your money back.

The other thing I noticed about the ATM machine was that it looked like an ancient box, but the UI on it was very modern looking, if not any good. Which I guess is my conception of Europe in general, where everything looks old and crumbly on the outside, but underneath is brand new technology. But at the same time, there's still something fundamentally screwed up about it all that makes it just as unhelpful somehow.
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By al - 4:09 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Overheard while walking back from lunch

“Let's sit with that guy who hates God.”

By al - 2:45 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Getting older eh?

Happy Birthday Ming Duc!


Have a great day :)

By Sabrina - 5:48 AM | (5) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Reading Security Updates at 5:00AM

For some reason I've just woken up and it's only about 5:00AM. Being me, one of the first things do is grab my computer to put on some music or talk radio to lull me back to sleep. But I noticed that little update icon that means there are new Windows 2000 updates to install. Unfortunately, I wasn't reading straight and read the following warning:
A security issue has been identified that could allow an attacker to compromise your Windows-based system and gain control over it. You can help protect your
computer by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this item, you may
have to restart your computer.
As if it said:
A security issue has been identified that could allow an attacker to compromise your computer by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this item, you may
Windows-based system and gain control over it. You have to restart your computer.
And all I could think was “Why do I want to install this??”

By al - 5:26 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mac Mini - $499US for a new Mac

OK, that's it, no more excuses, go get one of these now. No more scanning for spyware and viruses, no more adware, no more stupid Microsoft software bugging you to change your home page.. no more idiotic windows xp.. and for about the price of a medium-high-end digital camera. Amazing. Plus it's tiny, I think I'll sit it right on top of an existing PC.



Link.
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By al - 9:27 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

You Are a Dreaming Soul
Your vivid emotions and imagination takes you awy from this worldSo much so that you tend to live in your head most of the timeYou have great dreams and ambitions that could be the envy of all...But for you, following through with your dreams is a bit difficult
You are charming, endearing, and people tend to love you.Forgiving and tolerant, you see the world through rose colored glasses.Underneath it all, you have a ton of passion that you hide from others.Always hopeful, you tend to expect positive outcomes in your life.
Souls you are most compatible with: Newborn Soul, Prophet Soul, and Traveler Soul

What Kind of Soul Are You?

By chantal - 2:00 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

The Job of a Software Architect

This thought came to me yesterday at lunch time after having one of those protracted arguments between developers and marketroids where the software architect (me) has to explain why that feature they seem to want is literally impossible to implement given that we are not 1) Microsoft or 2) working on a 10 year development schedule:

The job of a software architect is to burst as many bubbles as possible, as soon as possible.

I think that pretty much sums up half of what I do now.. the other half being trying to implement the rest of what is only marginally possible.

By al - 10:40 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 09, 2005

because it has been a while.

this is the fourth instalment. The first three parts are earlier on.
The prologue
The first half of chatper one
The second half of chapeter one

The elder gentleman stepped forward letting go of her hand and traversing the short yard to the door of the small wooden house. He took a slow moment to open the door and look back at Verra. He smiled and walked through the door, his brown robes flowing slightly behind him. Verra waited another moment staring at the open door before she followed the old priest.
As Verra walked cautiously and quietly up the stair to the front door, they creaked under her feet. The door, swung shut after she walk past the entrance. Inside the home it was decorated with simple furniture. There was a table to eat on, a few clean chairs to sit on, and a fire place near the far wall, which had a rug in front of it. The fire burned happily in the fire place and the small little home seemed cheery.
Verra questioned the fire burning so well, the priest had only set foot seconds before her. She also questioned the validity of this home as being a place of worship. She had always seen followers of the gods worshiping them within their temples. She had never seen such a place called a place of worship.
“Seems odd to you to worship here, does it?” Ranmaral question as if reading her mind. “It did to me too, at first, but my teacher taught me many things about worship that I never would have guessed.” He smiled and beckoned her to sit near the fire. “I would guess it has been a while since you have seen the comfort of a fire, come sit and I will get you some water.”
Verra did so, it was true that she had not seen a fire in near a month, and she would not like to waste the time thinking about it when she could be warming herself up. She sat on the carpet, with her hands near the fire gathering up the heat. She could feel the heat hit her cold flesh at first with such intensity then soothing like the warmth of a wool blanket on a winter night. As she sat she watched the flames dance in the fire place, and put her energy into the relaxing. Her mind emptied of all the harshness of the last few years since that day in the bar.
Verra eyes popped open as Ranmaral returned to her side. “Here, it is clean!” Verra took the water and drank it quickly. “I can see you are tired, but I think you should bathe first.” Verra nodded.
He led her from the small room with the fire place to another small room, which had a bath filled with hot water in it. The priest passed the young girl a towel and some cloths. “I will find you some clothes.” Then he shut the door and left her. Verra was not slow getting into the warm bath either. She was however reluctant to get out of the water. It felt so good to be clean and warm, not something she had experienced in some time. When she did emerge and dried her body, an elderly woman walked into the room. When Verra saw the woman it seemed to explained the hot bath and the happy fire.
“I guess you are Ranmaral’s new pupil.” The woman did not seem to be asking as much as stating. Her voice was high and not the easiest to listen to. “I found these for you. We don’t see too many new pupils anymore. In fact you are the first in a few years.” She handed Verra’s some peach colored robes and left the room.
Verra struggled with the robes to put them on. In the end she decided as long as they cover her, she would have someone else show her how to tie them properly later. Once she was satisfied that the robes were covering and would not fall off as soon as she left the bathroom, she emerged from the room.
“Oh!” The high pitched voice woman was standing outside. Let me help you with that. The woman quickly readjusted Verra’s robe until it looked much the way her own did. “There, that is better. Remind me later and I will show you how to tie the knots properly, first you need some sleep.” The woman jestered for Verra to follow and she did. “There is a room prepared for guest; I will prepare a proper pupil room for you tomorrow.”
Verra nodded, though the woman leading her to her room was not looking at her. “Thank you.” The two walked for a moment in silence until they came to a third small room with a bed, a dresser, a basin on the floor and small dresser and changing curtain. “Where is Ranmaral?” Verra asked in a quiet voice.
“He will be back in the morning. He has lots of work to do. You will be all right here. There is nothing to be afraid of my dear. Rest now and in the morning you can start your work.” The woman started to leave.
“Who are you?” Verra asked quickly?
“I am Ranmaral’s wife.” the woman looked calm and content with that statement. “My name is Ravelt. Now rest child you have a long journey to take and rested is the best way to start any journey.” Ravelt left the room shutting the wooden door behind her.
Verra was well asleep before her eyes were even closed.

Morning came too quickly for Verra she could have slept for several more hours had the woodland birds not woken her up with their songs. She had been using them for some time now to wake her up. When she heard them sing she knew the roads would soon have traffic, carts and pedestrians roaming between villages for trade and commerce. Once the songs of the birds started she would wake up and start down the road again.
When she opened her eyes she had somehow expected to see trees and leaves and the sky, instead she saw a plain white ceiling and a window. She could also feel the comfort of the blankets and smell the sent of home made food. A smile came to her face as she pulled back the covers. Her feet found the cold floor and with it a pair of sandles that she quickly donned. Standing and looking at the room, she decided to make the bed before she wondered out of her room and into the small hall she had been in the night before. She followed the smell of the food and quickly found the kitchen.
Like everything in the house the kitchen was small and clean, with a fire burning in a fire place and a cauldron steamed with the smell of porridge. Verra looked around there was no one there. For a single moment she found it odd, then the door at the back of the kitchen swung open and Ranmaral and his wife wondered into the kitchen. Verra smiled.
“Good morning!” The pair said in unison.
“I am glad to see your robes fit. Come we have work to do before we can eat breakfast.” Ranmaral looked at her.
Verra nodded, only slightly disappointed that she did not get to eat breakfast right away. She followed Ranmaral out the back door, while Ravelt wondered into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. Verra and Ranmaral came to a stop in front of a large pile of leaves. She looked at Ranmaral with a curious look on her face.
“I want you to jump into the pile of leaves,” with one eyebrow raised she looked at Ranmaral who motioned with one hand as if to say you first. Verra shrugged her shoulders and jumped, Ranmaral followed. For a brief moment they were small children playing in a pile of leaves. Then the two stood up and the giggling stopped.
“Now help me bring these leave over to the garden.” Ranmaral grabbed a large part of the pile in his two hands and carried them to a narrow path behind the house. Verra followed with her own arm load of leaves. This narrow path was much shorter than the one they had taken the day before, when they left the tree cover they were next to what look to Verra as the most extensive garden she had ever seen.

By Sabrina - 1:38 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Picasa + Flickr = Finally, convenience.

Picasa is a great program for grabbing photos off of your digital camera and organizing them into albums and emailing and printing them. It synchs automatically with my memory card when I put it in my laptop, and only grabs the new photos. Sort of a poor man's iPhoto, but it's the best I've found for Windows so far.

Flickr, on the other hand, is a website that lets you upload your photos and share them as galleries that can be shared and pooled with other users, as well as posted to blogs. It has a nice feature that lets you email pictures to it instead of doing the awkward upload process that most other sites make you go through. It also gives you another email address where you can mail your photo(s) to and it will create a blog post for you that includes the pictures as well as using the text of your email as the blog post itself.

If you click on the button in the ‘Photo Galleries’ section of the sidebar it will take you to my Flickr page. It's sort of a photo version of my del.icio.us links, including the ability to tag each photo or set of photos and later view all your images with a given tag.

So I've gotten the two systems to play relatively nice with each other, now. I use Picasa to import and organize my galleries, and then I click on the 'email photos' button and send them straight to Flickr. Seems to work pretty well so far. The free Flickr account limits you to 100 public photos at a time, but that should be OK for now.

Here's a little test batch I did because the sun was in a really nice place in the sky this afternoon as I was out walking downtown.

Province House, Grafton St. in Winter, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Grafton St., Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

8 photos
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By al - 4:23 PM | (3) comments | Post a Comment

A bit late posting this...

But I figured this goes along iwth my idea about starting my own religion.





You Are a Prophet Soul





You are a gentle soul, with good intentions toward everyone.
Selfless and kind, you have great faith in people.
Sometimes this faith can lead to disappoinment in the long run.
No matter what, you deal with everything in a calm and balanced way.

You are a good interpreter, very sensitive, intuitive, caring, and gentle.
Concerned about the world, you are good at predicting people's feelings.
A seeker of wisdom, you are a life long learner looking for purpose and meaning.
You are a great thinker and communicator, but not necessarily a doer.

Souls you are most compatible with: Bright Star Soul and Dreaming Soul



By Peter - 10:46 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Me + Small Dogs = Love

Kayla's right, small little dogs are absolutely adorable. At least when they're puppies. When they've grown up into neurotic, spoiled rotten little bags of nerves, perhaps not so much.

But I completely fell in love with this little 1/4 terrier, 3/4 chihuahua that my cousins' dog just had. He doesn't have a name yet, just ‘baby’ or ‘watch your step‘.

Apologies for the poor picture quality, this is me using my digital camera to take a picture of a regular photograph. And I'm not about to go dig out my parents' old broken multifunction printer that this has a working scanner just for one picture.


By al - 3:59 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Friday, January 07, 2005

Blogs and Reliability

Here is a comment I left at SmartPEI in response to this post:

The self correcting power of the 'sphere

Last night on the CBC news there was an item which suggested that you should not trust everything that you see on the web. The journalist reassured us that the editorial process in the traditional media was the best safeguard. I am not sure about this.


Funny how timely this was. Within hours of my posting the dramatic picture of the people about to be drowned by the wave, I was told that this not the Tsunami but an event in China 2 years ago. See the comments. he picture of the boy that I had received today was the picture that had led to his being reunited with his father last week. Again se the comments. The email I got was slow.
My point?


That the web has fakes and can offer either wrong or late information but that it also has powerful self correcting processes that are as good or maybe better than the traditional editing process of the traditional media


I think that traditional media and the ad hoc web media have more in common in this respect than either would perhaps admit.

They both rely on reputation to a large degree. The CBC and other media outlets have to rely on their reputations as authoritative sources of information, and too many mistakes will jeopardize that reputation.

Similarly, web users rely often on a quick visit to a site like http://www.snopes.com/ to check on the validity of some mass email they just received. The people behind Snopes have worked very hard over the last decade to cement their reputation as a reliable source, which can serve as a common reference point for web users to check each other's facts.

As useful as blogs are to factcheck what appears in the daily papers, their only source is often simply past editions of other daily newspapers, showing contradictions.

Like Snopes, any blogger wishing to become a trusted source will have to build up his or her reputation for thoroughness, accuracy and honesty over a period of years in order to become a reliable source.

A look at the liberal vs. conservative alternate blog universes that cover American politics is a good way to show that people are far too often tempted to simply follow opinions they feel comfortable agreeing with.

By al - 3:07 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

following the meme.





You Are a Hunter Soul





You are driven and ambitious - totally self motiviated to succeed
Actively working to acheive what you want, you are skillful in many areas.
You are a natural predator with strong instincts ... and more than a little demanding.
You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.

An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people.
You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor.
People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all.
You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.

Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul



What Kind of Soul Are You?

edit: However, if I click back and resubmit, it gives me a different answer. "Warrior soul". *shrug* I'm ok either way...

By the snowman - 2:56 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

En Italiano?

I was just checking the list of incoming links to this page, and someone used google to translate it into Italian. Molto interessante.

By al - 1:43 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Firmware Problems

I finally ran into one of those problem devices. The one that doesn't work and constantly requires you to update the firmware so it works. . . until the next problem arises and you have to update again. I got my iRiver mp3 player back when I was jobless and I needed some cheering up. The thing didn't work too well out of the box, but an update to the firmware and PC software got the thing to work more realiably.

Yesterday, I found out the mp3's I dumped on the device, wouldn't play. I was quite peeved as I didn't bring my laptop and cables in so I was stuck with the few songs that did work. Sure enough, looked on the web and there had been 22 revisions of the firmware since the last time I downloaded it. With the new firmware, it nows plays the mp3s it didn't before, I have need EQ features, and now I can use the device as a USB mass storage device, which was one of the original reasons why I bought the damned thing to start with. I like the new features and all, but consumer devices SHOULD WORK PROPERLY out of the box.

By Ming - 1:41 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment





You Are an Old Soul





You are an experience soul who appreciates tradition.
Mellow and wise, you like to be with others but also to be alone.
Down to earth, you are sensible and impatient.
A creature of habit, it takes you a while to warm up to new people.

You hate injustice, and you're very protective of family and friends
A bit demanding, you expect proper behavior from others.
Extremely independent you don't mind living or being alone.
But when you find love, you tend to want marriage right away.

Souls you are most compatible with: Warrior Soul and Visionary Soul



By Ming - 1:34 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Somewhat fitting



You Are a Dreaming Soul


Your vivid emotions and imagination takes you awy from this world. So much so that you tend to live in your head most of the time. You have great dreams and ambitions that could be the envy of all... But for you, following through with your dreams is a bit difficult

You are charming, endearing, and people tend to love you. Forgiving and tolerant, you see the world through rose colored glasses. Underneath it all, you have a ton of passion that you hide from others. Always hopeful, you tend to expect positive outcomes in your life.

Souls you are most compatible with: Newborn Soul, Prophet Soul, and Traveler Soul

By Sabrina - 7:37 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Haven't posted a meme in a while



You Are a Visionary Soul


You are a curious person, always in a state of awareness. Connected to all things spiritual, you are very connect to your soul. You are wise and bright: able to reason and be reasonable. Occasionally, you get quite depressed and have dark feelings.

You have great vision and can be very insightful.
In fact, you are often profound in a way that surprises yourself. Visionary souls like you can be the best type of friend. You are intuitive, understanding, sympathetic, and a good healer.

Souls you are most compatible with: Old Soul and Peacemaker Soul

By al - 3:03 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Pizza Pockets are Gross

OK, kids, it's time for today's edition of “Al States the Obvious.” Why do people buy these? Have we really created a generation of human beings so lazy and inept that the idea of tomato sauce squirted into a roll now seems appealing?

And it's not like the tomato sauce is anything good, either, it's just ketchup. Would you eat a ketchup sandwich? Of course not. Does this idea sound more appealing if you rolled the ketchup sandwich into a ball and microwaved it, so the kethcup leaks out the bottom, makes the whole thing soggy, and makes the inside lethally hot?

How is that somehow better than taking a couple of slices of nice bread and toasting a sandwich? It probably takes a lot less time than waiting for the halflife of your way-too-hot pizza pocket. Kids today...

By al - 1:19 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Putting the Numbers Into Perspective

Formula One champion Michael Schumacher will donate $10 million US to aid efforts for tsunami victims in Asia.

Anyone remember the initial promised donation of the nation of the United States of America?

$15 Million.

That was before they got shamed into donating more by the rest of the world. But now Germany has pledged $674M and Australia, with fewer people than canada, has pledged $764M. Link.

Canada, and certainly the US, can and should follow Australia's example. Given the fact that we have 2 coasts that could get hit with something like that in the future with disastrous consequences we should definitely be thinking about our karma.

By al - 1:54 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Things are Looking Up

Well, it looks like things are coming together nicely at work, and that I'm going to be in a much more stable position as of now than I was. This means I can start to settle down here on PEI a little more. PEI really isn't so bad after all, even in the Winter. Hell, it's not like I did very much in the Summer when I've been here :)

It's still weird to realize that all of my friends are pretty much grown up. We don't talking about anything different, though. And we don't act any differently. I always expected that when I reached a certain age and started working at a real job that I would suddenly transform into something like every other grown up you see hurrying down the street every day. But I still love nothing more than to sit and watch cartoons all day while eating cookies and not having any responsibilities when I can.

But instead something else is happening, I'm starting to see that most people have their little holdovers from when they were young. Ming likes his D&D, Sabrina likes her dragons and her Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the people at work all have theirs as well, wrestling, fantasy novels or horror movies.

I guess that's part of growing up too, is realizing that even if you're older that people don't suddenly change from one mode into another. Most people still keep a good chunk of what makes them who they are, and are just a little more conservative about expressing their interests to strangers. I like Iron Maiden as much as I ever did, but I probably wouldn't be as apt to wear a T-Shirt with Eddie on it while walking around town. (but I also wouldn't wear a dress shirt to a concert, so there's much room there). People just seem to become less expressive as they get older, perhaps.

But I'm definitely noticing that it's not nearly as frowned upon to still like kid's stuff as it was in my parents' generation. When the expected thing to do was to settle down and have kids right away, and fit in with your neighbours and go to church and be 'respectable'. But now, as kids we move out to go to university at 18, and that's about the worst place to learn real responsibility, and not the 'get it all done the night before' kind. And now I'm finding that many of my friends still live 4 to a house, still grabbing furniture from anywhere they can, and continuing to live like students. And I guess the difference is that society just can't support young people in their first jobs starting families now. So people adapt, and don't have kids until later on, and because their parents stopped telling them how to live long ago, and there's no more church influencing everyone's decisions, and pop culture is such a mess, then it's perfectly fine. And considering the massive debt it requires to get all the things people are expected to have a normal consumer life, it's probably for the best.

By al - 10:49 PM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Second, no egg nog. In fact, no nog, period

I'd just like to say that I get odd pleasure out of the fact I managed to snag one last carton of ADL egg nog at the grocery store yesterday.

Marge: Homer, didn't you get any milk? All I see is egg nog.
Homer: 'Tis the season, Marge! We only get thirty sweet noggy days. Then the government takes it away again.

Take that, secret arbiters of noggy delights!

And yes, I could make it myself, but I'd rather not be reminded what it's actally made of right before I drink it. My mother tells me a story of how the well-meaning but scary nurses at the boarding school she went to used to force-feed her egg nog because they thougth she was too skinny. And they would make it right in front of her, too. Ick.

By al - 1:13 PM | (4) comments | Post a Comment

Monday, January 03, 2005

Dog Separation Anxiety Solution, Step 1

Got Rowena a chew toy. The last one I got her, a rawhide bone thing, disappeared shortly thereafter, my theory is she chewed it up into little bits and swallowed the thing, because it's gone. Got a much bigger, tougher one today, though. Until she figures out the thing is indestructable it looks like absolutely nothing else will be important enough for her to pay attention to.

We'll see how long this lasts :)

By al - 1:00 PM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

I think my dog has separation anxiety

I've had this happen a few times, I'll be upstairs working quietly in my little study, or just napping, being very quiet. And if the house is totally empty besides me, after about 30 minutes or so my dog will start barking. Not at the door as if someone was there, but just sitting in her usual spot, barking away. She'll do it for about 10 minutes straight, then stop, and then start up again. Either until she falls asleep or I go downstairs or someone else comes in.

She's also really unhappy when you leave her alone outside. If you let her out in the back yard, within a minute she's just sitting still on the deck. Fortunately for us and the neighbours she doesn't go into barking fits then like I've noticed her do when she thinks she's in the house by herself.

I guess I'm not surprised, since her first owner, an older lady who had her until she was 7 years old, passed away, and now I'm taking care of her. So I think she's still pretty scared to be left alone. I'll have to figure out a way to work on making her less afraid that she's going to be left alone again. Poor thing must be heartbroken.

Whenever I take her for walks, she's always really drawn to older people, especially older women. I had a bit of a sad thought that she is looking for her old owner again. Older people really like her, though, since she is really quiet and well-behaved and not jumpy at all. Not quite the rambunctious pup I think I would have more fun playing with. It's a bit strange.. she's almost too well-behaved, (excluding the panics when she thinks she's alone).. you tell her to sit, and she does. And stays there. She's like a robot, just does exactly what you say, but doesn't seem to have much.. curiousity, perhaps. Maybe because I grew up with a cat I expect an animal to want to explore its environment, etc. Perhaps I'm not used to a dog who's perspective is more owner-centric than environment-centric. My introverted self finds this a little off-putting, I think. I liked that kitty seemed to have her own inner thoughts and that we mostly shared a house out of mutual convenience, but with this dog I feel like its entire life revolves around her owner, and I guess I perhaps don't respect that as much as I do a cat.

I could totally picture myself behaving exactly like a cat normally does if I was one, going exploring, climbing all over the place, snuggling up in a warm lap if there's one to be taken advantage of, but not obsessing over some person who thinks they own me.

Oh well, I'm stuck with this dog now, and I really feel sad for the poor thing. I guess I just don't understand it.

Anyway, I found a site on separation anxiety in dogs, and it looks like having an owner whom she was always constantly with, like I think she was, and then losing that person is just the ticket for getting this kind of separation anxiety. Looks like aleviating it is going to be a bit of an involved process, as well. Oh well, patience in all things, I suppose.

By al - 9:40 AM | (2) comments | Post a Comment

Sleep

Al is not the only one feeling the need for sleep. Last night I found myself involved in activities which keep me up the better part of the night. As a result I was in bed late yesterday. But that does not mean I got lots of sleep. Quite the contrary, I managed to get around 3 hours sleep. Making me feel all lazy. I was able to get my self going well enough to finish many of the taste I started the night before keeping me up to the wee hours of the morning, but what should have taken an hour took more like 3. But I was just trying to hold off going to bed so I could sleep this whole night through. On top of my need for sleep I have been suffering from this cough. Others around me have probably heard me say I feel like I swallowed a cigarette and it is caught in my throat. Well that is the cough taste much like ones mouth the morning after drinking at a bar that allows smoking ( yeah for no smoking laws on PEI). The cough is another reason I did not get much sleep the night before. But I was able to locate some cough medicine tonight, which should help stop that, and may even make me drowsy.
Why the hell am I up posting at 1 35 am then? Well I went to sleep around 11 00 pm and was with out a doubt in one of those super deep sleeps that when you wake up from you're not even sure if you were on the same planet. Man I love that kind of sleep. However at 12 :30 the music below started (my neighbors appear to have very pour taste in music, my lack of skills as a music geek are still strong enough to tell me this). They play the favorite thumpy music which really does not need vocals, all you really need is the base guitar solo to be about three bars long and then you can make the CD skip. The same effect would be achieved. The thumpy music hauled me out of my slumber putting me in a rather pissy mood. Now the technique I have in history used to cover noise from down stairs is to put on some New age music, something southing, and usually just loud enough to cover the sound. Tonight I had the uses on music on louder than I would normally play it if I was just listening while I was on the computer.
Now after an hour and doing some thumping on the floor (the music was turned down some)snow removal has finally begun on my street. So I have beeps and thumps keeping me up.
Really I would think that sleep was such a rare thing, or a pleasure only for some. But their always seems to be something stopping me from sleeping. Those of you who are good at sleeping through things, enjoy it, those of us who are light sleepers truly envy you.

By Sabrina - 1:30 AM | (0) comments | Post a Comment

Sunday, January 02, 2005

A Bit Too Energy Efficient

I think perhaps it's possible to go a little bit overboard with sealing off every last source of outside air in your house in the Winter. I know it's the latest craze, with everyone overing over their windows with sheets of plastic, sealing up their foundations, closing in their attics.

But today I had such a strange day, I had slept about 6 hours last night, but after I got up this morning I just couldn't stay awake. I'd always be feeling like I wanted to lie down, I'd start reading a book and not be able to keep my eyes open.

After lunch time (though actually come to think of it I didn't eat anything at lunch.. didn't feel hungry) I just went upstairs and started watching cartoons on my laptop while lying in bed. I must have fallen asleep right away, and just slept through the whole afternoon.

I had no idea what was wrong with me, I didn't feel sick, having managed to miraculously avoid catching that awful stomach flu everyone's been spreading around, but I just felt like I had no energy all day long.

As I was making supper today there must have been something fallen inside one of the burners, as it caused that nasty burning smell that everyone loves so much. But it's now 22:00 and I can still smell it pretty strongly here upstairs, so I think that the air in this house must be incredibly stale and oxygen-depleted, with so little circulation from the outside.

Anyway, after opening the windows and sticking my head out for a while, then taking the dog out for a walk in the dark I finally feel like a human being again instead of a half-dead zombie.

I should probably also get some more plants for my room.

By al - 10:51 PM | (1) comments | Post a Comment

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