Thursday, August 30, 2007

Birth and Death

I've had a really strange week so far. I've had to attend two funerals, one for a co-worker who died tragically and one for my Aunt Ann who died suddenly but who had a history of health problems so it wasn't completely unexpected. The moods at the two funeral services were so different you could feel it in the air.

I was a pallbearer for my aunt, and even though it wasn't really a lot of work — you carry it from the back door of Hennessey's Funeral Home about 10 feet to the hearse, then another 10 feet to the burial site — it was a very profound feeling to hold up part of a person's weight and help them along on their final journey.

My father and his brothers and sister all shared a lot of memories of them growing up, which is always a side of my fatehr's childhood I never hear about directly from him in the same way. It seems lately that the only times we get out to Georgetown these days to see my father's family is for yet another funeral. I guess when you reach a certain age it just starts to happen, or you become more aware of it.

I still don't find myself getting very upset about death when it's a natural process, I just imagine it as part of life. My aunt had a bit of a hard life but she had a lot of friends and seemed to live each day as best as she could. When she had her 50th birthday she was very happy to reach 50 years old. When you think that most people would see turning 50 as a reason to feel depressed, I think it's quite a refreshing attitude to have had.

Then in between the funerals I attended a pre-natal class as part of the information gathering process I'm doing as part of a consulting job I'm starting into for a parenting support group here on the island. All of the parents-to-be were paying very close attention to the doula giving the presentation on various ways to ease the labour process, and everyone was asking questions and discussing their new babies, and it was all a very positive and upbeat atmosphere. Going straight from being in the receiving line at a wake to that was very heartening in a way. I was left with the comfort of knowing that time and life flow along mostly the way they're supposed to.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Apple Giving in to the Beast

Note: If you fail this test, the rest of this post won't mean much to you.

Anyway, I'm trying out iWork '08 at the moment and mostly I like it. Office 2004 for the Mac still doesn't run very well on Intel processors. I can start up a Parellels session, boot Windows XP and start MS Word 2003 for Windows on my Mac quicker than the time it takes for Word:Mac to load on the same computer. So I'm looking for an alternative, and the Mac version of is just in 'it's coming' mode at the moment, which leaves iWork, newly upgraded to a brand new version.

Looking first at Pages, the word processor, it seems to give you a pretty nice selection of templates, and actual useful ones as opposed to 50 different greeting cards and other bullshit you et with most word processors. But something struck me, when I loaded up the 'modern letter' template:


Apple, Apple, Apple, a long time ago, back in the 1980s, you actually paid for the use of the Helvetica font, and now, just weeks after its 50th birthday, you switch your default font to the bastardized clone that Microsoft paid to have developed just so they could weasel out of font licensing fees? Does this mean I'm going to have to do a "select-all -> font: Helvetica" every time I create a new document? Seriously, the good version is sitting right there in the fonts bar.

I'm just perplexed, is all. Maybe I'll write something substantial about iWork later when I've gotten more of a chance to use it.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Searching for the right word

A Mexican friend IM'd me today, asking for what word I'd use in English, for when you're asked to do a task, and you will do it, but not right now.

I thought about it and the best thing I could come up with was 'Mañana'.

Which reminded me of this joke:

Spanish singer Julio Iglesias was on television with British TV host Anne Diamond when he used the word 'manyana'. Diamond asked him to explain what it meant.

He said that the term means "maybe the job will be done tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, next year. Who cares?"

The host turned to Irishman Shay Brennan who was also on the show and asked him if there was an equivalent term in Irish.

"No. In Ireland we don't have a word to describe that degree of urgency," replied Brennan.

I'm sure this is apocryphal, since it's a takeoff on what Pete McCarthy said in his book McCarthy's Bar "The Spanish concept of mañana is said to be too urgent-sounding to be translated into Irish."

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Lesson in Performance

So last night was the final night of the Island Stand-Up Showcase at the Arts Guild (no, I won't call it "the Guild", buzz off, Care.)  I went by myself because I hadn't gone yet and I really did want to see  how Taylor and Richard and Patrick and the rest were getting on with developing their acts.

I was very impressed with every one of the performers, but for different reasons.  First up was Richard Shroeter, who did a lot of his trademark stories about his wife. I like his one joke about quietly slipping his pants off when his wife asks him to take the garbage out so he won't have to.  He definitely toned down his act quite a bit, maybe just for time constraints (he had the shortest set), but some of the more awkward jokes he's made, which had me nearly dying when he's done them at Baba's, might best be left to the more understanding crowd.

Then came the surprise treat of the night, when they announced Lorne Elliot as the next performer.  And that's what he ended up resembling more, a performer moreso than a strictly a stand-up comedian.  He started off playing the ukulele and whistling a pretty intricate rendition of swan lake.  Then he did a few jokes, parodying his knack for making fun of the town he's in by exposing how generic such jokes really are, but at the same time showing he knew his way around PEI culture as well as most islanders.

Then he did something which showed off his abilities as a speaker and performer.  He said "well, I'm afraid I don't have much material tonight, since it was all very last-minute, but I do have plenty of ... Guardian.  He then took out a copy of the guardian, and read the story of the guy who took a chain saw to a gazebo downtown, but punctuated and timed the reading in a way that generated more laughs than should reasonably be expected from a crowd which presumably already knew all the details of the story.  This goes to prove the old adage that if you can get the audience to laugh if you make it seem like they're supposed to, and you do that by speaking in a way that sounds like every other time they've heard a joke told in the past.  All credit to him, it was a funny bit and he pulled it off like very few other comedians in Canada could.

Next up was Patrick Ledwell, the rising star of the night, and he again impressed me with his easy ability to come up with new material.  He had almost all new jokes from the last time I had seen him at Baba's, but he still told them very very well and you could tell that they were refined and practiced.    You can tell his theatre background right away, and he had the longest set of the night while never dragging in the middle.  I especially liked his bits about growing up in a big family and how getting a good kind of cereal was the most you could ever hope for for a treat.

After the break were the three edgier performers of the night, Taylor, Melissa Morse and François Webber.  Taylor again brought the audience into his own head very well, shared his feelings and current thought processes very effectively, and pulled off what is definitely his trademark nervousness that looks like he could burst at any time.  Since I've known him for so long I think I have a good intuitive feel for when he exaggerates, and when he wants the audience to think he's exaggerating but really isn't.  It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who was seeing him for the very first time.

Melissa was the fifth one up, and once again showed her stage presence quite nicely.  She also cut out some of the more offensive material from her act, which unfortunately meant that her very funny and stun-inducing opener was scrubbed.  There must have been a "no rape jokes" directive given to all the comedians.  She did a good job with her material, a lot of which I had heard before but which is very definitely reflective of her and she portrays a consistent persona which makes the material work together very well.

Last up was François, who reminded me the most of what you would expect from a working stand-up comedian.  He's been on the Yuk Yuk's circuit recently so that would explain it.  He had very smooth segues, consistently funny stuff, and was able to naturally just talk about himself in a way that seemed less rehearsed and more just a funny person talking to you, which I enjoyed a lot.

Lorne Elliot at the end of his set made special mention that he thought it was great that Charlottetown had a little scene like this happening. (Note, he didn't use the word "scene", of course.) And I have to agree, there are very few towns of 50,000 people that can both produce and support this kind of talent.  Cue them all moving to Halifax and Toronto...

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By al - 11:48 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Soft Reboot

I had a bunch of stuff written about making a positive change in my life and wanting to seek out and appreciate things that are of real value, but it was just a bunch of cryptic bullshit and I don't want to subject you to it. Let's just say I'm taking a long-term vacation from things that have only ever made me feel bad.

By al - 9:08 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Unintentional Wikipedia Humour, vol. 1

g. and I have been discussing how much we enjoy the incredibly dry - to the point of possibly being serious - humour that you can find in Wikipedia. Here are a couple that I've found lately and a classic one as well.

From Holy Water:
Aside from other substances that may be added to the water as it is blessed, holy water is indistinguishable from ordinary water.[citation needed]
When hardcore believers start demanding documented proof you know the world is coming to an end.

And from the discussion page for the same article:
  • How do you on-holy hloy water? What is its exact opposite?
The opposite of holy water is cursed water, or "unholy water". To obtain it, drop bottles of tap water on a non-aligned altar (e.g. if you are Christian, use a Muslim or Buddhist altar), then pray. Note that this may be dangerous in several ways. Muad 04:15, 16 July 2007 (UTC)


I understand that holy water has a different density than normal water. What is the difference? In theory, I would assume that the molecules in holy water would have more energy, and therefore be less dense than normal water... This logic seems sound, assuming that the blessing adds energy. Doesn't this make sense?

And an old classic that some killjoy deleted, but here it is. Previously from Slacker (Subculture):

The Slacker Defense

To other people, it may appear that slackers do not do very much actual work, schoolwork, or much of anything. However, individuals considered to be slackers may in fact be very active, though not always in activities that society deems to be most important (such as writing in Wikipedia instead of getting a real job). One of the definitions of slacker is "people who are good at doing what is important to them."

And someone please tell me if there's something wrong with me that I find the entire article on Toast to be utterly hilarious. Really.

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By al - 12:20 p.m. | (2) comments | Post a Comment

PHP and Drupal

I'm no PHP expert, but I submitted my first solution to the user support site today, which is pretty neat. Link. (scroll to the bottom - to Update #6.)

The fix gets the timezone to display properly when making a list of upcoming events in a drupal events sidebar.  I implemented it so that it followed the proper date format as specified in the site settings, rather than the default setting which was just a number representing the number of days until the event, which I don't find very useful.

I sometimes forget how great it is to work with open-source tools, since you can fix anything yourself.  On the other hand, a properly tested commercial API never would have gone out the door like that.  Stupid catch-22s.  At least it doesn't cost me anything. :)

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Uncle Al and Lauren

Uncle Al and Lauren
Originally uploaded by Alejandro the Great.

By al - 11:11 p.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Mommy and Lauren

Mommy and Lauren
Originally uploaded by Alejandro the Great.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Reunion Aftermath

Not surprising: The most interesting conversation I had all night was with someone who was not a member of our graduating class, and was there as a guest.

Surprising: Nothing. At all.

By al - 5:01 a.m. | (1) comments | Post a Comment

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pre-reunion Thoughts

Well, I'm officially almost 30, given that I'm about to go to my high school's 10 year reunion.

But you know, the nice thing about reunions on PEI is that the actual successful people aren't here.  So one's mediocrity is more the norm. It's funny, though, but with one notable exception I haven't talked to any of those people on even a semi-regular basis since leaving high school and going off-island to university.  Even the people who went to UNB as well I never talked to, after I found my own little group of more like-minded friends.

So right now I'm sitting here listening to the thunder and the very heavy rain, giving myself enough time so that I'm not there right at the start, and feeling rather.. well.. blunt.  We'll see how that works out.

Last night I ran into and had a good conversation with someone from my graduating year that I actually did like, but he said he'd probably not be here tonight, having similar reservations as I do and less of a 'what the hell, it could be pretty funny' spirit.

Oh well, off I go.  I'll write more when I get back.


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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Viral Marketing Works, Who Knew?


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