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Showing posts from December, 2010

Year-End, Part II

2010 will go down in history as the year we put the blinders on.
Blinders, of course, come standard with human beings. It's as if they're attached in utero, sometime around the beginning of the third trimester, just after fetal humans can open their eyes and follow a light. Donning blinders allows us, as a species, to invoke "pretendsies", to make things didn't happen. It's childish behaviour, but hey! we're by and large a childish species.
One of the things we made didn't happen was the oil spill in the Gulf. Remember that? The media screamed of nothing else for a couple of months. The initial rate of spillage doubled, trebled, then quadrupled. Eventually the well was killed. Gotta love the terminology there: the bad guy's dead! Everything's fine! ...except not really. Up to 75% of the spill remains in the Gulf environment. The U.S. government has been very precise in its terms, leading the chief scientist for Defenders of Wildlife to say "…

Year-End, Part I

To say that personally, 2010 was a good year for us would be to understate things a tad. When this year dawned, my wife was stuck in a thankless job, hated by her boss for no reason she was ever made privy to. Fast-forward twelve months and she finds herself working in a much more convivial atmosphere. A place where she is appreciated. A place where a "fun day" is scheduled every month, complete with games and prizes. At Hallowe'en, there was a contest to produce the grossest gourmet set-piece. The previous year's winner was a kitty litter cake. Eva went all-out on this contest, producing two dishes. The first was an ear fashioned out of clay, complete with long painted ear hairs. The judges had to take marshmallow "Q-Tips" and dip them in the ear, coating them in caramel "wax" (complete with Skor-bit chunks)...and that wasn't the worst of it. The other dish, the one that had me ready to puke my guts, was this inspired monstrosity:



Pita "b…

The Hollow Days

The Aztec solar calendar had eighteen months of twenty days each, plus five nemontemi--"hollow days" --at year's end. The nemontemi were nameless, unlucky days on which nothing of consequence was done or attempted. Rituals both ceremonial and quotidian were suspended. Fasting and abstinence were strongly encouraged. Children unlucky enough to be born in the hollow days were often killed outright: better that, it was thought, then let them live a life clearly cursed.I've often thought of the week between Christmas and New Year's as the modern nemontemi. The luck or lack of it notwithstanding, there's no denying these are hollow, useless days. Many people take the week off work, to the point where offices are either shut or might as well be. And while the electronic stores are packed, in grocery, it's the slowest week of the year.
It's also far and away my favourite week. Especially in years like this one.
Boxing Day, you see, fell on a Sunday this year. …

So This Is Christmas

and what have I done?
Went to to the inlaws' place for Christmas slunch today (hey, if "brunch" is between breakfast and lunch...) We helped a woman from Eva's work get to her aunt and uncle's place for Christmas, which felt good. And we listened to Stuart McLean's Christmas stories all the way...a holiday tradition that still makes me chuckle and which had our riding companion periodically in tears from laughter. Christmas dinner--slunch--was unexpectedly amazing. Not that it's ever been bad before, but...well, I can't remember the last time I had turnip. I usually turnip my nose at it, because...like you need a reason? TURNIP! BLECH! I took some this afternoon to be polite, and...hey, not bad. Also not bad was the broccoli and cauliflower drenched in cheese sauce made predominantly of Cheez Whiz. Those are three things I generally can't stand. I sat for them today, and liked them. Go figure. Lots of gifts given and received. I loved everything I g…

Pre-Christmas Cheer

It's like this every year. Christmas is less than a week away and it sure don't feel like it.
"Peace on Earth"--not at the grocery store, there isn't. "Hell on Earth" is a closer approximation.
It used to be busier. Hard to convince myself of that, but numbers don't lie: five years ago, before everybody and his hairdresser started selling groceries on the side, it was considerably busier than it is now. Customer attitude seems to deteriorate every year, though, and that's what really puts the stress into your day.
It didn't help that they put Turtles on the front page. Nestle Turtles, the 200g size, for $1.97. We booked fourteen skids. For reasons never explained--probably because they're inexplicable--we got one. One skid. We could have sold all fourteen skids on Friday, the day the ad broke. You can imagine how long one skid lasted. And is there any more forthcoming? We're trying, but frankly, I doubt it.
This--surprise, surprise--was…

Musical obsession

It all started with Alkan.
Actually, it started with one of my occasional, peripatetic Internet crawls. The term was something like "hardest piano piece" . I'm always on the lookout for music that makes my jaw drop. Doesn't matter the instrument. I mean, you may hate the pan flute, but this is insane:



Google led me down the YouTube into a world of wonder. Mind you, the first video I viewed was a female pianist, claimed to be the world's fastest, absolutely butchering the piece she was playing...breakneck speed, yes, accuracy...not so much. One particular comment suggested anyone wanting to play something really challenging, and prestissimo, should check out Alkan's Scherzo diabolico. Well, didn't that title bear further investigation.



What impressed me wasn't just the formidable technique, but the musicality. This piece is beautiful. I'd never heard of Charles-Valentin Alkan before--to this day, few have, even though he was one of the greatest piano …

Julian Assange, Citizen of the Internet

Sarah Palin suggests that Julian Assange should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden". I'm all in favour of this. They've done such a good job killing bin Laden, after all.
Others, a great many others, have called Julian Assange a traitor to the United States of America, forgetting that he is not a citizen of the United States of America and owes it no allegiance. The "traitor" label better fits Pfc. Bradley Manning, who actually stole his government's diplomatic cables and 'leaked' them, so to speak, to Assange. That is, of course, if you believe such actions to be traitorous. Many don't. Many, in fact, view them as heroic.
WikiLeaks is nothing less than the next evolution of society staring us in the face. Most of us have seen this evolution taking place over the past six years, if not in our personal lives, then in the lives of those younger than us. Like all evolutions, this one is disconcerting to the old guard. In this case, it's par…

I Need Glasses. Again.

My eyesight's been poor since birth, but for the longest time as a kid I gave that flaw short shrift. Just hold the book closer was my motto, and it worked well enough; when school forced me to lift my head, I could always sit right up front and kid myself it was to ingratiate myself with the teacher. Well, it did have that effect. It also let me see the blackboard.My parents had their doubts that all was well in the sight of little Kenny, but little Kenny did his damnedest to dispel them. Little Kenny did NOT want glasses, no matter how badly he might need them: he knew that glasses were a one-way ticket out of the land of popularity and into the land of Nerd. And so little Kenny exerted considerable effort into making his eyesight appear better than it was. He was aided and abetted in this effort (at first) by the unthinking gullibility of eye-doctors. Why they would unfailingly perform their arcane vision tests by getting little Kenny to cover his bad eye first was a mystery fo…

WikiLeaks (II): Whirling Dervish

Damn, posted too soon. Should have done my research. Better yet, let others do it for me.
Everybody, especially those who agreed with my last post, please go here and read this.

Don't have time to delve deeply right now--have to go to work--but if I'm skimming this stuff correctly, it turns out Assange knows perfectly well what he's doing, and any collateral damage, while regrettable, is necessary to the higher end he's seeking: the elimination of the lobbyist groups (he refers to them as 'conspiracies', not in the tin hat sense but in the conspiracy-to-commit-crimes sense) that really own governments. It's a worthy and admirable goal...if it works. But by gar, I hope Assange has at least ten doubles walking around and about thirty safe houses. He's angered a great many very powerful people.
(Love how Mike Huckabee is calling for his arrest on charges of treason. As Charlie Stross notes, "by definition it's not treason if he's not an American …

WikiLeaks

As with most completely polarizing issues nowadays, I don't know what to think when it comes to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.Reddit, populated as it is with youthful idealists who believe they're highly intelligent, is about ready to canonize the man. Meanwhile, Tom Flanagan, who used to be chief adviser to our PM, is openly calling for Assange's assassination...that's "cannon-ization" of a whole other sort.
Look, we'd all love to live in a world where government practiced openness and accountability, and hey-can't-we-all-just-get-along mated with power-with-not-power-over to produce utopia.
I don't do drugs, myself.
Calling what Assange does "journalism" is kind of like calling global thermonuclear war a "skirmish". WikiLeaks is a data dump, pure and simple. As with any dump, combing through this is apt to net you some overlooked treasure...not to mention a few diseases.
Oh, some of the stuff is trivial and obvious. For instanc…

Perspective

"So I was sitting there in the bar and this guy comes up to me and he said 'My life stinks'. And I saw his gold credit card, and I saw the way he was looking at people across the room, and I looked at his face, and you know, what a good looking face. And I said 'Dude, your perspective on life sucks.'"--Mika, "Blame It On The Girls" (introduction)
----------------
Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good Morning!" and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine -- we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one …

Going Moldy....

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