Sunday, April 29, 2001

Hey, Solveig, have you been doing some sort of subliminal juju on me? I've just made three references to country music in my blog this month.

Stop it!
(by the way, you still owe me a trip to the bingo hall)
Hello there, gentle reader. What did you tune for today? Intrigue? Romance? Angst? Anger? Well, let's see what we can rustle up ... nope, just boring ol' family stuff.

The treehouse was re-assembled Saturday, with Banana making renovation plans (a partial roof and clubhouse) after only one season of use. The camouflage netting, rope ladder, tarzan swing and basket-on-a-pulley dumbwaiter have already lost their lustre. Man, I woulda killed to have a setup like that as a kid.

My Dad was in town this weekend, and both he and my mom were in the company of the grandkids and were trying to out-spoil each other. While one was giving five dallar bills out, the other was dispensing chocolate and ice cream after our regular bed time, and then letting them stay up until after midnight. Maybe I can get a restraining order.

Sunday morning started off well, too, as Jenn dragged me out for a run. I kept up nicely for a twenty minute jaunt, but I really should get out more. Especially if I want to be able to keep up with my kids. Banana wants to enter a kids triathlon this year. That's a chip off the ol' block.

Tidying up the yard, and what should come wafting through the air but the song, "Countin' Flowers On The Wall," by the Statler Brothers. Wooo, memories of my childhood came flooding back ... of sitting at home in Sherwood Park, in our three bedroom bungalow in the living room, on that burnt umber carpet in front of the eight track stereo listening to these guys. And dammit if that song wasn't stuck in my head for the rest of the afternoon.

I got to play with a power tool that I was previously inexperienced with - a rototiller. I chewed up the appropriate parts of the garden today, and it gave me a very satisfying feeling to be turning soil. The garden at the back of our property is a small patch, but it will be home to peas, carrots, corn (new this year), raspberries, sweet peas (for the flowers), spinach, and beets. The peas are a special treat for the girls, as they are harder to keep away from ripe peas than barn swallows. As I struggled to direct the 40+ year-old antique (lent to me by my mom's neighbor) in the proper direction, trying to stay out of the existing asparagus patch, I felt the sun and probably the spirit of my grandfather, the carpenter and gentleman farmer shining down on me.

Friday, April 27, 2001

I've got sunshine fee-VER!
I've got sunshine fee-VER!
(everybody sing!)
We've got sunshine fee-VER!
We've got sunshine fee-VER!

Thursday, April 26, 2001

If you really want to freak someone out, try this:

Frequent a washroom that has only one urinal. The next time there is someone using it, walk up behind the guy and loudly say, "Come on! Move over, buddy!" This works best if you are a guy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Here's a cool, useful tool for Internet Explorer - the Google Toolbar. You can use it to search Google (one of my favorite directories) without going to the site.

Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Quote of the Day:

"... in some cases, I have to switch off total cosmic consciousness so I can eat."
Oh, blog, blog, blog. I've got a lot to get out of my system. I've been without an Internet connection for a while, so you're about to read a backlog of blogs.

A blog jam, if you will.

Jeez, I kill myself sometimes.


As the Washington trip draws to an end, I find myself planning for the next round of my working life. I specifically took a day off after my arrival back in Calgary to decompress from the vacation, gather my thoughts and prepare to go back to work. I am making real plans to be successful in my career. And where is that going to take me, you might well ask. Now that would be telling, wouldn't it? :-)

I enjoyed watching other parents deal with their children on this trip, and reflect back on my own parental skills. I saw good and bad practices exhibited, but I revelled in the fact that for this week, I was just a casual obsverver. I consider myself a talented parent. I wanted to joke around and talk with kids, but that would be teaching bad tricks (trust of strangers). I did get a chance clown around, thanks to a like-mided parent. One morning, as I walked up to the elevator, I spotted a dad that was roughly my age, and he had two kids (about 5 and 7 years old) in tow. As I approached, he said to them, "... now, this man is going to be your new dad." I looked at them with a quickly manufactured stern face and quipped, "I hope you two are good at keeping your room clean." They looked a bit surprised, but I think they were used to their dad kidding around with them. It was a nice way to break the ice - I ended up chatting with the man for a few minutes before we each went on with our days.


I bought a book while shopping at a science-oriented store. It's called "What Einstein Told His Barber", and my instant interest and the ease with which I fell into reading it front to back in four days is pretty typical of my style of generalist knowledge. The book has nothing to do with Eistein or his barber (if he even had one) - it is a big FAQ of common, why-does-that-happen questions and answers that Einstein (had he been asked) would have given his barber.
"How does a flame know which way is up?"
"Does 100% humidity mean 'under water'?"
"Why does the shower curtain want to stick to your leg when you take a shower?"
... stuff like that. I found it fascinating. It really underscores my learning style. I like to learn about scientific principles when they have a practical application, and I like to put them into a framework of greater understanding. I would have been a really fun high school teacher. Too bad the pay for that position is so poor, or I'd be doing it in a flash.

One of the things I missed while I was away was ... music. As we were checking out of our hotel, I discovered that there was a piano in the lobby. I couldn't resist opening the keyboard case and banging out a quick tune. I didn't care who was paying attention - if felt good just to play. I don't think I get enough music in my life. I envy my brother, who takes one evening a week to have his music, in the form of a Friday-night jam session with the garage band that he is in. I'd like to re-start my piano lessons (and don't get me started on why I'm not taking lessons right now - it's a long story).


Grant, I have a new standard to which I will measure your collection. The American History museum had a technology wing. I saw ENIAC, UNIVAC, an IBM punchcard reader (just like the one I used to use as a kid), an Apple I with a wooden case, one of the original sending and receiving units that Samuel Morse used (did you know that they orignally used blocks similar to an offset press to send messages?), and lots and lots of neat junk. Hours of fun.


The Holocaust Museum (visited yesterday, the second-last day of my Washington visit) was really, really heavy - heavy on the heart, heavy on the conscience. I was touched and deeply moved by the suffering that all of those poor souls went through. Strong lessons are hard to take sometimes. The horrors that I saw and felt at that museum are as close as I ever, ever want to come to what the Jewish population went through in the 1930s and 1940s. Even with such vivid evidence - pictures, video, artifacts - I found it hard to believe that any group of people could inflict such cruelty on another group. Everyone who has ever been tempted to classify or categorize any person or group should be forced to go through that museum, read the accounts, hear the survivor's voices crack with emotion as they tell stories that evoke anguish more than fifty years later. I hope the dread and sorrow I felt at that place haunt me as a reminder for the rest of my days. Even at that, I'll count myself as one who learned the lesson of tolerance the easy way.

Thursday, April 19, 2001

Well, the Handgun Experiment was a flop. Through the Yellow Pages I found a handgun shop in a town just northwest of Washington (Rockville, Virginia) and took the Metro and then a bus out to the shop. When I got to Gordon's Guns (I didn't make that up), nestled in a little strip mall beside a sandwich shop and a hairdresser, I found out the firing range is closed until May 15th for renovations. Just my luck. I did look around the store and had a look at the merchandise and the prices. For $275 USD I could have bought a Colt 38 special; or for $600 I could have pocketed a brand-new Gloch 7.46mm, that is only .8 inches thick - "perfect for concealment or comfort". Up on the wall, they were advertising a fully automatic assault rifle with a 40 round clip for a cool $1000 - perfect for duck hunting. I could rant about these sort of things being readily available, or I could just be my smug Canadian self and be thankful we live in a place where this sort of thing is harder (but not impossible) to get.

As I walked back to the Metro station, I passed by a Volkswagen dealership and saw a nice Jetta convertable. I hadn't paused more than 10 seconds when a salesman had strode up to me, introduced himself and asked me if I wanted to take it for a test drive. I don't know whether he was overly keen or whether he just wanted to get out of the dealership for a while. Not once did he ask me if I:
a) had any money
b) had a driver's licence
c) lived around there
It makes me wonder why prison escapees have a hard time finding getaway vehicles. They just need to time their breakouts to correspond with the local dealership's end of quarter.

I stoppped by the Discovery Channel Store, which was filled with delectible scientifc knick-knacks. The consumer side and the scientific geek side of me each took a hand and began rubbing them together at shelves full of fastinating trinkets - astronomy, geographical information, magic tricks, experiments, musical instruments from all over the world, books, flight and nautical books and information. I spent about two hours (and thankfully only twelve dollars) there.

After all these adventures, I met up with Jennifer (fresh from her conference) and re-did some of the monuments I saw yesterday. We finished up with a light (by American standards) dinner and headed back to the room. Last night we made the mistake of eating all we were given, and ended up lying on the hotel beds that night, clutching our stomachs in a semi-fetal position, moaning. And believe me, they were moans of agony, not passion.
"Welcome to the United States. Please join the line over there."

As you might have guessed, I'm on vacation in Washington, D.C. right now. The majority of my experience has been good - food is OK, the place is fairly clean, friendly people, etc.. The one thing that I've noticed is the Americans' willingness to stand in line. Bathrooms, stores, information kiosks, restaurants, transportation and just about everything else. Perhaps it is all about population density here, but I'm starting to notice it more and more.

The exhibits and museums are amazing. Yesterday I saw (because they are all in fairly close proximity) the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial and the first floor of the Air and Space Museum (part of the eleven Smithsonian museums). I have a new respect for Abraham Lincoln and his ability to write moving speeches. I also felt a great sense of sadness at the Vietnam memorial - maybe it was just me.

Today, I am going to fire a handgun for the first time in my life. Let's see if this produces some insightful blogging. I've wanted to for a while now - the first inkling I had was when I visited our old warehouse in Dallas, TX when we used to be part of Adobe. Sidearms are legal in Texas, and although I never saw anyone carrying a sidearm, I saw signs on the doors of restaurants and museums that requested "No Handguns" in the premises. This got me to thinking ... with handguns so readily available, would anyone (even me, a passive Canadian) be allowed to walk in and learn to fire a handgun? I ran into one of my workmates as he came back from a trip to Seattle, and he had hooked up with a local friend who took him to a firing range. The idea seems just so foreign, I thought I had to try it. It would be like learning to do the Flamenco in Spain. So today, my goal is to find a firing range here in Washington and pump a few rounds into a paper target.

I'm impressed at the cleanliness of the streets and exhibits, then someone pointed out that Washington is the capitol (read: shining example) of the (supposed) leader of the free world. This is the political showpiece of capitalism, the politician's Disneyland. Of course they are going to make a supreme effort to put on a good showing. Duh.

It's very nice to be away from work. Especially when you feel the urge to fire a handgun.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Ah ... trapped in transit. Time for a quick note.

I watched a riveting, reflective (for me) film called The Contender. The premise of the film is that the Vice-president of the United States dies and the president has to choose a successor for him. The person he chooses is a good candidate, but for reasons other than her character is targeted to be discredited by the chairman of the approval committee. In the film, you get a strong sense that politics is not a profession for the weak of spirit. You are shown strong egos flexing their power and come to understand that in a political situation, that using power for intimidation is an accepted, and even expected, practice. The president takes pride in his ability to call his kitchen staff, any time of the day or night and order anything he can think of. On the instance that they do not have one of the items that he asks for, you see him make a veiled threat to the servant. It was chilling. As the movie wears on, you realize that the president's abuse of power is the more benign of the examples.

Anyone who has ever thought politicians get off easy with earning their pension after only two terms in office should watch this show. The show would also put off anyone wanting to advance into the upper echelons of a big organization, where "politics" could play a big part of someone's advancement or stagnation.

Monday, April 16, 2001

La la la la la bureaucracy la la la la la,
La la blamestorming la la la la la la la,
La la la la la la la la la political gain,
La la la la chest-beating la la la,
La la la la escalating this la la la la,
La la la la la la la la la la.

Hey, they were right. Singing does make the day go by quicker. Or maybe it's because my vacation starts this afternoon.
What a nice weekend I just had. It was Easter, the weather was shitty, chocolate was had in abundance (and dare I say it, to excess) at our house. I got out on Saturday (the nice day) for a short toot on the bike - the first real outdoor ride this year - and I got to take an afternoon nap.

Tuesday, April 10, 2001

So, I figured out what "it" was - our company announced that we didn't meet analyst's revenue expectations. In a strong reaction to our poor financial showing, our stock rose by 25%.

This stock price stuff just doesn't make sense.
Mmmm, I love paperwork.


Thank you sir, may I have another?

(maybe I'm just not getting enough sleep.)
"A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used."

- US jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841 - 1935)

Monday, April 09, 2001

What a day. After a somewhat bureaucratic and dutiful morning and afternoon, I went to Grant's goodbye party, and it was definitely the highlight of the day.

Grant has been with the company (or rather, this group of people as they have gone through their series of companies) for 12 years. The gathering quickly turned into old home week, as ex-Image Clubbers showed up to honor the last one standing. Sadly, I had to leave just as the stories were getting interesting. I heard a few tales of late nights, impossible projects, counting on revenue from an ad campaign to pay for itself (literally), and similar stories. A few jibes and digs flew back and forth between the Image Clubbers, but they were digs that were tempered with affection and were aimed not at causing reaction, but at reminding of more innocent times. There was much respect for this multi-faceted guy we've had at our beck and call for the past while. He's off to a calmer part of his journey and I wish him well.

Being at the party made me realize just what a youngster I was in the grand scheme of the company. I sometimes feel like a lifer here at EyeWire, but I really came in on the tale end of the fun.

Sunday, April 08, 2001

high-spir•it•ed \-"spir-e-ted\ adjective (ca. 1631) : 1. characterized by a bold or energetic spirit 2. general behavior exhibited by wound-up grade one children for the extended period before and shortly following the promise of birthday cake and ice cream. - high-spir•it•ed•ly adverb; high-spir•it•ed•ness noun
I'll bet you think *you* had a fun weekend. Our household is now the proud owner of a Sea Monkey colony.

Friday, April 06, 2001

I just found out that one of my favorite work buddies has decided to pull up stakes. I'm happy for her, but I'll certainly miss the cameraderie. The changes here, they are a-plenty.


Thursday, April 05, 2001

Violence. Hollywood violence, the kind best provided by a scowling, musclebound, Austrian-accented bad boy. That's what I need. A few nights ago, I rented Terminator 2, and tonight's the reward night - I'm finally going to sit down with a big bowl of popcorn and soak it all in. Once again, I single-handedly fed, entertained, cared for and finally put to bed Thing One and Thing Two, and now I'm gonna watch Arnold get tough with the bad guys.

I'll be a little red-eyed tomorrow, but it will be worth it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2001

Hey, Easter's coming up pretty soon. Keep in mind that all of the easter eggs aren't necessarily hidden behind the couch.
Shhh. I'm covertly blogging today.

See, Wednesdays are "No Electronics Day" at our house. This all started as a bit of self-imposed structure that Thing One and Thing Two came up with on a cold, cold, wet day. They decided that they wanted some special days, and someone suggested seeing if they could go a day without any store-bought candy (this came after a discovery that the cache of lunchbag treats had been ravaged). They boasted that they could go a whole day - in fact, they could go all though the work week without it. So confident were these two, that they marked the calendar of a whole slew of special days. While they were laying out their plan (which included this pagan "No Electronics Day"), I suggested a special day that they might like and (unbeknownst to them) had a hidden agenda. We have a scheduled "Dinner Out" night, Tuesday, which corresponds with a late sports practice. It is also my secret weapon to the age-old question, "Can we stop for dinner (lunch/breakfast/snack) at a restaurant?"

My pat answer? "It's not Tuesday."

If you're a parent, you really should try it. It's been working for over three weeks. Make sure you negotiate taking turns picking where you go.

Tuesday, April 03, 2001