Monday, December 30, 2002

The whole of last night was spent zipping around Seattle on a Vespa. It was a beautiful sunny day, but there was an undercurrent of anxiety – I was on a mission.

I was given a map and had to go from obscure location to obscure location (both on the highway and in residential areas) to where signposts had been placed. These signposts each had three or four matrix algebra questions or quadratic formulae that needed solutions. I had to copy these down into a notebook and hand them in to a professor by the next day. My Vespa broke down near an exit ramp, but conveniently, there was an older model, abandoned Vespa that I was able to start and use.

I started to get a bit panicked when the police picked me up as an illegal alien (I didn’t have my passport on me) and they didn’t believe my Alberta drivers’ license was authentic. I had to sneak out and reclaim my Vespa, and even then I don’t remember handing in my assignment.

What a night.

Sunday, December 29, 2002

The white stuff fell for the first time in months. At 8:30 this morning, almost as if a starting pistol had been fired, the noise from two gas-powered engines dragged their fingernails across my bedroom window. Upon peering out at the four inches of fresh white stuff, I see two middle-aged men who *obviously* had been waiting for this snow to justify (to their spouses) a $2000 snowblower purchase. For 50 feet of sidewalk.

After thirty minutes of dressing, fueling and preparing the machine, maneuvering it out of the garage and *maybe* 5 minutes of actually operating the snowblower, they had completely cleared their walkway, the sidewalk in front of their house, the driveway in the alley and even eight or ten feet of roadway past of their front curb. Here they were, all revved up and no snow to throw. What’s body to do?

Clear your neighbors concrete, that’s what.

I could hear them from where I lay in bed - mmmmrrrrrrreeeeeeeoooowwww, up the front walk, around the house and out the back walkway ….

I’ll have to thank them later, but I know that they had as much fun doing it as I had by not doing it.
Larry's Party. The Life of Pi. 200 in 1 Electronics Kit. Attack of the Clones.

Oh, yes, and gingerbread. I'm eating gingerbread like there's no tomorrow.
After five days at home, I am ready to get back to work.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

I constantly waffle back and forth between hating the commercialism of Christmas and loving the traditions that are more ceremony than purpose.

In early December, we haul a dusty, heavy, unwieldy duct-taped box out of the storage room to unpack, unfold and assemble a bushy replica of a lovely scotch pine. We force the children to take part in the hanging of ornaments, even though we don't trust them with the delicate ones or to evenly place them on the tree. We play the same old music that we hear and get tired of every single year. On Christmas Eve, we make our regular pilgrimage to the local United church only to have the children fidget, question the purpose for most of the standard ceremonies (clearly pointing out our lack of attendance for the last few months) and then bug us for the last half hour about when it's going to end. Then, after months of us pumping them up about the upcoming feeding frenzy of consumerism, we send them to bed to try and sleep and then, the next morning, force them to wait for all the relatives to arrive before they are allowed to open their gifts one at a time, in a p-a-i-n-f-u-l-l-y slow fashion.

Sounds like fun, huh?

This is probably what happened to me, too, but I don't have any bad memories of Christmas. Christmas was going to church and hearing the choir at their best. Christmas was getting to eat the stuff you wanted - candy and finger food - for three or four days straight. Christmas was sneaking away from your relatives on Christmas afternoon and calling your best buddy to compare the best toys you'd each received. Christmas was being home with both your parents so they could give you a ride to the local pool or roller rink. I remember watching cartoons and assembling models and seeing cousins that I hadn't seen for ages and ages. I hope my kids have the same like of untainted memories.

Friday, December 27, 2002

What are you doing at work today? Finishing up leftover candy sent from suppliers? Eating dry turkey sandwiches? Whatever you're doing, you sure ain't buying stock photography, 'cause the phones are pretty quiet.

I'm assembling an Ikea look-alike desk for some new staff that are starting in January. There's nothing like manual labour to make the time fly by.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Sunday, December 22, 2002

There's nothing like having an eight and ten year old in the house to make you acutely aware of how many days until Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

I was at a local office supplies store last week to buy a few reams of paper when I saw a book at the till called "If I Were ...". It is a compilation of one page stories written by children, aged 7 to 13. The stories all start with the phrase "If I were ..." and include both a picture of the original entry (I'm assuming it was a contest of sorts) and the typed, legible text of the story. I bought one just to look at, and now I've decided to give it away as a gift this Christmas.

I think it's the best gift I'm going to be giving.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Are you ready?

All of the necessary ingredients for a good Christmas are here: candles and wreaths around the house; holiday parties; a tree decorated with white lights, baby's breath and an increasingly eclectic assortment of ornaments; fifteen-year-old outdoor lights clipped to the eavestroughs by climbing to the top of a rickety ladder borrowed from my serial talker neighbor; the Carpenters, the Muppets and Mannheim Steamroller putting their twist on old seasonal carols; my mid-winter congested-head cold; all the flyers advertising sales for last minute shoppers; even a more benevolent feeling in my interactions with coworkers and friends. Everything seems to be in place for a regular, ol' Christmas season. Everything except for one thing.


Frosty precipitation seems to be eluding us this year. The roads are clear and dry as a bone and there's not even a hint of the white stuff anywhere - even in north-facing corners and shady spots where it usually hides out from the warm spells. Although I don't wish harsh weather on those who have to be out in it, I would like a light ground covering. The farmers are hoping for some to help with the incredibly dry year (years, actually) that they've just had. Those that fight forest fires, and those that ski and ice climb, and those that sell snow shovels and snow blowers would likely join me in this sentiment. I'd like to hear the swish of snow pants and the crunch of winter boots and the rattle of plastic toboggans down the hill behind our house. I wouldn't mind opening the front door and having to squint because of the sun's reflection off the thousands of refracting flakes. I wouldn't mind pushing our snow shovel to clear two or three inches off the walk on a Saturday, first thing in the morning, finding that I'm all by myself because it's too cold and early for anyone else to be out in their front yard.

Having this dry and warm weather so unseasonably late in the year has convinced me that I could not go through a Christmas season without being a place where the snow was at least ankle deep. Snow just adds to the feeling that trips out of your house and away from your family and friends should only be done when absolutely necessary. Snow makes you want to drink hot chocolate, or maybe even a Hot Toddy. It somehow completes the season for me.

I think I'm ready for that.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

You take care, Grant. We're all thinking of you and your mom and hoping for the best.

This is the time of the year for gifts, remember?

Monday, December 16, 2002

Working at The Mustard Seed tonight was a good team-building experience. It made me feel like we were giving back to society. Although I doubt we were making a profound difference in anyone's lives - no one was turned around today just because we sliced ham or gave some guy a free coffee when we should have charged him a dime - we helped get things done and dinner was served up for one more night.

Seeing some of the clients was sobering. Thinking of being one of them or having them as your peers was even more so. I've been hungry, but I've never been homeless. I can't imagine what it would be like. There are blogs where you can read some of their stories, but to live the life and experience the emotions that go along with it would be pretty eye-opening.

I was amazed at the staff's attitude towards getting through the night, no matter what the circumstances. When I arrived there was some initial confusion over where the supplies were coming from that the meal was to be prepared from.

We hadn't brought potatoes? "Bill, go downstairs and see how much rice we have. Bring up all that you can find." In short order, it was discovered that we had actually brought six or seven boxes of scalloped potatoes, but even if we hadn't, I'm sure that the door would have opened and there would have been something to serve.


I'm very proud to say that dinner for over six hundred homeless people was supplied and served by the staff of Veer tonight. My coworkers were very efficient at preparing and serving up the meals - they amaze me by being good at anything they put their hands to. Even being short order cooks.
Today was a day of delinquencies. I was delinquent from work; Geek and Co. cleared up two delinquent accounts; I dropped of Geek and Co.'s G.S.T. filing (on which I was delinquent in filing - by over a month) and the government had written to warn me that my account was to be handed over to the delinquency section; Banana, her buddy and I went to the Mustard Seed Hostel to serve dinner to some delinquents (and other unsavory characters). When we got home, found out that Banana's science project that was due yesterday still needed a few finishing touches. She very patiently watched as her parents interfere- I mean, helped her finish her project.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Thursday, December 12, 2002

For the same reasons that I don't blame my parents for the character flaws that I have, I don't expect them to take credit for the person I've become. Although I thank them very much for the love and support they've given me over the years, I think I deserve credit for some of the work, too.
One of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies (which I still don't have for my DVD collection, last-minute Christmas shoppers) is the credits of the movie Rain Man. I wonder if the photos shown during the credits were the product of Dustin Hoffman's shooting during the filming. I marvelled at them because they showed perspectives and brought out patterns in scenes that would have otherwise flashed by. Randomness, genius, or genius disguised as randomness? Some of Grant's blog pictures remind me of this style.

Not to say that Grant is autistic. Definitely. Definitely not autistic. Def-def-definitely.


When I worked at Bonnie Doon Leisure Centre, there was a regular patron that was autistic. He was odd but fairly harmless, travelling by himself to the pool and swimming, hot-tubbing and steaming (in the steam room) with no great exertion. As a pudgy, fair-skinned individual, he always looked a bit lost but very intense about wherever it was that he was meant to be going. He would often come and talk to the guards on deck (he came during the daytime lane swims) when there was little else to do but talk to Randy.

Randy's thing (the focus of his autism that manifested his visits with us) was diction. Specifically, pronunciation of the English language. It was obvious to anyone that spoke with him that he was confused (and rightly so) by the flakiness of the rules surrounding how groups of letters are pronounced differently, depending on which word they were inhabiting at the time. Unfortunately, the label of the place that the conversations took place was inevitably one of the worst offenders. The POOL.

Pool, stood, school, food, took, tool - the double oh combination in these should all be pronounced the same way, according to Randy. I cannot begin to think how to write how he wanted them pronounced. The ohs were always drawn out, and would need o's, u's and umlauts to do them justice. Another thing that would set Randy off on a diction lesson to the guard on deck was any of the imitation (or close to) "oo" sounds - cute, could, rumour, ... all triggers.

Randy would also love to share his daily schedule with us, expecting us to comment and recite back to him what he had just outlined. Some guards wouldn't talk to Randy, telling him they were busy, then climbing up into the guard chair and intently scanning back and forth across an almost empty pool until, discouraged, tired of standing at the foot of the guard chair, Randy would purposefully stride off, talking to himself and counting on his fingers.

Personally, I didn't mind talking to Randy and trying to memorize (and recite back) his daily schedule. It helped keep me awake and (I feel) entertained and calmed him. He loved to try and have us speak and pronounce words according to his elaborate set of rules, which I could never quite understand. I would be out on deck, contorting my mouth into the right shape and extension of pucker to make the proper "oooo" sound.

I miss Randy, his schedules and diction lessons.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Anyone wanna go to Hawaii?
Conformity and obedience vs. tenacity and free spirit. Film at eleven.
I've been dealing with a British person lately that abosultely has to have the last word. Not that it is a great afront to have this happen, I just find it quirky. I found myself wondering if all British people are like this.

Time for a poll.

You can view the results without voting if you want. Debate with others. See if I care.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Alan Parsons Project. Captain and Tennielle (she was so hot). Moody Blues. Supertramp. Queen. Devo. The Original Caste. Burton Cummings. John Denver.

These are a few of my favorite things. No wonder I live in a house built in '61.
Today I started the book Life of Pi and after two chapters, I'm already loping happily through the book. You can't "scream" or "tear" through a book that starts by talking about three-toed sloths.

I'm reading the book aloud the Banana and McMonk. They seem happy with the content and it fits into our bedtime routine, so on we go.

Monday, December 09, 2002

Feeling connected, shaking hands, trading information, being in the loop.

I didn't have anybody whacked, though.
In preparation for the Christmas feasting, I've decided to shed a few pounds.

Therefore, I am cranky.

Sunday, December 08, 2002

If i'm going to be an effective dad, I've got to learn not to let the tears of a female cloud my judgement.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

A meeting is taking place in our boardroom right now. As there are bigwigs from outside of the office attending, it is a catered affair. Big, hearty, fancy sandwiches; freshly cut fruit; big ol’ chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies ... and there’s way too much for the twelve people in the meeting to eat themselves. A murmur ripples through the company.

So now the wait begins. Such is the existence of a boardroom-snack vulture. We wait, knowing that other vultures are waiting too, watching for the first hint of the end of the meeting. Eventually, we will hear the muffled sounds of a single speaker’s voice turn into general rumblings of after-presentation discussions. Chairs and papers on the table will begin to shuffle as one or two bolters exit the room. We vultures must wait until all the meeting attendees are out of the room or the meeting arranger brings the leftover carrion out into the free-for-all lunchroom area.

The less tactful of us might actually wait in the lunchroom, like Pavlovian subjects, attempting to maintain composure and conceal our true raison d’etre. Other vultures will sit at their desks, flipping through previously-read e-mail messages, absent-mindedly surfing the net or rearranging desktop icons, all the while straining to hear the footfalls of someone with partially-laden plastic delicatessen trays.

Then it happens. The last of the meeting noises are suddenly released as the boardroom door swings open from a well-practiced bum-push of someone with full hands. As the treat bearer makes their way into the kitchen, best pickings are quickly snatched up: the whole cookies, the sandwiches, the strawberries and grapes, the carrot sticks (if there are any left), the broccoli pieces. Next, those vultures closest to the kitchen swoop in for their pickings: the staler sandwiches, the celery, the tomatoes, the slices of melon and the ornamental parsley and lettuce. Finally, in an act of ceremonial politeness, one of the vultures will send a general message to the rest of the office that goodies are available, usually by speaking with a half-full mouth on the way back to their desk.

It is not a proud existence but for some of us, it is a living.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Swimming tonight was very necessary. For me, it is a way to let my intellect rest and have the deeper parts of my brain run the show. To show just how focused I become when pounding out lengths, I ran into another swimmer (Late Kevin, a guy who always shows up twenty minutes before the end of practice) with my head, full speed, doing freestyle.

Wham! Cranium meets hairy barrel chest.

Now, he *did* join us after we'd already started and we did discuss going straight up and down the lanes rather than the customary circling traffic flow, but I should have seen him coming at me. He was in the wrong, but we both weren't watching where we were going. We tread water for a half second, both sputtered an "Oops" then proceeded with the rest of the set. Doing that made me remember that it is easy to get really focused when you are mind-tired.


I like that swimming is a sport that requires little protective equipment - from the elements and each other. Goggles to protect your eyes from the chemicals, a swim cap to protect your ability to breathe if you have long hair and a swim suit to protect your delicate sensibilities. That's it. The rest is just you (in all your specific gravitiational glory) and the water. Free to float, push against, glide through, wriggle and jiggle in, squirt with your hands, and splash into all you want. There needn't be any personal contact, but even if there is, the environment somehow reduces the social faux pas of being in someone's personal space.

There are few (exercise-related) feelings that are as satisfying as climbing out of a pool feeling body-tired and squeeky-clean.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

My mom is back from her rotator cuff operation. Eleven months after the accident, she was finally able to get corrective surgery for her injury.

Eleven months. Isn't that deplorable?

She is feeling good considering all she's been through in the last twenty-four hours. Not much pain. Her right arm is in an immobilizing sling so she is restricted to just legs-only activities and one armed pushups.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I am starting to notice that certain changes are taking place in the way my daughters act around me.
  • Banana's buddies (all of whom are about ten and eleven) were at a birthday party trip to a sports facility. The mom-in-charge reported that they were referring to some of the older male teens as "hot."
  • around our house, the doors to my duaghter's rooms are constantly closed. The only time that they are opened is to allow the dog entry or exit, or to quickly dash across the hall to the bathroom, which also gets quickly slammed shut. Even when they are just brushing their teeth.
  • at the start of the ringette season, I took Banana into the team dreassing room. I helped her on with her equipment, tied her skates, cleaned up the pile of clothes (coat, boots, baggy jeans, etc.) that was not needed on the ice, same as I did last year. When I went to help her change back, I was told, "Dad, you're not allowed in the changeroom. You're a boy."

    I'm not a boy, I'm a Dad!

  • I've noticed that when I'm driving either daughter and/or their friends somewhere, conversations in the back seat involve a lot more hushed tones and giggling than they used to.
  • one of the players on Banana's ringette team came out of the dressing room last week and (standing in her skates) was able to look me squarely in the eye.
As a dad of two pre-teenage girls (eight and ten), I thought I had more time to prepare for this.
We have two dogs in the house right now. One is old, crippled and grumpy. The other is 6 months old, energetic and clueless. The younger one is constantly irritating the old one with requests to play, barks, shoulder checks and cold-nosed butt-sniffing. The older dog lets the younger one know in no uncertain terms that she is not enjoying the attention by menacingly growling, barking back and even snapping at the younger dog.

I'm watching this go on and feeling sorry for the older dog and affectionate towards the younger dog at the same time. There's something about unabashed, socially unaware, unbridled enthusiasm that is both annoying and endearing. It reminds me of several people that I've worked with. I wonder if I was that way in my youth, getting under the skin of the barnacle-encrusted old-timers.

Can someone explain this to me?

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Don't worry - you are not the one who is causing this.
(besides, it's pretty self-centered of you to even think you were the cause)
I've waited long enough. I think it's time for me to get a new car.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Keeping all the plates spinning on our network is a full time job lately. espeically when people keep changing the plates and the sticks.

Monday, November 25, 2002

Even though I'm a proud parent, I find that pictures of my pre-one-year-old, wrinkly babies look pretty much the same as pictures of everybody elses' pre-one-year-old, wrinkly babies.

No offence intended.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Some people can look at a bucket of Lego and imagine buildings, towers, vehicles and all sorts of creations. I just had that same experience today.

Banana has been saddled with a science project. She has to build two devices - one that has motion (via a 1.5 volt motor) and one that has some sort of on/off switch trigger function. She decided to build a robot (just a tread-based vehicle) and an alarm. Me, being the ever-helpful parent (especially when I don't have to read french and DO get to work with applied sciences) jumped right in to help. I was asked to pick up parts so during a work-related road trip, I stopped into Active Components, a local electronics store.

The place had a few rayon-clad browsers wandering the aisles and friendly counter staff who looked like they couldn't wait to help. Initially, I was a bit overwhelmed at the the terminology that I hadn't dealt with in a while. How many volts current could run through the LED? Should I have a resistor in series ahead of it? Did Ohm's Law factor into it? How much amperage would a D cell produce? Questions, questions, questions.

I admit to being a novice (but not illiterate) when it comes to electronic circuit design, but the assortment of switches, light emitting diodes, transistors and resistors brought me back to a point in my youth when I used to dabble in connecting this kind of stuff together. The store had a whole section of project kits, too. Electronic timers, metronomes, FM receivers, ... it made me feel like a Weight Watchers refugee at a Baskin Robbins taste-testing counter. I could imagine myself with multimeter and soldering wand in hand, creating amazing and handy little gizmos, all to the delight of friends and family.

Some of my friends may shudder at the thought (I was once told that my soldering looked more like welding), but as a retirement project, I wouldn't mind relearning how to read schematic diagrams and doing some simple projects.

Now, all I gotta do is get enough money to retire.
Jenn's mom was at the hospital all day yesterday with pain radiating down her left arm.

This could be serious.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

It was 2 AM this morning when the alarm went off.

cold, starry nightPull on my clothes, wash my face, get on my heavy jacket and head out to the van. Drive for twenty minutes wishing the heater would hurry up and recreate the warmth of the comforter and duvet I just left behind. Get out of the van, pull out two winter-weight sleeping bags and unzip them all the way around so they could lay flat, like big heavy blankets, on the ground.

Lure two sleepy children (and one sleepy wife) out of the car and onto the sleeping bags - coats, boots and all. Snuggle as close together you possibly can, then pull the last thick sleeping bag overtop of everyone. Try and calm Banana and McMonk down as they giggle and squirm with a mixture of fatigue and excitement at being up so late/early in the morning for this special adventure. Lay your head back and look up, up, up at a show that I won't see again until I'm one hundred and thirty-five years old.

I'm tired this morning, but it was worth it.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Winter has fallen hard and fast on my little town - so much so that most of us homeowners were caught with our pants down when the snow came.

Well, actually, it wasn't our pants, but our leaves. Autumn had been so gentle that most of the trees hadn't yet shed their leaves until after we had two inches of snow on our lawns. So, what's a body to do? Leave the damp, rotting foliage on the ground until spring and be stuck with a gruesome cleanup task then?

Nope. I opted for a different plan. This weekend saw some nice warm weather, but not enough to melt all the snow, but enough to leave 90% of the leaves exposed. With a good inch or so of white crunchy coating on my front and back yard, I'm sure that I amused neighbors and passers-by alike by pushing my lawnmower back and forth through my front and back yard. I ended up with almost six bags of damp leaf/snow mulch.

Glad I got that over with.
What would have been the best music to prepare you for this morning - Canon in D by Pachabel or Rebel Yell by Billy Idol?

Sunday, November 17, 2002

There are few better ways to feel old than hearing a Barry Manilow song and realize that you know all the words.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Four days of near-sleepless nights.
Clueless, mindless telco droids carrying out orders that don't consider the customer.
Disgruntled, interrupted users.
Cables - lots of cables.
Dialog boxes with IP addresses.
Reformatted hard drives.
Grumpy DNS servers.
Telephony interfaces.

The network changes are done and things are finally the way I want 'em. Time to get some sleep.

Monday, November 11, 2002

I have long been a hater (and yes, I know "hate" is a strong word) of outbound telemarketers. I find it offensive that companies and the poor, underpaid commission slaves they have working for them rely on a victim's reluctance to hang up on a phone caller in order to flog their product. We are bad enough at over-consuming - we don't need these flakes pestering us at home or work, trying to invent a need for their product or service. "You haven't cleaned your furnace vents in how long?" "Did you know that you are over-paying for your long distance?"


For this reason, I was tickled when Ian posted a link to a brilliant telemarketer counterscript. I've printed it out and have it by the phone. Now I can't wait for my next call.
If you're feeling even the least bit restless at your station in life, I recommend that you NOT watch Ghost World. Especially if you haven't had a lot of sleep lately.

You'll end up wanting to get on a bus.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

I'm really tired of compliance.

How do I escape? Send me your answers.

I gotta know.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

One of the things unique to my vocation is that any planned work that I do is usually on systems that effect everyone in the office. For this reason, I find the best time to do big changes to my systems is outside of regular business hours. And my night-owl tendencies sway me toward coming in during the evening and working into the night.

Tonight I had big changes scheduled. After a full and relaxing day at home, I went to swim practice, came home for a yummy spaghetti dinner (with homemade tomato and meat sauce!) then headed off to work. Arriving at the office, I turn on the lights and get to work on the first priority - setting up some music to keep me company. As the whole office tower is virtually deserted, I don't mind turning up the music so I can hear it ANYWHERE in our little office. Due to a purchase made by one of our now defunct sister companies, I have (in the IS graveyard) a set of Harmon-Kardon high performance speakers and a subwoofer. This, combined with my little MP3 player, will make for a good evening. Hmmm, queue up a Motown playlist and time to get to it.

I get the Vandellas beltin' out a heartfelt song, I dance up to the server, open up the backup logs to check and make sure that they completed successfully only to find out that backups aren't finished. I can't do anything until they do, and I have no easy way to find out how long this is going to take (I backup multiple servers). Hmmmm, so here I am, a full tummy, free to putter away at my hobby/job with a bit of time on my hands. Should I wait or should I go? Maybe I should just add some Clash to the play list and think about it for a while.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

We've got a new addition to the swimming gang. She started coming to practice in September, but I wanted to make sure she was a permanent member before I added her to the cast.

She is (probably without knowing it because she's too young) the perfect, spunky, chunky Mary-Lou Retton clone - a small town girl that has come to Calgary to find her fame and fortune. Somehow, she ended up in our pool on Mondays and Wednesdays, probably straight from her volunteer position at the old folks home or the SPCA. She's bright-eyed, sweet and pure with smooth, pimple-free skin and a darling smile. Chaste and polite, I don't think anything we say or do will sway her from the straight and narrow. If the Two Broads don't take her on a road trip and help her to loosen up, she could end up being the perfect straight man during our Nacho and Beer nights.

Readers, say hello to Mary-Lou.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Trust Me!

Something just doesn't feel right about filling in this checkbox.

A fella at work has made a suggestion to me that has taken root - end every statement that you make with, "... ya JACKASS!" This has nothing to do with that brainless movie of the same name. It would add a jalopeno to the humdrum of everyday conversation. Think of a whole day where you could let people know how you feel about having to be out of the comfort of your home, away from your loved ones and dealing with them.
  • Thanks for your input on that, ya JACKASS!
  • I'll need you to log off your system so I can install that software you asked for, ya JACKASS!
  • I couldn't help but notice that you made some changes to the server this morning without telling anyone, ya JACKASS!
  • I'm just wondering when you could pay me back the five dollars you owe me, ya JACKASS!
  • Thanks for holding the elevator for me, ya JACKASS!
How am I gonna resist doing that now?

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

I abhor people who take up two parking spaces when they park. Every time they do it, they should have a finger lopped off.

I'm down to just one machine on the bench. Doh! Someone just put another one in the queue.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Sean and Jenn in their Hallowe'en bestHanding out candy to the kids is even more fun when you dress for it. Putting on Bach's Fugue in D minor and turning out all the lights helps to set the mood, too. Jenn handles the little kids, I get to deal with the big ones.

There's something innately fun about scaring people. You get to see them at their un-coolest. Base levels of pretension are stripped away and they react (whether they being scared by choice or by accident) as if their actions will affect whether they live or die. Young teenagers are the best to scare. They are close enough to childhood for their imagination to have strong hooks into their conscious behavior but are struggling with assuming a veneer of adulthood. I *love* to hear their voices wafting down the street because it means just one thing to me on Hallowe'en - VICTIMS.

When I'm getting set to scare them, I find that by not talking, I can be most frightening. If I need to make a sound, I hiss like an angry cat. I'm working on a deep-throated, evil laugh, too. The best gag we've worked out so far is to have Jenn answer the door while I sit about three metres back from the door in a big, wing-backed chair. Remember, we've turned out all the house lights and I'm at the end of a darkened hallway. I have my eyes closed and support the candy bowl on my lap with my gloved hands. When I assume this position in the costume, I look just like a mannequin. For the younger kids, Jenn will come back to me take a candy from the bowl and bring it to them at the door. To the older ones, she'll say in a scratchy voice, "Dearie, if you want some candy, you'll have to take it (pointing behind her) from him."

I let the first contestant, laughing nervously, take the candy freely while I sit, listening to the crinkling of candy wrappers, with my eyes closed. As soon as the second one reaches in, I pop my eyes wide open and half a second later, grab the frightened youngster's wrist as they try to extract it from the bowl. It's usually good for a yell or a scream. I unabashedly take great pleasure in this. After all, isn't being scary (and scared) what Hallowe'en is all about?

I can tell I'm fostering enjoyment of putting on a good show. Banana usually wants to join in on the fun and be my "assistant" when she's finished plundering the neighborhood and returns with her loot. Her bedroom window (in the basement) has a deep window well, and she has plans of covering it over with a fake grave and tombstone, then jumping out at people that get too close.

Hallowe'en is such a fun event.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Wanna send someone a scary message?
It's Halloween and everyone at the office is disappointed that I'm not in costume.

If I did it ALL the time, it wouldn't be a surprise when I did.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Oh, oh oh, I'm on fire ....

This was the level of urgency at the office today.

You don't think much of the office connection to the Internet until your service provider fouls up their own records and unceremoniously yanks the digital carpet out from under your feet.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Lots of computers on the bench for fixing these days.

I skipped swim practice just to have a bit of quiet time, and guess what I ended up doing?

Sunday, October 27, 2002

The swim meet was surprisingly more stressful than I had hoped or remembered. I did well, breaking 30 seconds for 50 free and going 1:08 for a 100 free.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

McMonk has no qualms about letting others know how she feels and what's on her mind. Incidents in the past have reminded and enforced this knowledge for me, but nothing like what happened last night. Her eight-year-old stature, ankle-length skirt, big glasses and innocent, unblinking stare add several cuteness points to your first impression of her, but every once in a while, her brazenness and forthright speech just knocks you for a loop.

Last night, after McMonk's swim practice, she, Banana and I had stopped for an ice cream treat at Dairy Queen. As we were sitting at a booth enjoying our cones, two police officers came in, walked up to the counter and stood in line to make a purchase.

McMonk's eyes grew wider as she looked over at the two burly policemen, standing with their service uniforms complete with holstered firearms, handcuffs and other items clipped to their belts.

"Look," McMonk remarked in a hushed tone, "they've got guns and everything. What are they doing here?"

"They're probably just hungry." I answered.

After some thought, she said, "Can I go and talk to them?" I thought it wouldn't do any harm - the two big guys would probably jump at the chance to do some good public relations by talking to this cute, wet-haired, bespectacled little sprite.

"OK," I answered, "you can go over there." So McMonk climbs out of the booth and walks over to the two standing in line, and then in a voice loud enough for the whole place to hear, says

"HEY! I thought you guys only ate donuts!"

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Hot? I thought I'd die.

I did some volunteer work in the hottest office that I've ever been in. The occupants of this office seemed to take no notice of the unusual heat. They were dressed in regular, full-length clothes and were not unduly flushed or sweating, but I was praying to the god of antiperspirants to work with me and keep me a nice person to be around.

At any moment I was expecting one of the staff to toss in a casual "Sorry about the stifling conditions," or a "What's with the heating system today?" comment, but no dice. I thought to myself "What could possibly make these people oblivious to these sweltering conditions?" They weren't old people, but there was a high concentration of females.

Actually, they were all females.

I've heard other men complain that, in general (and I say this knowing full well how totally chauvinistic this sounds), most women tend to always feel chilled in a room. Some attribute it to being generally thinner than their well-padded gender opposites and therefore not as able to maintain a good core body temperature. Another theory I've heard is that because of dietary differences, weight-conscious women tend to eat more greens and less fatty foods and are therefore less able to bring their core body temperature up in the first place. Whatever the reason, I had to work in sweltering heat today, and that was BEFORE I had to climb up into the ceiling to run some cabling. Feh!

I enjoy doing volunteer work. The organization that I was helping this morning has strong Christian roots, and I ended up having lunch with some of the other volunteers there. Some of their spiritual dogma came out as we discussed our duties at the office and this made me a bit uncomfortable. As a person with religious leanings that are not easily classified, I felt a bit out of place. Mention was made of how we are doing Jesus' work and how we are all good Christians for giving our time. I felt like a religous minority (which I may have been) at the office. I'm not sure why I did, but I did.

Does one have to be religious to be thought of as being charitably Christian?

Monday, October 21, 2002

Pardon me as I shamelessly use this weblog to promote Geek and Company to the various search engines that have found me over time. I've done some tweaking to the title and metatags to bump me up the rankings of the search engines. Let's see if it works.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I found an essay regarding the Maryland shootings that suggests a very provocative solution. It is definitely worth a read and some discussion.

The writer was obviously in favour of Americans' right to bear arms and therefore slanted his essay to encourage and support this idea. I wonder how many Americans are beginning to see logic in the argument. I wonder if in my lifetime I will come to know the United States as a place that people carry and feel the need to use deadly weapons.

Do you really think that the world has irreversibly changed after September 11th or is it just the Americans that have had their paradigms shifted?
I am tired of public places changing their name to accomodate the latest corporate sponsor. I understand that arts centres, sports facilities and libraries are terribly underfunded and that corporate donation is one of the few ways that they can stay economically viable, but unless you frequent some of these places, you'll have a heck of a time keeping up with what is where.

In the short, short time that I have been in Cowtown, the following public buildings have dissappeared from public record:I'm seeing it happen all over. I know that the renaming doesn't last forever - our local hockey stadium has changed names three times in as many years. When people look back through history books and see the freshly renamed edifices, is this going to leave them wondering what place is being referred to? As it is, I presently have a heck of a time figuring out which place sportscasters and evening news anchors are talking about when they toss out some newly coined name. I find myself asking, "Is that in Calgary?"

The first time I remember this happening was in Edmonton. One of the nicest and most promenent parks was officially opened twenty years prior as Mayfair Park. I knew it was Mayfair Park. My parents knew it from their youth as the same. City council (in their wisdom) decided to rename the park I referred to after a former mayor who resigned from office amidst scandal and was sued by the city for several illegal land deals. Ten or so years after his death, the sour taste he left in Edmontonians' mouths was forgotten by our beloved city council. To this day, I bristle at the renaming of that park for a criminal. I wonder if the managers and employees at Enron Field in Houston feel the same way.

So you want an alternative to renaming? Corporate donators (or benefactors) should put up a big, god-awful sign at the entrance to the place that they are sponsoring. They could have an etched-into-brass picture of the CEO doing a grin-and-grab, handing over a cheque that will see the facility or park through the next 5, 10 or 20 years. They can have a 3D logo popping out from the sign, with verbage beneath proclaiming their greatness and altruistic contribution to the world. Other leaders of the corporate world could then stop and tip their had to their cronies as they enter and exit the place. Regular guys (like me) would lock our bikes to it and vandals could spray-paint their designs on it as a testament to how permanent we felt it was. The monument could remain in place until the next guy comes and ups the ante on the sign spot.

The rest of us could just pass by the big sign on our way into what we know is just a place built for us, by our elected civil government, put in place with our tax dollars. At least when we get old and forgetful, we would still have a fair chance at referring to our landmarks by their proper names.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

It's been a month since our Nova Scotia trip, but finally the pictures are in order.
I've been going to vendor presentations lately. One one hand, it keeps you up on industry trends. On the other hand, it gives you bad cases of equipment envy.

I'm infatuated with a new piece of hardware sold by Fluke Networks, the de facto standard for electronics testing equipment. But even with a pedigree like that, I don't think I could justify a cool $52,000 CDN plus change to either my co-workers or my wife. "But honey, it does throughput tests. Please?"

I find the cabling and TCP/IP conectivity aspects of my job very satisfying. Either they work, or they don't. Once they are in place, they last forever (or at least until someone makes a change). Hardware tends to be ultra-reliable - I've only run into three wonky network cards in as many years. The big problems seem to crop up when there is user-configurable stuff. A properly laid-out and thought-out network can be a dream for the end users. Even high-usage places like EyeWire weren't really taxing the network capacity. When and if I leave this place, I wouldn't mind becoming more proficient and involved in the setup of data networks.
I don't care what anybody says. I think Toby Mcguire did a great job as Peter Parker.

Monday, October 14, 2002

We now have a marathoner amongst us. Jenn finished the 42 kilometres in four hours, twenty-eight minutes, fifty-six seconds. Both knees in tact, a big smile on her face and enough lactic acid to cripple a horse.

But she finished.

No sweaty, embarrassing pictures - just the facts.

Sunday, October 13, 2002

A trip to the Observatory in Victoria was the order of fun last night. Aside from being a freezing cold place to visit in the fall, it was really fun, informative and thought-provoking trip. As well as seeing the largest (at one time) mirrored telescope in the world, we sat in on a lecture that discussed the Big Bang. From what we were told I learned that scientists have worked out that the laws of physics have been in existence from the one billionth trillionth trillionth trillionth (ten to the forty-third power) of a second after the Big Bang. Before that, they just don't know. I am amazed that they can state that fact with that much certainty and precision. Banana and McMonk were along to take in all of this. They were duly impressed, too. We had a show in a planetarium that described where some of the constellations and major systems could be found.

As I stepped out of the obsevatory at 11:15 am and looked up into a cold, clear windy sky, I felt a little more connected and knowledgeable about what was up there.

I get a bit smarter each day, whether I need it or not.

Friday, October 11, 2002

Today was a particularly crappy weather day in Calgary, which is alright by me as I am in Victoria.

Jenn is readying herself to run a marathon, which amazes me to no end. She has trained faithfully for it and is poised to perform a feat I thought was reserved for tall, 90 pound Etheopians. The kids and I flew out with her last night and will be here on Sunday to cheer her on. The place where we are staying is four houses away from the route at the 32 km mark, so we'll be able to almost sit on the lawn as Jenn runs by. I doubt I'll even have to change out of my housecoat to wave as she goes huffing and puffing by.

It's two nights before the race and by 9:30 pm local time, she had gone to bed already. She seems relatively stress-free, but just the same I am taking the kids up-island tomorrow to allow her to become properly anxious and jittery.

I hope she appreciates all I do for her.
Aside from the typically itsy-bitsy screens, I really like Macs.
Being on vacation, I found myself at my my in-laws' house today with no hosts, no wife, no kids and an undetermined amount of time. The sun was shining, it was late in the morning, I'd had a good breakfast and already spent 1/2 an hour reading. Suddenly, a walk became the order of the afternoon.

Getting ready for my walk saw me reducing the baggage that I normally tote about. When I'm out for a stroll, I prefer to be as unencumbered as possible. That means taking only a light jacket, a credit card, a bank card, just a bit (not a whole handful) of change and a pair of sunglasses. I wore some comfortable, well-broken-in shoes and a non-descript jacket. i didn't know that my choices would come in handy today.

My walk lead me from an upper-class neighborhood through a rough part of Victoria, where some homeless people were on the street. Some were camped out in seldom-used doorways, begging. Some were wandering about looking confused, stoned or a bit of both. Some were engaging people, some were silent, some were trying their best to look worthy of pity. Of the ones that were engaging passers-by, hardly any of them bothered to talk to me. I think the reason why I was of no interest to them is because I didn't appear to be a good target. I had no visible signs of affluence, other than a recent shower and clean clothes. I had no flashy jacket, cell phone, backpack, vehicle, coffee cup or anything to lead them to believe I had anything to offer.

I was quite invisible. What a liberating feeling this gave me.
These days it seems that I have more money than time. This statement would be even more shocking to you if you knew just how little unspoken-for money I have.

Monday, October 07, 2002

6 am and I am (against my own better judgement) at the office trying to solve a phone line problem.

I think I may be doing permanent damage to myself with all this staying-up-late-and-getting-up-early nonsense.

Sunday, October 06, 2002

Chipping away to all the home projects. Hung a mirror and a set of stairs this weekend. Got the home Exchange server up and running, too. I'm just about ready to settle in for the winter.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

Here it is, Saturday night, I'm wearing my comfy slippers and my jeans with the hole in the arse (washday, you know) and everyone's sleeping or on their way to dreamland. I sit down to check on my backup jobs at work and it seems that the tape autoloader has used up the nine tapes I put in and now is patiently waiting for the tenth.

I really don't want to get into my car and waste 45 minutes for a 30 second job. But I probably will.
Once again, the editorial staff at have summed up my exact sentiment regarding Bush's speech to the United Nations quite nicely.

Friday, October 04, 2002

I had a great time working into the wee hours last night adding customers to our database at work. Part of our marketing includes sending out catalogs to people that subscribe to other magazines or publications. We approach owners of "lists" and purchase a one- (or many-) time use of their customers. We then mail out our spiffy catalog and include a postage-paid card with their name printed on it, enticing them to have the Veer catalog sent to them on a regular basis. When they send their card back to us, we now longer have to rent their name from the original list owner - they become a prospective customer of ours and we can get in touch with them (via postal service or e-mail) as we need to.

We usually get stacks and stacks of the postage-paid cards (known as Blow-in Request for Catalogs, or BRCs) that need to be manually entered into our database. I volunteered to enter some of these because these people are basically requesting to spend money with us. The faster we can respond to them, the better. Also, having a bigger name list of our own adds equity to the company. When I'm entering names I feel like I'm tangibly growing our business, instead of just keeping plates spinning on our network.

I'll be tired Friday, but what the heck.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

I think I set a dangerous precedent. Last week when Banana forgot her lunch (see the end of the linked post), I came to the rescue with chicken strips, fries and a milkshake. I just got a call from McMonk.

"Dad, you forgot my lunch. Can you bring me a strawberry milkshake instead of chocolate?"


Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Here are five totally unrelated pieces of information. I know they are a bit cryptic, but they must be said.
  • the sweater is back, and it wasn't what we all thought.
  • I'm glad they stopped by. His new one is much better than his old one.
  • it's lipstick, not blood, thank goodness.
  • it won't be long until she figures out what that noise is, and that will be the end of that.
  • I'd send out three of 'em if I thought it would help, but I bet they don't want 'em and wouldn't know where to stick 'em if they did.
Just be glad you don't get it.
I don't care if it is spam. If I get a message from Alpha Bumpass, I'm compelled to read it.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

Veer Wallpaper
Now that it's October, I feel like getting into the Hallowe'en mood. You wouldn't be able to help yourself, either, if your co-workers had been cranking out free desktop wallpaper and other autumnal treats like this. Do have a peek at what all the Veerdos have been up to. I know, it's a gratuitous plug, but I think we're doing some nice design and we have some tasty products (along with the free stuff).

I'm learning some cool tricks on my new PRI-enabled Norstar Meridian phone system. What are you doing?

Sunday, September 29, 2002

bloody javascript

If I wanna change my homepage to your lame website, I'll do it myself, thank you.

Don't you hate when this happens?
Hello faithful readers. I have an exercise for you.
  1. Go to your local supermarket.
  2. Make a guess as to the area (number of families) that your supermarket serves. Got that number in your head? Good.
  3. Now, have a look at the Hallowe'en candy display that is there and try and guess at how many POUNDS of candy are there (guessing that the average package is about a pound - never mind the Costco-sized six pound bags)
  4. Estimate that this display has been up for about two weeks already and may have been refilled once, so double the number that you have from step three.
  5. Double the number from step four, because there's still more than four weeks until Hallowe'en. The display may be refilled twice more before the fateful day.
  6. Factor in that the supermarket only supplies about half the total amount of candy that goes out. Big box stores (Walmart, department stores) sell this stuff, too. Double your already-big number again.
  7. Now, divide the total tonnage of candy by the number of families (no wait - the number of kids of trick-or-treating age - I'm guessing two per household)

Is it just me, or does that still seem like a lot of freaking candy for one kid? I'm guessing that each kid can expect about 5 pounds of candy in one night.

There is *no way* I'm gonna let my kids eat that much junk at one time.

I'm gonna help 'em.

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Today my family is abandoning me to go to Banff for a running race. I have the whole day to myself. A day to do anything I want. The sky is the limit, with no schedule to follow, tasks to be performed or obligations to be fulfilled.

You know what? I don't know what the heck to do.
The Infinite Resonance theory states that any sound made does not stop, but just becomes more and more muddled and intertwined with other sounds, echoing on forever until they become indistingushable from the white noise. Following this theory, the moving speeches of Julius Caesar and Abraham Lincoln could still be faintly heard if we had instruments sensitive enough to detect them.

It's not that far a stretch of reasoning that sounds (and perhaps sights and other perceptions) of times gone by and times to come are floating around above and below the plane of what we consider conciousness.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, eh?!?

Thursday, September 26, 2002

"Bring Your Robotic Dog To School" Day was a big success.

Gearbox visited Banana's Grade 5 class for the last 10 minutes. Not wanting the visit to be just a "cool toy" show, I started by talking with the class about what computers are, how people provide information (input) into a computer and how they get results (output) from the computer. Prior to coming into class, I had disassembled Gearbox down to the core, legs arm and tail unit. After discussing computers and how they get input and give output, I discussed how humans (as computers) get input from our senses and we process them and act (give output) on the results. I then brought out one of Gearbox's legs and drew parallels to the sensors on Gearbox's feet and human's sense of touch. I discussed Gearbox's ability to see, hear and have balance, then compared it to our (human's) much keener (but basically the same) senses, all while assembling Gearbox's legs, tail and head. With Gearbox back together, Banana took over the show and gave him some commands, let him chase and kick his ball and let the other kids touch and (c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y) pick him up. Gearbox ended up staying and doing tricks for twenty minutes after the last bell. I talked to one parent who was truly interested in robotics, discussing where I had gotten Gearbox and what I planned to do with him.

What fun.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

I'm five years old and it's just after lunchtime at my daycare, an old church basement in north Edmonton. The main area that we use is a big hall, with junior-sized tables and chairs, easels and toys. There are cupboards along one wall that hold craft supplies, paper, Dr. Seuss books, paint brushes, plastic containers of Tempura paint and other rainy day activity goodies. There are boys and girls' washrooms with shiny, smooth tiles on the floor, running up the wall past where I can reach. Most mornings when I get dropped off, it is still dark out. The drowsiness and the florescent lights combine to make everyone and everything look faded and grayish-blue.

The church has a middle-aged feel to it that makes it a little bit creepy. On nice days, the daycare teacher takes us for morning walks. Mrs. Friedel has a rope that we all have to hang onto when we go anywhere outside of the building. She is a thin, wiry Germanic woman with dark, drawn-back hair and kind words delivered in a firm voice. Years have taught her how to handle young children - polite and direct, gentle reminders to their tasks, a touch on the shoulder before speaking to them to ensure that she has their attention. No backtalk allowed.

The daycare isn't the most expensive in the area. Mom and dad are just struggling to make ends meet these days. The fact that both of them must work means that they had to find a good place for me during the day. So, they bring me here with all the other children of blue collar workers, then they go off to make a living. They have no reason for concern about my welfare in this place.

It's after lunch now and we are getting ready to have afternoon naps. There are exercise mats that double as sleeping pads for us. The mats are brought out of a musty back storage room and placed in neat rows. We are sent to retrieve our blankets from our shelves above our coathooks - this early afternoon siesta is a regular thing. Naptime is as much a break for the caretakers as it is for the children - a forced lull in the non-stop bombardment of sensations of a child's daytime hours.

I'm older than most of the other kids. I don't like naptime now. I find myself awake in the artificial darkness of the empty, echoing hall. As I lay on my mat, my eyes adjust to the reduced reddish light of the emergency exit signs. Beneath the low hum of some unseen florescent ballast, I often hear other kids rustling and moving and I want to whisper to them, but I'm too scared of a stern word should Mrs. Friedel find me awake. I see her silhouette in the corner with reading light, nose buried in a paperback novel. Nap time seems to take forever.

Today, as I am laying on my mat, there's a knock at the double doors that are the entrance to the basement. The children that are still awake hear Mrs. Friedel get up out of her chair. I turn to look at who it could be at the door. The door is opened slightly to contain the incandescence of the foyer. She whispers to someone outside, then quietly closes the door and picks her way though the napping bodies in the dim light and walks over to me.

"Someone's here for you," she whispers, and tells me to go quietly and get my coat from my hook. I come back to the door and find my aunt there. She is waiting in the vestibule with my cousin who is just 4 months older than me.

"I have a surprise for you," my aunt says. That's the last thing I remember before I find myself in another darkened room, this time my eyes wide open, fixed upon a theatre screen. She had come to rescue me from naptime by taking me to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks at the Paramount theatre.

It was an absolutely wonderful treat that I remember to this day.


I tell you this story because today, I had an opportunity to be at the other end of this story.

Banana phoned me to let me know that she couldn't find her lunch in her backpack. I told her that I *may* have put it in her sister's bag. I asked her to check with her sister and call me if it wasn't there. Three minutes later, my mobile phone rings again. It's Banana. Her sister ate both sandwiches.

Hmmm. Silently, I size up the situation, then I tell her to meet me at the front door of the school in 30 minutes.

When I showed up half an hour later with chicken strips, french fries and a chocolate milkshake, the smile I got was worth a whole days' pay. I felt like a real hero.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

Holding a garage sale isn't as much fun as shopping at one.

Lots of junk is gone. I have a little more money in my pocket. I am plenty tired and have one less day of my weekend.


Friday, September 20, 2002

These past few days I've been blogsessing. Blogsessing (similar to obsessing) is where you check a blog more than once a day. Don't worry, it's not one particular blog - it's all of them. Believe me, I have better things to do.

This weekend I am getting rid of some junk by holding a garage sale. Garage sales bring out the most interesting characters. The single parents; the new immigrants; the 40-something DINKs looking for antiques; the crazy collectors ("you got any Olympic trading pins?"); I enjoy and detest them all at once. From my last sale (a year ago) i noticed that few University-type students tend to make the rounds in my neighborhood, which is a surprise, considering I'm so close to a University campus. I'll be happy to get rid this junk. I have to admit that I love to haggle and deal with the shoppers. Especially when I really don't want to keep anything. Whatever doesn't get bought gets thrown out on Sunday.

Feel free to drop by and buy some crap.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I'll tell you what's wrong - the urinals are too close together. This is the setup in the washroom in our building. If you come into the washroom and find one guy standing there, you pretty much have to lock arms with him in order to do what you gotta do. I usually wait politely or use one of the toilet cubicles.

Our office building is really nice and I have very few other concerns, but this one is a pet peeve (phobia? neurosis?) of mine. Our office is located on the same floor (and thus, use the same washrooms) as the building management company. Is it any wonder that the design flaw has gone unnoticed? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that all the staff at the building management office (including the manager) are women. The maintenance and security guys must be too meek to mention it.

Has anyone else run into personal space issues in a public washroom or is it just me?

Need a quote? Good luck finding anything specific, but the site is still fun to browse through.

This site is a good reason to have a web browser that you could read while sitting on the toilet.

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

Ho ho ho. A Mac G3 (computer) that had been causing me grief for some time has been put in good order again. Won't it's owner be pleased.

Hmmm, yes, pleased, hmmmm ....

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

How old do you have to be before you're old?

My grandfather was the most stereotypical of grandfathers. He lived on an acreage outside of a small town in rural Alberta. He had become a gentleman farmer on the corner of a 1/4 section of land. He had a big dog that lived outside all year, lots of cats that came and went from the yard and a ride-on tractor-style lawnmower. He had been in World War II, had worked as a carpenter and was always out tinkering in his garage on some woodworking project. He liked to play cribbage and drink rye and Seven, but not until the late afternoon. Hanging out at his farm was always fun, he always enjoyed seeing us and he always had Lifesavers for us grandkids. That made him a fantastic grandfather.

And he was old.

How did I know this? Well, it was the way he wore his pants. Hiked up, over his slightly rounded tummy, well above his bellybutton and love handles. Yeah, he was mostly bald, had liver spots and wheezed when he bent over to pick something up, but the pants were the dead giveaway. The pants were dress pants, made of hard-wearing permanent press material. They were held up by a belt, although I sometimes remember suspenders. They might be covered in sawdust by late afternoon or evening, but I'm sure they always started out every day clean and pressed, fresh from a hanger in from his closet.

So although I'm not a grandpa like him, I'm sure my turn at being old is coming. My question is, when should I start wearing my pants up high like that?

Presently, I wear my pants at the same spot that I have since my teen years - with my belt just around the front hip bone (anterior superior iliac spine, for you anatomically-knowledgeable types). My stomach is a little more pronounced than it has been in the past, and I fear that the situation (despite my best efforts) is only going to get worse. Sometime between now and death I'll choose to have pants like that, but right now I just can't bring myself to hike up my beltline to nerdsville. I can't even bear the thought of starting to raise it up.

Rasing it up brings to light another question - should I make the move up the torso all at once, or should it be a gradual thing so friends and coworkers aren't as apt to notice?

I greatly prefer the belly-covering style to the alternative - having a belly that hangs over a forward-sloping beltline. You know the style, where the belt buckle hides nicely in the fold between beergut and pubic area. Heard enough? I've visualized enough, too. I'm not a big fan of the hip huggers that are popular right now, either. Even skinny people look odd with their hipbones and natural roundness of their abdomen exposed.

I've seen other parents that are *older* than me - other parents with teenage and young adult children - but none of them have made the switch to high-ridin' polyester yet. Maybe it's a generational thing. Perhaps my mid-waist denims will be on me until I die. Perhaps my grandkids (and other young whipper-snappers) will guffaw at my Levi's and Bluenotes. I just hope that it happens so gradually that it's not too big a shock.

Monday, September 16, 2002

There's nothing like penning an e-mail to an old friend that you haven't talked to in years, catching him up on what you're doing, what has happened, how everybody is ....

Hang on a sec - isn't that what my blog is for? I guess I should send him the URL, too. Better fire up Eudora again ....
Today, I had a craving for nacho chips and chili. Guess what I had for lunch?

"Damn the frozen Wonton soup, Mr. Sulu. Get us down to that expensive little grocery store at the bottom of the office building, warp factor five!"

What a hedonist.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Ok, now I'm really finished building the deck - pretty much. The stairs and all railings are built. Lights have been installed to add an evening ambiance. The electrical lines that used to dangle just inches above our heads are now well out of reach on a professionally installed (and bloody expensive) mast protruding from the roof. I posted some new photos - numbers 24 - 26 are of the finished product.

Now, all that needs to be done is to christen it with a good party. Weather permitting, that'll happen shortly.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

Jump to image if you click

Aibo's having a great time at our place. Jenn has accepted having the thing around and the kids LOVE it. I am trying to find time to enjoy it, although I think the cold and rainy days are going to be the only time I get to Aibo (who has now accepted the name "Gearbox").

The Aibos (from what I've seen) are cool enough but aren't really intelligent - you just program them by making changes to a standard memory stick (a proprietary type of RAM that Sony has come up with). There does seem to be an amount of randomness - they don't always respond to voice commands. I have found that I can view the results of Gearbox's "learning" through some shareware software and a memory stick reader.

I'm still very impressed with what Sony has been able to do with such a small unit. Having enough sensors and input to locomote and do simple voice recognition is pretty spectacular. I know that I'll enjoy learning about robotics as I play with Gearbox more and more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

I know that I've been working in the downtown core too long when I find myself walking through a building and nonchalantly striding towards a set of glass doors, then coming to an abrupt halt inches from the door, very nonplussed that the doors didn't automatically open via some unseen sensor operating a power door opener. This happened to me today.

You'd think it would have taken longer to become so lazy that you don't mind opening doors yourself.

I have to admit that one of the most fun parts of the trip from my car to the office is walking through a double set of sliding glass doors. I feel just like Maxwell Smart in a campy '60s TV show.
One year ago today, I was standing in the hallway outside my daughter's bedrooms, trying to rouse them for school when I heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York. The news came over the radio. They didn't even cut into the song - they just waited until the end of the song then made the statement of what had happened and said that they would provide more details as they became available.

I remember thinking that this was probably just the beginning of an all-out attack on the US, and we were going to see a full-blown war. has done an interesting article today, comprised of people's letters to the magazine revealing secret, non-politically correct thoughts regarding the incident. I too, was somewhat looking forward to having the US be part of solving the MiddleEast Problem, something that they've greatly exacerbated by their involvement. The general population still haven't got a clue why they were attacked, just that they were.

I'm still waiting for the other shoe to fall and the Taliban to strike again. When they do, the average American may realize that swatting one fly doesn't change the reason that the fly came near you in the first place.

Monday, September 09, 2002

Tonight, for the first time in a long time, I was swimming in the same lane as The Torpedo, and it has already begun to wear on me. It's not because he's faster than me - I can handle that. It's the brash way that he just *is* that gets my goat.

This evening, we were doing moderately hard sets that are meant to slowly bring us up to a good fitness level. I was directed into the same lane as The Torpedo and one of the Two Broads as we started our first set (it made sense, as we are some of the faster ones in the group). As he is in better swimming shape, he was motoring by me for the whole set. I was working hard to keep on the pace that he set (I would leave a standard 5 seconds behind him, fall 5 seconds behind him for 150 meters, then take 20 seconds rest, then repeat eight times). By the end of the eighth, I was pretty tired. It is customary to wait for the last person in the lane to finish the set, then take a respectable 30 to 60 seconds rest before starting on the next set. Otherwise, the last finisher in the group (the one who probably needs the rest the most) can catch their breath and become aware of what the next set is.

The Torpedo totally ignores this common courtesy and hammers right into the next set, leaving Wendy and I gasping for breath trying to keep up. How rude. If you have to pass during a set, then pass. But you should wait for your other teammates at the end of a set or just do your own damn workout in your own damn lane, during a different freaking hour.

Although he's the best swimmer in the group, I don't see him as any kind of leader. In fact, I find it discouraging and demoralizing to swim in the same lane as him. I wish he'd just stay away from practice.
Having the urge to write and having the time to write are two different things entirely.

Sunday, September 08, 2002

Being busy is difficult at the time, but a blessing in retrospect.

This weekend was filled with friends and relatives coming and going at the Collins House, the whole while holding up the slate of scheduled activities (door installation, laundry, Aibo training and other mundane tasks). Jenn's parents, my family, and some of Banana and McMonk's friends stopped by. Our neighbors (Mr. G and the Serial Talker) both spent some time hanging over the fence. I found myself getting frustrated at the hullabaloo that was swirling around me. I had all this stuff to get done and these people were hanging around. What gives?

Then, it occurred to me that that the Collins House is becoming a great place to hang out.

I kinda like that. I guess I'll have lots of quiet time once my kids are moved out and all my friends and relatives die off.
... and now, the doors are done. We're so close to being finished, it's hardly funny.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

I saw a press release that a german music conglomerate has abandoned plans to purchase what's left of Napster. It prompted me to see if the napster site was still around. When I typed the URL into my browser, all that came up was a black page with this simple graphic in the dead centre.

A tombstone, appropriately cool, left as a last defiant act, a middle finger raised in the face of business executives everywhere. Yes, they were here and they changed how we electronically acquire and share music. In my mind, they will always be the leaders.

Thanks, guys, for giving the music industry a kick in the pants.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

A nuther hopeful job applicant

Geek and Co. has received its SECOND unsolicited job application.

What's going on? Is someone putting up posters somewhere?

Well, I finally done it. I'm now an Aibo owner.

There I was, minding my own business on eBay, when suddenly my lowball bid is at the top of the pile and I'm a successful bidder.

Now what to do? Jenn has poignantly reminded me that I have a finite amount of time, some of which is taken up with sleeping, work, chores and family responsibilities. When am I going to learn about and play with this fun little guy (oh gawd, I'm thinking of it as a live creature terms already).

I'll just have to fit it in somehow. Heh heh.


Swim team starts tomorrow, and I can't say I'll be sorry to start training again. Personal goals have been set - we're approaching the swim team with the attitude that these goals will be met by the end of the season. The Torpedo and the Two Broads should be back this year (along with a whole fresh cast, I'm sure) to make the whole experience entertaining. I can't wait.

We'll see if my muscles are singing that same song tomorrow at this time.
For today's delicous pun you'll have to go to the caption on this photo.
Back again at work, with the keyboard under my hands and a nice, full "In" basket. I feel needed here.

Monday, September 02, 2002

An infinite number of monkeys working with an infinite number of power tools with a finite supply of lumber and two months will eventually produce a deck.

And that's just what happened. It's 90% finished.

Next, we install the double-opening doors into the gaping hole in the dining room wall. After that, we party.
Our children have already begun to discipline us.

This morning, as Jenn sat outside on the deck enjoying a freshly reheated cup of coffee, McMonkey came outside and stood in front of her.

"Mom, do you know what time it is?" she asked sweetly.

Jenn replied, " No sweetie, what time is it?"

In her best drill sargeant voice she barked out, "It's 55. You FORGOT to clear your leftover time on the microwave!" and then stomped away. This is obviously a pet peeve of McMonk's. It's nice to know your not the only one with things like that.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Why oh why oh why did I check my work e-mail?
Still in Halifax. Lotsa pictures. all I need is a little time to post them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Tidal bore, Historic Properties, Busker's Festival, mud flats, lawn parties, morning walks, sandy beaches, antique shops, country roads with no shoulders.

Hope everything's fine with you.
When you meet people on vacation, phone numbers and e-mail addresses are sometimes exchanged. When you get back to your world and they to theirs, what do you have to say?

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

I'm reading Joe DiMaggio's life story right now. What a fasinating look at American life in the '30s.

Friday, August 16, 2002

I'm living in a night owl's worst nightmare - having bed time moved a few hours earlier by merely traversing a few timezones.


Other than having everyone else (except McMonkey, of course) drop off 3 hours ago, we are having a wonderful time in Lower Sackville. The whole family is soaking up the East Coast hospitality. I am especially enjoying sitting on the front lawn of Joanne and Steve's house (Jenn's school buddies), having the neighbors wander over, one by one with their camp chairs and supply of their favorite drink, and then watch as all the kids on the street run loose, keeping each other busy with games of flashlight tag and hackysack. The cul-de-sac where Joanne and Steve live has grown into a safe and comfortable haven with lots of kids that have known each other since before they could walk. The big kids keep an eye on the younger ones and don't seem to feel put upon by the task.

In a situation such as this, where you can sit and converse (and man, can Nova Scotians converse!) with friendly people and feel that your kids are perfectly safe and well-entertained, you can't help but relax. I feel the stress of parenting just melting away.

All this and a high-speed Internet connection. How could things get any better?

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Tomorrow, I head off for Nova Scotia for a few weeks. I'll be blogging as time and and convenience permit.

I am in need of a break from Calgary. So much has happened since the last vacation - phew!

Monday, August 12, 2002

I'm still trying to keep my Ivory Coast scam artist busy.
Banana's audition was quick and painless. She was a nervous wreck right before it, though. I didn't get to go into the audition room. I waited patiently for the audition to start (over an hour late) while Banana played and goofed around with her drama camp buddies. When her name finally came up, she went in, did her reading, then came out. They told us that we might hear back if we are interested, and that it *might* be right away or it might be in several weeks.

"Well? WELL? How did it go?" I enquired. She replied with all the detail and enthusiasm typical of any pre-adult.

"Oh, OK."

Sunday, August 11, 2002

Even though it rained quite a bit this weekend, I accomplished a lot.

Friday, August 09, 2002

This evening, I fell into a time warp.

I was eleven years old, sitting on the patio with my parents and our cross-the-street neighbors from Sherwood Park. Our neighbors hadn't changed and suddenly, all the changing my parents have done in the past twenty-five years vanished, too. I was there, sitting on a plastic lawnchair in the fading heat of the early evening, hearing the conversations that had aged but didn't differ, feeling like I was someone else. When I say that everyone was exactly as I remembered, it was true, but now I picked up something new. I saw subtileties and nuances in relationships and personalties that were probably there in the past but went undetected by a child. I'm still reeling from the whole thing.

To say I was uncomfortable isn't true. I like my old neighbors. I always found them kind and caring. It was just something about their presence that caused the dynamics between us all to digress by at least twenty years. It was an enveloping field - as tactile as the atmosphere of a red-carpeted, old, wood-paneled library, with its smell of musty books and decades-old pipe smoke lingering in the 12 foot ceilings. The situation felt very surreal. Thinking about it now and how I felt makes me realize that I have some issues that I still have to deal with regarding my youth. I don't know if I want (right now) to deal with them, though.

We don't really change, do we? The world changes around us, older people die and younger people grow up to fill in the gaps which gives the illusion of change, but really, we are as we were made. Time just goes by and we learn more about the intricacies of each other.

Diplomacy is a tool most skillfully handled by the mature.

And for some reason, realizing all this makes me very melancholy tonight.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Hey, at 1:43 pm today, *somebody* from just typed the phrase "strange relationships" into the Google search engine and came up with a blog entry on my site. Who'da thunk that that phrase, hidden somewhere in a past entry, would be interesting enough to someone at the Playboy domain to make them visit my site?

Who knows ... maybe I'm gonna be referenced in an upcoming article.

Now that I think about it, having that phrase in this entry means that it will register twice in Google's database, meaning that I'll most likely get a higher ranking on that search term, making me even more interesting to visit.

Holy recursiveness, Batman.
As I continue to work on the deck, I’m learning all about self-mutilation and my pain threshold. My right hand is taking the brunt of the punishment, as my left is usually the one that holds the power tool. I’ve hammered my index finger knuckle and finger, my thumb, taken chucks of flesh out of the palm of my hand and last night I used a Robertson #2 drill bit to pierce the pad on my palm. It’s kind of swollen today and quite sore.

It will all be worth it in the end – I am very happy with the look of my work, although not as happy with the speed of progress.
There's nothing better at work than unexpected free food.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Banana's at drama camp today, but I bet she's feeling more like an actress than a camper.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

This week, Banana and McMonk are taking part in a kids drama camp at a local repertory theatre. Out of the blue, one of the leaders phoned our house to see of Banana would be interested in auditioning for a part in a movie that's being filmed here in Calgary. The film sounds like a low budget (but reputable) production. The part she is reading for would be one of the main characters in the film. We had a quick family conference this evening and decided she could do it.

Banana's trying to be cool about it, but I can tell that she's excited. I'm a little nervous where this might lead if she's successful.

We're going to play this game one step at a time.
Some goofy games are going on in our industry right now as the 500-pound gorilla decides where its going to sit, what it's going to eat and whether or not its going to crap on all the bananas so the rest of us can't eat peacefully.
Sony has released development tools for Open-R, the Aibo programming language. Having these means that you can program actions (and perhaps behaviors?) for an Aibo. Now all I need is an Aibo.

This is the closest I've ever been to wanting to be a coder.

Sunday, August 04, 2002

I took some time to visit the local Sony store this Friday. Sony is getting into the MP3 market with a gadget that looks sexy but is doomed to fail. Their MP3 player is called the Network Walkman. It uses their relatively useful technology of Memory Sticks to load and transfer music from computer to device, but they are starting to use a form of hardware copy protection called MagicGate. It limits the number if times you can convert your CD into MP3s. This little hinderance, along with Sony's 35% premium for the Sony brand name, will ensure that no one in their right mind will buy this device or buy into their new memory stick concept.

Saturday, August 03, 2002

More deck pictures. We've got seat frames now.
I have been having freaky dreams lately involving travelling short distances (like across a city) with difficult obstacles, such as a lake or unnavigatable mazes.

Last night I was in the east end Edmonton, trying to lead my children out of a low-rent condo project that backed onto a big lake. The wooden stairs (which were painted a grayish blue) were rickety and in need of repair. For some reason, I had left the kids there to be cared for and they were pretty much under their own recognizance when I got there. I wanted to get them home to change their clothes and shower as I wasn't sure how clean they were after being in the run-down place. I remember trying to find a boat that was seaworthy enough to take us to the other side of the lake (where the highway was and our car awaited us). While I was looking, the kids went off to play and I had a hard time getting children and boat together.

I have no idea where Jenn was during all this.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

My financial worries are going to fade into the background once Kenneth and I work out the details of my trip to the unstable African country of Sierra Leone to pick up my million bucks.

Whoo hoo!

Now, where did I put my underarm gun holsters?
Yes, I did make an entry today, albeit a short one.

Because I'm busy building, that's why. See for yourself.

I had a few buddies over giving me a hand yesterday - it's amazing how much faster it goes when you have two or three people working on the project. Next thing you know, we'll be taking out the plate glass window and putting in the french doors.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

I now have 104 zinc-coated steel rods to use for railing spindles.
So here I am, working really, really late, trying to get a new device to work on our company server. I can't get this stupid thing to work or even show up on the server. I am on the new device's company website, digging through the twenty-or-so boring, gobbledy-gook-filled technical specifications when I hit something of note on a document entitled, "Explaining Low Voltage Differential (LVD) and High Voltage Differential (HVD) SCSI - A note of CAUTION for users of SCSI devices". My curiousity is piqued. Reading on, I find the following:

If a LVD CD-ROM or tape drive <type of item I have>
is connected to a differential host adapter <thing that
I am trying to install>, irreparable damage
can be done to either or both devices.

When you're working on a computer system that your company relies on, there's nothing better to get the blood pumping.

To any of my coworkers that might find this alarming - everything ended up OK. Your data is right where you left it on Friday. That's why I do backups.
In case you're wondering, I'm right here.

So are you.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

My deck (well,OK, the family deck ... but I doing most of it!) is progressing nicely. After waiting all week for a good chance to work on it, I left the office at the end of my work week right on time, Fred Flinstone-style, jumped into my car and raced home, only to be greeted ten blocks from my house by a RAINSTORM! Crap! Power tools in the rain is just a bad idea, so I've had to sit inside and stare out the window at my soaking joists, puppy-dog style, for all of Friday.

I did get up early today and get the posts and bench supports in place. Perhaps tomorrow, some seats and decking!


One of the nice things about working outside is that I have time for my mind to wander and chew on all that has transpired over the past week.

Our little company is doing well - those efficient business minds are doing what they need to do and coming up with new ways to make good use of our investment, and hopefully turn our positions there into hobbies. Efforts are made to include me (which I appreciate), but most of teh time I feel that I just want to make things run for everyone. My job is more about providing things that work and fulfilling needs that others have. By seeing what goes on in these meetings I can be proactive and anticipate the company's needs. I don't always have information to contribute. I certainly do try to chime in, though.


My friendly neighbor, Mr. G., does a lot of entertaining for a 78 year old. He quite often has company over for a visit and I'm envious of all the traffic in and out of his house. He says that it keeps his mind busy and he needs that as a widower.

As a child, I remember relatives and friends dropping by our house for casual visits. This could be an afternoon or evening thing, and usually they were on little or short notice. I've noticed that the only people that ever just "drop by" are those of my parent's generation. I'm not sure if it is a generational thing, a socio-economic thing (I think I've changed economic groups since establishing my own family), a geographical thing (I'm living in Calgary instead of Edmonton, where I grew up) or just that society has changed. Perhaps all of our lifestyles have changed to the point that most people doubt that they would find a friend at home when they drop by for a chance visit.

When's the last time *you* dropped in on someone with little or no notice?