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.