12.19.2006

Ear In Their Music

I love the lyrics to Joanna Newsom's Peach, Plum, Pear. She's a harpist that plays folk music (I've seen this new wave of folk called psych-folk and nu-folk but I am partial to the snarky term I read somewhere: freak-folk). In any case, I love the words here.

We speak in the store
I'm a sensitive bore
and you're markedly more
and I'm oozing surprise

But it's late in the day
and you're well on your way
what was golden went gray
and I'm suddenly shy

And the gathering floozies
afford to be choosy
and all sneezing darkly
in the dimming divide

I have read the right books
to interpret your looks
you were knocking me down
with the palm of your eye

This was unlike the story
it was written to be
I was riding its back
when it used to ride me

We were galloping manic
to the mouth of the source
we were swallowing panic
in the face of its force

I was blue and unwell,
made me bolt like a horse.

Now it's done.
Watch it go.
You've changed some.
Water run from the snow.

Am I so dear?
Do I run rare?
You've changed some:
peach, plum, pear.


The song makes my neurons summon the memory of Hayden's The Hazards of Sitting Beneath Palm Trees

With your summer hat and smile
You came here to leave there
And as the sun stained your legs and your arms
The men arrive with their one-track minds
You like that they're there when they ask you the time
They say what they do, and they'll do what you say
And they'll tell you some lies if you let them . . . stay

And you laugh, but not too hard
And you look, but not too far
Your eyes drift across the beach
And just before you reach me, he speaks
His face is red, and he's talking to breeze
You get up to leave as the sun hits the trees
And you jump in the water with him at . . . your feet

And I laugh, but not too hard
And I look, but not too far


I any case, I stumbled across "Peach, Plum, Pear" when I saw this list of covers at torontoist. In the list, there was a youtube video of Final Fantasy (While ostensibly the name of the band, the only public member is Owen Pallett, who has made life difficult for himself on the internet with that pseudonym) covering the song. His version just blew me away. I've been reading a lot of hype on Mr. FF (for funky fresh?) and was ready to dismiss him out of hand but I'm very glad I didn't.


All of that, however, was the preamble to the post I've been meaning to make for some time now. Here are some Canadian songs you're unlikely to have heard. I've made them available to download. Not sure how long I'll keep it up there. Typically, I hear these songs once somewhere, obsess about them and then hunt them down.

This is probably the song you're most likely to have heard. They played the hell out of the video on MuchMusic. Clash of the Titans by Free Agents (ft.DJ Kemo). Great B-boy music. The sound quality for this track is awful, though. I'm still looking for a better file.

Next most likely is Letting Time Pass by the New Meanies. Leaving aside their terrible band name, the song was a Top 10 hit here in Canada, but I don't think anyone really noticed.

Masia One's Split Second Time has a nice track to rhyme against and she does a good job with it.

Where I'm Going is great driving music. Melanie Durrant (and band) made a video with a rapping muppet lion that ruined the song; this track does not have that abomination.

How Ya Like Me Now shares a title with a decent Kool Moe Dee track but DJ kinetic lives up to the titular hype.

The band is called Falconhawk and the song is called Olympia. I can never remember which one is which but I likes it anyways.

Finally, Spookey Reuben, he of early MuchMusic fame, has a double album out and I think my fave track is Suddenly The Sun. Not too sure yet.

STEAL! (23 MB)

11.09.2006

Upside Down

The last while has been very tumultuous. We've been in the process of finding a place and selling our own for a while now and it looks like the end is in sight. We found the place we wanted, sold our own and are now going through legal hoops to finish it all.

The problem is we had to sell ours Nov 24. We buy on Dec 1 but don't take possession until Dec 7. So there's a gap there of 2 weeks where we have no home. My mom has graciously allowed us to live with her and she does have the space for it so I'm moving back in with my mom! And since we're going to be there anyways we decided to take an extra week before moving in to do repairs, paint, etc. without having to work around all our stuff. We don't think we'll be in until the 16th of December.

Busy, busy, busy...

Oh, and I've decided to finish the first book. I think it's a fun little number and it deserves a fair shake.

10.16.2006

Book End

So I've been busy cleaning our condo for sale and looking at new houses. This has provoked all sorts of heated discussions in the household. We're both stressed and tired and our patience is mostly used by the energy-vortex known as our son.

Against this backdrop, I'm undergoing an internal debate. I got my expected rejection letter for my novel. Now, this is a single letter from a pretty big house. So while I knew it was a long shot, I always feel long shots are worth taking. Here's the problem: I have only fully revised 6 of the 18 chapters of this book. A big part of the appeal was that the long shot only needed the first 3 chapters completed.

So what do I do? To proceed, I will definitely need the full 18 chapters revised and polished. So that's 12 chapters of revision. I estimate that I can do it by Dec 31, 2007. But is it a good idea? I can spend that year getting my second novel (one that I hope is one-novel's-experience better) in shape. Do I push forward finishing the first one which may not actually be publishable (which seems likely to me) or do I give it some credit and see if I can find it a home? I am very much leaning towards finishing the damn thing so I can at least get some closure for myself.

Ah, the troubles of an over-privileged fool...

10.03.2006

Terrifying

I went away for 6 days and came back to find a little boy in my house. Whither went the baby?

9.03.2006

All Apologies

What is wrong with me?

I am so ashamed.

I know I have pretty trashy taste in music but it never really bothered me because I like what I like. I can't help it. I don't really analyse the music I hear unless I hear a song that demands my attention. I usually just listen distractedly and bop along to the rhythm (sadly, I am also missing the gene that codes for rhythm).

In any case, I've hit a new low. I am very into Hilary Duff's Play With Fire. What is wrong with me?? It sounds like it could be a James Bond tune, maybe it's just the video. Perhaps it's intentionally made that way. The bridge is actually kinda awful, but the chorus... I... like... it...

I realise you could plug any pop starlet's voice into this song. It's not the Duffster's appeal that does it for me (or lack thereof; she is channeling some Sheryl Crow in the video, whom I would, in fact, kick out of the bed). Whoever wrote this ditty (I believe it's Rhett Lawrence), hit the right spot and forged my guiltiest pleasure in deepest bowel of hell.

I apologise.

9.01.2006

Open Authority

I've been thinking about parenting and authority of late.

Ben has started pitching fits when he doesn't get his own way. The worst is when he wants to be carried around as I kick a ball around the house. He is obsessed with it for whatever reason. I used to do it when he couldn't walk so I guess he's just used to that being the way things are done. But his appetite for it is insatiable, so much so that when I stop, as I inevitably must at some point, he goes ballistic. He will shriek, cry, kneel on the floor and touch his forehead to the floor, stamp his feet (which is actually kinda cute because it's almost a cliché; but I guess it's a cliché for a reason), throw objects and so on.

My thoughts turn to the age when I have to explain reasons for my decisions. Whether or not too much explaination undermines my authority, especially at a young age. The "because I said so" card is tricky to play. Abuse of it can become habitual but you also don't want to sound like your negotiating with your child. But as they age, you have to slowly delegate responsibility to them, let them learn to handle it and make their own mistakes or they end up too coddled and stunted, too unprepared for their own lives. Also, they are able to understand your reasons as they get older. Not necessarily agree with them but insight into rationale is at least useful and verbalizing it might serve as a check against sloppy, lazy and mindless parenting. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Perhaps this age never appears. Perhaps parenting will end up being nothing more than drawing lines in the sand over and over again. That's a sad thought.

In any case, my train of thought took me to the openness of a government, about how an open government is the only true check against tyranny. I frankly despair about the situation in the US where the executive branch is overextending its power, the legislative branch fell asleep at the wheel and the judicial branch is painted as "activist" when exercising its function as a check. It feels as though one of the most open governments in the world is slowly pulling down its blinds.

A parent saying "because I said so" is one thing but when your government is saying it, it's an entirely different matter.

8.19.2006

Life Lube

A wise man that I know, Simon, introduced me to http://www.lifehacker.com, which was moderately useful. Another cool site is http://www.tradetricks.org/. There's some useless info in there but some real gems, too.

Anyways, I figured I'd post a few of my lifehacks. By all means, feel free to do the same. I love this kind of information. Perhaps you might find these obvious but they certainly weren't to me. I wish I'd known these earlier than I did.

- Adding salt to boiling pasta helps to prevent it from sticking.
- The switch on the rear-view mirror that protects your eyes from people with high-beams can be used to toggle between seeing out the back window and looking at your child in the back seat.
- When leaving a voice message for a friend, I always start with my name, the day and time. I don't know how helpful this is but I know I'd find that info helpful right off the top and I hate to mess around in the voicemail menu.
- I remember writing here about getting a human to help instead of those automated voice systems. I recommended reporting whatever you're trying to get help with stolen (credit card, cell phone). But that's not always an option. The better plan is to keep pressing buttons for options that don't exist. You will usually get forwarded to a human because the system thinks you're incapable of following instructions.
- Even though it's something you usually see on TV, one actually can bribe the bouncer, if you really need to.

These two are just plugs for websites but they're so useful, I figured I'd mention them:

- If you ever need to buy any electronics cable of any sort, use monoprice.com. It's not even close. Even with shipping included for a single cable, they beat the pants off any other place I've found. I always stared at cables in the store and thought to myself, this cable shouldn't cost more then 3$. I was right! Man, I almost cried with joy the day I found that website.
- I was looking at digital cameras because I thought ours had broken (turns out the batteries just died. Whoops! That seems to be my kryptonite when it comes to cameras.) I found one I liked at dpreview.com (another great site). I checked it out at Future Shop, then I checked it out at newegg.com. It was almost 1/3 cheaper. That's just plain dumb.

This one is just plain geeky:

- Hold out your arm as far as you can and give the "thumb's up" sign. Close the eye opposite to the thumb. The width of your thumb is very close to 0.5 degrees of angular size, the same as the moon and the sun in our sky.

I'll update this post as I think of more...

8.17.2006

Invitation

I'm opening up meanderingly.com to new users. I figure that even though I don't have the time to contribute regularly, it shouldn't just sit there. I definitely do not want to open it up to the public, though. I'd like to not have to fight wiki-spam on a daily basis.

If you're interested in contributing to the site, send me an email with your requested username. I'll send you your account information. Writing for a wiki is dead simple. You don't need any grand computer skills. There's no schedule or deadline or requirements. Just that users add to the site whenever they feel inspired, no detail too small or too large.

7.28.2006

Abandoned

I mentioned I was trying to hammer away at a blog post but I've given up on it. It supposed to be some meditation on the 15th and 19th US amendments (race and gender suffrage) that was interspersed with thoughts on homeostasis and equilibrium in social movements. But then I realised that I'm not in college anymore and without the grade of Damocles over my head, I don't actually have the energy to write that stuff anymore. Hell, I don't even have the energy to avoid the word "stuff" at this point.

I still find it interesting and my thoughts on the matter are a little more organised but putting it clearly and entertainingly into words are not in the bag. Why?

Chapter One of a second book is complete. No, it's not a sequel to the first book. It's only 1300 words but it still counts and it has space to go up to about 2000 words. Anyways, the first steps are always the hardest. I should be done in time for Ben to read it to me.

Because my eyes will have failed me...

So fair warning, this blog will slow down even further than the crawl it had already died down to.

7.10.2006

We're Getting Pretty Abstract Here

My insurance company just offered me a plan that would cover all my insurance premiums in case of accident or disability. Great, insurance for my insurance: meta-insurance.

7.06.2006

Accept This Substitute

I've been hammering away at a draft blog post for a couple days now but I'm only just beginning to realise that I have no clue what I'm trying to say. So, while I sort my brain out, please accept these two CBC links to two cool Canadian blogs:


Inside the CBC:
http://www.insidethecbc.com/

It's the CBC's official blog. I am totally in love with the CBC. The old CBC Radio 3 webzine was one of the greatest things on the internet, ever.


CBC Radio 3 Blog:
http://radio3.cbc.ca/

The webzine is gone but there's a funktastic new blog (well, new-ish; it's been around since the tail end of '05). Filled with Canadian music, news and zaniness, it's the kind of site that makes me glad to pay taxes.

6.27.2006

Truth Hurts

"Those whom the football gods wish to destroy, they first put up by a goal."
- Barbara Carey, "Gooooooooal!", CBC online article

6.22.2006

6.13.2006

Busy Signal

I've been at the Montreal Fringe Fest this week so I haven't had much time to blog. Or spend time with family. Or have a circadian rhythm.

But I did take a second to find out what metonymy was...

5.20.2006

Ouch

"The Da Vinci Code is a terrible book, made popular by the kind of people who give reading a bad name..."
-Devin Faraci [chud.com], reviewing the movie

5.18.2006

More Spambot Names

Firebomb F. Neophyte
Anchovy H. Fostered
Abate D. Specialist
Lithosphere L. Habitation
Outsmarted B. Phonograph
Errors I. Skedaddle
Disemboweled T. Paralytic
Realization C. Heighten
Attaching D. Capaciousness
Reimposed B. Lawsuit
Academia S. Sixtieth
Distribute S. Fossilize
Wisecracks J. Dungeon
Unstopping G. Beached
Beard P. Houseboat
Sprinkler K. Crocodiles
Madwoman I. Maidenhead

5.10.2006

Ready... Aim...

Three songs to start off the summer right:

1) Nelly Furtado ft. Timbaland - "Promiscuous Girl"
2) All-American Rejects - "Move Along"
3) Notorious B.I.G. ft. Twista & Krayzie Bone - "Spit Your Game"

==

I've finally finished a submission package for my wanna-be novel, "Four Siblings". Out of the nest you go, little birdy. I've started sketching my second grab at the brass ring.

==

The things no one told me:

- Those baby monitors aren't very useful. They amplify every sound the baby makes and it creates a sense that you need to go see the baby if you hear anything. I find it better to turn the monitor off. If the baby wakes up and needs something, you'll hear it. Running in at every sound teaches the baby the wrong thing. That's just my opinion. It does make some people feel more secure so it's worth it in that sense but I don't agree. The only use I found for it is when I'm focused on something noisy (hockey, video game, etc.) and I'm far away from the room.

- How you get the baby to sleep at the start will affect how it will fall asleep later. It might be easy to walk the baby to sleep now but as it gets older, and heavier, you might find that a bad idea. Babies are all about routine and habits so whatever you do now, imagine doing it when she's three times the size.

- You will give the baby a good smack to the head. It happens. They're resilient.

- As much as you love your baby, you will be surprised just how mad you can get at her. Pass her off or put her in the crib and just let her cry until you recover. I really surprised myself in this regard. You cannot communicate with a baby and it frustrated me to no end.

- Baby clothes sizes mean nothing. Ben wears clothes and has worn clothes that were 6 months too young and 6 months too old. Each company cuts their clothes differently.

- Getting in the tub with your baby for baths is so so much easier. (This one I was told and I'm glad for it) Maybe let hubby do it. We men don't get to breastfeed (phew!) and it became a great time to bond.

==

I am officially the Without Annette member with the most shows. It only took me the better part of two years after Alex left, but I did it. I award myself The Sisyphus Prize for 2006. Thank you/me!

==

The Nintendo Wii. So buying it. Looking forward to playing cross-country Mario Kart/Animal Crossing/Smash Bros with all my friends who moved away.

Note to friends who move away: it is required to be buying a Wii.

==

Awesome spambot-generated names:

Choosing F. Acclimatized
Popguns J. Airmail
Destroys G. Commodore
Cistern S. Lightheaded
Recoverable C. Legislature
Entrenchment G. Dunked
Swivelling P. Northerner
Hurdle T. Pipsqueaks
Shriek Q. Moisture

==

The magic of our first love is our ignorance that it can ever end. -- Benjamin Disraeli

==

Who? Who? Ministry

5.05.2006

If You Ever Get Close To A Human

Wikipedia has a great list of cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is a distortion in how humans perceive reality. A lot of them are generally known, like confirmation bias (the search for or interpretation of information that confirms one's beliefs) or false consensus bias (the tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which others agree with them).

There are a few in there, however, that surprised me like the Zeigarnik effect, the tendency for people to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed ones. That's just weird. Check it out for an interesting look at human behaviour.

5.02.2006

Fido Customer Service

If you are a Fido cell phone customer and want to talk to a human being:
- Dial 611 from your cell or call the customer line.
- Choose the option to report a stolen phone.

You get service pretty damn quick.

4.23.2006

A Conversation

Peter: Man, I hate people holding signs in commercials.
Me: Really? You've noticed a new trend? It's a pretty old device.
Peter: I'm just getting crotchety.
(pause)
Me: I wonder if the adjective is based on the noun "crotch".
Peter: I hope so. Otherwise, what a waste.

4.16.2006

Risk, Free

My good friend Dustin has the job any true nerd desires: video-game developer. He has made many waves with his Risk-like game, Lux. The free demo comes with 20 free games, the AI is not too shabby at a higher difficulty and you can play it online with humanoids. If you like Risk, I can pretty much guarantee you'll like Lux.

Just recently, he's completed a new version of the game called American History Lux. It's the same battle-y goodness but each level takes you from one violent period in US History to another. If you check his forums, you may find a 40% discount on the 20$ US fee to register the game. Or you could just scam the demo copy and play out the first 3 wars (or 20 games of Lux, or both).

Anyways, the game is fun, Dustin is cool, killing people in times of war is legit (perhaps too legit) and this concludes our broadcast day.

4.12.2006

No Money, No Honey

I was reading a bit about Jane Jacobs (via Byzantium's Shores) and something she said struck me as very true. It was the idea that another Depression is the one thing that must be avoided at all costs. And I think she's right, the scars of that time have not yet healed. Judging by how governments measure their country's health one gets the sense that the economy is far and away the unit of measurement. Fiscal weakness is to be avoided more than war, more than injustice; there is no sin greater than economic ruin.

I've wondered at the single-minded devotion to the economy and its origins but I never really appreciated how strongly affected people were by that period. Now, clearly, economics are one arena where the government's role is essential and economic success is obviously better than economic failure. What always tripped me up was the willingness to sacrifice so many things for just a sniff at a bit more money. The view that universities are high-end trade schools, the requirement of phrasing environmentalism in economic terms, the slow and steady creep of private healthcare, this is all fallout of following the golden calf of commerce. It's how the whispers of the self-interested corporations find purchase in the halls of power and their products are sold to public by the guardians of the public purse. I don't want to come across as underestimating the value of a strong economy but there are things I would trade it for. I fear we have come to overvalue it.

When stockholders hold sway over our elected officials, when they become another branch of government, one could argue my power is diminished. Well, I'm trying to take that power back. I am priviliged enough that I'm not forced to squeeze every last drop out of every last dime. I can choose to buy a hybrid car though it costs me and my family dearly. It was a hard sell convincing my wife that the crazy high monthly payment was worth it. It's a little easier to live with now that gas prices are so high. We don't live as luxurious a life as we would without it but we aren't exactly hurting either. The clincher on such a purchase is that it tells companies that some people are willing to pay a little more to be a little more environmentally friendly. We expect companies to take a hit in the wallet for any given cause be it labour, environmental or social but ask a consumer to do the same and they will run screaming.

This is the new democracy. Every dollar spent is a vote. If the corporations want to tell us how to live, then I'll vote for the corporations whose message I agree with. I buy whatever I can at MEC. I think their economic model is awesome. Clothes, equipment, tools, whatever. I'll gladly pay a small premium (they really aren't THAT much more expensive) to support their corporate philosophy. I try to buy organic where it isn't prohibitive. I avoid the nastiest companies (they're all fairly nasty on some level) whenever possible. It takes time to do the research, it takes disposable income to pay the cost difference (though it can sometimes be refreshingly cheaper) but I am in a position to do these things to make the best possible choices with each dollar spent, to build a society with my spending habits.

4.08.2006

Minor Adjustments

1 - I added Byzantium's Shores to my blogroll.

Kelly Sedinger, aka Jaquandor, blogs about anything and everything. To distill it down to a few subjects does not do it justice. But I've never been about justice. Jaq writes about Buffalo (the city), classical music, The Bills, politics and whatever else pops into his head.

Update Frequency: Daily

2 - I amended a rule in my Swacky post. I thought it was right but, apparently, I've been playing it wrong all this time. It wasn't a major change; it was to that crazy, complicated rule that shouldn't be in the game. Games need the fewest rules possible and that one is, in my opinion, strictly optional. I wouldn't teach it to newcomers.

3.29.2006

Swacky!

I already explained The Nameless Game so now, at the leading edge of Spring, it's time for Swacky.

Playing hacky-sack is not typically my cup of tea. It seems so aimless. I like goals. I'm a measurement-motivated person. I need meaning, no matter how arbitrary, artificial or arcane. Swacky takes the wishy-washy, just-goofin'-around aspect of hacky sack and obliterates it in a tightly-controlled, rules-dominated fiesta (the best kind of fiesta).
  • Let's say there are three players, A, B and C.
  • Swacky begins when one person throws the hack to another. A can only touch the hack once. This touch is used to pass to either B or C. Let's say B.
  • B must then pass it to the remaining player, C. When all three players have touched the hack once, one player (any player but at least one) must say "Swacky!".
  • The last player to touch the hack can hold it until they are ready to pass it which begins the next round.
  • When the pass is made, the receiver can only touch it twice. Let's say it's C who passes it to B.
  • Then B can only touch it twice (hopefully using the second touch to pass to A) and when A touches it twice the round is complete and someone must say "Swacky!"
  • The rounds continue with the number of touches required increasing by one at each completed round.
  • [This one's complicated] If a player has already touched the hack n times (while it is round n), once per round they can touch it again provided
    • they touch it exactly n times AND
    • another player has touched it since they originally did
    • Example:
      • Let's say it is round 2 (where each player must touch it twice). A touches it twice and passes to B. B touches it twice but fails to pass it to C, A can touch it twice to save the round so long as they touch it exactly twice.
  • The game ends immediately if:
    • The hack drops.
    • Someone forgets to say "Swacky!"
    • It's round n and someone touches it != n (other than holding it after a completed round; there's no limit for that but don't bogart it, man).
I am not great at this game. My friends who are good at this can get to rounds 10 and up. I am lucky if I get to 5; that's a good day. I think my record is 7. Playing this with more than 5 people is super tough.

3.22.2006

Analogy Of The Day

"It's amazing to watch her process information whenever someone speaks to her: The period between when something is said and when it's actually processed is unusually long, as if her brain is still running on a 14.4 baud modem while everybody else has gone broadband."

- Scott Tobias, The Onion AV Club


As an aside, this new trend to capitalise after the colon offends me.

3.21.2006

Because I Have Nothing To Say

Blogroll update...

Name change:
Without ME becomes S'Wonderful

Blog change:
babyresearcher is abandoned, but its author, the only Amy worth knowing (and the only Amy I know), writes on about sociology in amy writes

New blogs:

emilieonline.com

Emilie, living in Quebec, is currently pregnant and writes about whatever pops into her head. Unsurprisingly, most of it is about the bébé-to-be these days. She has a French and an English version of her site. I have no idea how she does that.

Update Frequency: Monthly


What my kids want to know

Another blog by the authoress of Something Up..., the title pretty much says it all. Her kids have some interesting questions. I think I'm the only one answering them. I should start a blog called What Kids Want To Know.

Update Frequency: Fortnightly


What We're Up To

Elizabeth the Georgia Peach in Virginia writes about her crizazy family. With occasional pictures.

Update Frequency: Monthly


Where the Sidewalk Reappears

Adrienne hails from Tennesse, goes to school in Montreal and plans to summer in Florida. She does improv at McGill and likes babies named Ben. Studying drama and possibly living it.

Update Frequency: Weekly

3.02.2006

Conversation and Hennessy

Plagiarised from exBostonian:

Friday, March 3rd, at noon: come to VAGANZA VI, McGill Improv's annual 24-hour comedy show! It's on the second floor of the Shatner building, 3480 McTavish Street, runs straight through until noon on Saturday, March 4th. Admission is $3 for students and $5 for non-students, and all profits will go to a local charity.

2.27.2006

A Winner Is You

If you have yet to read The Lottery, I suggest you remedy the situation.

2.20.2006

A Picture Of The Indescribable

Recently, we've been trying to get our 7-month old boy to sleep on his own in the crib. He's used to being fed at night and sleeping with mommy for the last half of the night. We felt that it was about time that he transitioned to sleeping through the night. It's just too tiring to keep this up but convincing a baby to change his sleeping habits is not a trivial task.

We started by no longer picking him up put of his crib to quieten him (what a mistake!), we've eliminating the sleeping with mommy part and now we're no longer staying in the room with him as he falls asleep. He has let us know at each step that it does not meet with his approval. He pulls himself up to the crib bars, standing, and shrieks unless you pick him up. When I say "shriek", imagine the tormented spirits from your nightmares who reside in the anguished depths of Hades. Now, imagine that whenever those tortured souls cried out their infinite agony, a thousand ear-seeking needles flew out of their mouths. Got that? Ok. I would prefer that to the sound my son makes. He not only has the power but the endurance. His record? One hour, forty-five minutes of timpani-shattering, mind-flaying, soul-rending, sleep-eradicating audible death. Ended only by his becoming hoarse. If this were an isolated incident, you could get through it though the memory might haunt your every waking moment. No, this happens everytime he wakes up. And since his routine is disrupted. He wakes up often. I don't recall how many days ago we started all this. A week? Two weeks?

This course of action on his part is totally reasonable. His loving, nuturing parents have abandoned him because of their selfish need for a continuous block of sleep. I don't want to make it sound like we have him sealed in a sound-proof booth while we sleep on a bed of rose petals for three days straight. We've been moving gradually towards our goal (perhaps too gradually?; the second-guessing is but a part of this hellish experience). We started by patting him, rubbing his tummy, rubbing his back, humming to him, giving him white-noise (through shush-ing), staying in the room with him, always careful not to take him out of the crib unless he needed to be changed or fed (we'll wean him off night feedings later). We've slowly been reducing our presence in his room at night, and gradually making it clear that calling for us will only get a visit to check on him.

Last night, we started a routine where if he wakes, we go in to check on him and try to calm him. If he resists calming and wants to fight, we leave and don't return for 5 minutes. We return and try again. If he still fights it, leave and wait 10 minutes. Repeat adding 5 minutes at each step. We had to leave the room for one 5 minute period and then another incident that made it to a 10 minute wait. During this time, our son issues the unholy fury of the devil, cries that pale the trumpeting screeches of a wounded banshee. The pain of hearing your son cry out for you, desperately pleading with you to come and comfort him with you knowing full well that doing so goes against what you're trying to do, cannot even be hinted at by my hyperbole.

For certain, you will find a host of people who will say that this is unneccessary, barbaric, inhumane. There are a myriad of ways to attain that holy grail of a baby that sleeps through the night. We've tried a few but, sadly, this appears to be the most successful. For the first time, last night, our son went to sleep on his own. Ok. He cried himself to sleep because of what we did to him. There is all manner of doubt running through your mind as your child rages into his night-light for his parents's return. We're doing this too early. We're being selfish. We're doing this the wrong way. Our baby, our wonderful baby, is suffering. But at the same time, you know that the line between comforting and indulging is a fine one. Do not be fooled. Babies learn to manipulate very, very quickly.

So, as you lay in bed at 5 am listening, for the fifth time that night, to the opening aria from the opera-of-the-damned, "Infanta Anali (Baby Tears You A New One)", you're at war with yourself because you feel like you're teaching him how to sleep on his own, you're not relenting to his manipulative cries and you're giving him some independence. On the other hand, he is screaming like Luke at the end of Jedi, as though fiery, blue bolts of lightining are coursing through his body, ripping through his brain. Except you're not playing the role of Vader, you're the Emperor. "Now, young Skywalker... you will sleep."

2.14.2006

The Engine That Could

Charles Babbage is a person I greatly admire. The Difference Engine is such an amazing thing to have invented. Back in the days when humans had to calculate by hand reams and reams of tables to allow easy and precise calculation, a machine that could generate these tables without human error would have been invaluable. Which is exactly why Mr. Babbage received tons of money to build such a device. Sadly, the original design was too cumbersome to be built. His revision, the imaginatively named Difference Engine No. 2, was never built because he became enamored, until his death, with his Analytical Engine which could be programmed with punch cards. He died in 1871.

The London Science Museum built his Difference Engine No. 2 (to the tolerances of his time) in 1991 and I saw it in action when I visited it that year. It was astounding. I stared at it for a long, long time.

Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate child of Lord Byron and quite the renaissance woman, was translating notes on the Analytical Engine from an Italian mathematician for Mr. Babbage. Appended to the notes was a method of using the machine to generate Bernoulli numbers. Many people attribute this as the first computer program. Apparently, there is some evidence that Mr. Babbage had written the algorithm and she was simply correcting an error he had made. If that is the case, then I'd say she found the first bug.

2.08.2006

Force x Distance

1) I worked as a Councillor-in-Training over two summers for 25$ a week when I was 13 and 14. I assisted the actual councillor in shepherding about 20 five- and six-year olds for 7 hours a day. It was pretty easy. Play games, go to the park, make sure kid holds rope. They don't give you a lot of responsibility at that age. Good thing. I think that's where I learned to get along with kids. Me likes 'em.

2) I spent two summers working 50+ hours a week at La Ronde doing the games for minimum wage. I was in CEGEP (that's college for you non-Quebecois) and I was 18 and 19 for those two stints. I worked at the games so if you ever need to throw a softball into a titled basket, I'm your man. Everytime someone would win, I'd have to stand on the counter, hold aloft the prize and shout "We have another big, big winner! Nous avons un autre grand, grand gagnant!"My supervisor hit on me twice and girls flirted with me trying to get better prizes. I was impervious to such advances not only because I totally grooved on my girlfriend but also because I am a frikkin' hardcore professional. This is easily, easily the worst job I've ever had.

3) My first physics work term (a co-op university program has 6 course terms and 4 work terms) was at ICI Explosives. From 1995 to 2000, I was legally allowed to work with and enter sites where they stored explosives thanks to my trusty Quebec Explosives Permit. The company developed mining explosives and I assisted in taking out experimental samples to the test pond. We'd have pressure gauges in the water and other equipment to literally see how well we blew stuff up. This is my favourite job to talk about. It does get tiresome after a few months, especially in the brutal heat and humidity of the summer, but c'mon... BLOWING UP STUFF!

4) The next work term saw me at NORDX/CDT doing software testing. Strangely, there are very few jobs available around Montreal for people who are beginning to learn quantum physics so you learn to branch out. This job had the hottest supervisor. She was distractingly hot. But, again, let us recall: I am a frikkin' hardcore professional. This job was pretty boring but it paid the best yet. Money soothes a lot of woes.

5) Work term 3: Nortel in Ottawa. This company used to hire 1 out of every 5 engineering grads in Canada. I don't know how much of that was true but it seemed plausible. The bad part was that I had to live away from my girlfriend. At the time it was tough and we almost broke up but the time apart, in retrospect, gave me some time on my own, something I don't think I would have gotten married without. The work was semi-conductor switching using a Mach-Zender interferometer to enable high switching speeds. This was some pretty high-end tech (for the time). Luckily, I had taken a semi-conductors class and could follow what was going on. Sadly, I learned that Nortel was a terrible match for me. A massive complex of buildings with a rat's nest of cubicles stacked five high in each one, spending as much time in meetings as in the lab and learning the insane bureaucracy required to get anything done. This all adds up to me no wanty to work here when me graduates.

6) Final work term: Nortel in Ottawa. This was the best paying job I had to date. Also, my roomate from the previous work term was also returning so I thought it would be cool to give it another go. It was. The job was utterly forgettable, if not punctuated with moments of coolness. I did learn to set up a computer network, worked with more expensive equipment for any one test than was available in the entire physics department and got a much better feel for actual lab work than my university could provide. The greatest part of this deal, however, were my roommates for this summer. Four guys and one young lady sharing a house. We all became fast friends and still get together to go camping most summers. My memories of this job are of late night games of basketball, Nortel co-op softball (yes, there were enough co-op students to have our own league with 2 divisions), and lots of drinking.

I graduated in 1998 at 22 and got married.

7) Doing my Master's at McGill, I was paid grad student wages (enough for beer and rent, or in my case, magic cards and rent). In return, I supervised 2 lab sessions per week. Each lab was some intro to physics lab with 40 students from out of province who needed to get synched up with Quebec students who do a year less of high school but do two years of college before university (which starts a year later here). The labs were pretty cool. I found I could teach things and I like that moment when you're explaining something to someone and their eyes suddenly light up. I learned that I dislike correcting. But not enough to put me off teaching forever. It's probably something I'd be good at. I got a lot of positive comments on the end-of-term student review sheets. I dunno. I've turned down two CEGEP teaching interviews since graduating. Both came at bad times.

8) Upon graduation, I entered the hottest market for science-y types conceviable. I quickly found a job working in satellite communications that more than doubled my grad student salary. It almost tripled. I got a signing bonus. A five thousand dollar signing bonus. Yes, I'm bragging. I still don't believe it. The way things are now in the job market, I might as well claim I received a deed to the moon, all the tea in China and a fellatio-bot. People were abandoning the larger companies for smaller ones with lures of stock options and mega-salaries. I attended five going-away-parties in my first month with the company. I feel lucky that I lasted at the medium-sized company longer than all the people who left. It was a perfect fit for me. Except the company was run so poorly that after one year I could tell I was going to eventually be laid off. It blew me away that they kept offering me 3-5% raises twice per year just to keep us engineers (I'm not an engineer!) from leaving. All of this for a product so mismanaged, it was comical (well, comical, if not for the fact that I got laid off after 3 years). There were two of us in the QA department. TWO! And we did everything. We did hardware testing, software testing, firmware testing, documentation. We wrote manuals, training lessons. We were flown all over Europe (first-class, nice!) to install satellite dishes, cabling, networks, or sometimes to train customers and even do some CAD stuff which I learned as I was going. I learned some basic FPGA design, RF modulation, satellite tips n tricks, and all sorts of stuff about cables that no one should ever need to learn. Cool! The two junior QA guys had a lot of hats to wear. I learned so very much but not very well since with two people you never actually have the time to do things well. The company treated its employees like royalty which was awesome but the product was always promising and never delivering. After outlasting a dozen or so people, some of them senior to me, I got chopped. I knew I'd never have it this good again. At the same time, I was relieved because the company was moving towards more and more military contracts which bothered me ethically. If I didn't already know I was getting chopped, I'd have thought about leaving (probably not too hard; money soothes many woes). In the end, I was worked pretty hard but rewarded for it as well.

My son was born in 2005. I was 29.

And now I'm working close to home, with flexible hours. Software testing once again. Some C++ is seeping in, Windows and Linux are becoming my servants, client-server design... still learning, still learning.

Of course, I'd prefer to be independently wealthy but that's not an option. With a finite number of waking hours in my lifetime, I choose how to sell them fairly carefully. It's a luxury that I appreciate and cherish. This is the gift I want to give my son.

1.24.2006

Sigh

Hopefully, this is simply the deserved slap on the wrist for the Liberal Party. I couldn't believe how quickly the knives were out for Martin from the comments of several senior Liberals as the reuslts were coming in. I was going to say that I expected a Liberal leadership convention quickly but the CBC is reporting that Martin is stepping down as leader so it'll be even sooner than I thought.

Now it's a question of how long this minority lasts. I can't imagine this working for too long unless the floor-crossing parade continues. I hope Belinda is wearing sneakers (God, no one is that stupid; you can see she's already planning her run from within). In any case, unless the Cons can somehow not stab the dagger of retardation in the face of Canadians (unlikely), we'll be back to some new Liberal shenanigans in 2008...

1.17.2006

We Should Do Something For The Ladies, Too

Seriously, how hard is it to make urinals with mazes printed in them?