The Den of Ubiquity

Monday, April 29, 2002:

I Know What's Going On

I would like to talk today about license plates, because it's something that I think about. Especially when I drive--heh.

Alberta still has a three-letter/three-number system, but I don't know for how much longer. I'm sure somebody in the government must have been thinking about this already... When Nicole bought her first car, which would have been about 1990, its license plate ended up beginning with an "M". We bought a car off my dad a few years ago, let's say 1998, and its license plate started with "U". Eight letters, eight years. I've seen lots of "W"'s around recently, although if we're going through a letter a year we should be past that already, no? I think they used to excluse vowels from license plates, though obviously they aren't now.

(We couldn't bring Nicole's license plate over to the other car because the bill of sale was in my name, not hers. The car I bought from my dad got smashed up in an accident, and I ended up forgetting to take that license plate off of it before it got shipped out for scrap; I had to get them to courier it back to me. What a dunce.)

"X" license plates used to be motorcycles, but the last few motorcycle plates I've seen have had two-letter/three-number plates, so maybe they've abandoned that. I know that a lot of places have moved to seven-figure plates, with a letter or a number added on to the beginning. Sharna had to get an Ontario license plate for her car since she was living there for a year, and hers is four-letters/three-numbers, beginning with an "A". (Her husband is working up in the Northwest Territories for a little while longer, and he said that he should try to get an NWT license plate. Those are seriously cool, indeed--they're all in the shape of a polar bear. Make great collectibles! And if the polar bear is becoming our new national animal, then maybe we should lobby to get all our license plates in that shape. More expensive to make, but who cares?*)

I always wonder if they would legally be able to reuse old license plate numbers, or if that would just be a logistical nightmare, trying to figure out which ones were still in use and which ones weren't. And if you had an old license plate, didn't own a car for ten years, and then bought a new one, could you use the same old license plate on it? Would they be able to keep track of those in the system? So probably not.

I keep wanting to post lists of vanity license plates that I see, but that's probably not very interesting. We did see one on the weekend that said "ANZ KAR". Obviously somebody named Ann who can't spell.* If I ever got one, of course, it would say either "ALFVAEN" or "AZPIAZU".

Since they've got so many licensing bureaus(they privatized it a few years ago), and each of them have to be able to dispense a certain number of license plates a day, they must divide it up somehow. This one gets "TGV-105" through "TGV-165", and when they run below a certain number they requisition more? I don't know. I know that I've seen driveways with multiple cars with non-vanity plates that were sequential, so they must have registered them at the same time.

Today I saw a car with a license plate number one lower than mine. Was the driver in line in front of me when we registered our car? Which would be interesting, because we lived on the other side of town then, and this was closer to where we live now. At least, I think it was one less than ours--of course, I couldn't remember exactly what the numbers were. I should remember to check it.

In case you didn't hear about it(and some of the non-Canadian might not have), four Canadian soldiers were killed, and several injured, in a friendly-fire incident a week or two ago. And the media has been having a bloody extravaganza out of the whole thing. You'd think that they'd taken Osama bin Laden with them or something.

I mean, I'm sorry. It's horrible that they died, it's horrible when anyone dies(with the possible exception of psychopath killers, but we won't get into that here). But there's a part of my brain, I have to confess, that is saying in disbelief, "Four? They're making all this fuss about four people? How many people die in a real war?" Because yes, I can't really look at this as any kind of a real war. Not at this point, anyway. Maybe a few months back. But any war where friendly-fire casualties are on anywhere near the same scale as hostile-fire just doesn't cut it, in my opinion.

The soldiers were from a regiment stationed near Edmonton, so maybe I'm just hearing more about it than most people, too. Every day on the news there's something about the memorial service, although I lost track of whether there was just one, more than one, and whether they were local or national, but every single day there's something. Today they said that some local recording artists(I don't know who)were recording a tribute CD, whether one song or a whole goddamned full-length thing I don't know. And I just have to say, enough.

Maybe I just don't believe that we are yet at a stage where four people is a large number to be killed. I still think that we're not past the days where hundreds or thousands die. I mean, how many died on September 11th? So I still think of four as a drop in the bucket. More people have probably been murdered in Edmonton this year already--not like the media doesn't keep us up-to-date on those statistics as well. I keep thinking, how many Afghani starved this winter? How many starved today? Did they get enough international aid in time? Since I've been cut back on my web time I haven't been keeping up, but I'm sure it's an "old story" and one would have to search to find out.

I'm not particularly worried about offending people right now, because, let's face it, I'm still only averaging a dozen visitors a day, and one of those is me and one is Nicole. But in case anyone is--well, this is just how I feel. I have trouble relating to the deaths of others, perhaps, especially when they are people who chose a dangerous profession and were in a dangerous place. The people in the World Trade Centre didn't make those choices. Maybe I'm a dangerously sociopathic throwback; I suspect not, but you can't tell from my blog, can you? I just think that we have bigger things to worry about.

What will they do if four more soldiers die in real combat? Will they go through the whole thing over again? What if four die every day for a week? Are we saying that the lives of those who died first are worth more? No, of course not. We would get a little bit inured to the numbers. I'm just saying that I'm already there.

Sad as it is to say sometimes, Molson Canadian beer commercials are some of the most patriotic things we have in this country. They've had this "I AM CANADIAN" ad campaign going for a long time now, and it really does encapsulate a lot of things about the country. Even the fact that a lot of us drink beer, I guess, though I personally don't.

One recent commercial that I love, I will paraphrase for you here because I love it so much:


GIRL: You're from Canada? Cool! I know a guy from Canada, do you know him? His name's Glen, and he works in an office.


GUY: Oh, yeah, Office Glen, we all know him. He's dead.


Personally, I see no harm in asking if someone knows someone else from a small geographical region, and then believing them if they say no. If I ran into someone from Iqaluit, for instance, I'd ask if he or she knew my friend Jeremy, who lived up there for a while. Then I'd hand em over to my wife for research questions. (She's working on a book right now called Frost that is set up there. Jeremy will probably get some research questions from her when I see him next week.)

I listened to Michael Jackson's "Invincible" album on the weekend. I've never listened to a Michael Jackson album all the way through before, though I'm sure there's only one or two songs from "Thriller" that I didn't end up hearing eventually. But I had heard good things about this one(and bad too, but I heard the good things first), so I thought I'd give it a try.

It actually sounded really good for about the first three songs, and I was pleasantly surprised; then he started into a few ballads, and it dropped back down again. There's probably half a dozen good songs on there(I took it back to the library already, so I don't have the titles to hand), so if you took the rest off you'd have a decent album.

Today I listened to "Storm" by Vanessa-Mae, about whom I know little. I gather she's a violinist, probably Chinese, and that's about it. But that was a really good album. She's done straight classical albums before, I gather, but this isn't one--it has fun with it. It includes a cover of "I Feel Love", a riff or two on Bach, a version of the Can-Can Polka, and some just plain decent songs. Mostly, but not completely, instrumental, which doesn't bother me that much--comes out way, way ahead of, say, Candy Dulfer or Kenny G(which is comparing violins and saxophones, I know, but still).

I finally buckled down to do my taxes on Sunday. I knew it wasn't going to be that hard, because I only had a T4(that's the Canadian employment income tax form)and a few charitable donations, and the remainder of Nicole's personal exemption that she didn't need to use. She'd done all the RRSP stuff on her own return when she went to H&R Block, so I didn't have to worry about it, thank god.

It still took at least an hour, of course. Just the writing it, and figuring out the new forms they'd had this year. I discovered that when I'd picked up my forms at the post office I hadn't gotten an information booklet, and I didn't think they'd be too heavily stocked with them on April 28th, two days before the deadline, so I went online and my perseverence was rewarded. I keep thinking there should be some kind of tax break for children, but I guess they have a separate GST rebate program for that, or something. My mom used to get Family Allowance cheques, I remember, but not these days.

Anyway, net result was that, mostly due to being able to claim Nicole's unused exemptions, I'm getting over $1900 back in taxes! That will pay for our plane tickets to Steve's wedding--well, the whole trip, really. That's a big relief.

Of course, one reason I got so much back is that I asked Edna not to put any deductions into the calculations she uses to take money off my paycheques. I like to pay more every month so I can get a bigger refund later. And besides, I had no idea whether or not Nicole was going to get a $10,000 advance cheque in August or something. She didn't last year, but this year is still up in the air. One editor is very interested in another two-book series, and is planning to fight for it at the "next editorial meeting", whenever that may be. But I don't think I should underdeduct to count on her getting income every year just yet. It all adds up to the same, I know, but it's a psychological thing. What amounts to paying taxes at the same time as I get my paycheque is easier to figure out than paying a big lump sum in April.

I mailed my return in today, so we'll see how long it will take to come back to us. I can't remember if we have direct-deposit on our taxes or not. I guess I'll find out. Maybe we'll be able to afford to buy more cable now...not that we've used it, but if the new Babylon 5 series comes out on Space, I will definitely want it.

My hotel is all booked in Calgary now. I'd tried to do it on Saturday, but ended up finding an email form, essentially, rather than an online book-with-your-credit-card form. So I emailed them, and didn't hear back. Edna showed me a web site where I could book, and get a special discount, so I'm only paying about $60/night(including tax)for my room. And when I checked my email today I had an email reply to my first reservation attempt...I guess I'll just leave it unanswered since I have my reservation done up already.

Edna gave my the notebook I'll be taking with me, which she says is probably a 233 with Windows 98 and little else, and probably not very much RAM. I don't know about the hard drive space, but I'm not counting on a lot. I'll try to copy some stuff over there on floppy and CD-RW, but not too much. Maybe some Lorenai stuff, though I'd really like Cygwin for some of that stuff. I can cope, though. I don't think I'll try Sims, especially not Hot Date-level--that would just run like molasses. Maybe I'll try to get some writing done...but I wouldn't count on it. Besides, what if it turns out I can only write in hotel rooms? That'll be expensive.*

I'm not sure if I'm looking forward to the trip or not. Simon will probably miss me, but I'll try to talk to him(and Nicole, of course)every night. So far my only booking is seeing Jeremy; I'm going back and forth on Uncle Merril, because sometimes they can be just a wee bit too born-again for comfort. Then there's Dale, a Cult of Pain emeritus down there, but I don't know him as well. And Nicole's relatives were almost all up here to see Sharna this weekend, and anyway Nicole won't be with me so there's that little extra bit of awkwardness. (Do I warrant their company on my own? Who am I, anyway? Am I really part of the family?*)

I also finally finished Burying The Shadow last night, staying up late to do so. Actually, I wouldn't have had to stay up so late, but Nicole's dad, who was staying with us, was watching TV, and I find it hard to tune out. I actually got caught up in an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent"; it concerned a girl with a degenerating disease and a best-selling book...who turned out to be completely fictional. But eventually I did finish the book, and it wasn't that bad. It got a bit weird at the end, and there were still a few dangling plot threads--or, rather, bits of worldbuilding that seemed superfluous. It could have been a simpler book, I think. But it wasn't too bad.

Now I'm reading Magic's Pawn by Mercedes Lackey, and making decent progress in it so far. It started out a bit predictable, and a bit too similar to Arrows of The Queen, with an adolescent whose home life is just horrible unbearable. But it's picking up a little bit. I'm sure once Vanyel gets his magic horsey(whoops, sorry, that came out a bit vicious)things will get better. It's managing to fend off Generations for the most part, anyway.

On to the countdown...

516. Pat McCurdy: Finger On The Pulse

From his "Memorial Day" album, this is a fast-paced number with lots of wide-stretched body metaphors and lyrics that strive for cleverness rather than profundity, but it's a lot of fun.

515. The Traveling Wilburys: New Blue Moon

This one emerged as the clear favourite last time I listened to "Vol. 3", which surprised me a little because I thought I liked Tom Petty's "Cool Dry Place" better. But this one has a fast rhythm section underneath a slower vocal line, which is a combination I always like, and lots of good harmony as well.

A rolling stone gets the worm.

Aaron // 11:24 PM Clix me!

Saturday, April 27, 2002:

I Want To Swing From Limb To Limb

A short blog entry today, just to be consistent; Nicole's family have been thick hereabouts this weekend, so my time is limited. Her sister Sharna came back from Ontario this week, and she and her husband Nick were over last night. Her brother Wayne came up today from Calgary, and we'll all be going over to Sharna & Nick's, where her parents will be as well. They(the parents, probably not Wayne, unless Sharna doesn't have the space)will probably be staying here tonight, too. Wayne's been chewing a lot of gum and not smoking, which is a good sign. I wonder if he's going to want his copy of A Storm of Swords back now?*

I went online to look at hotels in Calgary, and I think I've settled on one; they had an online form which didn't quite reserve the room, but it did give them my information and promised they would contact me later. Edna warned me that I should ask them about their long-distance phone policy, because apparently some hotels get away with overcharging exorbitantly for the privilege. This place claims to have free local calls and movie channel, at least. I also want to be sure that they have a desk where I can set up the notebook computer. Apart from that, I'm pretty easy--I don't care if I have a kitchenette, or even a coffee-maker. Oh, I should remember to ask if they have alarm clocks, too. That might be nice. The LRT station looks like it's right close to the hotel, which will be nice in the morning.

Nicole has decided not to come down with me, and since Wayne's up this weekend he won't be coming up(and going back to Calgary)next weekend, so it looks like taking the Greyhound down. I don't mind the bus--it's like driving, except you don't have to drive. Maybe the red-eye up to Manning was hell, especially the winter we had to wait extra hours in the Peace River bus depot because it was so cold they couldn't get the bus started up again after refueling, but Edmonton to Calgary is not bad. They even have movies, and I might bring my headphones this time(if I have any that work)so I can listen to it. On my last such bus trip I watched a little bit of "Rent-A-Cop" and most of "Cops & Robbersons" without the sound. And there's also, always, books.

The weather around Edmonton has been cold and windy, around freezing, for a few days. We even had a little bit of snow on Friday, which didn't stick, at least. The chain-link fence between our front yard and the neighbours' has been doing its usual wind-sieve job, so there's lots of garbage strewn about. I keep waiting for it to actually be not windy so I can go clean it up with some assurance that more won't arrive, but I might have to give up waiting.

Tomorrow I do my taxes. It shouldn't be that difficult, it's just the sitting down for it. Nicole didn't make enough with her writing last year to use up all her personal exemption, so I should be able to get a little bit of a refund. 'Twill be nice.

I had a weird idea today, another ludicrously huge project which will never get completed, and which will be meaningless when done because of the volatility of the data it's based on. What I'm talking about is a blog link-tree.

Practically everybody links on their blog to other blogs, so my idea was to create a tree(well, really a graph, because there will almost certainly be loops)to show who links to whom.
Blogdex might come in handy for it.

Nah, it's too big. I'll probably never do it. But in case anyone else wants to...

Counting down...

518. Eurythmics: Right By Your Side

This used to be my least favourite song on "Touch", actually, but I've obviously gotten to like it better now, and it's held up better for me than "Here Comes The Rain Again", in fact. It's totally out of keeping with the tone of the rest of the album, but rhythmically it's more interesting.

517. Weird Al Yankovic: One More Minute

One of my favourites of his non-parody songs, from "Dare To Be Stupid", a doo-wop breakup song with lots of vitriol. (It took me years to get the "self-service pumps" line.)

I want this man to go away now. --Kate Bush, "Houdini"

Aaron // 4:31 PM Clix me!

Thursday, April 25, 2002:

Everybody Has Their Secret Wishes

After three weeks of reruns, we were ready for a new "West Wing" episode last night. Instead, what did we get? Basically a cross between a flashback show and an interview show. It was a little bit interesting to find out how close to reality the show sometimes came, but the fact is that I didn't need to know that. I am trusting the producers/writers/actors/whoever of the show to depict their situation accurately. I don't need an extra show to prove it. Maybe some people do, or maybe somebody just fell in love with the interviews and decided to incorporate it into the show.

I will never watch that episode on reruns. Actually, I have rarely watched "West Wing" reruns, though truthfully some of the flashbacks made me want to watch some of the early episodes again just to see if the characters have stayed consistent. I mean, I know them all now, but I wonder if they were all like that in the beginning. First-season Star Trek:TNG was not always consistent with the characterizations, but West Wing probably has a more consistent writing team.

"24" is going to take a week off next week; for some reason they don't seem to be showing reruns of that one. I guess they don't want people to be confused by watching things out of sequence. Dennis Hopper finally showed up, and his dialectics sound pretty good. He's almost unrecognizable. Does anyone else feel that it would be appropriate if David Palmer's wife got killed before the end? She could nobly sacrifice herself to save his life, but then nonetheless she wouldn't be there, a millstone around his neck, a person permanently attached to him(have there ever been any divorced presidents? I don't think so)that he couldn't trust.

I was hoping for something more to come of the whole Rachel-Joey thing on "Friends", but apparently they consider that resolved now, because it hasn't even been mentioned for a couple of episodes now. No, everybody's getting into pre-Sweeps mode, I guess. I heard something about Tom Cruise on "West Wing"--as himself, or as a character? Three more episodes of "24" to close everything off, and, well, probably more stunt-casting on "Friends". And soon enough summer, and no TV except for the daily "Friends" reruns. Unless they have a cool summer series, like "Maximum Bob" or something. That was a decent show, and it could have been really good...or not. Hard to say.

Am I rambling? Time to pick another topic.

It's still a bit cold in the mornings when I go to work, and my tape deck doesn't want to start working right away, so I turn on the radio. Lately I've been spending more time on
CJSR, the university station, because, well, it's less annoying. Though I switch to another station if they start playing old music. I can't stand much from before, say, the Beatles. It's just not what I want to listen to. That's why CKUA didn't last.

The other day they had this interesting game on there called "The Vinyl Hunter". I almost phoned in for it, actually, though I was in my car and would've had to pull over to do it, and by the time I had a chance someone else had phoned. Anyway, the way it works is this: There's a few shelves of records at the station, and the caller directs one of the hosts, by picking numbers, to select a particular record from the shelf. (They are presumably not arranged alphabetically or anything, that would make it too easy.) Then the caller picks a track from the album, they play it, and the caller has to guess the name of the group, or album, or song, or something, I wasn't sure. If they do, they get $10 and a CJSR T-shirt.

The guy who phoned in on Wednesday didn't get it, and I wouldn't have either(had I picked all the same numbers)--it was a band called the Ophelias, from 1987, and frankly I didn't care much for them. I don't know if I'd do very well at identifying college radio records, you see, unless it was something really common like Talking Heads, or I fluked onto Go Four 3 or Mark Korven or something.

I would love to see that record library, though. Just to covet.

Speaking of coveting, I got a couple of pretty good library CDs to listen to this week.

The first one was Terry Radigan's album "Radigan". Apparently she used to be with a band called Grace Pool, which suffered by constant comparisons to 10,000 Maniacs. I don't remember how she ended up on my list of people to look for, but I'm glad she did, because this album is great. It's slightly country-tinged, but not very far. She does a cover version of Greg Garing's "My Love Is Real", which I already think is a great song, and the rest of the album is fairly variegated. I've only listened to it once, so I can't give it much better of a description than that, but let me recommend it to people who think they may know where I'm coming from.

The other one was Joydrop's "Metasexual". There's a song from Joydrop's most recent album that MIX 96 has been playing recently, and I liked it, but in my own unfathomable way I requested their older album from the library. When I was listening to the first song, "Fizz", I was very disappointed, because it was fairly cacophonous, but after a while I started to get into it more. They are very Garbage-like(though since Garbage has changed their sound now, the niche may be open), but in a good way, because hey, I like Garbage. Now I'll have to put in a request for their newer album and see if they're following Garbage's career path.

Of my own albums, I've been listening to the tapecase that has all my D's, and a few of my C's and E's. This means going through most of my Depeche Mode(except for "Speak & Spell", which I have on vinyl, and "Ultra" which I have on CD). It still hangs together pretty well. Though I am annoyed anew every time at the fact that "Music For The Masses" and "Black Celebration" both have much longer second sides than first sides. I don't like to fast-forward my tapes that much, because I believe it isn't good for them, so I just have to sit there and listen to silence. Maybe I should make copies of them(just to safeguard the quality of the originals, of course)without the big gap in the middle. Or get them on CD(once they wear out).

But what was really standing out for me yesterday was Elvis Costello's "All This Useless Beauty". It's taken me a while to get into, but it's chock full of some of his best songs. I like some of his other later albums, like "Spike" and "Mighty Like A Rose", but this one is really growing on me. I haven't quite gotten to the point of knowing all the songs, but I almost want to listen to it again, even if it disrupts my sequence. But who will know, right? Besides you, of course, but who are you to judge me? (Right now you're puzzled at why on earth you should care if I want to listen to one of my own albums more frequently than once every two years, aren't you? Yeah, well, compulsive, you know.) In fact, I could put it on right now, couldn't I? Why? 'Cause I'm a maaadmaaan...

This week at work was a little bit eventful, because apparently last weekend someone started using a security hole in our email server to send out thousands, if not millions, of spam messages. When we got it shut down, there were over half a million messages queued up on our server, and just deleting them took almost an hour.

So we ended up temporarily a blacklisted node, until we could prove to...somebody, I'm not sure, whoever maintains the spamsite blacklists, I guess...that we had closed the security hole. And we don't even have a Microsoft email server, either! Well, I guess nobody's immune, unless you write your own and keep your security holes to yourself. Or don't connect to the network, but who can stand for that these days?

Then the server itself was glitching yesterday, in such a way that every half hour or so every computer on the network that tried any kind of file operation--even writing to the local hard drive, which by rights shouldn't involve the network at all, should it?--would hang for several minutes before recovering. Very annoying. Today it seems to be back to normal.

I did get to leave work early on Tuesday, though, because at 4:00 our friendly neighbourhood consultant and network expert came over to shut down the server and tinker with it, or something. I really don't care about that crap any more. Did I really want to become a system administrator at one point? You can keep it.

Norton AntiVirus is still sometimes doing its thing where it hangs downloading some messages and refuses to proceed. Can I find any mention of this documented anywhere? No. Their website doesn't appear to support the antiquated 2000 version of its software anymore, and I don't really feel like shelling out to upgrade right now. I can still log into POP directly and delete the spam.

Sometimes it's perfectly normal messages, with no unnatural content of any kind, that it has trouble with. I can't figure it out. I'm trying setting its "Bloodhound" level(which can supposedly detect previously unknown viruses)as low as I can, and we'll see if that helps. If I look at them in POP and I can't see a problem with them, then I just turn off virus checking temporarily and download them. I should keep track of them and send them in to Norton...except they'll probably just tell me to upgrade.

Continuing the countdown of my 750 favourite songs(as tabulated last year sometime):

520. The Stranglers: No Mercy

This was the first song I heard from the Stranglers, and I didn't find out about their more punkish days for a while. I still like it a lot, and most of the "Aural Sculpture" album, but I still have a soft spot for this song.

519. A-Ha: Early Morning

This is from A-Ha's fourth album, "East of The Sun West of The Moon"; the single from the album was a cover of Carole King's "Crying In The Rain", but this song is much better. It strikes a balance between the pop keyboards of their first album and the more rock sound of their second.

What if there were no hypothetical situations?

Aaron // 10:22 PM Clix me!

Tuesday, April 23, 2002:

The Stronger The Wood, The Straighter The Arrow

I am so annoyed.

Terry Pratchett is coming through Edmonton on some kind of book tour. He will be in town on May 8th--probably doing a reading or something, the ad we got in the mail just says "Appearance".

Now those of you who have been following the blog may recall something about a Calgary trip...maybe near the beginning of May? Perhaps May 6th to 10th? Yes, that's right. I searched on the web, but there is no Calgary "Appearance" this tour, only Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, and Edmonton. Normally that would have made me smug(big inter-city rivalry between Edmonton and Calgary), but now it just annoys me. Dave Sim and Jaime & Gilberto Hernandez came through on comic store tours, and they hit Calgary but not Edmonton. But big-name fantasy author hits Edmonton but not Calgary, apparently.

Nicole says she might go, maybe with Sue from the Cult of Pain. Sharna will be back in town by then, hopefully, so Nicole can get a night out while her sister babysits Simon. Which will probably be a good thing and all...but man, I wish I was there. I would make an extra-special effort to at least read The Fifth Elephant before then. But now there's no point! Sucks.

And with being incredibly likely to not want to go down to Calgary for the convention with George R.R. Martin and James Alan Gardner in August, that just sucks even more. Can anyone come to town that I do want to see? I'd accept Alanis Morissette.

Still mostly fixated on Generations, but I did get a little bit farther into Burying The Shadow. It only seems to hold my attention sporadically, but I am starting to enjoy it. It's just not compelling. But it is taking me far too long to read--I will have to buckle down to it, or I might only get one more book read this month. Maybe The Pacific Edge(which, as a library book, I'm pretty much committed to)will be faster. Maybe I'll be done Generations by then.

I don't think that this week looks good for writing. Tonight is a totally lost cause, and both "The West Wing" and "Friends" have new episodes this week, casting a shadow over the next two days as well. And I am fairly unmotivated right now, Dare be damned. I got "Delta City" done, and it feels like an accomplishment I should be rewarded for with time off.

Not like I always use it wisely, or anything. I've been playing large quantities of Nethack, for one thing. I have never managed to complete a game of Nethack; the closest I came, by extensive usage of the "save-and-restore" cheat, was with a Barbarian woman named Belit, but I couldn't get past Juiblex and eventually gave up. So far, in this version, I haven't even managed to make it back up through the Gnomish Mines with candles. I keep bogging down. And I'm playing fighter-type classes, not trying to make it with Archaeologists or Tourists or Healers or anything. And it takes so much time...that I don't really have.

I also very productively spent several hours upgrading my Cygwin installation. That's a version of Unix that runs under DOS(so probably won't work under Windows XP if I ever upgrade), and has become indispensible to me for things that I can do with vi and perl much more quickly than I can with VB and Word. Anyway, it's been a long time since I upgrade it, so I spend a few hours downloading new versions and then installing them. I grabbed everything, indiscriminately, and then changed my mind and uninstalled a bunch of TeX stuff. I have no real interest in getting involved in that, and it took up too much space on my disk. I'm down below 1G on that disk anyway--time to offload some more stuff onto CD-RW, if I can ever get organized enough to do that.

I would like to rant here, for no particular reason, about the idea that the human race is still evolving.

Remember that phrase "survival of the fittest"? Well, how evolution seems to work is that you have N animals(or plants, or bacteria, but I'll consider animals for simplicity), and they have, say, 10N offspring. But there is only enough food for, say, 2N of them to survive. So the 2N that survive are the "fittest". The ones who can get the branch a little bit higher off the leaf, the ones who can hide in the grass so that predator doesn't get them, or whatever. Of course, you don't get to contribute your genes to the next generation unless you actually reproduce, so sexual prowess(fecundity, attracting mates, etc.)also counts in there.

All clear? So the key to "improving" a species, or at least making it better at surviving in a particular environment, is that the better survivors...survive, and the rest die off. This is crucial, because if 99% of the animals survive to pass on their genetic material to the next generation, then guess what? You haven't changed the genetic pool one whit.

And this is what is happening with the human race these days. Sure, maybe favourable mutations are happening every day, but so are unfavourable ones. People with genetic diseases are reproducing and the diseases get passed on. Nearsightedness is becoming rampant, almost universal. (No wonder glasses are actually starting to become fashionable.) Would you favour a systematic culling of the human race that killed everyone with less than perfect vision? That's what natural selection would probably end up doing.

Natural selection, when it comes to the human race, started to recede at the beginning of civilization, and now is, in most parts of the world at least, a distant memory.

No, those who believe humans are still evolving are those who think of evolution as some kind of teleological process, driven, and with a purpose. Not just the result of billions of random mutations and ruthless culling from the environment. (Actually, it's not all culling--the mere ability to produce offspring at a faster rate may be enough to bring your particular genetic line into prominence.) And to those people, well, if you believe there is an innate purpose to the universe that demands that ever more "advanced" lifeforms develop, then I can't reason with you.

To the rest of you, I can recommend the writings of Stephen Jay Gould, especially Full House. Or I can make a few points to consider--if everything less than a primate is a more primitive creature, then why are there so many of them around? Yes, maybe we've wiped out many species, but there are still birds, there are still beetles, there are still fish, there are still frogs. There are still marsupials--the opossum still thrives.

There is no space in evolutionary theory for a "goal". If the random changes undergone by an organism happen to bring it into a vacant niche where there is no competition, then it will fill that niche until it is its own competition. That's how most of the great "advances" have worked, from fish developing into land creatures to photosynthetic bacteria poisoning the air with oxygen.

To get intelligence, you need a big brain first. It's anyone's guess how we got ours--I'm betting on brachiation, but I could be wrong. Once it gets started, of course, it goes into a feedback loop, and large brains get selected for, but first you need the brain to develop the intelligence in the first place. Dolphins have big brains, for instance, but I suspect that the vast majority of that is still a complicated organic computer that processes echolocation data. If they were to move out of the water, then the rest of the brain may end up used for something else.

Of course, I'm not a biologist by anything apart from the reading of Gould. I never even took it in high school, afraid I'd have to dissect a cat or something. But hey, I find some of these issues more interesting than physics, which I actually know something about.

Enough of that, now with the counting down.

522. Godley & Creme: An Englishman In New York

I think this song was originally on "Freeze Frame", but I certainly heard it first on "The History Mix Volume 1". It's got delightfully acerbic lyrics, and an interesting effect caused by the vocals being recorded separately in each channel, so the left and right are not quite in sync.

521. The Pretenders:Tradition of Love

From their album "Get Close", which is usually reviled by critics who thought that their first album was their best. I don't agree with that, though "Learning To Crawl" is fast becoming my favourite. Anyway, this is a good song.

Have you considered trying to match wits with a rutabaga?

Aaron // 11:38 PM Clix me!

Sunday, April 21, 2002:

A Road That Was Thorned And Narrow

I don't know exactly why it is, but Blogger seems to regularly, and repeatedly, screw up my archive links. If you look down the side of the page you may only see one link, to August 26th, or to the current week. I have several times gone through a procedure that's supposed to fix it, and it doesn't seem to always work. And it seems to break again quite easily. I now know why Quincunx has put up his own archive links. Maybe I should agitate on the discussion forums, but that just seems like too much work. I'm sure if I bought "Blogger Pro" all my problems would go away...

While I'm thinking of it, I meant to link to
a recent post of Quincunx's that I thought was really good, "Wouldn't my friends be surprised if..."

At the Cult of Pain meeting on Saturday, I passed out copies of "Delta City"; attendance was rather good, so maybe a few people will have read it by next time. There are a few people who can get very busy and not have time, though. I got a few more comments on my novel from Sue, but that was pretty much it.

The daughter and grandson of Mari, who was hosting, showed up near the end. The grandson, who just turned two, is named Perrin. Yes, apparently the daughter and her husband are Robert Jordan fans. (Apparently, I just checked this out on the net, the title of the tenth Wheel of Time book is to be Crossroads of Twilight, and should be out in November. I wonder if the library will let me put in a request record yet?)

The best we could come up with for a writing assignment for next time was "Harry Potter slash". Now I don't know how serious that is, but I'm not necessarily planning on doing it... I just think it's an interesting idea. I'm sure there's already some out there, though.

Tonight we played Mah Jongg with Darren and Bohdana. Their daughter Sophia is about four months old now, so not very coordinated, but able to hold her head up and more or less look at people. After a year or more of Simon being fairly mobile it's easy to forget that it takes them a while to get that way. We will need to get back into practice. I'm sure it won't be that difficult. We still have to work out the new details of how it'll work with two parents and two children.

We still haven't settled the name issue. "Luke" is still leading for boys, but some initial progress on "Victoria" for a girl was derailed by the fact that we couldn't decide on the short form--Nicole preferred "Torey", and I "Tori". Neither of us thinks much of "Vicki" and its ilk. I still like "Tegan"...but it might be over the border into unusual names. "Simon" is not common, but everybody has heard of it and it's not that outre; ideally we'd like to achieve this with the second child's name as well. With our luck it won't be a girl either, and we'll have wasted all that effort.

Still reading Generations instead of Burying The Shadow. I'm into the Civil War Cycle, so about halfway through the listing of American generations, but not halfway into the book.

Rereading the earlier sections have clarified some things for me about Howe & Strauss's theory. They say that each generation has a "peer personality" of a given type, and with given characteristics...but it is obviously not inevitable that every member of the generation have all those characteristics. In fact, there are probably quite a few who don't fit the profile at all--but they are aware that they don't fit in. If you're a Boomer and you never had a "sixties" experience, then you're conscious of having missed out on one. If you're a Silent and you never had a midlife crisis, ditto.

I thought it was interesting...everyone seems to think, as a result, however indirect, of Gail Sheehy's book Passages, that you're "supposed" to have a midlife crisis. But really it's only part of the lifecycle of an Adaptive generation, like the Silent, so Boomers and Gen-Xers and the like can't count on one. It may be used to describe a similar phenomenon, but it's not the same thing at all. The Adaptive midlife crisis comes of growing up overprotected under the conformist wing of an older Civic generation(like the G.I.'s), overprotected, married with children early, and then throwing it all away(or getting the urge to)about the same time the younger Idealist generation(like the Boomers)are throwing off the shackles of Civic conformism. And the result of it is broken marriages and underprotected Reactive(like Gen-Xers)children.

Anyway, I don't feel like a stereotypical Gen-Xer--I'm not an intellectual underachiever, I'm not a risk-taker, I'm not a get-rich-quick enthusiast. But I do share the culture, I do have a fairly cynical nature, I don't believe in politics, I think grand ideological causes are overrated, etc. I've already mentioned that I don't think that simple solutions are necessarily right.

The generational cycle has a built-in spot for a "secular crisis", which according to the Howe & Strauss theories(as expounded in Generations and The Fourth Turning)should come sometime around 2020, give or take a decade. It doesn't look like September 11th is necessarily that crisis, then. And it really doesn't seem to be. If it were really a secular crisis constellation(that is, a given arrangement of generations in certain phases of life), then you'd have Boomers in elderhood, Gen-Xers in midlife, and Millennials in rising adulthood, which hasn't happened yet. The current constellation is one behind that, and is closer to the state when the U.S. was in World War I. The Boomers are not yet united behind a "holy crusade"(if those aren't terribly unfortunate words to use)the way that happened for World War II, or the American Revolution.

But hopefully it won't turn out like the American Civil War, where they were in a constellation much like ours but the Idealist generation in midlife at the time brought things to a head and the crisis traumatized pretty much everybody. I don't think that the "War On Terror" has things in quite that state yet. If there are other terrorist attacks, then it might come closer... So what is actually going to happen for the next secular crisis I can't guess, whether it'll be a continuation of the current world events or something totally different. But when it comes, then the United States will be more unified and more committed than it is now. Which could be pretty scary. Hang on to your hats, and befriend your neighbours. (In The Fourth Turning, they note that in a crisis era, it's a good idea not to seem like an outsider in your community. We may be out of luck there.)

Counting down just a little bit more...ooh, yeah, just a little bit more...

524. The Pogues: Fiesta

In some ways this is an odd moment on the "If I Should Fall From Grace With God" album--the Pogues, who seemed a quintessential Irish bar band, doing a Spanish bar song. But somehow it works, probably because of the incredible horn section that accompanies them, and the irresistible singalong chorus.

523. Neil Diamond: Play Me

I confess to being a Neil Diamond fan from way back--I liked songs like "Crunchy Granola Suite" and "Porcupine Pie" as a kid, though it was years before I found out who sang them. This is one of his sweeter ballads, from his album "Moods", and while the string accompaniment might not have aged well, it's got a nice Spanish guitar bridge, and Neil's voice has rarely been better suited to his material. You just have to excuse his use of the word "brang".

If you can't beat your computer at chess, try kickboxing.

Aaron // 10:46 PM Clix me!

Friday, April 19, 2002:

Right Now I Just Want To Take What I Can Get Tonight

I forgot to mention last time that I finished The Woodlanders, and while Thomas Hardy may have considered it his favourite of all his books, I can see why most people don't agree with him. I prefer Tess of The D'Urbervilles instead, or The Return of The Native, but then those are the first two of his I read. This one just didn't seem to have the same emotional depth to it, or something. And the couple who get married end up reconciling and living happily ever after at the end(admittedly, after a lot of tragedy in between)! What kind of Thomas Hardy novel is that?*

Now I'm starting Storm Constantine's Burying The Shadow, which is in my "random" slot, as in, I selected it completely at random from my list of unread books. It's supposed to be "a reinvention of the vampire myth", so I guess we'll see. Her Wraeththu books were not bad--at least the first and third ones, the second got a bit dull. Part of it is that whole gulf between British SF and North American, where it's like a whole other genre with different expectations. I've noticed the same thing with their music. It's like they're more interested in innovation, and we're more complacent.

I've read a few chapters so far, but I confess I picked up Generations by Neil Howe & William Strauss, one of my favourite non-fiction books, and have started rereading it, so I don't forecast much progress on Storm Constantine this weekend.

Oh, and I got to the end of "Delta City" on Wednesday. I'm not going to say that I'm finished yet, since there a few things I will be going back to change(probably tonight, since the Cult of Pain meeting is tomorrow and I want to print out a few copies before then), but it's now a continuous narrative from beginning to end. Finally! Close to 22,000 words.

A couple of actual links, for those of you who like such things:

Courtesy of
cyborgirl, something called Lost In Translation, that takes the input phrase and translates it back and forth between languages until it becomes incomprehensible. My favourite so far is "Whole number still that connects much the tin", which started out as "All may yet be very well". It's prepositions and homonyms that fool it, I guess.

And courtesy of Zannah's /usr/bin/girl, we have Omniglot, a page for all the world's different writing systems, alphabets and syllabaries and logographic and anything else. It's got fictional scripts designed for video games, movies, and by Tolkien; it's got Georgian, the world's greatest alphabet, and scads more. Scad after scad after scad. I always wanted to do a book of this stuff, but now I guess that would be redundant! Visit it often.

Another round of the Blogger Insider, this one from Crystal at Her answers to my questions should appear on her site sometime in the next week or so...

1. What were the last three luxury purchases you made(i.e. CD's, books, chocolates, etc)?

Books? Luxury? I challenge the categorization. I have a quote somewhere in my copious tagline file which says, "Literature is a luxury. Fiction is a necessity." I haven't bought any literature in a while, only fiction. Same deal for music, I would think.

On the other hand, since I have such huge collections of both books and music, it could be considered a luxury to buy more. So, in that spirit, the last CD I bought was Alanis Morissette's new one, "Under Rug Swept", listening to which I think might have helped "Delta City" move to its conclusion. I will probably always associate its penultimate sections with that CD, anyway.

The last new books I bought would be Angry Lead Skies by Glen Cook and The Spheres of Heaven by Charles Sheffield. We bought chocolate bars a couple of days ago after supper, but not "chocolates" chocolates. I generally can't stand them anyway.

We will soon be booking hotels just outside of Windsor, Ontario for my brother's wedding this August; that and the airline tickets might be considered "luxuries" as well. After all, we could have taken the bus and camped out.

2. What was the closest brush with death that you have ever had?

Man, I really don't remember one. I was in one traffic accident where I rear-ended a guy and got rear-ended by the guy behind me, but it didn't feel like a brush with death. Mind you, I did cross the traffic island after I got hit, and if there had been any oncoming traffic...or if I hadn't started braking quite as early, or.... I did also once get bumped by a bus as it was turning a corner, as I was standing on the edge of the curb, but just by the middle section of it, so it wasn't that alarming. I guess the car accident'll have to do.

3. What daily habit would you consider to be your most enjoyable?

A daily habit? That's a good question. Weekdays, I watch "Friends" reruns, and I listen to tapes of my favourite music in the car and sing along with them, but I do neither on the weekend. It's just not as much fun listening to my music when I'm at home, because then I'm too easily distracted and miss songs. In the car it's not a problem. (That reminds me...I was going to listen to "Beautiful Garbage" again before I took it back to the library, and see if it struck me better on a second hearing. I'll put that in now.)

4. Which of the four word stories is your favorite and/or has received the most attention--good or bad?

The "Abrasive Skunk" story seems to be the one most hit by search engines, because of the strategically positioned word "slut". My favourite would have to be "The New Paranoia Album", I think, or "Slit". (I think I answered that part of the question recently on the April Hour-A-Day Dare web site, somewhere in the comments, not that it would be easy to find or anything...) Attention? Well, I brought several of them to the Cult of Pain for critiquing, but I can't remember which of them received the most positive or negative critiques. I don't tend to hear much from people who read them on my web site, if any, so I'd have to cast my mind back to when I originally posted them on talk.bizarre. I think "The Ambush" was the most positively-received there, as one of the few that actually had a punchline.

5. Which blood relative has been the most influential in your life and why?

A tough one. I'm not that close to a lot of my family, so it's pretty much down to my brother or my parents, or conceivably a grandparent. My mother was very strongly behind my being treated as a "gifted child" in school, and that certianly influenced my life a fair bit, not always in a good way, but it is certainly much different than if, say, I'd been two grades further back in school.

My brother almost served as a counterexample to me for years--not that I think that he did stupid things or anything, but everytime I saw how he lived I knew for sure that I didn't want to do that. If you're reading this, Steve, don't take that the wrong way. We're just different people. He did introduce me to a lot of music that I love now, and not a few books as well. (Though since I read much more quickly than he does, I like to think that that goes more the other way.)

Oh, there is Simon, of course; he's certainly been influential in my past couple of years, mostly by reducing my free time...*

6. What is the best and the worst thing about being married to another writer?

Worst? Do I have to answer that? My wife reads this, you know.* No, perhaps it's just a bit intimidating because she is so dedicated to it, and she just accomplishes so much that sometimes I wonder if it's worth it. But having finished my own novel now(and now a novella, too), that's not as big of an issue. When we first starting dating, I was a little bit cowed by it, though. Oh, and sometimes I confess to being a bit reluctant when she wants me to read a section of her work that she's revised and tell her if I like it better than it was before. (How do I know?) And since she writes full time, we don't have a reliable second income coming in.

Best? Well, we understand the time requirements of writing. I like to do things by myself on my computer, and she can give me the time for that while she's writing. And if I'm actually writing myself, I get a bit more slack...though if that gets more common, I'm sure she'll get less impressed by it.* And she is an accomplished critiquer, if I do need someone to take a look at something quickly.

7. What was the most embarassing (at least in looking back now) fashion trend you followed or piece of clothing you owned back in the 80s?

I don't know if it was in the 80's or not, but I did love my velour shirts. That was junior high school...yeah, that would have been the 80's. Actually, if they come back into fashion for guys I might start wearing them again. Not those particular shirts--no way they'd still fit me, if they hadn't disintegrated by now--but other ones. I was never much of a fashion trend-follower.

8. Have you ever been contacted by any of the people that you listed that you would like to hear from? Or have you ever been "found" through the Net by other blasts from the past?

Yes, I have been contacted by some of them, but I leave them up there because we never establish regular contact; in most cases I was more eager to hear from them than they were from me. If they even remember me at all.* And a few other high school classmates have found me, since I occasionally succumb to the temptation to sign up at one of those Classmates web sites.

9. What is the one dream that sticks out as being the most vivid for you throughout your life?

Most of the vivid ones I had, I turned into stories, like "The Cherry Grove"(which is probably not online, since I got it for-real-published in OnSpec), "Mysterious Ways", or that "Mercury Poisoning" one I wrote and swear I posted but can't find anymore.

10. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Probably a scientist; Isaac Asimov was my hero for many years. It depends on how "little" you get, of course. Probably an astronaut at some point, too, though my eyesight probably ruled that out for me.

At work today I was doing mostly design work on the next version of our product, which I am really bad at and find mind-numbing as all hell. And Edna insisted I start learning UML--that's "Universal Modelling Language". You know what? It's not a language! It's just a way of making a bunch of diagrams! Glorified flowcharts! They call it a "diagramming language", but that's crap. This is just pseudocode for right-brained non-verbal people. I'm not really one of those. I promise.

I am really not looking forward to the next version, have to start over again at the bottom of the learning curve with Java, try to figure out multi-tier architecture, and all that crap. Not to mention Oracle. Can't we just stick with our Visual Basic and Microsoft Access and become obsolescent?

Oh, well, as long as they don't need any real work done...

I think the thing with "Beautiful Garbage" is that they have changed their sound a fair bit. They're more melodic, and songs like "Cherry Lips(Go Baby Go!)" and "Can't Cry These Tears" are almost, I don't know, Lesley Gore or Phil Spector or something. The first track, "Shut Your Mouth", is the only one I've heard so far that sounds like the first album at all.

It's within a band's rights to change, though, but I'm also within my rights to stop liking them if they do. Actually, it's not that bad an album, it just doesn't sound like a Garbage album. Man, "Drive You Home" is like a ballad with rhythm guitar. It's like they're moving the opposite trajectory from Everything But The Girl.

Downing the count once again:

526. Billy Joel: The Night Is Still Young

From his "Greatest Hits Vol. 2" album, though I mostly recall it from the video. At the time I liked his other "new greatest hit", "You're Only Human(Second Wind)", better, but this one has aged better, with wistful lyrics more appropriate to my current age, I guess. One thing I like, on a technical leve, is how the verses are sung in two parallel vocal lines an octave apart.

525. Kate Bush: Get Out of My House

This used to be one of my favourite tracks on "The Dreaming", but it's slid down a bit in recent years. She played just a few too many tricks with the vocals on this one, with important words in the lyrics put into weird voices and distorted a bit too far, so they're hard to follow. And that whole bit at the end with the mule--what the heck is that about? But it's still interesting, and occasionally quite powerful.

'This bouquet's missing a flower,' Tom said lackadaisically.

Aaron // 10:07 PM Clix me!

Wednesday, April 17, 2002:

A Hidden Throne I Never Will Perceive

It's now two days late, but
Sherry did the Monday Mission yesterday and the questions look so good that I have do it today:

1. What caused your last case of psuedo-road rage?

There's so many, it's hard to pick just one...I mean, I can get annoyed just at someone in a pickup going 80 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. I feel a fiendish joy every time somebody pulls out from behind me to pass because I'm going the speed limit and eventually has to pull back in behind me, or(even better), behind someone further back. But I digress.

Let's go with the guy in the traffic circle. Some of you may not be familiar with traffic circles, because I know they're not everywhere, but I don't know where they are where they aren't. In Britain I believe they're called "roundabouts", but I think traffic circles tend to be larger, several times the size of a normal intersection. There's two lanes that go around, an inner and an outer lane, and a number of streets going in and out. If you're just going a short way through the traffic circle, you're supposed to take the outer lane, and exit either on the first or second street after you enter. Otherwise you take the inner lane. If you're in the outer lane, you're supposed to yield to anyone in the inner lane, because otherwise they could get trapped indefinitely. You are supposed to signal "in"(leftward, since we go around them counterclockwise)until you get to the street you want to turn on, and then signal "out"(rightward) to let everyone know that you're turning.

Unfortunately, there seems to be little agreement as to when precisely you're supposed to signal out. Do you signal just after you could possibly have exited for the previous street? A little earlier(which is ambiguous)? Or a little later? I confess that I sometimes pick "a little later", but not "a lot later". When you're going in the outside lane, the best strategy is to wait until there is nobody approaching in the inner lane that might be turning out just in front of you. Of course, some drivers don't possess the kind of patience that will let them do that in rush-hour traffic.

There are two traffic circles that I pass through every day, one on the way to work and one on the different route I take home. So one day I'm coming home, and I enter the traffic circle(after waiting my turn). I take the inner lane, because I want to turn left a few blocks after my exit, and pass the first street, signaling in. I see a guy there waiting to enter the outer lane. Just as I start to signal out, he enters the traffic circle. And(can you see this coming? Have I foreshadowed it strongly enough?)he seems to think that I am not exiting at that street, because as I start to turn out he keeps going in the lane beside me. Only the fact that I was already watching him kept us from a collision. I slammed on my brakes and was too off-guard to think of honking my horn, as would doubtless have been appropriate.

What annoyed me was that he assumed that I had the same criteria for signaling out that he did. I never assume that--I would have preferred to wait, in his case, for the guy to pass rather than assuming he was continuing further on. And, if I had entered the traffic circle, I would not have assumed he was not going to turn out in front of me; I would have yielded to him. Did he not see my signal light? Did he think I didn't have time to turn out? Did he think I would be so crass as to signal between two exits without the intention to exit at the second one of them? Was he even paying attention to me, or did he think I had become irrelevant to him?

Well, if we had crashed, it would have been a total bummer, of course, but it would have been his driver's side hitting my passenger's side, so I would have likely been okay, while he would have taken the consequences of his own actions. And it would clearly have been his fault for failing to yield. That would have been my only consolation.

It seems to me(and, of course, I could be wrong, since it hasn't happened)that if I was in an accident, the other driver was hurt, and the accident was his fault, then I would not feel at all guilty. There are a lot of drivers out there who take shortcuts, make bad assumptions, and only escape having accidents more frequently than they do because the usual traffic conditions make them feel safe. I could have an accident every morning if I slammed on my brakes at the right moment, and I'm sure most of my readers(who drive)could say the same thing. If not, let me know where you live and I'll put it on my list of places to live.

Whoa, that turned into a rant. I haven't had a driving rant in a while, I guess. Well, back to the Mission:

2. Tell me about one of your favorite television shows that was cancelled (past or present).

It would have to be "Twin Peaks". No contest there.

I heard about this show when it first came out, but didn't see it. I heard Julee Cruise's "Rockin' Back Inside Your Heart", and I had friends tell me about it(probably Jeremy, at the time), but I didn't actually see it until I was flipping channels one time. It was near the end of summer reruns, and they were playing the whole first season(which was only six episodes plus the pilot, I think), two hours a night; I think I started watching somewhere in the middle of the third episode, and it didn't take long until I was hooked. I got Nicole into it as well, and we watched the second season together. Then it went on "hiatus"... We went to see the "Fire Walk With Me" movie, which was pretty good(though from the shooting script I see that it could have been used as more of a linker into a potential third season). And it never came back.

I don't remember if I got to see the pilot and other early episodes again before it went into reruns on Bravo!'s "TV Too Good For TV" series. I watched it then two or three times through, and got most of it on tape(though I'm still missing a few episodes in the middle of season two, including Josie's death, and often don't watch it past that point).

What did I like about it? Well, I think I have a bit of a soap-opera buff in me, though I think an actual soap opera(except possibly "Charmed", which sounds more interesting)would bore me to tears. I like the interactions of a cast of characters in endless combinations, plot points that disappear for weeks and then return, and all that. It's why I used to read comic books, probably, and why I like the Robert Jordan series. I also liked the Agent Cooper character, and the gratuitous weirdness that happened from time to time. And the supernatural elements were very well done. I remember when the X-Files first came out, someone told me that if I liked Twin Peaks, I'd like that. But it wasn't anywhere near the same.

3. Have you ever gone online and pretended to be someone else? What's the story there?

Hmmm. Well, I did create a pseudonymous blog so I could rant about my job.... But generally I don't pretend to be other people online. I must think I'm interesting enough as it is. The only time I'd want to be someone else would be if I was doing something that I didn't want connected with me, and I don't have time for that kind of crap.

4. What was (is) one of your favorite Children's books?

Watership Down I've read many, many times--though not in years. I can't wait until I can start reading it to Simon. I may skip all the descriptions of foliage that start the first chapter. "The primroses are over" is not an opening sentence to kindle the imagination. But the epic tale of the rabbits' journey, of Hazel's cleverness and Bigwig's courage and all that, is stirring and inspiring.

5. Can you recommend a CD (tape or otherwise) for me to listen to on the drive home?

I can recommend dozens, if not hundreds. Let me limit myself to Shriekback's "Oil & Gold", They Might Be Giants' "Flood", and Tears For Fears' "Songs From The Big Chair"--one of the few albums that I think has to be listened to loud.

6. What is your online nickname and what is the story behind how you selected it?

I could take a shortcut here and just point you to the web page I already wrote about that, but I can paraphrase it here too. Basically, I read Janet Kagan's book Hellspark, loved it, and lent it to my brother Steve and his then-girlfriend Christa. Steve had been running a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and Christa decided to start one up too. I had been too busy to join Steve's on a regular basis(playing a lot of NPC's instead), but I decided to join Christa's. I rolled up a character, a half-elf(as was my wont), and then tried to think of a name. Christa suggested "Alfvaen", from one of the characters in Hellspark. I thought it sounded good, so I used it.

I had tons of fun in Christa's campaign, where she played fast-and-loose with the rules and didn't let them get in the way of experiencing a good story, and the character of Alfvaen really developed, perhaps the closest to my own that I'd ever played. I do a lot of laconic fighters, usually, but Alfvaen was...well, quite Chandleresque, really, and I mean "Friends" rather than Raymond here. Long before the TV show ever came out, though. Maybe that's why I like Chandler so much, I just realized.

When I first signed on to a BBS in the fall of 1991, I picked the name "Waldo" on impulse(there was a Where's Waldo? book sitting near my computer), but later I changed it to "Alfvaen". Well, actually I meant to change it to "Sharkey", after listening to Laurie Anderson's "Sharkey's Day", but the sysop informed me that a rather unpopular character went by that name on several BBSes, so I went with "Alfvaen" instead. I also used it on alt.callahans, my first major foray into Usenet.

And, I don't know if I mentioned, "Delta City" is the story of what happened to Alfvaen before Christa's campaign. Several of the characters were created by her. I wish I knew what she was doing these days... I've considered changing the main character's name(in one draft I had "Fravaenolete", or "Vaen" for short), since it's my online alias, but you know, I don't think I will. If W.P. Kinsella can have the main character of Shoeless Joe named Ray Kinsella, then I can use "Alfvaen" in a story.

7. Ever been bitten or stung before (snake, wasp, dog, etc)?

Once when I was a kid I swatted at a fly that was buzzing near my head. It turned out to be a stingèd insect--I don't remember now whether it was a bee or wasp or what, but it had stripes and it had a sting. It hurt for a while, but eventually it got better. Yes, it's too long ago for me to remember details.

BONUS: Does anybody love anybody anyway?

Well, to answer this question "no", you might have to be one of those people who fakes their way through all human interactions and thinks that everyone else is faking too. Whether that's sociopathy or psychopathy or autism or what, I don't know. Or you could be someone who makes the definition of "love" something so unrealistic that nobody could possibly live up to it. (I won't bother to define it, because that's how you get caught in that trap.)

I'm neither, so my answer to the above is: Yes. I don't believe in soulmates, since I don't believe in destiny, and therefore I don't believe that everybody will eventually find someone that they love. It's possible there are people(perhaps of the aforementioned categories)who will never love anybody; it's highly likely that there are people who can love more than one person at a time, though maybe not as many as some people would think.

Another musical theme pack:

Songs on one album which have the same title as a different album--Julian Cope's "World Shut Your Mouth"(from "Saint Julian"), Queen's "Sheer Heart Attack"(from "The Game", I think), and The Smithereens' "Especially For You"(from "Green Thoughts"). I'm sure there's more, but these are the obvious ones...and would make a diverse set of music anyway. Led Zeppelin's "Houses of The Holy", from "Physical Graffiti"--Eurythmics' "Revenge" from "In The Garden", one of the few that predates the same-titled album--Big Country's "The Crossing", from their "Wonderland" EP, probably also does.

I've also thought of doing a numerical pack, which feature a number in the title of the song. There are many "One" songs, and probably a fair number of "Two" songs as well, but let me see what I can come up with off the top of my head(okay, and with a little grepping of my music collection--see if you can tell which are which):

Harry Nilsson(or Three Dog Night, or Aimee Mann): One
Iron Maiden: Two Minutes To Midnight
The Commodores: Three Times A Lady
Led Zeppelin: Four Sticks
Mike Oldfield: Five Miles Out
ZZ Top: I Got The Six
REM: Seven Chinese Brothers
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week
The Suburbs: #9
A Chorus Line: Dance:10, Looks:3
Rupert Hine: Eleven Faces
Kim Stockwood: 12 Years Old
Big Audio Dynamite: V-13
Teena Marie: 14K
Depeche Mode: Little 15
Ringo Starr: You're Sixteen
Stevie Nicks: Edge of Seventeen
Skid Row: 18 And Life
Rolling Stones: 19th Nervous Breakdown
The Welfare $tarlets: Twenty Something
Alanis Morissette: 21 Things I Want In A Lover
Laurie Anderson: Example #22

Well, it looks like 23 is the first one I can't match(except for a Rowan Atkinson track from his "Live In Belfast" album, but that's comedy and doesn't count.) Past that, we can do:

Pink Floyd: Chapter 24
The Hooters: 25 Hours A Day

And then we bog down again.

Some larger numbers:

They Might Be Giants: 32 Footsteps
The Beautiful South: 36D
Joe Jackson: Forty Years
National Velvet: 68 Hours

But I should probably stop here.

Counting down still further:

528. Bruce Willis: Down In Hollywood

Yes, I know what you're saying. "Bruce Willis? He can't act, and he can't sing either! You suck!" Well, in my defense I have to say that this song was written by Ry Cooder, and Brucie has lots of help on it, and what about "The Sixth Sense", anyway? I have the record with the Ry Cooder version on it(I haven't checked to see if it was recorded before or after), and maybe I will like it better, but for now this one will do.

527. Ann Mortifee: Never Ending Search

Hey, these Ann Mortifees are clustered a bit close together, aren't they? I just did one a couple of days ago! Well, so what. This is also from "Born To Live", and seems to be a sort of Zen koan song with a good bassline, and a little bit of choice vocal work from Ms. Mortifee. Oh, yeah.

The five boxing wizards jump quickly.

Aaron // 10:12 PM Clix me!

Monday, April 15, 2002:

The Echo of A Skip of A Rock On A Lake

Crazy weather the last couple of days--Sunday it rained for most of the morning, and the snow was almost all gone by last night. Today? When I got up at about 7:15 this morning there was six inches of snow, and more coming down. I abandoned all hope of getting to work on time; it took quite a while just to shovel the driveway, and the sidewalk. A fair bit of that was just on the carport, which normally gets a little bit of snow, but today was practically as deep inside as outside. All wet snow, close to freezing, perfect snowman weather apart from the wind. At 10:00 I set out for work, and it didn't take that much longer to get there than it normally rush hour traffic. I shudder to think what it would have been like an hour and a half earlier. I wouldn't have gotten there much sooner, I think.

The first forecasts I heard said it would stop in the morning, but it didn't until after lunch. At least the roads were safe for driving in the afternoon, a little wet but not slippery. The parking lot at work was pretty bad, and I almost got stuck there before leaving, but managed to get out of it okay. We have a little collapsible shovel that we wished we had in the trunk over Easter, so before I left this morning Nicole put on her ski pants(I don't have any)and waded out to the shed in the backyard to fetch it. I didn't have to use it...but it was there.

After my rant of Saturday night, I did get 1800 words done on "Delta City", and another session last night(forgot to count the words), so it's not like I'm abandoning writing for the month. I am at least going to finish "Delta City"(over 20,000 words now, so squarely into the "novella" category), which should hopefully only take another couple of sessions, and then maybe look it over for internal consistencies. After all, I have written this one over a period of several years, or maybe closer to a decade. It's hard to keep it all straight in my head. It will be done for next Saturday. It's not looking good for writing tonight, particularly, but I'm sure I'll get back to it sometime this week. I have a deadline now.

I should also maybe print out and send off "Red Gold" sometime, which means doing some more market research. I keep hearing good things about, so I should check there. Then I have to decide if I want to send "The New Paranoia Album" to another market, or revise it and send it back to Interzone. I'll have to see if I agree with any of their comments.

Let me tell you here the tale of two bands, as far as I know it. The two bands, both Canadian, are the Barenaked Ladies, about whom I have raved before, and Moxy Früvous, to whom I was listening recently.

They both got their starts in a very similar fashion. They recorded short self-titled demo tapes and sent them around. They made videos--the Barenaked Ladies made a video for "Be My Yoko Ono" by going to MuchMusic's "Speaker's Corner", where you can put in money and speak your mind to their video cameras, and getting themselves on video there. Moxy Früvous did a video for "King of Spain" which was a bit more elaborate than that, but not much. Both demo tapes ended up doing bang-up business--the Barenaked Ladies one even ended up on the charts, not sure about the Moxy Früvous one--and leading to record deals. Both bands were fairly quirky and humorous as well, I should mention, though the first time I heard of the Barenaked Ladies was doing a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" for the "Kick At The Darkness" tribute album, which downplayed the quirkiness a little bit.

The albums followed, Moxy Früvous's "Bargainville" and the Barenaked Ladies' "Gordon". (These timelines aren't quite in sync, but they're within a year or two, so I'll pretend that they are.) Both included most of the songs from the demo tapes(Moxy Früvous omitted their version of "Green Eggs And Ham", and Barenaked Ladies theirs of "Fight The Power"), and continued to be mostly quirky and humorous, but with a little injection of seriousness.

The Barenaked Ladies did well with their song "Enid", which was not on the demo tape, and "If I Had $1,000,000", which was; Moxy Früvous did well with "My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors", which was on the demo tape, and "Stuck In The 90's", which wasn't. Moxy Früvous had a certain left-wing political agenda as well.

So there things stood, and if anything I would have given the edge to Moxy Früvous at that time. I lost track of things for a little while, at least on the single and video front, but when I saw a new Moxy Früvous album, "Wood", I snapped it up right away(something I rarely do). And I was sorely disappointed. Almost all the quirkiness was gone, except for one song, "The Present Tense Tureen". The rest was pretty much just straight folk-rock, and mostly pretty somber, too.

The Barenaked Ladies had a second album out, "Maybe You Should Drive", and a song called "Jane" which was okay but never made a strong impression on me. It was also fairly non-quirky.

Moxy Früvous, perhaps realizing that they'd veered a bit too far, released an EP called "The B Album", which contained some quirkier songs, as well as some more overtly political songs targeting people like right-wing Ontario premier Mike Harris, and Rush Limbaugh. I bought that and liked it well enough, but it was a bit unsatisfying.

Then I heard a song called "The Old Apartment" by the Barenaked Ladies, which rocked out pretty hard. My friend Lorne at Terranet(where I was working)was a big BNL fan and lent me their most recent album, "Born On A Pirate Ship", and the previous one as well. I still held to my opinion that they were okay but not great, and still only mildly quirky. I was big into They Might Be Giants at the time, so quirkiness was a cardinal virtue.

I heard about the Barenaked Ladies album "Stunt"(via Fantasy Billboard)long before I heard any songs from it, and then the song I heard was the once-again-just-okay "It's All Been Done"; it was months longer before I finally heard "One Week", which I liked much better. Moxy Früvous's album "Thornhill" had come out to no notice whatsoever, though I did get it from the library, like it(but not to excess), and eventually buy my own copy.

But with "Stunt" Barenaked Ladies had pulled into the lead. An earlier live album, "Rock Spectacle", had nosed its way onto the American charts, "If I Had $1,000,000"(always one of their most charming songs)gained them an audience, and then "One Week" sealed the deal. It had a very respectable showing on the Billboard charts, and suddenly they were not just an occasionally-quirky Canadian band, they were an internationally successful one. Moxy Früvous released somewhere in there an album called "You Will Go To The Moon" which disappeared without a trace. (According to the
All-Music Guide, it actually came out before "Wood"...nope, totally missed it.) I listened to this one from the library as well, but it didn't make it onto my wishlist.

And I have already written about the surpassing accomplishment that was "Maroon", the most recent Barenaked Ladies album; I don't even know what Moxy Früvous are doing these days. Their album "Wood" has improved with later listens, but it still is a drop from "Bargainville", and their later decline is still pretty clear.

What made the difference between the fates of these two bands? Well, perhaps Moxy Früvous started to take themselves a bit too seriously. Perhaps the Barenaked Ladies toured more--I've heard them called the hardest-working band in Canada. I've seen both bands live, and both were good, but Barenaked Ladies were better. I'm not much of a judge of songwriting, but there's probably a big difference there as well. So Moxy Früvous will remain the band that didn't quite make it.

A couple of weeks ago I looked for the new Alanis Morissette album, "Under Rug Swept", at the library, but they didn't even have it in their catalogue. So I put in a purchase request for it, hoping that I would thus end up pretty early on the request list. And it came in for me on Saturday! That was a very fast turnaround time.

I liked it a fair bit on first listen on Saturday night, though "Hands Clean", which I'd already heard, was the only one that really struck me. While I was out on Sunday, I ended up buying my own copy, on impulse, and gave it another listen that night as well. I think it sounded even better the second time.

"Hands Clean" is somewhere in between "Unsent" and "You Oughta Know", and everyone is probably trying to guess who it's really about, if it is in fact autobiographical. And there's no reason to presume it's not, really. "Flinch" didn't work for me the first time through, as an acoustic number, but I warmed to it the second time. "Narcissus" I liked both times, and may be a good candidate for a single, if I'm a judge of these things and I'm usually not. (Well, not these days. I used to be much better.)

Sometimes I think that Alanis will end up being Canada's(or North America's)Sinéad O'Connor, but she seems to be a little bit more together than that. She does seem to draw on some of the same wells, though, but she's not quite as confrontational.

Have I mentioned how odd it is that a lot of Canadian female singers have the initials "A.M."? Anne Murray is the prototype, of course, but Alannah Myles, Alanis Morissette, Amanda Marshall...Ann Mortifee, too, though she never reached the same level of success, and I'm pretty sure she was born in South Africa. Of course, there are lots of counterexamples--Jann Arden, Lisa Lougheed, Celine Dion, Luba, Meryn Cadell, Joni Mitchell, Jane Siberry, Holly Cole, Loreena McKennitt, Sarah McLachlan, Shari Ulrich, Candi, Chantal Kreviazuk, Jennifer Warnes, Lorraine Segato, Sass Jordan, k.d. lang, Lee Aaron, Mae Moore, Nelly Furtado, Sue Medley, Lisa Dalbello...I could go on, but that's probably already too many.* Statistically it's probably a reasonable enough coincidence--remember that the odds of a randomly-chosen person having the initials "A.M." are not 1 in 26 squared.

Well, if one in a hundred people have the initials "A.M.", then what are the odds that five people out of the 27 listed above have them? I just read a bunch of books where they did this...but I think I'll have to check my Statistics textbook to remember just how. Ah, here it is. It's ((0.01)^5 * (0.99) ^ 22) * 27!/(5!)(22!). I knew it had those factorials in it somewhere. That works out to a probability of 6*10^-6, or about one in 150,000. Still, it happened.

Of course, where did I get that list of singers from? I went through my own personal musical collection and added all the female Canadian vocalists I could find. There are others I could have put in, like the country singers--Shania Twain, Michelle Wright, Carolyn Dawn Johnson--that almost doubles the probability, to 1.1*10^-5. There are many people I could have put in the list, but didn't--but I had to include all the A.M.'s because there was a pattern there. (Actually, I almost forgot Amanda Marshall, but I knew there was another one, just couldn't think of the name.) See, this is another instance of filtering. It's easy to construct a data set with the remarkable data, but the trick is to include all the unremarkable data, too.

And besides, even coincidences happen. If you have a whole bunch of one-in-a-million events, then odds are one out of every million of those will happen...and there are probably thousands of them every day. And even if twice as many happen on one day as probability would suggest, that doesn't mean that the probability is wrong.

One thing I remember in statistics class that sounds just wrong is what they call the Beta function. It's what you get if you subtract one random distribution from another one, more or less. It's more complicated than that, but this is just my vague characterization of it. To make it concrete, you've got two guys flipping coins, Ralph and Ed. They will both get approximately the same number of heads as tails...but if they each flip their coins at the same time and you keep track of who's ahead, it will almost always be one or the other. It makes a certain amount of sense--if Ralph gets ahead by five heads at one point because of a streak, then the odds of Ed getting more heads doesn't increase. So he will be likely to stay behind Ralph. And that's the Beta function. If "a" and "b" are random variables with the same mean and the same distribution, then "a-b" will include a Beta function...and will almost never be zero.

530. Blondie: Faces

"Autoamerican" is far and away my favourite Blondie album, and is certainly the one I'm most familiar with. This bluesy song is carried by Debbie Harry's sweeping vocals, telling the story of a homeless man in a very sentimental manner. I can see why fans of early Blondie wouldn't like this song, but I never said I was one of them...

529. Ann Mortifee: The Companion/Phoenix

You know, here's another meaningless coincidence--I had no idea that this song would come up on tonight's countdown when I wrote the above "A.M." entry. Odds there are about 1 in 50, because I've got eight Mortifee songs in the 750-song countdown. Anyway, this pair of songs, from "Born To Live", always seemed to inextricably linked in my head, so I take them together here. "The Companion" always reminded me of an old Star Trek where they found a man living with this alien energy symbiote. This song has a similar idea, but the Companion is a bit more sinister. And "Phoenix" seems to somehow be the story of that Companion itself, and its insatiable hunger for experience. I could be wrong, but then again maybe I'm not...

Miscellaneous is always the largest category. --Walter Slovotsky

Aaron // 10:07 PM Clix me!

Saturday, April 13, 2002:

Someone Is Screaming Among The Debris

Two days in a row with no writing done...which is really not that remarkable for me, but it does mean that I'm falling down on the April hour-a-day thing. I'm not really surprised, though, nor am I even disappointed.

Writing is always something that I enjoy better having done than actually doing it. It's nice to have finished a story, and by this point people usually say nice things about it when I do so(though so far not that many of those people are editors). But the fact remains that there are other things that I like doing better. And every moment I spend doing writing is a moment I am not doing one of those other things. Maybe I should phrase it the other way around, that every moment I spend doing something fun is a moment I am not doing writing...but I don't. It is not the way I look at things. And I am not convinced that it should be.

This is all sparked by a comment in response to a post on the April Hour-A-Day Dare blog, where I said that I had "skipped" Tuesday. The commenter said that I should carry around index cards with me and write standing in a lineup. Where this person gets the idea that I spend a lot of time standing in lineups, I don't know. Perhaps he thinks I should write while the car is stuck in very slow traffic on 109th Street at rush hour? I think that's illegal, personally, though it did take me over half an hour to get ten blocks in that stretch on Friday.

But the whole philosophy behind it is alien to me. I'm beginning to think that the dare is not going to work for me, at least not to the same degree that it does to some others. It will not make me write an hour every day, not even try to. I do not define myself as a writer, but as someone who occasionally writes. Because if I was a writer(and still kept my day job, as economics dictates), I wouldn't have time to do hardly anything else that I enjoy.

Right now I'm considering joining an astronomy club, I would like to do more plays sometime, and I would of course like to keep doing my Lorenai projects, and play Sims and other games from time to time. I need to spend time with my wife and my son. I have many, many, many, many books to read. I watch a few hours of TV a week--I think up to five in total, most weeks. As I said, I need to work, and I need to go to and from work. From time to time I even interact with other people socially, though not as much as some may do. And right now I read the blogs I like, and write my own blog entries as well.

Not to say that there still aren't times when I am not engaged in doing any of the other things, and yet still can't bring myself to write. It is then that I usually go to the most mindless of my games and play those. Because I do not feel like doing anything at all.

So maybe "real" writers are people who haven't managed to build up for themselves, over the years, all these other things to do with their free time as well. Or quite as many drains on that free time. Ideally, of course, they use the "work" time to write, which is not going to happen quite yet. Or they are just more dedicated, and there's the rub. I am not dedicated; I am weak-spined when it comes to forcing myself to do things I don't want to. And I accept that as a personality trait, too, because it's self-reinforcing; changing would be hard, so I don't want to.

Maybe I'll just stay away from the AHADD blog for a while. I will still try to finish "Delta City" for next weekend...but I will not bend the rest of my schedule out of shape to do it. I may be a spineless slacker at heart, but if that's who I am, then so be it. I can dig in my heels when I don't see a reason to change.

Since I've already started ranting here, let me switch to a different topic. I've seen, and heard, many people complain about their families. Mine is really pretty good on most scales. But there are always just some annoying things. Tonight I will be picking on my dad.

My dad is a classical extrovert. Which, I've hypothesized, means that he needs to recharge himself from time spent alone by spending time with other people, and the more time he can spend with other people the better.

I, however, am an introvert. So, I need to recharge myself from time spend with other people by spending time alone, and the more time I can spend alone the better.

The upshot of this is that whenever I see my dad, when he visits us or when we visit him, he's rarely alone. He's got some friend(I can't keep track of how many friends he has, or how many are "real" friends)or friends with him, or other relatives, or whatever. Most of them are people I don't care about, and may never meet again, or don't care if I ever do. Many of them I just don't like, from my admittedly limited experience.

Friday morning my dad phoned me at work to say that he was going to be in town this weekend, and was staying with a friend. He phoned after I got home from work and gave us directins to get to his friend's place. And then when we got there, we spent a very uncomfortable period with this woman I had just met, she trying to engage us in conversation(in which she did not come over very well)while my dad played with Simon. If we were Sims, she would have had a "friend" score of about -15. I actually took refuge in pretending to watch the hockey game that my dad had turned on. Thank god we finally decided to play some cards, because then the social interaction is minimal.

That was admittedly one of the worse situations he's put me into, but often I am just wanting to talk to him, and there's someone else there that I don't particularly care to have part of the conversation. What's wrong with, say, lunch for two, instead of three or four? But his philosophy seems to be, let's see if anyone else is available, and invite them all. He loves barbecues and those kinds of get-togethers. A couple of years ago at Easter he had three or four other people over that I'd never met before. And I've never seen or heard of them since, so I'm betting they were not close friends that he really wanted to share a special occasion with, just people who weren't doing anything else that day that he managed to get to come over.

That's fine for him, but I would really not like to be thrown into too many more of those situations.

Then today, he was going to call us about getting together again. He phoned my cell at about 11:00, while we were at the mall and almost ready to come home, and he said he'd be over at our place, with my grandma, in about an hour. We got home and then decided to wait until they came over to see what was happening with lunch. At 1:00 we gave up and ate. At 1:45 we gave up again and decided to put Simon down for his nap. At 2:00 I phoned my grandma's place to see if they were there and I had gotten confused about the time, but there was no answer; a few minutes later they showed up. Simon, who was not asleep yet by any means, got back up, and we had a nice time playing cards after that...but still!

Were they trapped on the Planet of No Phones? I gather that my grandma decided to have a nap, but they could have phoned. I was actually surprised Friday night, when my dad phoned once to say he would be at his friend's place in an hour, and then, an hour later, to say he was there! Because really today's behaviour, timewise, was more consistent...but I can't help but get caught in it, every time. Because I would show up on time, or phone if I was going to be late. (Except for a few occasions with certain people where I have neglected to do this, which have made me resolve to always do it in future.) Another personality difference.

So normally when waiting for my dad, I try not to just get ready and then wait. You have to go about your business as if nobody was planning to come over, and then just interrupt whatever you ended up doing when he finally arrives. It's hard to do sometimes, but usually I manage it. Today I got some dishes done, for instance. So it wasn't a total loss.

I did find a couple of books at the mall today, which was a pleasant surprise. Well, one of them, Charles Sheffield's The Spheres of Heaven, is one that's been there before, but I put off buying it when it first came out because it seemed like I'd bought a lot of Sheffield recently. And I'm still missing the third on in the Heritage Universe series... The pleasant surprise was really a new Glen Cook, Angry Lead Skies, which is probably at least the ninth in the Garrett "fantasy P.I." series, or what I like to call the Adjective-Metal-Noun series(though I didn't coin that term). Why is it called that? Well, the series includes(not necessarily in order)Sweet Silver Blues, Red Iron Nights, Bitter Gold Hearts, Cold Copper Tears, Dread Brass Shadows, Old Tin Sorrows, Deadly Quicksilver Lies, and Faded Steel Heat. I think with "lead" he's practically run out of the classical metals. The seven metals of the ancients were gold, silver, copper, lead, quicksilver, tin, and iron; he's used all of those now, plus the alloys steel and brass. I guess there's still bronze, then what? Pewter? It's hard to work things like "zinc" or "nickel" into titles, I think.

At the library I picked up a couple more Dr. Seuss books(on loan)for Simon, one that I had requested and one that I actually saw on a shelf from across the room. The first is I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew, which is very good and which I would have no compunction in adding to our collection. It's an interesting parable about trying very hard to get to a place with no troubles, only to find that you can't get in in the first you might as well go back and face your troubles. The other was The King's Stilts, which is a longer story more like Bartholomew And The Ooblick, with more prose, no rhyming verse, and fewer pictures. It was still an interesting story. Simon definitely likes the Solla Sollew one, anyway.

Nicole found a copy of Connie Willis's Miracle, a collection of Christmas stories, most of them published in Asimov's SF Magazine. I swear, she must do one every year. I've read most of them already, but there are two new ones. And at the end there's a list of twelve each recommended Christmas movies and books, some of which are obvious and some of which are not. ("It's A Wonderful Life" doesn't make the movie list, but "Little Women" does, for instance.) Might be worth checking out, in the season. We didn't see the book when it came out, but that may be because it says "Fiction" on the spine instead of "Science Fiction". (Nicole actually found it in the Romance paperback racks at the library, but a lot of books get misfiled by lazy browsers. What you should really do, rather than stick a book back where it doesn't belong, is leave it sitting out, so that a library staffer knows that it's in the wrong place and can put it back. If you stick it in the wrong place, that may not get noticed for a while.)

It's always confusing when an author gets plopped into the "General Fiction" category like that, whether for one book or many. Mainly because I don't look in General Fiction very often, it being full of, well, general fiction that I don't like. Do SF books that sneak into General Fiction sell better? The genre readers often can't find them(unless they are cross-shelved by alert bookstore employees), and the general-fiction readers probably have no idea who they are and may not take a chance on the new author. The people who regularly check both sections are probably a minority.

I did a bit of looking at astronomy stuff on the net, and found that there's a chapter of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada in Edmonton, which as far as I can tell is just an astronomy club. They have telescopes for rent, which would be ideal for me to test them out and get an idea what I'm doing before I shell out to buy one, and they have observation nights at the Odyssium(formerly the Edmonton Space & Science Centre, but everything needs to have a cool name these days, and multiword names are not cool). Another piece of advice for beginning astronomers was to begin with binoculars. I won't discover any asteroids with them(still my long-term goal), but you can apparently get surprisingly good view of planets and galaxies and such.

As far as the city light pollution goes, apparently the smaller the aperture of your telescope the less of a trouble there is with that, and the CCD camera-telescopes that would be used for asteroid hunting are fairly good that way. There is a lobby to put light-pollution regulations in place, as apparently some other cities have adopted, but nothing so far. It would mean a lot of hassle to a lot of lighted-sign owners, for one thing, and I think their opinions carry more weight than a few stargazers.

The RASC does have some observing stations located a little ways out of town, though. I would like to be able to look at stars out in the country late at night, but quite honestly I'm too afraid of bears and other woodland predators, that might make it a bad idea to go too far from lighted areas...

And now, counting down just a little bit more, getting a little closer to the top, will this ever stop?

532. Go Four 3: Rope

Another great song from their "Six Friends" album, about the desperation, perhaps not to quiet, of trying to survive daily life in the city.

531. Kid Creole & The Coconuts: Laughing With Our Backs Against The Wall

It's maybe a verse or so overlong, but this is easily the best song on the "Private Waters In The Great Divide" album, with vocals mostly by the female members of the Coconuts and not so much by Kid Creole himself. It's a paean to the nouveau riche person who ends up losing everything they've gained through profligate spending...but it's more fun than that sounds.

Archaeology is the only profession where your future lies in ruins.

Aaron // 9:04 PM Clix me!

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