The Den of Ubiquity

Tuesday, December 31, 2002:

Break The Laws of Time And Space

Here I am, begrudgingly picking out a final blog entry of 2002. The holiday season is nearly over, since I have to go back to work on Thursday, and I am disappointed with how little I really managed to get done. It felt like a long time, but I have been deluged with relatives. Many of them I don't see very often, but I wish that they had either spaced their visits out further apart, or closer together, so I wouldn't have so many days in a row of dealing with people.

Since some of them may end up reading this, let me clarify--it is not anything about spending time with any particular person, or group of people, that is the issue. It is the fact that I consider social activity with large numbers of people to be extremely draining on my energy, and I have to replenish it with alone time.

Not to mention the fact that out of my list of tasks I wanted to get done before the end of the year, I have accomplished pitifully few of them. I haven't even finished reading The Satanic Verses, not having managed a lot of reading over Christmas. I've still got 180 pages left, probably a good three hours of reading, and that's not going to happen. It's an interesting read, but I don't find it completely compelling. Steve had built it up to something like David Foster Wallace/Neal Stephenson/Matt Ruff, but it's not nearly as much as an absurd romp as anything those guys can pull out. Having to go back to the personal history of almost every new character introduced doesn't help matters.

Oh, well. Next year/month I will try to find something more interesting. I've got a couple of Terry Pratchett's peripheral Discworld books, The Last Hero and Maurice And His Educated Rodents, out to read in there somewhere, possibly the second Otherland book, and very possibly Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan.

Tonight, for our festivities, we will be watching "Raiders of The Lost Ark", a movie which Nicole has apparently, and almost unthinkably, never seen all the way through. Sharna & Nick happen to have the complete trilogy, which they lent to us, so if time permits we may go on to "Temple of Doom" as well, which I've(more forgivably)never seen all the way through either. We may also watch Simon's Christmas present, "Pooh's Great Adventure", as well, and possibly even the "24" episode from two weeks ago that we taped and haven't gotten around to yet.

I am still psyched for the Robert Jordan book. Wayne was here visiting for a day or so, and since that's one of our major conversational topics, we spent some time speculating and reacquainting. I may very well shell out for the hardcover, even if I give it to someone else afterwards and wait for the paperback to add it to my permanent collection. I have it on hold at the library, but I don't know if I can hold myself back until it actually gets in. I wish I knew how long it was going to take... I read the first chapter online(not the prologue, which is 112(!) pages long and costs money), too. Seven more days... Less if I had had the foresight to order from the European publisher, apparently.

I checked out the weird thing in Locus, about this book being supposedly "the end of a story arc", and found out that that's not strictly accurate. There are still two more books scheduled in the Wheel of Time series, for a total of twelve. But the next Robert Jordan book after CoT is supposed to be A New Spring, which is an expanded version of the prequel novella in the Legends anthology. I guess that Robert Jordan decided to put back in all the stuff he cut out when he compressed it down to novella-length, but it'll still end up a mere 200 pages or so. He also has two other prequel novels planned, to come out in between Wheel of Time books--one about how Tam al'Thor ended up in Emond's Field, and one following Moiraine & Lan as they end up there just in the nick of time.

It's interesting about the Legends thing, because also in Locus it said that Diana Gabaldon had attempted to write a novella for a forthcoming volume, and it turned into a side-trilogy as well, the first book of which I believe was to be called Lord Harry & The Chamber Pot. Or something like that.

Oh, and Robert Jordan is going to be in Edmonton on the 28th! Waycool. I am so there, dude.

One reason why the holidays were not quite so satisfying this year is that we couldn't do quite the amount of child-foisting on the grandparents that we usually do. That's because Luke decided to start making strange, so if we gave him to someone else to hold, then he would start to cry. Not always right away, if you held him so that he didn't realize who had him, but he would do it. Nicole's friend Joanne, who babysat when we went to Harry Potter, said that he cried for about an hour straight after we left. Which we feel kind of guilty about, but dammit, we need some time out.

That's the only one of the movies we wanted to see in December that we actually managed. I had "Red Dragon", "Die Another Day", "Star Trek: Nemesis", and "The Two Towers" on the list as well, and now who knows when that's going to happen, if we can't in good conscience get a babysitter?

Well, by the time we left my mom's, after having been there for about four days, Luke had stopped making strange with them. So we just need someone to live here for four days and then we can get them to babysit. Nicole's parents are due in the middle of the month, while they start their house-hunting in Beaumont, so I guess that's a possibility. Other than that, we'd need to alternate evenings, or go out to the late show on Saturday after Luke goes to sleep.

But his sleep schedule has been screwy lately too, possibly due to the fact that he was a good boy and slept almost all the way home from my mom's. The next two nights we couldn't even put him down in the crib without him waking up, it seemed. He seemed to keep scratching his scalp, where admittedly his cradle cap was getting pretty bad, so we washed it under the tap, but that didn't do the trick either.

Sunday night we decided to try crying him out. We thought we wouldn't have to do that, since he'd started sleeping through the night on his own(unlike Simon), but we were tired of him not sleeping. We left him for half an hour, and then we checked on him, fixed his covers(which were all twisted), replaced his soother, and he dropped right off. Last night he was good again, so hopefully he's back into his routine.

So if he keeps up a steady sleep schedule, then we can try sneaking out. Or hope that he gets over his making strange(an odd phrase, really, but one that I'm comfortable with now)quickly.

Oh, in other news, he has been reported by one or both of us to be able to roll all the way over, or at least all the way from back to stomach(first attained on Christmas Day), and possibly to produce the syllable "da", which is of course halfway to "Dada". Today he was also, while on his stomach, lifting himself up on his hands and feet. So we're going to have to babyproof the main floor of the house pretty damn soon.

And that's all I'm going to share tonight. I still have to write about things like the Christmas home video we shot and gave to several people(which I couldn't talk about here for security reasons), and actual Christmas stuff, my visits with my brother, etc. But I can't manage it all right now. Tune in next year for more.

The last countdown entry of 2002:

362. Bruce Cockburn: To Raise The Morning Star, from Stealing Fire

This is one of Cockburn's best albums, and this is one of the most transcendent songs on it, mostly due to the many backing singers on the chorus. The lyrics, about the experience of joining together to become more than we are separately, don't hurt much either.

361. Weird Al Yankovic: You Make Me, from Even Worse

This is a song which I realized belatedly was done in the style of Oingo Boingo, which may be one reason I liked it from the first. The lyrics are general absurdities from Weird Al in the way he does so well.

Is that a helpful waffle, or what?

Aaron // 5:22 p.m. Clix me!

Sunday, December 22, 2002:

It Was Cold But We Didn't Care

Last entry before we leave. We're driving up tomorrow morning to Grande Prairie, staying one night with my dad before he heads off to Calgary, and then heading over to my mom's. Probably coming back on the 28th. Hopefully I'll post again sometime this year. (2003 coming goodness.)

We've got so much stuff to come with us, plus a number(I think three, but I'm not sure)of Steve's bags. We already opened a few presents at Sharna's so as not to bring them with us. Well, I didn't get one, because mine is apparently coming up with Wayne, who will pass through Edmonton after we leave... It's the ones that we'll have to bring up and back that are the nuisance. The ones we're giving other people are generally smaller.

We'll manage, I'm sure. Even with Steve in the back wedged between two car seats. Or maybe Nicole will sit there while Steve sits up front or something. I'm pretty sure that Steve won't be taking driving shifts, though; at 35, I don't know if he has a driver's license yet, and he certainly doesn't have that much experience if so.

It's definitely gotten cold now, down to between -10 and -20 Celsius. Which is to say, real winter weather. In the mornings you almost don't notice the lack of snow, because of all the hoarfrost. It'll be fun going out to get a Christmas tree--my mom wanted to wait until we were there before they got one, a real one, like we did two years ago. Each tree will have a sheath of crystalline frost around it.

We saw the second Harry Potter movie a few days ago, and it was pretty good. I'd read the book once, a couple of years ago, but only the once, so I knew the story while not remembering every little detail. I had less of the feeling of visual familiarity that I did with the first one--apparently a common phenomenon. I'd pictured the Chamber of Secrets proper to be a lot smaller, for instance. But I'm not always a very careful reader when it comes to visual description like that.

I finished reading Shadowline, and thought it was pretty good; I have the other two books in the series as well, but won't get to them for a little while yet. I'm not sure yet why it's called the Starfishers series; I mean, there are a mysterious and enigmatic people named the Starfishers who showed up in the book, but they had a strictly peripheral role. But then, it took a few books before the Dread Empire really came into the Dread Empire series, too.

Then I whipped through Gordon Korman's No More Dead Dogs, from the library. It's a juvenile, with all the characters in middle school(something I never had when I grew up--it was strictly elementary-junior high-high school for me), but I still liked it. The book's about a boy on the school football team, mistakenly proclaimed a hero for a fluke play in the last season, who gets an eternal detention from the English teacher for not giving a good book review to the book Old Shep, My Pal, wherein the dog dies. As his punishment, he has to sit in on all the rehearsals for a play based on the book, missing his football games, but he leaves his mark on the play as well. It's quite funny, but also quite human, and reads older than it seems like it should. My favourite Korman books are generally his high-school age ones, Don't Care High, Son of Interflux, and A Semester In The Life of A Garbage Bag, but this one is pretty good. (I never read him as a kid, by the way. Nicole introduced me to his books when I was the grand old age of 19 or something.)

Now I'm reading The Eyes of Heisenberg by Frank Herbert. It's another thin one--as are all of the books, besides the Rushdie, that I'm bringing up for Christmas. I'm already over a quarter of the way through it, at about 50 pages. It's interesting, with some of the themes that inpired the movie "GATTACA", except that here there are sophisticated techniques for genetic manipulation of the unborn to fit them into rigorous molds. But there is an underground resistance, and they have managed to plant an embryo with unforeseen potential...

I've been to the United States three times, that I remember.

When I was quite young, though older than Simon, I remember going down into the "Inland Empire", as they call it--eastern Washington and Idaho, mostly. I think my dad had some family in Coeur d'Alene or something. I was fascinated by the fact that we ended up passing through Spokane, which was where all our American TV channels came from at the time. I begged and pleaded until my parents drove us past one of the TV stations. I must have been insufferable.

We brought our dog with us--a border collie/bouvier de Flandres cross named Cinders--which limited the places we could stay. Cinders must not have been very old at the time, maybe only a year or two. The most significant thing to me about the trip, though, was that I left behind in a motel room, and hence lost, a stuffed Snoopy doll from which I had been inseparable. I had refused to let them pack it, and then forgot it myself when we left. I never saw it again. <sniff>

The second time, we went on a cross-Canada trip in the summer that dipped into a little bit of the northeastern U.S. We had rented a tent trailer, so we just parked it every night, pumped up the trailer, and slept there. I'm pretty sure that it was 1979, which means I was 8. We had a Basic Dungeons & Dragons rulebook that was a fairly recent discovery--this was the one that came after the original set but before Advanced D&D.

I remember, in the Maritimes, that lobster was really cheap, and that some of the people(friends of friends? I haven't a clue)that we stayed with gave everybody a lobster to eat. I don't remember this, but I've heard the story of how Steve didn't put his in the boiling water correctly(head-first, to kill it instantly), so it tried to climb out and stuff, and it was making an eerie whistling sound, and probably traumatized him(he would've been 11). Lobster is still the only seafood I will eat, though...but I don't suppose I'd like to cook it myself all that much.

Anyway, we came down through Maine or something, I'm not sure, and then crossed back into Canada through Buffalo and Niagara Falls. I seem to recall that we went to a movie or something in Buffalo, and I lost my wallet. Being 8, it wasn't full of much, but I liked it. It was bright red leather, probably had a Canadian flag on it. And it did return to me in the mail later, which astounded me at the time.

Niagara Falls was cool, with all sorts of wax museums(the Ripley's Believe It Or Not one might have been my favourite--they still had the TV show with Jack Palance on at the time, I believe). We went on a boat that went close to the falls, too.

That was the trip where we skipped Toronto, because we didn't have time, and I was disappointed because I'd been looking forward to going to the Ontario Science Museum. Oh, well, I've been there now, and played the theremin, so I guess it's okay.

The third time would've been my "JHU/CTY at ASU" summer.
I've already posted about that, and I even felt like looking up the link. Mainly because I had to check to see if I had posted about it already. I totally lost track.

More details, in case you're interested: I remember switching planes in Salt Lake City, and since I was only 12(or 13), and traveling alone, I got escorted by a stewardess to a special waiting room where I sat and read happily until they came to collect me for the next flight, where of course I got to pre-board. Not too bad, in all. On the last leg back, I chatted with a girl who was going to Great Falls, Montana, so the plane must have stopped a few more times as well.

I bought a lot of books in Arizona. There was a really good bookstore within walking distance of the ASU campus, with a great SF/fantasy selection. At least enough for my tastes at the time. I bought the Hitchhiker's Guide trilogy, which I had only vaguely heard of before; Jack L. Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond tetralogy, which I had read two books of from the library; and probably some other Chalker and Anthony and stuff too. See, now I've forgotten most of it, but definitely the Douglas Adams ones stick with me. I think one night we got to watch the TV series adaptation, too.

I didn't really take much for courses down there--a Fortran course, and a "Latin & Greek in Modern Use" course. I've never used much Fortran, but that Latin & Greek course gave me a strong background in etymology that I retain to this day.

I never tried to get any university credit for those programs, and my mom never sent me back for another year. I think we couldn't afford it, though next year she told me that I was too old. Which was weird to me, because I wasn't, really, though I was already two years ahead of most of the people there; I was in Grade 9, a "freshman", when I went down there. That was where I learned about the whole freshman-sophomore-junior-senior sequence, which doesn't really show up in Canada nearly as much. I mean, I knew what they meant, but nobody ever used the terms.

I also discovered that math classes were done a lot differently, too. In Canada, or at least Alberta, we took topics from a number of different branches of mathematics every year. It sounded like in the U.S., though, you took one course in Geometry one year, then one in Algebra the next year, and one in Trigonometry the next year, or something. It still sounds weird to me, and maybe I just didn't understand how it really worked...

And that's it for me and the States. One day perhaps we'll go down somewhere for a Worldcon, or visit Nicole's cousin in San Jose, or go to New York and meet Nicole's agent. Who knows. I don't ever really want to live in the U.S., but I don't know if that's a rational decision or not. Certainly I have no intentions of moving there right now, but I never even considered American universities when I was applying. I could've gone to MIT or Caltech and really made something of myself. Or dropped out in disgrace after second year. I guess I'll never know.


364. Godley & Creme: The Problem, from Ismism

This is a really funny song, basically a huge shaggy-dog-story word problem that throws in exact numbers and improbable situations involving clocks set to different times and missed train rendezvous and all sorts of gimcrackery, droned on and on in Kevin Godley's deadpan voice. Not as mordant or powerful as some of their other songs, but still a great listen.

363. Sarah McLachlan: Drawn To The Rhythm, from Solace

I've heard Sarah McLachlan say a few times that she really admires Peter Gabriel, so often I can't help but think of her songs in those terms. The title calls to mind Gabriel's "The Rhythm of The Heat", but with nowhere near the raw power. Still, this is an effective song about succumbing to the mystical pull of the sea, so perhaps it also contains elements of "Song To The Siren".

There should be trembling, there should be sorrow.

Aaron // 9:47 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, December 20, 2002:

One Thousand Voices Carved In Song

I went to a new hairdresser today.

Now some people have very deep, personal relationships with their hairdressers. I'm not judging these people, because I know one or two of them probably read my blog. It may be just a guy thing, but I don't. I don't do a single thing with my hair, most of the time, except wash it every two or three days, run a comb through it in the morning before I go to work, and get it cut every 3-4 months when its length becomes noticeably annoying to me.

I tend to bounce around a lot from hairdresser to hairdresser. I'll try this one, that's close to the house, or this one, that's close to work. In residential areas, there's usually one every few blocks, so it's not a big problem to find a new one. A few times I even tried a barber, an endangered species these days, a fair bit cheaper but also taking off a bit more hair than I wanted. I just want it to be low-maintenance for another few months.

Conversation is a good, but not essential, requirement for a hairdresser. Sometimes I just like to sit there with my eyes closed and relish the sensations, which I find rather pleasant. If the hairdressers prefer talking among themselves, then that's no problem. In Grande Prairie, one of the women who was in "Noises Off" with me was a hairdresser, and also someone from my high school class(though not someone I had known), so I went to her for a while.

The place I had been going, it was within walking distance, the hairdresser was easy to talk to, and by this point I had seen her every few months since Simon was born. She remembered a fair bit from time to time, which I find impressive, considering the relative infrequency of my visits. She had a nice musical background going, not just some radio station, but a bunch of MP3's, most of which I liked. We even agreed on how "Fat Bottomed Girls" by Queen was in many ways the perfect rock song.

But the problem was the difficulty in scheduling. That salon was practically a one-woman operation, maybe two. She kept odd hours--closed on Mondays, 10:00-5:00 on Tuesdays, 2:00-9:00 on Wednesdays and Thursdays, etc. All over the place. Half the time, when I thought of phoning for an appointment, I would get an answering machine. The machine said to leave a message if you wanted an appointment and they would get back to you, but they never did.

So this time, wanting desperately to get a haircut before Christmas, I decided I would go somewhere else. There were a couple of places in Mill Woods Town Centre, but let's face it, I don't want to try to go to a mall the week before Christmas, just to get a haircut. We're all finished our Christmas shopping. So I found a place in the shopping centre across the street from the mall, which I thought would be a little more accessible. And that's where I went.

There was some confusion over the location, because I hadn't been there before, and they had just moved, and their name had changed from something mundane but easy to associate with the shopping centre to something weird that I never quite made out. But I found it easily enough. There were several people there, waiting, being served, and serving. The man at the front counter, who showed me where I could wait, was one of those people I didn't want to just assume was gay because he worked at a hair salon, but I still wondered.

I did have to wait for a little while, which I rarely had to do at the other place(where I could gauge my arrival time more closely, perhaps), but I had my book so that wasn't a problem. There was some weird stuff, though. I'm used to the hair-wash-cut sequence, but this had a little neck and shoulder massage, a "hot towel"(really rather lukewarm)treatment on my face while my hair was being washed, and the like. I felt a little bit uncomfortable with it, but also a little bit bemused.

Because my hair needs are so simple--make it shorter and make it low-maintenance--I always feel like I'm a little bit of a disappointment to most hairdressers. No challenge at all, just boring. Why am I even coming to a hairdresser? If there were more barbers around, perhaps I would just go there...but let's face it, financially somebody who shortens guys' hair every few months cannot compare to someone who gives women perms, dye jobs, manicures, facials, and leg waxes.*

So conversation was a little bit stilted. I try not to suffer too much from "pressure of speech", but I imagine it's uncomfortable for the hairdresser as well if I just sit there and don't say anything, so there were a few exchanges. Nothing deep. But I guess it's part of the job, too. I don't want to be their least favourite customer, but then I'm not going to be a lot of work.

I'm not sure if I'll go back. My old hair salon is closer. I'll just have to explain, in March or so when I go back, why my hair doesn't look like it's been neglected for six months. It's not like we have a serious relationship or anything--nobody signed anything, or swore anything. But I still feel a minuscule tiny smidgeon guilty. I don't know if that salon is struggling, hence the reduced hours, and whether the $20 I could have spent there would have made some kind of a difference. But dammit, those weird hours are inconvenient, and if pressed, I will have to admit that.

I don't think I'll lose sleep over it, though.

Christmas plans have changed a little bit. My brother Steve is still coming for Christmas, but Kelly is not. She didn't want to get that far away from her doctor, apparently. Steve, though, having lost two grandparents since he moved to Toronto, is eager to come and spend time with the remaining one. This will actually work out a little easier, because we will likely be able to fit Steve into the back of the car, between the child seats, as opposed to making him take Greyhound or something. And Steve can fly down himself--in fact, he's supposed to have already arrived.

My grandma still seems to be doing fine. She's always been pretty spry, but then she's been fairly young. I think I worked out that she was 43 when I was born--exactly, because we share a birthday--so she's 74 now. She just gave up her condo, mostly for financial reasons, and moved in with her youngest son. She's a very hip grandma, really--she ran a lingerie store for years, and while she does knit and such, she has a very keen fashion sense. But she will start to wane someday, I suppose. I do see her fairly regularly, too. Well, more often than many of my relatives...

Anyway, we'll probably be heading up on the 23rd and heading back sometime around the 27th-29th. And I will very likely have time off all the way until New Year's. Steve is flying back from Grande Prairie, so that's not a problem. We just have to coordinate things with my dad, who is heading down to Calgary for Christmas, so that either he comes down early and we go up late, or vice versa, so we can spend a day or so in the same city.

I am doing pretty badly on the list of things I wanted to get done in December. I don't even know if I'm going to get caught up on my blogs. I'm closer to being caught up, but there's still half a dozen on the bottom of the list that I probably last read just before Hallowe'en. And social commitments will probably occupy the next couple of evenings... Which is one reason I wanted to get this blog entry out tonight, but then other things ended up intervening, so it's late and I won't get to talk about half of what I wanted to.

Oh, well, this is what you're getting. I'll try another one before I leave, but no promises.

Only a couple of library CD's this week. I've got too many that I can't listen to at work, I think. (Tenacious D? Don't think so...)

Travis: The Man Who Know nothing much about this band, but heard the name bandied about so I thought I'd try it. Much like other recent experiments with Ocean Colour Scene and Del Amitri, this album didn't do much for me...until I got to the extra hidden bonus track, which I eventually managed to discover was called "Blue Flashing Light". (I hate stupid bonus tracks with no titles. They drive me insane.) Anyway, that track had more of an edge to it than the rest of the album, which was too atmospheric and not musically varied enough to attract my attention.

John Parish & Polly Jean Harvey: Dance Hall At Louse Point This one was not too bad, though I still had trouble picking out standout tracks, but was closer to "Stories From The City..." than her previous albums I've heard. No clue who John Parish is, though, but that doesn't bother me.

For my reading, I'm still working on Shadowline. It's holding my interest so far; it's not the Black Company, but there's plenty going on, lots of tangled family connections and vendettas between high-powered space mercenaries. The timeline skips around all over the place, but it's mostly come together now. I haven't decided if I should try to read The Satanic Verses next or not. I think last time I checked it was due on January 4th and not renewable, so I'd have to see if I thought I could finish it after Christmas. I hate taking library books out of town, you see. But I might risk it with this one.

The countdown strikes again!

366. Parachute Club: At The Feet of The Moon, from At The Feet of The Moon

Parachute Club was a Canadian band best known, perhaps, for their song "Rise Up", but I liked this song so much better. The band had a very rich sound on most of this album, with vocal harmonies helping tone down Lorraine Segato's somewhat whiny lead voice, and a varied tapestry of percussion and rhythm. This song is also a bit less didactic lyrically than the rest of the album, opting instead for something a bit more mystical, and the combination is powerful indeed.

365. Dr. Hook: Sylvia's Mother

I don't really care what album this is from; I first heard it on a Greatest Hits compilation. It stands apart from the breezy uptempo numbers, and the other ballads on the album, because it has a feeling of real emotion in the vocals, and an effective lyrical technique.

Slip me some more of that crimson, Jimson.

Aaron // 12:02 a.m. Clix me!

Sunday, December 15, 2002:

Been Through The Wringer But I'm Okay

My brain is so fried right now. This weekend has been far, far too busy. I blame Christmas, mostly. Though NaNoWriMo is also somewhat at fault.

On Thursday, see, we had our first post-November Edmonton NaNo get-together. You may recall my mentioning that the first one was a bit underattended, with only myself and one other person there. Well, this one was a bit better--we had a third person,
Kelly, join us as well, even though she hadn't finished her novel. And that was it. We had fun, we laughed, we discussed writing(more than we often do at Cult of Pain meetings). It was at Royal Pizza again. I showed up at 7:00, which I thought was the agreed time, but apparently more than one person had asked for 8:00 instead, so the time was changed...on Thursday, when I didn't have time to check the forum. Oh, well, at least I got some reading done. Then Kelly and I sat there reading at adjacent tables near the window until 8:00 when she ventured to ask me if I was waiting for a group of writers. I had wondered, too, but never got up the gumption to ask. Starting conversations with strangers is not my forte.

Anyway, whenever I spend an evening out by myself, then I owe Nicole an evening of writing, which ended up happening tonight. Now, that wasn't as bad as it could have been, because Sharna and Nick were over, Sharna and Nicole making a traditional Dutch pastry which I believe is called butter letter, which is pronounced more like "boota letta" and contains a lot of ground almond. But I had to go out and do my Christmas shopping for Nicole in the afternoon, which I can't go into here because she reads my blog, so let's just say that it involved a lot of walking and looking for things in different stores. So I was tired when I got back, and generally vegged out, or wanted to, the rest of the day. I read a lot in The Nitpicker's Guide, for instance, rather than starting another book. Simon played his Magic School Bus CD, and I tried to keep Luke entertained, which is also not my forte. I can't wait until he can run around and play self-sufficiently, or even join in with Simon, which will probably be in another year-and-a-half. Maybe I should just keep looking forward to Nicole's parents moving down here, instead.

This place is such a mess. It's a hopeless pigsty. And people who think they live in pigsties are probably going to be disgusted at ours. We don't have big goopy patches on the furniture, or rodents running around loose, but apart from that it's like Rebecca Romijn's character's apartment when she guest-starred on "Friends" as the woman who was the incredible slob. We put up our Christmas tree on Saturday night, with the net effect of decreasing the usable floor space in the living room by a quarter. I clean the cat's litterbox about one-fifth as often as I should, and for weeks now it's needed a complete cleaning, but I haven't gotten around to it. I have dozens of tapes sitting on my shelf that I have listened to but haven't put away yet, and by this point I've lost track of just where they're supposed to go. We tried to find our favourite(and practically only)tape of Christmas music on Saturday night(Frank Mills/Roger Whittaker), but who knows where it's vanished to.

It's just so frustrating. I want another entire house where I can go and dump stuff from this house that I don't know what to do with. Maybe just a couple of rooms would do it, with plenty of tables for sorting things and shelves and drawers for putting things after they're sorted. But we don't, of course, have the space for that here. And most of the problem is things that get taken out, or just acquired, and never properly put away. Or thrown out, as they should be if I weren't such a horrible packrat.

But when I actually have a free hour, or(bliss!)two or more, do I clean up? Do I put tapes away? Do I try to organize? No! It's Sims time, or Lorenai time, or blog time, or something. And most of those "free" hours come at the expense of sleep time, in the evening. I don't know how long I can maintain this, though in general what eventually happens is that one evening I go to bed at 9:00 because I am so incredibly tired, and then after that I feel like I can start going into sleep debt once again.

After I finished my novel, I made up a little list of what I wanted to get accomplished in the remainder of the month. I don't know if I've managed any of it yet. Probably I'll try frantically to get it all done in the last few days of the month(and year)that I have off, when we get back from Beaverlodge. We'll probably be heading back on the 27th or 28th; I can't see my wanting to stay any longer than that, though my brother might have different ideas. Well, they can't ride with us anyway, with our two car-seated children in the back seat, so they're on their own for traveling, and they can stay longer if they want. Whatever.

Steve & Kelly are coming from Toronto to Edmonton by train. Apparently Kelly's brain injuries, suffered a few years ago, make the possibility of having a seizure a near-certainty if she takes a several-hour plane trip. She's willing to risk it going back, but she doesn't want to come out here for the holidays and then have to go into the hospital right away. I wouldn't want to risk it going back, either, but she says they don't have time for the train both ways. Well, whatever, it's up to her, I guess. Sounds a bit scary to me, though.

I finished Corbie a few days ago already, and...well. It doesn't make me feel good about the publishing industry in 1966. I mean, if somebody had given me a copy of this in a computer file, or on printer paper, and told me it was their NaNoWriMo novel, that it was a first draft they'd written in a month, I'd have believed them. It had no real plot, per se, though a few attempts at social commentary and vague hints at mythical allegory that suddenly burst out full-force at the end of the novel. By the time the main character's mysterious history is revealed, it's all too prosaic and I just, in general, don't care. Maybe in the 60's this all seemed profound, but it hasn't aged well, if so.

After that I read Reunion On Neverend by John Stith, which I just finished this morning. This book was a little disjointed, too, though it had its moments. The book seems to move through distinct phases, with different levels of tension, and hence different moods. It doesn't hang together well, the characterizations are a bit flat, and I think Stith did a better job with Redshift Rendezvous, or even Manhattan Transfer. Stith is sort of like Robert Charles Wilson, in a way--they have great ideas, but they can't quite connect them together into an entire novel. So their books are often interesting to read, but not ultimately satisfying.

Next up I'm going to start Glen Cook's Shadowline, first in his Starfishers trilogy. Cook is probably best known for his excellent Black Company series, and his pretty-good Garrett series, but he has quite a few others, including at least two entire trilogies from the 80's that I haven't read yet. This is SF, which is not his forte, but we'll see how it works out.

At the library I ordered in a copy of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. My brother's been talking this book up for me for a while now, and I was taken by the whim to order it. For some reason, with the whole fatwa against the author, I thought it must be some kind of heavy-handed criticism, like Solzhenitsyn or something, but now I get the impression that it's more like a satire. I'm not sure if I'm going to drag it along for Christmas or not, but I'll give it a try, anyway.

I grabbed a huge haul of books at the library booksale table on Saturday. They had a higher concentration of SF paperbacks than usual. I won't list them all here, but it was certainly far more than I've read in the past week. This is why I will never catch up.

Oh, and I was very intrigued, and surprised, by the news in the latest Locus that the next Robert Jordan book, Crossroads of Twilight, due out in less than a month!, is supposed to "end the current story arc", and that the next book is going to be a prequel. The news astounds me, because there are so many plot threads left hanging at the end of Winter's Heart that it doesn't seem possible that Jordan can tie them all up. I won't spoiler them all for you here, but trust me, there's a whole bunch. Maybe that's not what they meant, but what else can they mean? Maybe they meant the next book after Crossroads is supposed to tie everything up? I'm just not sure, but I'm foaming at the mouth to find out. I may even buy the thing in hardcover. I will try to resist, because I think my name should be fairly high up on the library request list; I first put in my request in August, so I would think so. But we'll see if I can hold out or not. Because those hardcovers are overpriced and overmassive, and I really don't want to buy one. Still...

I went through a whole bunch of library CDs this week. Not just ones that were due this Saturday(!), but several others as well. I'm trying to keep from having too many piling up that I'd have to listen to over the holidays.

It started out to be a good week. I started with David Bowie's '...hours', which was pretty good, not as impressive to me as "Earthling" was, but still a solid album. I can't remember what song I thought was the best though; I suspect it was "Something In The Air", but I can't remember for sure. Then there was The Who's "Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy". This is the closest I've come so far to liking a Who album...and I suspect that it's mostly singles anyway. But "The Kids Are Alright" and "I Can See For Miles" are definite classics, "My Generation" didn't bug me as much as it usually did, and "Boris The Spider" was amusing. I still tend to like solo Pete Townshend better, though. Then there was Nerf Herder's solo album, which was...well, I think you'd call it "power-pop", and pretty decent at that. "Van Halen" was funny too, but "Nosering Girl" was almost touching.

After that, it went a bit downhill. Well, I didn't expect much from Right Said Fred's "Up", which I requested on impulse when looking for the Peter Gabriel album of the same title(same with the ABC album, as the observant might have guessed). It was decent, though it was weird to think that it came out in 1992--I keep thinking of the early 90's as the time of grunge, since "Nevermind" came out in 1991, but I guess it didn't take off, or dominate, right away. Garth Brooks's "Scarecrow"--well, I didn't expect much either, but I was curious after listening to the Chris Gaines album. Nothing particularly noteworthy on the album.

Then there was the much-lauded "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" album by Wilco. I quite liked "Being There", but was lukewarm on "Summerteeth", and this one didn't strike me at all either. All the songs were too low-key for me, I guess, and too lyrics-focused. The one bright spot seemed to be "Heavy Metal Drummer", which was a bit more upbeat and lighthearted.

What else... I had T Bone Burnett's self-titled 1986 album, which I think was the only one the library had. It was okay, but nothing great, just straight-ahead roots-rock. I heard of him mostly as a producer, and as Sam Phillips's husband, and because of his great song on the "Until The End of The World" soundtrack, "Humans From Earth". But I guess that was a few years later. The Get Up Kids' "On A Wire" was not too bad, though I had trouble pinning down any of the songs; I may give it another listen, since it's not due back right away. And Emm Gryner's "Public", another female Canadian singer-songwriter album, was not too bad, though again lacking a standout track, so might require another listen too.

More from my ever-telescoping countdown:

368. Traveling Wilburys: Margarita, from Vol. 1

This song has some great harmonies, although, like several on the Wilburys' first album, it sounds like every member got to write and sing a verse of lyrics, so it doesn't always sound coherent. Still, it sounds great.

367. Bruce Cockburn: Fascist Architecture, from Humans

I first heard this song on the "Waiting For A Miracle" album, where I think it's a different, and possibly better, version from on "Humans". Actually, at first it was my least favourite song on the album, but it really grew on me over time. It helped once I realized that the "Fascist architecture" of the title was actually a reference to the walls of stricture and control that had grown up around the singer's freedom of thought. It sounds more pretentious than it is, trust me. It's got a nice bass ostinato, which I tend to like, and an oblique melody.

I say, put Schrodinger in the box & see how HE likes it.

Aaron // 11:45 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, December 09, 2002:

Like A Lie About To Be Revealed

I forgot to mention that a week or two ago I scored some Fawlty Towers episodes at the library booksale. A lot of library booksale stuff has barcodes and magnetic security stickers and whatever else on it, which leave sticky patches when you remove them, if they don't tear off part of the cover of the book or CD booklet. But sometimes they put out stuff which doesn't have any of that, which thus probably never was actually part of the library collection. I always figure that those are things that people donated(which you can do just by dumping something into the dropslot, I would think)which they decided not to add to their collections.

I never really watched Fawlty Towers, certainly never to the point of an entire episode. Of course I watched Monty Python a lot, but Fawlty Towers didn't have the same level of absurdity to it, somehow, so I wasn't as attracted. I did know about it, obviously--I think my mom watched it. She probably liked it better than Monty Python. I have it in my head that she might find it occasionally offensive, though I remember her quoting lines from "Life of Brian" with glee("Brian's been a naughty boy and can't come out to play, so piss off!", for instance), so I could have her wrong there.

Anyway, Nicole and I finally got around to watching a couple of episodes over the past week. The one we watched tonight, "The Anniversary", I found a bit painful and contrived--Basil pretends to forget his anniversary but has actually invited a bunch of his wife's friends over; Sibyl, however, gives up on him and drives off. What does he do? He pretends that she's sick, inventing more and more outlandish excuses why she can't come down and can't be visited, and eventually shanghais hotel maid Polly to impersonate her. So when Sibyl actually comes back, he has to pretend that she's someone else. Yeah, not particularly clever, Basil. I liked the first one, whose title was "Communication Breakdown" or something, much better. There we just have an annoying deaf woman and Basil trying to hide the fact that he's been betting on the horses...and he almost comes out ahead, but not quite.

Actual books I put in requests for at the library, and picked up this week, included The Klingon Dictionary and The Nitpicker's Guide For Next Generation Trekkers. I did that mostly because I had been listening to the "Star Trek: Power Klingon" tape my brother got me as a semi-gag gift a few years back. Like all of my comedy/spoken-word albums, I listen to it in the car(or at home, but mostly in the car)because I figure I can't get away with it at work. So I even get to practice the Klingon phrases! And that got me curious about the actual language(if you can call it an "actual" language...well, it's an artificial language, anyway), so I wanted to check out the dictionary. It's kind of interesting, and while I wouldn't say I know how to speak Klingon, I know a few more phrases now. And I can even pronounce most of the weird Klingon sounds. I can say "nuqneQ"("Hello"/"What do you want?"), and "tlhootlh"(I've already forgotten), as well as "maj"(good), and "cha"(photon torpedoes).

As for the Nitpicker's Guide...I actually have that one on tape. For some reason, at some Safeway store(I even forget whether it was in Edmonton or Grande Prairie, or how long ago), they had it on sale in some bargain bin, in two parts with three tapes each. ...Maybe those should go into my spoken-word rotation, too; they've just been sitting on shelves after we went through them once. They have Denise Crosby(Tasha Yar), Dwight Schultz(Reginald Barclay--everyone's favourite), and Robert O'Reilly(who I believe played Gowron, but has the most normal-sounding voice on the tape) reading them. But I ended up requesting this one, too. This edition only goes up to Season Six, so I might have to check out Volume 2 as well. It contains some interesting quizzes and lists, too. Now I wish I had more cable channels so I could watch the reruns on TNN...

I started reading Corbie, and it's...interesting. Not the sort of book I'd generally read. Publication date 1966, which means I have to be careful about making certain kinds of assumptions about the world. It's interesting, in light of my recent novel, because "Corbin" was my main character, and I believe that "Corbie" may have been one of the planets in the star system. ("Raven" was certainly the inhabited one, but the other ones were other corvids--"Chough", "Crow", "Rook", "Magpie", etc. See the "Crow City" link I posted earlier.) Anyway, it had a bit of a surreal beginning, but is perhaps settling down a bit; I've been distracted, though, because of the Nitpicker's Guide etc., and the nagging desire to reread my Sandman comics.

I'm off the "Friends" reruns for a little while. They got up to the end of last season, then went back to Season 5, presumably to start with Monica and Chandler's romance again. I've seen most of those too many times, though. I've skipped a lot of Seasons 3 & 4 the last few times on reruns too, but picked up again later. I don't know when I'll pick up again now. The thing is, they moved the reruns from 7:00 to 7:30, which means that I would have to divide up the evening into "After Supper-7:30", "Friends", and "8:00-Simon's bedtime(ca. 9:00)". I like one of those intervals to be reasonably long, but they both end up being under an hour...not long enough to fit a decent bath into, anyway. So it's kind of a relief to not have that "obligation"...but I do still like the show, for the most part. Season 1 & 2 still hold up for me, too.

I seem to have been encountering more than the usual number of Buffy-philes recently, online and in real life. I still haven't gotten into it myself because...well, I tell myself "I want to start at the beginning", but really, "I don't have the time to add daily hour-long reruns to my schedule". Sad but true.

But once I've worked off some more hours at work, I'll be able to start leaving before 4:00 if I want to, and that might liven things up a bit. I'm still working until 4:30 so that I can earn off time to actually have an unbroken holiday from Saturday the 21st all the way through to New Year's Day. 'Cause going in to work on December 30th would suck. This way I might have a few days to relax after getting home and before going back to work. (And that'll only be for a two-day week, too!)

Enough TV. I also got to have lunch with a guy named Mike that I haven't seen for a few years. But let me give you a bit of background first.

Back when Jeremy and I were in our last year of Physics, we ended up buying a modem instead of going all the way into the University for the labs in our computer course. All our programming was in Pascal, and we had a great Pascal program at home, so we did our programs there. Then we uploaded them to the awful MTS-operating-system mainframe at the University, and got them to work there, with only a few minor changes.

Having the modem, we got into the BBS(Bulletin Board System)scene a little bit. "We" being mostly me and roommate-from-hell Dave. The Internet was probably around back then, but I don't know if we had access to it at the University, so BBSes were where it was at. I somehow found out about something called the Slan Shack, which had access to some Fidonet "Echoes"(as they called them; analogous to Usenet newsgroups, or online discussion forums), as well as some more local networks. One of those was something called Nimbus, where people were allowed to use aliases(as opposed to the Slan Shack, where it was real names all the way).

At some point, after Nicole and I got married, I got my own modem(2400 baud--I don't even know what Jeremy's was, but probably more like 300), and checked out this Nimbus BBS. Perhaps fortuitously, when I first dialed in it had had a major system crash and everyone had to log in anew, starting from scratch. I hadn't prepared myself with an appropriate nickname, though. In high school and college I had used "Esquire", for reasons dating back to a children's book I once read, but at some point I discovered that everyone associated it with lawyers, so I had stopped. I happened to glance over at where there was a copy of "Where's Waldo Now?", so I decided to be Waldo.

Oh, and the BBS had also been recently renamed to "Radio Free Albemuth". The administrator was a big Philip K. Dick fan, though his alias there was Taza Beolvoch, which I discovered years later was from the "Fusion" SF comic-book series. (Later he changed it to Kcid.) There was a great bunch of people on there--relative freedom from teenage idiots, an effective moderation team, and generally intelligent discussion all around. After being on there for just a short while, I was messaged by Taza, and he promoted me to one of the moderators. I guess he had seen me posting on the Slan Shack and figured I had the right stuff.

One of the regulars on there went by the name "Loki"; as a moderator I saw everybody's real name as well, though I won't post it here. His brother, Mike, posted occasionally, as "Super Grover". I remember going to one meeting of the BBS membership, and after that to a couple of meetings of the moderators, who were in a lot of ways more intelligent and more fun. At some point, after I had discovered Usenet and established myself on there mostly as "Alfvaen", I changed my name on RFA as well.

Alas, the halcyon days of RFA ended with another disk crash, and for one reason or another "Taza"/"Kcid" elected not to resuscitate it. Some of us moved over to The Slan Shack("Kcid" being the only user allowed to use a pseudonym, as a courtesy), and I started to get involved in the Fidonet Echoes again. At least, until the guy running the Slan Shack moved to Fort McMurray.

Anyway, when I went back to university to take my Computing Science degree, after one class, in which my name had been called for some reason, I was approached by a guy who introduced himself as Mike, a.k.a. "Super Grover". It turned out we were taking the same program and almost all the same courses, so we became friends. We lost touch after graduation, but apparently he's been back in Edmonton for a little while now, and recently decided to make contact.

He's working downtown and doing programming; we went for lunch at the Russian Tea Room(Edmonton's version, anyway), which is all different sorts of nostalgia for me because my brother's ex-girlfriend Christa used to waitress there, so some of her friends hung out there. Anyway, hopefully I will be able to maintain some level of contact, though I admit it's not my forte. Maybe I should send him another email sometime...

He mentioned that he had been reminded of me when someone in the same building rushed in exulting over booking Steven Wright(!) to appear here in Edmonton. (I don't quite remember why Mike associates me with Steven Wright, whether he also liked Wright or whether I introduced him to Wright, I don't know. Either of them sound like the kind of thing I would do.) Wright is performing sometime in January, apparently. Around the same time that George Carlin is coming. Mmmmmmm. Can I see them both? Maybe not, but I'll certainly try...


370. Cowboy Junkies: 'Cause Cheap Is How I Feel, from The Caution Horses

This song, in Margo Timmins's inimitable sultry voice and with a slow near-country musical backing, is a halfway humorous account of a woman fighting with commitment, and probably losing. Okay, I'm not quite sure about that, but the lyrics are clever, and the music memorable, so I guess I like it.

369. Stevie Nicks: Edge of Seventeen, from Bella Donna

The first thing that struck me about this song is the opening guitar riff being the same as that from Survivor's "Eye of The Tiger". The different here is that the guitar continues throughout the entire song, as a mesmerizing ostinato, occasionally dropping down a note or two and coming back up. It gives the song a propulsive feel which sets it apart from the rest of Nicks's first solo album, which she didn't truly recapture until her third, and also from most of her work in Fleetwood Mac, which tended toward balladry. In this song she encompasses straight-ahead rock quite well, even if the lyrics don't always make sense. (In one live performance video I saw, she added some words to the chorus--with "Just like the white-winged dove sings a song/sounds like she's singin'" she changed it to "singin' it to you", which makes a little bit more sense, but doesn't scan as well, so I go with the original.)

The worthy machine ought not always paste the astronomer.

Aaron // 11:11 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, December 06, 2002:

Just To Keep From Getting Thrown To The Wolves

Not much has really been happening this week, so why don't I leap right into some library CDs, which have been a particularly good batch this week, mostly:

Peter Gabriel:Up While it's not quite worth a decade's gap(yes, I know, there was "Ovo" and some other stuff in between, but no "proper" albums), it's still damn good, his solidest album since "Security", probably. I was caught totally off-guard by the sudden rise in volume a minute or so into "Darkness"; luckily Edna was not in her adjacent office when it happened. "Growing Up" was probably my favourite song on first listen, though many of the songs had powerful moments. I had already been informed that "The Barry Williams Show" was a bit of a break in tone, so it didn't bother me that much. It's not like "Big Time" or anything. I am amused to think that the song it makes me think of is "Talk Soup" by Weird Al Yankovic...which has the same topic(talk shows), and always made me think he was doing a musical tribute to Peter Gabriel. Anyway, it's already on my wishlist(I've been trying to enter that "Win your wishlist" contest on over the past little while by updating it as often as I can).

Bruce Cockburn:Anything Anytime Anywhere This is just a greatest hits(or singles, really)compilation, with a couple of new songs, so I mostly just wanted to check out the new songs. And I had heard them at the concert he did a few months ago, too, but I wanted to hear them again. The rest, since I'm only missing two of his studio albums(his first, self-titled, and his most recent, "Breakfast In New Orleans Dinner In Tumbuktu"), I had all heard before, though it is pleasant listening.

What I was not expecting was to find a real gem in the form of a remixed version of "The Coldest Night of The Year", one of his best songs. I discovered that it was originally on a compilation album called "Mummy Dust", which included several early tracks, but four previously-unrecorded ones as well, and "TCNoTY" was one of those. I had that version on his _previous_ greatest hits compilation, "Waiting For A Miracle", and I liked that. But this one adds a new layer of sparkle to an already great song. I'm not sure if it was newly-recorded overdubs, or what, but it's wonderful. The new songs, the title track and "My Beat", are also good, but not the true gems of the album. Not wishlisted, because it's mostly redundant.

The Strokes:Is This It Okay, this one was the joker in the bunch. I requested it because of a recommendation on the NaNoWriMo web site, of all places, by the staff, probably Chris Baty himself. Anyway, the first, and title, track, was pretty good, but after that the album went downhill for the remaining half hour. The guitar noise was not constant, but it did make me wince several times. So, no.

Beth Orton:Central Reservation It took me a while after the enjoyable "Trailer Park" for me to get around to checking out her subsequent albums, but this one finally came in for me at the library. It started off a bit low-key for me, but it picked up satisfactorily by the end. The two tracks with musical contributions by Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl didn't hurt. I'm having a hard time picking out standout tracks, but "Devil Song" caught my attention, as well as "Couldn't Cause Me Harm" and the "Then Again Version" of the title track, which had Watt on it. Wishlisted.

Daft Punk:Discovery The first track was almost a bit too purely disco-y for me, but it settled down after that. I'd of course heard "Digital Love" from that Gap commercial, and I also really like "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger", where they play the two vocal lines separately as scattered words and then combine them for complete sentences. I love that kind of stuff. As for the rest...well, they're not Kraftwerk or anything, but they're fun to listen to. Wishlisted.

During one of my brief radio interludes(while my tape deck is warming up to play a favourite-song assorted tape), I caught a good song on Mix 96. I even caught the name of the band. But I dropped it later. I'm pretty sure the band's name was three letters, probably with an F in it, but I've lost the rest. PFO? FPO? LFR? I really can't remember by this point. I even emailed the radio station to see if they can tell me, but I haven't heard back yet. I cannot, of course, remember the name of the song, either. If anyone out there has any ideas...

It's been taking me a while to get through my reread of Winter's Heart. Part of it is, still, lack of opportunity, but I also haven't been compelled to read it that often. It does move quite slowly at times, gives us chapters from the point of view of new or minor characters we really don't care about, and only occasionally has something exciting going on. It's sort of like Lord of Chaos, another low point in the series, in that respect. The exciting stuff you remember afterwards is only a few chapters, most of them right at the end. So I am so looking forward to Crossroads of Twilight, which promises to resolve a few things that were left dangling in Winter's Heart.

I'm pretty positive that next I will be going on to Corbie by Robert Newman, about which I know nothing, or very little. I borrowed it from my dad at least ten years ago, on an impulse, and I'm not sure anymore that he had liked it or even read it himself, given the rest of the batch I'd borrowed at the time. But I will read it, and get it off my shelf.

I actually got some neat ideas today for a new writing project. Maybe it's just the rereading Robert Jordan, but I so want to do an epic fantasy series sometime. Maybe I could limit myself to a trilogy, not a twelve-book-or-longer epic, but I want to do something.

Thinking of that, I think of the fantasy world I sketched out some seventeen years ago, supposedly for D&D gaming of course, at the time. I'd tossed in a hodgepodge of stuff, and I've lost most of the actual source material for it, but there are a few interesting bits, and I could work on those and remold the rest.

I had one story written in that world, "Artefact", from years and years ago--the one I submitted to the Writers of The Future contest and took to the first Black Cat workshop in 1989, not knowing that it was really, really bad. Well, maybe not that bad, but juvenile and badly written. It centered around a mysterious artefact(not sure why I spell it that way, but I do)that everybody was desperate to get their hands on. I had decided, at some point, that while they were supposedly relics of an ancient race called the Krannel, they were really planted by mischievous or destructive gods to wreak havoc in the world.

Then I had one of those brainstorms where I saw some similarities with one of my other stories(a four-word story that I didn't put up on my web site, because I wanted to actually revise and sell it somewhere), about people hunting in a dangerous but never-described "vortex" for powerful artefacts(!) that they then use to wreak havoc in the world. Hey! That could totally link up! So now I have two sets of characters, and a world. All I need now is a plot. I have a few nasty cultures that could serve up some villains, people wanting to get their hands on these artefacts. If I want something Robert Jordan-scale, or even Michelle West-scale, then I just need a few dozen characters, some history, and preferably a map.

I know I'd come up with some weird bits of history before, like the pseudo-Egyptian country who had escaped a cataclysm in their homeworld and survived a harrowing ocean voyage, at the end of which they decided they had reached the land of the dead. I like the idea that this whole culture thinks that they're dead, though still living the same kind of life(and dying, too). Would they think that all the other races were demons or undead? Not to mention all the anti-elf racial bigotry I had in "Artefact", and the mysterious elven organization called the Florians dedicated to their race's preservation, and so on.

This would probably mean actually plotting, too. Maybe I could handle that. Right now it's just at the "jotting" stage. And possibly even research. I wonder if I still have a map of my world("Mundal", I called it)? I lost a bunch of stuff when I lent it to my brother with my other D&D stuff years ago. But I remember more or less what it looked like...

Don't hold your breath, though.

Downing the count once again:

372. The Blasters: Coloured Lights, from Hard Line

I don't have that album, and I had to look up the title, but I still love this song. There's still a few words I can't figure out in the chorus, but it's a pop gem. I was never as fond of the more rockabilly sound on some other Blasters tracks I heard, or of Dave Alvin's solo stuff(though I haven't heard either in years--maybe my tastes have changed).

371. They Might Be Giants: They Might Be Giants, from Flood

The name of the band came from a weird film about a guy who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes(I watched it a few years back, and it was okay), and refers to Don Quixote charging at windmills thinking they're giants. This song is almost consciously weird, perhaps in an attempt to make up for the more straightforward musical approach on the rest of the album. It shambles to a stop several times in a flurry cacophonous horns, only to pick up as if nothing had happened. But it's nonetheless quite appealing.

On n'ecrit bien que sur ce qu'on n'a jamais vecu.

Aaron // 11:23 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, December 02, 2002:

There's An Even Chance I'll Shine Or Rust

I'm alive, and I finished.

At about 3:00 PM MST on Saturday November 30th, I typed in what I had planned for a while to be the last line of my novel, and the word count came to 50,365. Using the Unix wc program, anyway; Microsoft Word gave me a couple of hundred more words, because it has slightly different rules. I haven't come up with any better title than Entanglement, thought the ending does come back to the name "Crocus". And there is definitely going to have to be a sequel. One of these decades.

I don't think it turned out quite as well as The Shadow And The Flame last year, but maybe it's just a fantasy vs. SF thing. I slacked off a little bit less during the first part of the month, so my daily quota rarely went about 2200 words near the end. I think it took me longer to write that, but maybe I'm hallucinating the 2500 word/hour rate I thought I remembered from last year.

Now I am so totally going to take a complete break from writing for the rest of the year...though I may try to get back into it before April this time. I still need to go back to The Shadow And The Flame and finish my revisions, for instance.

I'm also getting further into my colony world people-generator, trying to make it more sophisticated. What I am really aiming for, it seems, is a simulation program. I've started having it so my imaginary people start dating(though not until they're 18), and then their relationship goes up and down until they either break up or get married. Currently they get married about 99.999% of the time, mostly because I started out trying to simulate an Adaptive generational type, but also just because I haven't found a satisfactory model. Right now I start at a "Status" value of 50, and then iterate it using a normally-distributed change every day, slightly weighted in the positive direction. Otherwise it can take years(in the time-scale I've chosen)before people make up their minds one way or the other.

I really need to do some research into the sociology of relationships and dating, I think, if I want this to be authentic. But at the moment I'm making do with approximations. I think I've got the family sizes reasonable; at least, they approximate the distribution of family sizes I got from A.K. Dewdney's Armchair Universe in the original, much, much more simplistic simulation about family names dying out. I use relatively recent data for death rates, but of course those do not, in general, remain constant, particularly in Crisis eras.

I have so far not taken into account premarital pregnancy, adultery, divorce, or any of those irregularities in the "Get born--date--get married--have children--die" sequence. I toyed with the idea of using a "random events" table, but I never got around to it, and since I'm doing this all through code, I'd need to program them out. I also get things like 38-year-old widows marrying 18-year-old boys. Since my novel is based more or less on this simulation's data, I plan to keep that around in my colony world setup, but it's a weird glitch, and ideally I'd like to be able to simulate societies with other customs.

But I am enjoying it, and boy, is it geeky. And if I ever go back to university and into graduate school in Computing Science, I am so going into simulations. 'Cause they are so cool. Does this show some disenchantment with the complexities of the real world, and an attempt to replace it with an idealized system that works much more cleanly and reliably? Probably. So what? No, I actually really dislike simple models for things, and try to make them more complex whenever possible. Because simple systems only work when you have simple data to match up with them.

We had another meeting of the Edmonton Heraldry Discussion Group, or whatever we officially call ourselves, on Saturday night. I had just finished my novel, so was ready for a night of wild abandon. I drank a glass and a quarter of wine, ate a Rice Krispie square with red and green Smarties in it(these are Canadian Smarties--"like small chocolate M&Ms that melt in your hand"), and talked, actually, mostly about heraldry with Darren and George until the wee hour of 9:30. Do I know how to live, or what?

One intriguing suggestion brought up at the meeting was to start assigning arms to the chemical elements in the periodic table. This was kind of a subthread of George's suggestion to assign arms to everything. But Darren(who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, and teaches it at Red Deer College)and I came up with a few ideas. Darren, who has a better idea of the properties of many of the elements than I do, would probably have better ideas, but some of them are pretty simple. Gold would be simple "Or", and Silver would be "Argent". Helium, Darren suggested, could be "Sable, a bezant irradiated", to represent the sun without having to use the "Sun in splendour", which has an actual face on it. Carbon could be "Sable"(for graphite)", a lozenge argent"(for diamonds). Hydrogen, I thought, could be a roundel within an annulet, to represent the single proton with its single elctron.

Some of them would be less obvious, of course. When you get into the rare earths, and have elements that took years to isolate, like the notorious Ytterby group--Yttrium, Ytterbium, Terbium, and Erbium--it's hard to distinguish them. Darren suggested using the coat of arms for the town of Ytterby and then differencing them, like you do for younger sons. That was well-received.

We also looked at a series of short pamphlets written by a B.C. man that Darren had met at the (newly)Royal Canadian Heraldry Society AGM last month, on the topic of Dracology. That seems to be the study of dragons and other mythical creatures, which neatly overlaps with heraldry since such creatures often appear on shields and as supporters. The pamphlets were apparently written starting in 1946, but only first printed in 1999. In his list of mythical monsters, though, he happened to omit the "Squonk", which was detailed in Jorge Luis Borges's book on mythical creatures, and of course immortalized in the Genesis song of the same name on "A Trick of The Tail". If I think of it, I'll send the guy a message about it.

Cataloguing monsters is an interesting hobby. What I wonder about is whether the source matters. For instance, the Dungeons & Dragons game has enumerated in exacting detail a large number of monsters, some of them possibly trademarked or copyrighted or something, but others based on previous myths. The catoblepas and opinicus, as well as better-known creatures like the manticore, harpy, basilisk, and cockatrice, all were around long before the Monster Manual ever came out. The Dracology text listed some creatures that came from relatively modern fantasy, though, so one wonders what it takes to actually create folklore...or if folklore is necessary, and not just a vivid imagination to create these things in the first place.

Anyway, one of the most memorable images that came out of the meeting was(I wish I could remember if Darren or George came up with it): The Cheshire Sabre-Toothed Tiger. Makes me wish I had any skill at drawing.

I never did tell much about Luke's baptism, a couple of weeks ago by now. What I mostly remember is the priest, a Father Michael, who seemed a bit atypical for me, but really, I suppose, he's just a Generation X priest. He wore sneakers under his priestly robes, he said "Good stuff!" after we drew the cross on Luke's forehead, and Nicole keeps recounting funny stories he tells in his sermons. Like the "Celibacy Man" costumes he and a friend made up in the seminary. He's got a real sense of comic timing, apparently. But then, he's new. Let's see what he's like after 25 years of writing sermons every week...

I did not, of course, go up for Grandpa George's funeral. It still bugs me that nobody phoned me back to tell me. Did they just assume I would come up for one or both of the days I was told it could be on(the day before and the day after Luke's baptism)? Was I supposed to phone back? That's more likely, but if so I really need to let more people know that any plan which has as one of its crucial elements my phoning somebody, except possibly Nicole, is practically doomed to failure. I also didn't want to drive up and drive back, I didn't want to take a day off work, I didn't want to ride the Greyhound(as much reading as I might have been able to get done), and I didn't want to fork out for a plane ticket.

When it comes down to it, I just did not feel that close to him, and I did not feel obligated to go to his funeral. And I am going to stop feeling guilty about it right now. Until it's time to phone my dad and straighten out Christmas plans.

I just remembered today that tomorrow is my Mom's birthday, and the day after is my brother's. Normally I would have remembered a little bit before now. Boy, I am so self-centered sometimes. Well, I will try to get myself to phone, at least. (Though see above, re: plans, crucial elements of.)

The weather was really "nice" for a week or two, there. After that big dump of snow in early November, it got warmer, and warmer, and finally it all melted and stayed above freezing for at least a week. I'm being a bit vague here because I haven't been keeping exact track, but all the snow did eventually melt, and I started to feel a little silly wearing my winter jacket.

Today, though, it snowed in the morning, traffic creeped on icy roads(I got to work half an hour late), and it got down to -15 C or so. Suddenly, with the arrival of December, has come winter back again. Last night we were in Sue & Karen's hot tub after the Cult of Pain meeting, and bemoaning the lack of snow. Oops. Never complain about the lack of bad weather while you are outside, where the weather spirits can hear you and take offense. (See, this is why I think I'm an animist at heart.)

I've been putting off buying some more winter pants and shirts for about a month now. This weekend for sure, though. Fighting through hordes of Christmas shoppers to find a parking spot within five minutes' walk of an entrance of the mall...

I notice with a certain weird amount of vicarious pride that
ph8, to whom I have been linking for a few months now, and reading as regularly as I read most of my favourite blogs, has been designated a Blog of Note. This has meant, in practical terms, about half a dozen hits from people clicking on his list of links...which includes me, because I let him know that I linked to him. This has pushed me over 20 hits a day on my blog. Score!

I actually first tried ph8 from Clix, because I always checked the "Blogger" subtable, and he was on there. He had no banner(and still doesn't), so out of reverse psychology I clicked through, and liked what I read. And now I am reaping the rewards. I will be on the "Blog of Note" list myself in a matter of days!* All I need to do is, oh, I don't know...start posting again? Though my rambling, topic-bouncing entries are nothing like ph8's polished comedic gems. This guy should be a humour columnist in some online newspaper or something. He could be drafted by The Onion! I'm clever, too, and witty and fun...but just in a different way. Like the way I geek out about heraldry and dating simulations. ...What? I'm not cool? Darn.*

A few interesting links that I ran across while doing research for my novel:

Crow City. I was trying to find the names of members of the crow family, because I decided that that was how "Crocus" had named the planets, etc. in the solar system my colony world was in. The world itself was named Raven, which is, of course, the coolest corvid name. But anyway, I found this site, whose future purpose is, apparently, to "be a virtual crow world, where you can live life as the crow family member of your choice". With, of course, virtual roadkill for you to eat on the Information Superhighway. (Wow, that's probably an obsolete cultural reference by this point...was it Clinton, or even George Bush Sr. who said that?)

Rank Insignia. I was too lazy to go upstairs and look up military ranks in our encyclopedias, so I looked them up on the Web instead. This site is actually a .mil site, so it must be authoritative! For the American military, anyway. I don't know how much the ranking system varies from country to country, though in Britain they have Brigadiers and stuff...

Quantum Entanglement And Teleportation. I checked this at the last minute just to be sure that I was thinking of the right quantum phenomenon when I said "entanglement". It turned out I was, and there's other cool info here, too. I didn't realize that the polarization of photons was a type of "spin", for instance. Because that would be much easier to measure than the spin of an electron. This is on a Star Trek tech site, and it's full of typos and misspellings, but all in all it's an interesting read.

Other cool sites I ran across:

The Sobey Virtual Wall of Honour--Pier 21, Halifax. This is from one of the major landing sites of immigrants to Canada, where you can view information contributed by a number of families when they arrived, or later. Nicole's dad and his family were on here, which is how I ran across it. Well, I thought it was cool.

Fantasy Film League. This is like a fantasy sports league...except you pick actrons and directors. Much more interesting to me--of course, if I was into sports at all, it would be for the player statistics, so fantasy sports is more up my alley than watching the wretched things. You pick a director and six actrons, and then you get money when movies they appear in are on the box office top ten lists in US or UK. I am definitely going to sign up for this. Apparently the games run for a year at a time and start every three months, so there's on starting in January if you want to sign up. I did, and I can't wait to see what David Lynch will do with Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis, Steve Buscemi, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Sinise, and Jennifer Connelly, starring in "The Black Lodge"...

I finished the Merovingen Nights shared-world anthology Festival Moon a few days ago, and it was okay. Obviously not everybody is C.J. Cherryh, but it did have Janet Morris, who...livened up the Thieves' World series, as well as all of Cherryh's "Sword of Knowledge" collaborators(Mercedes Lackey, Nancy Asire, Leslie Fish)and a few others I'm too lazy to check on right now. A lot of the plot was setup for future volumes, I could tell, with characters being introduced and then placed into situations where they could come into conflict with other ones. Cherryh wrote a framing story, probably after all the submissions(or at least synopses)were available, to link them all together, and that gets a bit scattered at half a dozen pages after every story.

Now I am rereading Winter's Heart, the ninth book in Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, in preparation for Crossroads of Twilight, Book Ten, to come out in January. I'm also getting back into my project where I list all the characters in the series, though I still have to go back and do A Crown of Swords, and I discovered that I somehow missed two chapters of The Path of Daggers, so now I wonder what else is missing... Well, whatever, this is just for fun. I am once again enjoying the antics of all the characters, and speculating on what's going to happen next. It's just like candy for my ongoing-plot-loving mind.

I'm reading very slowly these days, though, with so many other demands on my time. Once I can start getting caught up on all the things that I put off while I was writing my novel,'ll be Christmas, and I can get a lot of reading done.
Though my brother and his wife(how odd to be writing that sentence...*)will be coming to visit with us, so it may not be quite as relaxing as some other holidays...though, I may hasten to say, still likely enjoyable.

Library CDs from last week...a light bunch, thankfully. ...Now what the heck were they? Ah, yes.

Yes:Tormato. I've become quite attached to "Drama" and "Fragile" since my brother introduced me to them, and I like "90125", but other Yes albums haven't hit me quite the same way. This one didn't quite make an impression on me, though I found it easier to listen to than "Close To The Edge" or "The Yes Album".

Silver Jews:American Water. I can't remember where I came across this band's name, which is a little bit odd; this album is a collection of quirky mostly-acoustic alternative pop, which also didn't really connect with me.

Coldplay:A Rush of Blood To The Head. I liked the first album(though still haven't acquired it), and I liked the leadoff single to this album. The rest sounded good, not as good as the first single, but what the heck, this is still an album I'd like to have someday.

Loudon Wainwright III:Attempted Mustache. I like Loudon Wainwright III better in the region of "More Love Songs" and "Fame & Wealth", when he has more confident musical backing. This is a bit earlier, and still fairly appealing, but most, to me, on songs like "Nocturnal Stumblebutt"(about sneaking a cigarette in the middle of the night)when he has that music b ehind him. The rest of them sounded more interesting in the liner notes and lyrics than they did when I actually listened to them. Not yet sure on this album.

Now on to the ever-more-prolonged countdown of my 750 favourite songs:

374. Animotion: I Engineer, from Strange Behaviour

Animotion's "Obsession" is one of the first videos I ever saw regularly, and their first album "The Language of Attraction" was one of the first I ever bought. This one, from their second album, is a much better song, still synthpop, but with more interesting lyrics. A lot of their stuff hasn't held up from the mid-80's, oddly enough, but it's nostalgia city for me, baby.

373. Sheryl Crow: Maybe Angels, from Sheryl Crow

The opener to Sheryl Crow's second and self-titled album has one of my favourite elements, the slow underlying beat which repeats through most of the song, incorporating a variety of unusual sounds. In that, it's practically Depeche Mode at first, but not for very long. The lyrics, about approaching the supernatural in a variety of ways, are clever and very singable.

My gravity well has run dry.

Aaron // 11:16 p.m. Clix me!

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