15 December 2006
14 December 2006
I’ve been doing journal article searches all afternoon. I’ll enter search terms like “phoxinus” and “diet” and I’ll get such useless responses as The effect of selenium on mercury retention in the offspring of treated hens. It’s a boring activity, to say the least. However, it’s nice when you find those rare applicable articles. The ones that actually use my study species and not a closely related, but different, Genus; or the ones that take place in the same country as my work. That’s reference gold, my friends. Many of my references are from research done in Japan and various Nordic countries. I’m usually just happy to I find a paper from North America.
See, what did I say? Nothingness.
Oh, I wanted to do some shout outs while I have your attention. 1) Shout out to Annie for the post card. [Aside: There’s something amazing about getting postcards from faraway places. My mind gets boggled when I try to think about how many individuals had to do their job correctly for me to receive that. You’d think with small things like postcards, they’re more likely to get lost or mis-sorted or something, but they somehow manage to arrive. Snail mail is really underappreciated. Have you ever really thought about home-mail delivery? How in every city and town in North America thousands of people, everyday, go from house to house delivering mail? It seems like the most inefficient way to do it, but somehow it works. Amazing.] 2) Shout outs to Deb and Oz for posting haikus that were way better than mine. The rest of you that didn’t post haikus get whatever the opposite of a shout out is...a reproachful murmur, let’s say.
I was looking for a Christmas-y picture to post, but I couldn’t find one. Instead I’m putting up a picture of Moby. Aww.
09 December 2006
Earlier today, in an attempt to keep awake during that deadly, soporific period between 2 and 3pm, I decided to write a haiku and submit it in a haiku contest. Haiku writing is much harder than I thought it would be. Everything I've written so far is just lame. I'm further handicapped in my writing by the fact that I seem to have a heretofore unknown inability to count syllables in my head. This means that I have to count the syllables on my fingers. This really hinders the creative process.
I would like to invite anyone reading this to attempt to write a haiku and send it to me, or post it in the comments section for all to see. The format we'll use will be the standard 3-line 5-7-5 syllable configuration. Here is an example:
Spy Daddy is now
a trial lawyer. Doctor
Mike murdered her kid.
See what I mean? Lame! I don’t think that qualifies as a haiku, even in the broadest definition of the term. I hope you can do better!
07 December 2006
1. “This may be the darkest, most disturbing feature length animated film ever offered by a major studio.” Didn’t this guy see Pocahontas with its songs about killing the natives? Or Bambi where Bambi kills another deer to win his girl's affection? Those are far more disturbing than a few chase scenes. The movie rating described the danger as “mild peril.” I don’t know what the hell he’s talking when he says the movie leaves people feeling guilty. No single child is going to leave that movie in tears because his favourite food is fish sticks. If it makes adults feel guilty, good.
2. “There’s also scenes of a penguin captured for a zoo and tormented to the point of mental incapacity by unfeeling people… no movie for kids has gone so far in trying to induce guilt for membership in species homo sapiens.” Dude! We should feel guilty about penning animals up so we can pay $30 to stare at them for three minutes. And Mumble wasn’t tormented, he was suffering from a language barrier. And I maintain that movies where the humans actively kill the characters (Bambi, Old Yeller) are far more evil than Happy Feet. I’ll bet the hunter who killed Bambi’s mommy enjoyed his meal, whereas the humans in Happy Feet work to save the penguins (once they realize their folly). And if I could meet the guy who wrote this article - not that I want to, he’s probably creep in person - I tell him that humans are the biggest menace for the lovable penguins. In fact, the biggest menace for every living thing on earth is the human race. I hate, hate, hate, hate people who are so ignorant as to believe that we (humans) have no effect of the world outside our doors.
3. Hmm, which God should the penguins worship? And I assume he was called the Great Guin (as in penGuin), but maybe it was the Great Wind, ‘cause Antarctica is pretty damn windy. I didn’t see the church as a menacing artifact of humanity. I think the giant oil tankers and discarded whale skeletons were the more menacing evidence of humans. A church simply shows that humans lived, worshipped, and died there – kind of like the penguins do.
4. I think it’s awesome that the author waits until the paragraph about the supposed homosexual subtext to mention that Mumble is voiced by Elijah Wood. As if this lends credence to his theory. Is this whole gay thing because Mumble likes to dance and is voiced by Elijah Wood? What if he wanted to play football and was voiced by someone less ambiguous? Would he still be gay?
One thing that makes me question if he even say the movie is his statement that, “An ardent love affair is frustrated for no apparent reason, with the main character’s inamorata choosing a crude, fat penguin she cares nothing about and producing many progeny.” That is so not what happened. There is an exchange between Mumble and the girl while she is standing next to the fat guy and is surrounded by penguin chicks, that goes something like:
Girl: You remember the fat guy? We’re teaching these baby penguins to sing
Mumble: Oh, so you didn’t mate with the fat guy?
Girl: No, I didn’t mate with anyone
Seriously, how could he miss all that? I think this guy is reading too much into everything in this film. There are so many other things that are worthy of and deserve criticism, but this is not one of them (and I realize that criticizing this guy is also not on that list of worthy things, but I couldn’t resist).
06 December 2006
The animation was astounding. I was highly impressed by the impossible cuteness of the baby penguins, and the ferociousness of the leopard seals and orcas. The scenery was also amazing, with the vast ice-scapes and the dark, rolling swells of the ocean. The script was pretty good, and the music was (at times) a little more suggestive than I would have expected from a kids’ movie. The danger scenes were exciting enough that you could enjoy it even though you knew that all the characters would be okay. There was one part that I can’t really describe without ruining a plot point, but it was so depressing I would have cried if the movie ended there. There was also a bit of live action stuff that worked really well and gave it a more real feeling.
The best part of the movie was the moral: stop harvesting fish. Seriously! How awesome is that? The very thing I’ve been preaching for years is at the core of a children’s movie! One of the humans in the movie says, “We should stop marine harvest altogether!” and I cheered – out loud, in a public place – because I was so glad to hear someone else say it for once.
This movie was brilliant, as far as anti-fishing propaganda goes. I mean, what better way to reach the next generation of fish eaters than with an übercute tap dancing penguin named Mumble? I can’t wait until my niece is old enough to eat fish and I can tell her with a disapproving tone, “If you eat fish, Mumble and all his friends will die!”
04 December 2006
03 December 2006
01 December 2006
30 November 2006
On the irrelevant front, I had a dream last night that trichopterans were growing in my stomach. It was really gross. It reminded me of another dream I had once where I had asparagus-like growths in my nose that were growing down through my palate and into my mouth. Ew. In another part of the trichoptera dream, I was attending Business School with my brother Mike. I was specializing in Environmental Business, and he was too cool to ride the bus with me.
28 November 2006
- escaping the cold in 14 days...
- -40 with the windchill???OK, this is ridiculous
- -40*C and the city turns into a goddamn parking lot
- Too cold for comfort
Sure, we complain a lot but secretly we love it. We love that if we were to go outside this moment we'd have 10 minutes before exposed skin started to freeze. We love that we already have over a foot of snow on the ground and it's not even December. We love that all those freaks in Ontario are walking around in t-shirts in their plus-16-degree weather. Why do we love it? Because we love to play the martyr. As long as it's really, really fucking cold here, we're automatically better than everyone else at a lower latitude and warmer temperature, and that's the majority of the Canadian public. Everyday life is hardest for us at the moment. Just walking to school or work could end tragically. I mean, who cares if Vancouver has to boil their water? In the time it takes them to boil water for a grande decaff whatever, my ears could have frozen solid.
Having said that, a friend pointed out the Environment Canada weather warning map to me earlier today. I sure hope no one is going to usurp Edmonton's throne. We really need this. Without nose-running, flesh-freezing, bone-aching deep freezes, we have nothing.
24 November 2006
The Bunny Scale has been tested and proven true!!
Incident 1: Yesterday the people working on my research project (FIESTA) had to go down to Rocky Mountain House to give a presentation on our work this past summer. We had to leave the city around 7am to make it to RMH in time for our 10am meeting. We had agreed to meet at Cricket’s house and on the walk over, I saw two bunnies. I took it as an omen that the day would be good. And it was! The presentation went well. Cricket had the hardest task because she spoke first and had to do the introductory material as well as her own material. She handled it well and set the bar high for the rest of us. I went second, probably spoke too fast, and lowered that bar just enough so that Justin could have given a tirade to rival Michael Richards and the audience would have given a standing ovation. The rest of our meeting in RMH went really well, so over-all it was a good day, as predicted by the Bunny Scale.
Incident 2: Today, walking to school I saw one bunny and lo and behold, Cricket brought cookies to school today for our lab meeting. So, despite the fact that the elevators aren’t working, it’s still going to be a better than average day.
21 November 2006
Two stories on CBC.ca this morning stuck out for me. The first is that Calgary has passed a bylaw that makes it illegal to, among other things, spit, fight, urinate or defecate in public, or put your feet up on public property. It’s amazing that these things are such a problem that they need laws against them. Those opposed say that the law is unfair to homeless people, who have no choice but to do those things because they have no private place to do them. The article I read interviewed a high school kid who thought the law was discriminating against everyone. He was defending his right to sleep on public benches:
Because of all the rights you could possibly loose, being able to sleep on a public bench is probably the worst. And what does he mean by “my public bench?” Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calgary should really just pass a bylaw outlawing idiots.
The other article was about stab-happy Edmontonians. I’m not really bothered that Edmonton has the highest [per capita] murder rate in Canada. Wait. Let me rephrase that. I am bothered that Edmonton has the highest per capita murder rate in Canada, but I don’t fear for my life when I walk down the street. It seems that most of the murderers know their victims, or that it’s a drunken-bar-fight situation. No one has any motive to kill me (that I’m aware of) and I don’t get into drunken bar fights as a rule, so I don’t think I’ll be killed anytime soon. A shocking number of the murders are teens killing other teens. One recent murder was of a pregnant woman by her husband. Men who kill their pregnant wives have to know they’ll be caught, right? Do they honestly believe they can head up the search parties and throw suspicion off themselves? I heard once (on Oprah) that the leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder by their spouses. Alarming, isn’t it?
20 November 2006
This Time Last Week Monica and I were in Burnaby, at the mall there (Metrotown) hanging out with Julie (she of the previous post) and Chanty (she that was my field assistant this past summer). That was the last full day of my trip. It was a much funner [sic] trip than I make it sound. In fact, it was all sorts of 'tastic. It was funtastic, fishtastic, raintastic, foodtastic, and the most important one of all, nakedmantastic (eh, Monica?).
19 November 2006
Also at the market we saw one of the actors from the play we saw the previous night.
On Sunday we went to the Aquarium. Our friend Julie is an assistant trainer there and we got to see her do a beluga show, and feed the sea otters. The belugas are unbelievably lumpy. I didn’t take many pictures, the ones I took of Julie and the whales are really dark because of the downpour that day. I’ll post one anyway.
17 November 2006
This Time Last Week I was doing work. Poor Monica had to suffer through 5 hours of classes, so I accompanied her to UBC and worked in her office while she partook of the learning. It was raining that day, real, heavy, fat drops of rain. What I saw of campus didn’t impress me as being majestically beautiful or anything. I’ve been told that spring is the best time to see the campus, that’s when it’s at its most beautiful. I saw a building (library, I think) that is used for establishing shots on Smallville. I also saw the clock tower that was on an episode of X Files where digital displays were telling people to kill. If I was 14, that would have been so awesome, and I would make some comment about treading the same ground as David Duchovny…but I’m over that. (Aside, after 6 days there I totally understand Duchovny’s wanting to leave Vancouver after 6 years).
Friday night we saw a play. I found out about this play while tripping around online. It’s last performances happened to coincide perfectly with my trip, and I emailed Monica all frantic and asked her to get tickets. The play was Life After God based on two of Douglas Coupland’s books: Life After God (short stories) and City of Glass (non-fic about Vancouver). It was essentially a series of monologues held together with a plot about a 15 year high-school reunion. I recognized the typical Coupland themes in the play, and there was one line that I remember specifically from the book. It was about how as children they “floated in swimming pools the temperature of blood and the colour of the earth seen from space.” That line has always stuck with me. Water was a recurring theme throughout the play (it is Vancouver, after all). I don’t think the play would work if performed in any other city; it’s too Vancouver-centric. They talk about the Grouse grind, the city-wide health-and-fitness obsession, the movie industry, living on the hill, the mountains. There was also a fair amount of nudity. I didn’t think it was gratuitous. In one of the scenes, I assumed they were at Wreck Beach (a nude beach), so that made sense. What really surprised me was the dancing. Monica asked beforehand if there was going to be dancing and I laughed and said, “No!” But there was dancing, and it was interpretive dance, which I really don’t care for. I felt that the dancing took away from the play, rather than added to it, but what do I know?
16 November 2006
Anyway. After the exhibit Monica and I went to Gas Town to see The Steam Clock. It’s a clock that runs on steam. I wish I could say it was more exciting than it sounds…but it’s not, really. It was pretty, though. We ended up in a bad part of town and walked quickly away to the polar opposite of the bad part: Robson St., which was all expensive shops and the like. We had gelato then went home.
15 November 2006
This Time Last Week I was at the airport, possibly even boarding my plane. I flew West Jet and had a plane without TV. I don’t mean that we didn’t have individual sets, but we didn’t even have those assy mini-screens that extend from the ceiling every 10 rows or so. Luckily I had a book to read (Brick Lane, which I have since finished), so I suffered little. Monica met me at the airport and we took public transit back to her place. I found the Vancouver public transit to be very stressful, but more on that later. We ate dinner at a great Mexican place called “Hola Churros” which translates roughly to “Hello Dessert Pastry.”
Back to the present, I finished a book last night called Night by Elie Wiesel. It was the saddest book I have ever read. I was reading it in the terminal waiting to board and I had to put it away because I started crying. I won’t be reviewing this book because I think to do so would be impossible and even wrong. How could you possibly critique a personal account of living in the concentration camps during WWII? I just wanted to mention it so that those of you who have never heard of it can seek it out and read it. It’s tragic, beautiful, heartbreaking, and unforgettable.
08 November 2006
I’ve been wanting to write about the Bill Bryson talk I attended last week. I’ve been unable to come up with anything interesting to write about (not that that usually stops me: see above). His presence is not what you would expect and he has the weirdest accent that is a combination of British and New England. He talks a bit fast, but when he reads he has a really nice speech rhythm. He was very funny and knew how to work the crowd. And he handled the stupid questions from the audience very well.
02 November 2006
You know, I'm only halfway through this, but I think that I can write a review that will rival The Last Canadian in length and bitchiness. Translation: this book is not one that I find especially enjoyable.
Victor Frankenstein is the whiniest little bastard ever. Oh, woe is he! What a child. He works for years - years! - to give life to dead flesh, then gets all freaked out when it works. He sends his monster away because the sight of it pains him. I can't begin to express the irresponsibility of this, not to mention sheer lack of compassion or humanity. He just casts this monster out, and then gets all pissed off when the monster kills his little brother. Hello? What the fuck did you expect, Victor? That the monster would run off into the woods and quietly rot away? Did you think he would cease to exist once you severed yourself from him? Living things don't work that way, once they're alive they just keep on livin'.
I just can't get over this. If I dedicated years of my life to that sort of project, then saw the Monster's arm move for the first time, I'd be all, "Dude, I'm God." I would have liked Victor a whole hell of a lot more if he did have a God complex. As he is, he is the most spoiled, selfish, self-absorbed, irresponsible child since Linton Heathcliff (about whom I wrote: "He whines over everything, complains about everything, and is no more a man than I."). Victor is just like Linton, completely girlie in every bad sense of the word.
Shall I go on? After making the Monster (I hate to call him that, but he has no name, unless I give him one...Mr. Monstér...it's french) he is bedridden for months. Bedridden! He’s, like, 24. Again, if this were me, I'd be in Geneva picking up my Nobel money. After Mr. Monstér kills little brother, Victor is mad as hell at him. He's also overcome with guilt which he goes on and on about. And on. Oh, and then he talks about his guilt. It's all about Victor. As guilt ridden as he is, I don't get the sense that he thinks that casting out his creation was wrong, just the actual creation. See? It was his fault that he created the thing, but everything after that instant is the fault of Mr. Monstér, not Victor. I guess the nurture over nature debate wasn't one to which Vic paid much attention.
So, after Mr. Monstér tracts him down and narrates his sad tale (a few chapters I didn't mind too much, except that Mr. Monstér seems to have Daddy's penchant for self-pity) Vic agrees to build him a bride. Then, what does he do? Vic goes on vacation. Again, if my creation demanded a mate and threatened the life of my family, I don't think I'd run off to the Hamptons for a few months before starting work. There is some justice, however: poor little Vic is unable to enjoy his trip.
I was formed for peaceful happiness... [Mr. Monstér] might remain in Switzerland and wreak his vengeance on my relatives. This idea pursued me and tormented me at every moment from which I might otherwise have snatched repose and peace.
Oh, I'm sorry Victor. Is the hideous creature you made while toying with the laws of nature wrecking your repose? Is the monster that you created and damned to an existence of exile and hatred bothering you? I bet your life is awful hard, eh? Poor, poor Victor. I'm sorry that your own thoughtlessness has come back to ruin your life of ease and fortune. How will you go on?
All I want in life is for Victor to take responsibility for his actions. I want him to say, “This all could have worked out if I had a) never made this thing or b) taken care of it and treated it like a living being and not a monster to be shunned.” But, like all little rich boys, I doubt Victor will ever really suffer the consequences of his actions.
Or maybe he will, I haven’t finished the book yet.
01 November 2006
30 October 2006
28 October 2006
Last night the local news was doing a story on Daylight Savings Time (heretofore known as DST) and how some people were opposed to it. They interviewed this one lady who was against DST. She had big, big red hair and looked like a cat person (if you know what I mean). She showed off her watch and clock collections and said that she refused to turn her clocks back. Well, that’s just great, Honey, but no one cares. You’re not making some grand social statement by not setting your clocks back, you’re just being childish.
Cat Lady then went on to say that DST causes stress to people and that by eliminating it, we could relieve a bit of stress in this stressful, stressful world. How tightly wound (no pun intended…) are you that setting your clocks back one hour (or ahead one hour) is stressful? Most people love the Fall Back because it means a free hour of sleep. To be fair, it’s possible the Cat Lady has a super-stressful job, like deactivating nuclear weapons in airtight rooms full of nerve gas with holes in her biosuit. In that case, I can empathize.
There was also an interview with a Clock Shop owner who had to reset all the clocks in his store. Poor baby! It’s not as if he wasn’t aware of this when he started his business. He wasn’t like:
Daylight savings time? What’s that?"
[someone explains it. This takes awhile: there are
puppets and a flow-chart involved]
"You’re not fucking serious! Oh, man! This is too
stressful! I knew I should have joined the bomb squad."
Clock Boy said he’d be getting lots of calls over the next couple of days from people who didn’t know how to set adjust their clocks. Yeah. Two things with that: 1) It’s your job! Suck it up, Clock Boy! 2) Who doesn’t know how to change their clocks? (And as I write that I realize the answer is, sadly, lots of people. For example, I bet you $20 that when I go home at Christmas neither of the clocks in my parents' vehicles will have been changed. Really, people, read the manual already!)
Now, I understand it can be time consuming setting your clocks back, especially if you have a digital clock that only counts forward. For example, last time I reset my clock at 12am, so I had to push the “hour” button 23 (!) times to make it say “11pm.” It took almost a minute out of my life! Whose time is that precious (I’m talking to you, Cat Lady) that you can’t spare one minute (or less: analog watches take mere seconds!) to set back a clock? What do you do after a power failure when you have to reset the hour and the minutes? Do you just curl into a corner and die? What about traveling in different time zones? (Don’t tell me you’re anti-time zones too). Do you have to book time off work at the Bomb Lab to de-stress? Do you check yourself into a hospital suffering from exhaustion? GROW UP.
Of all the things in this vast, screwed-up world that you can be against, DST shouldn’t even be an option. Entire species are vanishing everyday, we are literally killing the planet with our very existence, everything we eat causes cancer, there are children in 3rd world countries dying of diseases that are treatable and/or curable, children in our own country can’t read, our military couldn’t defend a hockey net, and you pick Daylight Savings Time as your personal crusade? Are you completely lacking a moral and social conscience? Are you so devoid of awareness that this strikes you as a grand injustice? Read a newspaper, watch the news, look outside and then tell me that DST is what’s causing people stress in this world.
27 October 2006
Jay’s talk was pretty awesome. It was about consciousness, specifically if animals possess consciousness. It was a refreshing talk in that it was just another Power Point presentation. Power point was involved, but it was really only used as a tool to show us pictures. The rest of the time it was just Jay Ingram talking. He’s a great talker. He was exactly as he is on TV. He’s got such a unique voice, and he organizes his talk very well, and uses interesting and thought provoking illustrations. I think I’ll probably buy his new book.
There’s a website called Fametracker that does this thing called “2 Stars 1 Slot” where they pit niche actors against each other (e.g., Battle of the Blonde Cult TV Stars Turned Movie Scream Queens: Kristen Bell vs Sarah Michelle Gellar) and at the end they pick a winner. I was wondering what the result would be if they pitted Jay Ingram against David Suzuki: Battle of the Popular Canadian Science Popularizers. I think Suzuki would win, because he’s more well-known. His show was on CBC, whereas Ingram’s show is on Discovery Channel – which is cable. You can get the CBC in the furthest reaches of Canada. His popularity was proven when he was voted the 5th Greatest Canadian, and Ingram didn’t even make the Top 100. Suzuki beat Alexander Graham Bell! This is how much Canada likes Suzuki. At this point I don’t think Ingram would stand a chance. That doesn’t mean he’s not great, he just needs to wait until he’s further along in his career before he challenges Suzuki. If it was just me, and on this page it is just me, I’d probably pick Ingram.
26 October 2006
0 bunnies: An average day – nothing special will happen
1 bunny: Better than average – maybe someone will bring cookies
2 bunnies: A good day – I’ll only think of quitting my program once or twice
3 bunnies: An exceptionally good day – I’ll get work done and there will be lots of fun emails
4 bunnies: A Perfect Day - I’ll run out and buy a lottery tickets, only good things can happen
Dead bunnies: A bad, bad day – I’ll go home, crawl under the covers, and cry.
I want all my U of A friends to feel free to use this scale. Those of you in other places should modify it for your locations. Kimmy, you can count moose. Anna, you can count sea gulls in the harbour during your ferry ride. Annie, you can count…wildebeest or hyenas (are there wildebeest and hyenas in Cape Town?). Julie, Monica, and Chanty can count the seals in the Vancouver harbour. Celine and Danny, I don’t know what kind of animal you’d count in Scotland…cute boys with accents, I guess.
24 October 2006
23 October 2006
Buy one get one “free”
Vacation “on Lake Placid”
“Please” do not squeeze us, we are fragile
God is here for “you”
And my absolute, all-time, favourite:
19 October 2006
As I was watching CSI: NY (the only CSI worth watching) the other night, it occurred to me that I could totally write for that show. The dialogue is so…basic. I think the writers put all their effort into coming up with clever crimes that they have no energy for anything else. It’s all evidence-collection-montages and puns. I could script that. There are easily 10 minutes of montage in every episode, and practically every other line is some cheesy pun. Come to think of it, I could probably act in that show. All I would have to do is manipulate laboratory equipment and wear a lab coat. That’s essentially what I do everyday any way (the days I make it into the lab, that is). If I was really going to analyze it, I’d have to say I watch it for Gary Sinise (who, due to a clause in his contract, gets the most puns-per-episode) and Carmine Giovinazzo (because how can you not like a guy with a name like “Carmine?”).
I’ve been thinking about what my inaugural picture should be and I finally settled on this classic. I’ve always felt this epitomizes field work. It’s important to note that I’m probably wearing at least three layers, and that I had been working in the rain for most of the day. I thought about cropping it, but I like the Bonaparte’s Gull in the background.
18 October 2006
Instead I've decided to try the blogging-for-dummies route. It's less work for me, so I'll be more inclined to post more. Also, it has comment functions, so it's interactive for my friends.
I will keep the old site up so that the reviews are still accessable, but will not be adding anything new to it. I'll keep doing reviews, though, I like writing those too much to stop.