31 December 2009

And, btw, Happy New Year!

Whenever I see a digital time/temperature display show the temperature in Fahrenheit, my first thought is usually "Hmm, the sensor's broken." My first thought should be, "Fahrenheit is an effed up system and why the hell is it still even an option in Canada?!" Because I don't like Fahrenheit. It's fun to spell, but other than that I find it confusing and useless. It's so nonintuitive. Freezing is 32 and boiling is 212 (and I didn't know that by the way - because I DON'T LIKE IT - I had to look it up), how did that ever made sense? I mean, why choose a number like 32 to represent the temperature at which a liquid becomes a solid? 0 is such a more logical starting point. I know they're arbitrary scales, but even arbitray things can be logically arbitrary. This shouldn't be bothering me as much as it is. But, honestly, when was the last time you heard someone preface a question with "On a scale of 32 to 212......."?

24 December 2009

Having myself a merry little Christmas


Happy Birthday Jesus! And other Seasonal Sentiments. This is my first Christmas sans my family. Luckily I've got a roommate who was similarily abandoned by her family, so we'll be opening our massive pile of presents together tomorrow.  My mom sent me a huge box via Amazon, so I'm especially excited about that.

There are two of my Christmas decorations you can't see in the picure above that I want to share with you. The first is a horribly tacky decoration that I bought recently:


The picure isn't that great, but it's Santa riding a salmon, and the fish is wearing antlers. There are just so many things wrong with this idea, I don't know where to start. Maybe I should make a rule that all ornaments on my tree have to be illogical.

The second decoration is my Darwin doll. I've made him festive with a little hat.

I think I might start dressing him up for all the major holidays. Would that be sacrilegous?

I hope everyone has a great holiday!

23 December 2009

More cookie dough

This McSweeny’s column is really funny.

I totally respect what Al Gore is trying to do, but there’s something about this title card that bothers me and I can’t place my finger on what it is exactly.

Four acronyms I encountered today that basically mean the same thing:
AIS – Aquatic Invasive Species
NIS – Non-indigenous Species
NIZ – Non-indigenous Zooplankton
ANS – Aquatic non-native Species

18 December 2009

My thoughts are cookie dough. They aren't done baking.

Generally, in the course of my day, I’ll have a number of thoughts that I’ll think about putting here. Sometimes I send myself an email with those thoughts, or links to the article or website that spawned them. Lately, I’ve just been keeping them in a word file on my computer. Often these little thoughts aren’t really enough for a post of their own, unless I were to add a bunch of stuff to them, and as you’ll see, my thoughts are often only half-formed.

I think I have enough notes saved up to take up some of your time and distract you from whatever it is you try to escape from when you read this. Here, in no particular order, are a bunch of things:

12 December 2009

Pump Up/Your Boots

The most recognizable half of U2 was on Elvis Costello's Spectacle last night. It started with Elvis Costello performing Mysterious Ways (that was...different), then Bono came out and did his chicken dance (which I think has replaced his infamous elbow dance. That boy just can't dance). There was lots of banter and reminiscing between all the musical icons. Edge was succinct and witty. Bono gave long, rambling answers that only kind of made sense in the most abstract way. Really, I couldn't love him more.

Anyway, the whole point of this entry was to post video from some of the songs they performed, specifically: the best version of One Shot of Happy Two Shots of Sad I've ever heard, and the Costello/U2 mashup of Pump It Up and Get on Your Boots. Sadly, nothing is available on the CTV site, or on other sites (yet).

On a related note, is anyone else concerned that Elvis Costello is turning into Bob Dylan?





07 December 2009

Il fait froid

Mais not as froid as Edmonton. As I write this, it's -22 in Eddy, but only -3 here. However, winter has deffinitely arrived in the HRM. I say that not just because we've had our first stuck-around snowfall, but because you can just feel it in the air.

The cold weather made me think of a post I wrote a while ago that I still like. It went like this: "If Winter and Edmonton were in prison together, Edmonton would be Winter's bitch." I wrote that in October '06. I often marvel that I lived for almost 4 years in a place where Winter comes in October.

I tend to write a lot about the weather. I think because it's so inescapable, and it's just always there. If you're interested, all my weather-related posts can be read here (newest-oldest).

02 December 2009

Presyncope or, I had a really bad reaction to giving blood

I wrote the following an hour or so after the event (a blood drive clinic in a building at my work). In hindsight, I suppose this will sound pretty bad. When I told Monica about this, she said “you can't go alone anymore!” It’s not as if I’m driving there, or anything. It’s just down the elevator, across the court yard, and up a few floors. I think my bad reaction is a good thing. I mean, this is how my body is supposed to react to blood loss, right? I could consider my experience to be a test of sorts. Or even a “dry” run for the day I loose my arm in a tragic dissecting scope accident.

23 November 2009

Exterminate

"Mouse (mous). n. pl. mice (mīs)

1a. Any of numerous small rodents of the families Muridae and Cricetidae, such as the common house mouse (Mus musculus), characteristically having a pointed snout, small rounded ears, and a long naked or almost hairless tail.


b. Any of various similar or related animals, such as the jumping mouse, the vole, or the jerboa.


2. A cowardly or timid person."

Oh, how delicious. The name for the thing I fear most is also a description of what it turns me into. That's practically poetic.

So, we've got mice in our apartment. You can imagine what that's doing to me. I've only actually seen one once: it came into my room (*shudder*) under the door, and it left again after I saw it and screamed. I was on my bed at the time, and I spent the next hour staring at the spot where I saw it, too freaked out to move off the bed.

I'm currently exploring my options for removal. So far, this is my favourite:

14 November 2009

I can't bring myself to call you "Dr.Oz"

Congratulations to Oz for passing her PhD candidacy. She is now officially a PhD student. Sadly, we will have to do something about your nickname once you actually get your PhD, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Now that you're officially smart, Oz, can you answer a question for me? Why does Webmail suck so very, very much?

Hypochondriac

I started feeling sick Thursday night. I had that bad taste and feeling in the back of my throat that usually heralds a killer throat infection. Then on Friday, the soreness started, and I had that draggy, fighting-something feeling. I don't think I have swine flu. I mean, I have none of the symptoms, but when it comes to the symptoms no one seems to really know what they are. It's possible I have some new atypical version of swine flu. Possible but unlikely given that I'm just a hypochondriac. Last weekend I was fairly certain I had a brain aneurysm.

08 November 2009

Moz

I was going to write a post about how badly Morrissey is aging. I was going to post a video from awhile ago and a recent one to show the change over time. The thing is, Morrisey videos are weird. And sometimes disturbing, and they often make little or no sense (to me). So, I wasn't sure posting a bunch of odd videos will really endear me to my readership. But then again, you don't have to actually watch them.

06 November 2009

The angels have the phone box

In hindsight it seems like the TV show Doctor Who is a perfect match for me. I like scifi, I like time travel, I like drama, and comedy, and British humour, and British guys with British accents. But I didn’t watch it until recently, when my friend Annie convinced me that I would like it. She was right. The 5th season starts this winter, and I’ve caught up on seasons 1-3. This show is the awesome pinnacle of humourous British sci-fi. And even though it’s completely kid-friendly, it still manages to be fun for adults and effectively creepy at times. If you’re looking for something new to watch, I recommend renting the new series.

03 November 2009

Sometimes the bad movies are better than the good ones

House was a rerun last night, and Thank Bono, because if it hadn't been I never would have gone searching for something else to watch and found Loch Ness. (aka Loch Ness Terror; aka Beyond Loch Ness). Loch Ness is, hand-down, no contest, the best movie I have ever seen about a rogue cryptozoologist hunting Nessie in Lake Superior. The movie is called Loch Ness, for no other reason than that the first 10 minutes or so take place on the shores of Loch Ness. The rest of the movie takes place on beautiful Lake Superior, nestled, apparently, in the Rocky Mountains. Have I mentioned that everything about this movie is awesome?


28 October 2009

Funny email from WWF

"Dear Ms. Nasmith,
Allow us to introduce you to the Atlantic cod. Do not let appearances deceive you – because this is much more than just a fish."

Uh, yeah. We've already met.

Really, it's like WWF doesn't even know me.

25 October 2009

Can I get an Amen?

Sweet Jesus. I really freaking hate Webmail. It makes me want to cry. And scream. And how can one email system be so singularly crappy? It blows my mind.

21 October 2009

Cell phones impede your ability to notice clowns (and they make you stupid)

My lack of love for cell phones is well known amongst those who know me. So, I'd like to point you to my favourite article on CBC today. Especially poignant is the section that reads: "...cellphone users are slower, they change directions more frequently, they weave and they're much less likely to acknowledge any other people around them." It seems that most people can't walk and talk at the same time. I really didn't need an entire study with statistics to tell me that, but it's nice to know there's a citation out there should I ever need one.

I dream of a day when cell phone usage is the new smoking, and can only be done in designated areas, or in the privacy of your own home - unless you have kids, in which case you can only use it on the back porch.

18 October 2009

Kraken

Last Sunday I took a walk to the library. I took the long way, because the walk is so damn pretty. It skirts the harbour and across the water is downtown Halifax.

One thing I love about this city (these cities) is the harbour offers a new view everyday. Some mornings there are cruise ships so massive they dwarf the Islands. Some days, giant ships are raised on stilts.
That ship is the Seajacks Kraken. By the way, Seajacks Kraken is currently my favourite ship name. Ever. It's so fun to say.

As I was taking these pictures, I noticed the three towers way out in the harbour, the best view I could get was this:

Then a few days later that structure appeared in harbour. It's right near the Seajacks Kraken now. I don't really know where it came from, or how it got there. I don't have any pictures becuse I took the short way to the library yesterday (Season 3 of Dr.Who was in for me and I had to make haste). But, you can see it on the harbour web cams. (This one makes it look so much bigger than Seajacks Kraken).
As Joel Plaskett says, there's a reason why I love this town.

Epidemic of Stupid

Remember this past summer, when there was the epidemic of stupid parents leaving their kids in cars during heat waves? It was like the newest fad in bad parenting. Now the trendy thing to do is kill your kid and save yourself the trouble of even having to buy a car seat.

There are two cases in the NS courts right now of couples being charged with the murder of their baby. In one case it was assault leading to death, and I don’t think they have a cause of death in the other, but the parents concealed the body for days before going to a hospital.

I can’t even bring myself to use a stern tone with my niece and nephew, so infanticide baffles me.

On a somewhat related note, it’s Conflict Resolution Day and I went to a talk by a woman who works internationally to teach kids how to get along and live with each other. And she told us how her kids went to one of those new-age feel-goodery for elementary school where they learned about “lessons in living.” She said she felt the program really did teach her kids empathy and respect, and that it wasn’t just something they used in school but didn’t take home. Then she started to tell us how her eldest son became the target of a bully when he was in high school (Grade 9 at a “normal” school). And I thought that she would tell us how they resolved this conflict, and I thought it would provide some interesting insight into stopping or preventing bullying. But no. One day the bully knocked the kid down with such force that a main artery was damaged and the boy died. This was about 20 years ago, so she was able to talk about it calmly, but I think a couple of people in the audience were crying. And she never got any resolution. The boy who killed her son was never charged, never apologised, never got counselling. It was a pretty tragic story. She was able to turn that horrible experience into something useful with her current work, but still.

I don’t remember being bullied in elementary school. The school bully was in my class, and I know that his older brother bullied my older brother, but our bully didn’t really pick on girls. It may also have helped that my best friend was his girlfriend for a few years.

11 October 2009

One step closer to knowing

I was at the bank on Friday. I was sitting in the little reception area waiting for an appointment and I was watching the people at the tellers. My bank is pushing this savings account for kids, and if they sign up they get this coffee-can like coin bank with a list of all the Stanley Cup winners on it. They have these cans displayed on ledges above the tellers' stations. So, I was idly (perhaps rudely) watching the people at the tellers, and then the people at Teller 1 and Teller 3 - in perfect synchrony - picked the tin up, looked at the front, tipped it forward to look at the top, tipped it back to look at the bottom, then placed it back on the ledge. It was just a few moments, but they did everything at the exact same time, like it was choreographed. And neither of them noticed. I took that as a sign that humans are more alike than any of us think.

I was at the bank to start an RSP. It's like admitting your own mortality, saving for your retirement. I mean, I don't know what I'll be doing a year from now, but I do know that someday I'll be old and useless and no one will pay me to do anything.

26 September 2009

Halifax Loves Nazi Zombies in the Arctic**

I got to see Dead Snow last week as part of the Atlantic Film Festival. Apparently this film has been getting pretty bad reviews and I DON'T KNOW WHY. I have never seen or heard an audience enjoy a movie as much as the audience did for last night's show. They were cheering the characters on and there was spontaneous clapping and the jokes got huge laughs. Now, I know, because it was a one-night-only thing that pretty much everyone there (and it was sold-out) wanted to be there. And it didn't start until after midnight, so most people like me were pretty loopy from sleep deprivation, which may have made it funnier. But still - it was great. Think a funnier, more brutal and more ruthless Shaun of the Dead.

I'm interested to see how it compares to Zombieland.

(**Okay, so it's not the Arctic, it's just Norway, but "Arctic" sounds better).

24 September 2009

Ellie Loves U2

A while ago, I was having lunch with some friends at work and I was talking about my upcoming vacation in which I would be seeing U2 in concert, two night in a row. Someone asked "Don't you get bored?" I replied, "Are you crazy?" The chance to see my favourite band two nights in a row? Even if it was the same set list I wouldn't get bored. Even if Bono sat down and read from Ulysses I wouldn't get bored. So great is my love for U2, I don't think they could ever bore me. Another person asked me why I would bother to see it twice in a row - what would be the difference between the two nights? In reality, the set lists didn't change much (titles in bold were only played one night):

Wednesday night:
Breathe, No Line On The Horizon, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Beautiful Day - Alison, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, Elevation, Your Blue Room, Unknown Caller, Until the End of the World, Stay (Faraway, So Close), The Unforgettable Fire, City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, MLK, Walk On, One - Amazing Grace, Where the Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet, With or Without You, Moment of Surrender

Thursday night:
Breathe, No Line On The Horizon, Get On Your Boots, Magnificent, Mysterious Ways, Beautiful Day, Elevation, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For - Moving On Up, Unknown Caller, New Year's Day, Stuck In A Moment, The Unforgettable Fire, City of Blinding Lights, Vertigo, I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (remix), Sunday Bloody Sunday, MLK, Walk On, One-Amazing Grace, Where the Streets Have No Name, Ultraviolet, With or Without You, Moment of Surrender.

So, really, the nights differed by three songs. But if I hadn't gone to both nights, I would have missed out on either Stay (one of my favourite songs) or Stuck in a Moment, which is the really pretty acoustic version that Bono and Edge do alone. By seeing both shows, I don't miss out on those things. I also didn't miss out on them playing Your Blue Room. If you had asked me for a list of songs that would never be played live, Your Blue Room would have been on it. Mostly because it's from the most obscure U2 album ever - and it's not even technically a U2 song, it's a Passengers song.





I'm pretty sure some of the isolated screams you can make out in the background are the guy who was seated next to my mom. Apparently when the song started he turned to her and said, "This is my favourite song!" I marvel at the luck of U2 playing your favourite song when your favourite songs has been seemingly forgotten by the world, if not U2 themselves.
I love that U2 can still surprise me. Usually the shows open with the band walking onstage together to the opening strains of one of the songs, and I could picture that with Magnificent, so I thought for sure that would be the opener. Then, at the beginning, Larry ambles on stage by himself, sits down at his drums, and opens the show with the drum solo to Breathe. I never get tired of watching Larry play the drums. This clip doesn't show the drum solo, but look how close dude was to the stage!




I knew they would play I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (the pretty, twinkly song in the Blackberry commercials). But I didn't know they would play a whole new dance-mixy version of the song.



One of my favourite moments was the beginning of Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Bono only had to sing the first line and the crowd took over for the first two verses. Odd, that my favourite parts of a concert are when Bono isn't singing, but there's just something so great about thousands of people all singing together.






However, I was disappointed by one thing. They didn't play Stand Up Comedy, a song from the newest album. I thought they would play it for sure because a) it's an upbeat song from the new album, aka: concert gold; and b) some of the tour t-shirts have lyrics from the song on them. So, when they didn't play it the first night, I thought for sure they'd play it the second night. And they didn't. It took me a couple of days to get over that.




So, the music is one good reason to see it twice. Not just to see the songs you would have missed, but to see the songs you love twice.

Another very, very good reason to see it twice is perspective. Observe, our view from the nosebleed section on Wednesday:
And behold our view on Thursday:

I have seen U2 six times now, and I had never been this close before. We were closer than the picture really suggests. I could see the muscles clench in Larry's jaw. I could see the sweat on Bono's face. I could see the details of Adam's pants. It's hard for me to find the words, but it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, to be that close to a band I've idolised for years. At one point, the moving catwalk was over my head and Adam walked over me. I was less than 2 feet from him. I know I sound all creepy and stalkerish but you have to realize this is my version of a religious experience.

Now, that view was not without it's price. We got in line at noon, and sat outside in the sun all afternoon. Then, when the doors opened at 5, we had to run out onto the field and into the "inner" stage to get a good spot. Then we had to wait, the whole time defending our spot against the hordes of other U2 fans. There wasn't much room to move, so basically we shifted our weight from one foot to the other from 5-11pm. When I finally went to bed that night (at about 5am, after driving to my cabin) my legs were throbbing from the pain. Really, a small price to pay, and one I'd gladly pay again.

The rest of the crappy pictures I took with my assy camera are in my online album. I didn't want to spend the whole time taking pictures, which I might have done if I had a half-descent camera, so maybe it's a blessing that I don't.

06 September 2009

The Civil Servant's Daughter

I'm no feminist. I mean, I believe in equality, yes. I want to get paid the same amount as a guy would for doing the same job, and I like voting. And the few times I faced real sexism I felt enraged and belittled at the same time. But I also like having the door held for me, and getting free dinners, so I don't know what that makes me. Much like all my other beliefs, it probably makes me a hypocrite. I'm complex. Deal with it.

I had a point, and it's that I'm uncomfortable with all these book titles that imply women can be defined by the men in their lives:

The Piano Man's Daughter
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Zookeeper's Wife
The Time Traveller's Wife
Ahab's Wife

And those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. A quick search of Amazon brings up:

The Imposter's Daughter
The King's Daughter
The Pilot's Wife
Shakespeare's Wife
The Doctor's Wife
The Senator's Wife
The Witch Doctor's Wife

It bothers me how these women are defined wholly by the occupation of the men in their lives. I would never describe myself as the Civil Servant's Daughter. My father's occupation is not somehow a descriptor of my life. I understand that the men in their lives can influence them, but (for example) the Memory Keeper's Daughter would have been the same person whether her father was a photographer ("memory keeper") or not. And, Ahab's wife would have been just as head strong had she never met Ahab. I mean, what the men do are not who the women are and it bothers me. The implication is like the Queen is the Queen, and that's cool and all, but she'll never really be more than the King's Wife.

It bothers me in the same way that bird nomenclature bothers me. We name birds after the male colouration, and the poor girl birds have to live the absurdity of being called the brilliant blue-throated warbler or whatever and they're just brown. Seems wrong, somehow, doesn't it?

05 September 2009

Like Christmas



Douglas Coupland books are like Christmas. You look forward to it for so long, and it's great when it finally arrives, but then it's over and you have to wait for next Christmas. Except in CoupLand, Christmas comes biannually, so the wait is even longer.

My shiny new copy of Generation A arrived last week and I actually held off reading it for about a day, because I new once I started I'd devour it in a day and then I'd be left without any new Coupland for years. It's hard being a book junkie, ya'll, we wait so long for our fixes. It's not like I can just go the Dartmouth ghetto and get a new Coupland in a dark alley. You know?




Generation A is pretty damn great. It didn't evoke the emotional reaction from me that Hey Nostradamus! does, but it made me think more than his other books. Or maybe not. I find that Coupland is so deft at describing and explaining human behaviour that all his books make me fairly introspective. This book is being marketed as the next Generation X, but aside from the story-telling aspect (in both books the characters gather together and tell stories), it didn't remind me of Generation X at all. If anything, it's a next step from Girlfriend in a Coma - an end-of-humanity story done Coupland-style. Both that and this book have elements of science fiction in it, but where Girlfriend in a Coma was apocalyptic, Generation A is more dystopic.




And here is a video clip of Coupland (there are more clips available on iTunes, which I suppose means I need to download iTunes now).

04 September 2009

Hurricane Fluffy-Bunny

I was working on an entry about hurricanes last week, then I got called away on a last minute road trip between Hamilton and Montreal and I never got around to finishing it. As with most things I write, I lost interest in it once I was away from it for awhile. I'm going to put it here in all it's first draftiness:

"Hurricane Bill is barely gone and now we’re watching Hurricane Candidate Danny (although I’m sure he prefers being called Dan). Danny, being completely unoriginal, is planning on hitting us roughly the same time of the week that Bill did. I officially dislike Danny because even if he doesn’t come with us, he’s going to screw up the swells enough that I can neither dive nor surf this weekend. Alej & I have been planning on a dive/surf weekend all summer and stupid Danny has to go and ruin it. [In the end, my last minute work road trip ruined our plans. I suppose I owe Dan an apology].

Here is a list of the storm names for 2009:

Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda.

Why are Hurricane names so soft? Henri? Mindy?! And there was a Hurricane Larry last year! Are they allowed to recycle the names? Why not Hurricane Luther? Luther is a vaguely evil-sounding name. Why don’t they use names that are inherently more aggressive? Some suggestions: Adolf, Butch, Crowded-places, Dalek, Evil, Father, Gangrene, Hurricane (as an homage to Major Major), Interest, Jerk, Khan, Luther, Mouse, NSF, Oppression, Patton, Q, Rat, Schmurricane, Taxes, Ursula, V, Wolfgang, X, Y, Z. "

So there you have it. I couldn't think of many good hurricane names. Those pesky end-of-the-alphabet letters are hard. Any ideas?

23 August 2009

Bill < Juan

I must say that Hurricane Bill has been a bit of a let down. Basically it was rainy and windy today. Here, at least. Not very exciting at all. We've been talking about this thing for a week. "What do you think of Bill?" "What have you heard about Bill?" "Remember Juan?" "What're the people at the Hurricane HQ saying about Bill?" Even last night, at the Kangaroo-BBQ, we were checking stormpulse every hour or so. At the moment, it looks like it'll make land in NLFD, so whoever is the Newfie-equivalent of me might have a different opinion about Bill.

Two asides:

1. The main "Bill" in my life is so un-hurricane-like that I find the name "Hurricane Bill" to be completely absurd. Like "Hurricane Cricket" or "Hurricane Fiesta."

2. The Kangaroo-BBQ was literally that, courtesy of A and her boy T, an Aussie ex-pat. It's a very red meat, kind of beefy. I know, I know. My stance on what animals I will and won't eat is messed up. Last night I ate a kangaroo steak, but today I refused to eat a Caesar salad because of the anchovies in the dressing. But I have to put the fish first!

03 August 2009

You're such a groovy thinker

Penguin Books has this newish series about Extraordinary Canadians, and it's a series of biographies written by some of the best contemporary authors we have. I'm not sure if there was any logic in the pairings of author-to-subject, or if the authors got to pick their subjects. I mean, shouldn't Vincent Lam be writing about Norman Bethune? And, I don't know anything about Lord Beaverbrook but I'm willing to bet that David Adams Richards turns his life into a soul crushing tale of growing up poor on the Mirimichi, because that's all he seems to write about (unfair, perhaps. I've only read one of his books...).

I bring all this up not just because I plan to read them all (somehow, someday), but because my beloved Douglas Coupland is writing the book about Marshall McLuhan. I'm sure most people in my generation know of McLuhan because of the heritage moment: the medium is the message and all that

Then, there are a few of us who can't hear that name without thinking of the Ballad of Marshall McLuhan. That's because a few of us had a 10th grade french teacher who, really, probably wasn't meant to be a teacher. He would play us the same Radio Free Vestibule CD, over and over until we had it memorized. (This same teacher let us use an english-to-french translation program to write our term paper. I think I got the second highest mark in that class and I barely even know french).

The Ballad of Marshall McLuhan is an infectious little song celebrating all that Marshall did for his people. I don't know how to embed music files in blogger, but you can listen to it here. It's really worth a listen.

29 July 2009

These will make me cry



Who am I kidding? The trailer made me teary.

And if that trailer made me sad, this next one isn't going to go well:

Oh, god. I read the book that inspired the movie and I got angry, but I didn't cry. But that really short scene of the person hitting the swordfish with a mallet...and the finning...I can't take those things. I'm going to have to be careful when I watch those, I'll have to make sure I'm in a mood to weep my way through another doc about our abuse and misuse of innocent marine life.

On a lighter note, I wonder if there's some marine documetary law book out there that stipulates that Boris Worm must be interviewed. He's in all these things!

24 July 2009

Please don't take my sunshine away

There's a Couplandism that goes, "You can’t get mad at weather because weather’s not about you." I was talking to my BFF about the lack of summer we've been having seemingly across the country, and I quoted that to her, and her reply was along the lines of "the hell it isn't." Which pretty much sums up my feelings exactly. I find it incredibly hard not to take the weather personally. Doesn't it always feel like it's always doing what you don't want it to, right when you don't want it to do it?

It feels like we've been living under gloomy cloud cover for a month. Where, I ask you, is summer? Are we no longer a province with four distinct seasons? When did we loose summer? Not that prolonged crappy weather is new to us, as evidenced by this EC forecast from 2004 that I just happened to have saved on my computer (possibly NSFW, depending on your workplace).

This is pretty much how I would describe the last few weeks, and our forecast for the next few.

08 July 2009

The head of Wilfrid Laurier was re-sculpted

I've been rewatching the BBC Robin Hood series, and, for those of you who haven't seen it (and, why, may I ask, haven't you?) it's all very life-and-death, end-of-the-world, larger-than-life legendary stuff and I find myself thinking...Who is our Robin Hood? Where is our show? Where's the TV show about the Canadian legend? But...do we even have a Robin Hood equivalent? I mean, all I can think of are Laura Secord and Louis Riel. Would I really watch 3 seasons of Louis Riel? (well, if he was played by this guy, I would). And the Laura Secord story takes place over, like, a single night, right? Which is great for the pilot episode, but what comes after?

Do we have them and I'm just drawing a complete blank? I mean, most of my knowledge of Canadian history comes from the Heritage Moments, and I don't think those covered this. So rather than wait for the flood of comments this post is sure to elicit, I looked on Wikipedia, and whoever wrote that didn't come up with any more Canadian folk heroes than I did, although we do apparently have our own variant of Paul Bunyon named "Taylor Bradshaw" (speaking of, what's the deal with Bunyon. Was he just a really big lumberjack, or did he actually do something?)

I wonder why we have such a paucity of folk heroes. Is it because we never suffered the kind of oppression that breeds them? Or that we just brought the old ones with us from our various homelands and didn't invent new ones? Is it just because our country has such a short history relative to the old world? Did we not need folk heroes?

In my internet search for heroes I came across this site selling figurines of three different Canadian legends. If you click on the link to look at the latest photos it mentions that they've recently re-sculpted the head of Sir Wilfred Laurier. Awesome!

07 July 2009

Lysis to kill

I've got more science humour for everyone today. First, another video recommendation from the student in our lab. This one doesn't have any pretty ocean pictures, but it makes up for that by being a rap about meiosis (it's pretty hilarious).



I could put up more. Who are these people who have all this time to make these videos? I mean, I'm really, really good at not doing work when I should be (e.g., this blog: 2006-present) but it never occured to me to make a video about bug-picking or mark-recapture equations. However, just hop on over to YouTube and enjoy videos about population growth equations and apoptosis (among other things).

I also stumbled upon some funny little one-liners, that were mostly about geologists (Annie, you've probably heard most of these, but I really liked the last one).

Love a Geologist and feel the earthquake
My rocks are gneiss, don't take 'em for granite
All my faults are normal
Geologists make the bedrock!
So many beds, so little time
Geology is a load of schist!
Subduction ALWAYS leads to orogeny
How many geologists does it take to change a lightbulb? One, but hundreds will apply.

And I've saved the best for last (This one will be making me laugh for days):
What's the difference between a paleontologist and a large pizza? A large pizza feeds a family of four.

06 July 2009

Field work: anything less than success is normal

When we marine biologists go to sea we call it a "cruise." I never really thought about this term much, until the other day when an IT guy at my work commented on how misleading that word is to non-science people. I mean, if I were to tell my parents I was going on a cruise, what they would picture would based on that word would be very far from the actual experience.

I bring this up because a student in my lab directed me to this most awesome documentation of oceanic field work. One thing I learned when I used to do field work (I miss you Mitchell Lake!) is that things will go wrong. Something always goes wrong, whether you mislabel a bottle, or forget gear back at the house, or toss your notebook with a summer's worth of data into the drink (I'm looking at you, Cricket) - things never go according to plan. As the video says, anything less than success is normal.



The story behind the video is here.

04 July 2009

Me too, BlackBerry. Me too.

Great night, eh?

The last time I saw Joel Plaskett, just over a month ago, it was a fairly intimate, acoustic affair. And when I heard he would be playing on Canada Day at the Dartmouth ferry terminal, I was beyond excited. Because this was a Canada Day show, in his home town no less, I expected something bigger. I was not disappointed.
He played a good mix of new stuff and old. And the audience, for the most part, seemed like big fans of his work and sang along with gusto. Since it was a free concert, meters from the beer tent, there were people who could barely stand, or control their urges to rush the stage. Some idiot jumped on stage, and was hauled off, no less than 4 times. By the end of the concert, security gave up and he sat on the stage and watched the fireworks with the band.


The fireworks were surprisingly short, I heard on the radio the next morning that they were only 8 minutes long. I didn't care, though, because I finally got a JP autograph to go with my picture:

I wonder if I have the foritude to become a proper stalker? Perhaps I should hang around the Commons next week when he opens for McCartney?

(I can't take credit for the pictures, so thanks to the photographer!)

02 July 2009

Great day, eh?

My Canada Day began at about 7:50am when Annie picked me up. As Canada Day mornings go, this is a pretty late start for us. Historically, we'd be on the Halifax waterfront by 5am to see Shakespeare by the Sea, but that particular performance has since been cancelled. Instead, we had to settle for a free pancake breakfast on the Dartmouth waterfront. It was overcast, and there was a misty wetness (TM Alej) in the air. The flag raising was rather anti-climactic as there wasn't enough of a breeze to lift the massive flag. But the 50 minutes we waited in line for pancakes and juice boxes was well worth it.
Next we took the Dartmouth ferry into the town, walked up to Spring Garden, grabbed a coffee and staked a claim from which to watch the Tattoo parade. The Tattoo parade is made up of performers in town for the Tattoo (aka The Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo). It was a pretty short parade, but really, it had everything you would want in a parade.

Mounties. Marching bands.
Buses.
Firetrucks.
Civilian extras.
Gymnasts.Mascots.
African dancers.

Old people in scrimshaws. Tanks.

Giant globes.

Fifers in tights and Napoleon hats.

Crazy people on motorcycles.

And, most importantly, lots of pipes and drums!!

About partway through, it struck me that this parade of military and police bands and performers from around the world was the way we'd chosen to celebrate Canada Day. On a day that could be all about us, we had an international parade. That's what makes this country so great.

My sister-in-law and I were fortunate enough to luck into tickets to see the actual Tattoo that afternoon, for it's opening performance. We were even more lucky (and surprised; and under-dressed) in that the tickets were part of a DND reception and we ended up sitting in the VIP section, two rows behind the Premier, the Lieutenant Governor, and I think the guy who runs the Navy.

The show was fantastic; I'm a complete sucker for bagpipes, and drum bands, and people in uniform marching in elaborate formation - so I was in heaven. There's just something about the ceremony and aesthetics of it all that I really like. And the music, the sound of hundreds of instruments and two choirs and a couple of tenors...the effect is quite spectacular.

The first act ended with a tribute to the Highway of Heroes in Ontario (for those of you unfamiliar with this, see here for a really good news story featuring my home town). That was tragically sad and I certainly wasn't the only one crying.

My favourite parts were anything with the bagpipers and highland dancers. The crazy guys on the motorcycles (Hamburg Police Motorcycle Team) did some crazy shit - like headstands and balancing on one leg. The Paris police gymnastic team had great muscle tone. The Canadian military had an obstacle race, and a race where they took apart - and then put back together - a WWII era jeep.

That's not to say that it was all great. Some of it left me scratching my head, like when the Royal Fire Brigade Band from Malmo, Sweden started playing lesser-known ABBA songs. Or, the musical choice of the Motorcycle Team - Celine Dion and Enrique Iglesias?! One thing I found particularly distracting was the sceptre for the Wehrbereich Musikkorps 1. For most of the marching bands, the leader had a fancy sceptre, but for the German's it was this massive, shiny, be-tasseled flag holder (the only picture I have is from the parade, and is a bit fuzzy):

And there was one person whose job it was to carry that around. All day. I mean, is that an honour or grunt work? What happened in that person's life, in their childhood, adolescence, in their education and adulthood, that lead to them being to one to cart around the thing with the giant tassels? I can't fully explain how these thoughts consumed me whenever that band was performing.

So, that was my awesome Canada Day-day, and at somepoint I will write about my Canada Day-night.