Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy stupid outfit day

For the first time in...

You know, I have no idea when the last time is that I wore a costume. Maybe 94? That's my best bet. Ahh, the heady days of university. All kinds of opportunities to be... sociable!

So I'm headed in to work dressed as a lumberjack. Not in the Monty Python style, but actually wearing clothes that men carrying saws with a 48" bar will wear in the north of B.C.

Why do I have these clothes lying around the house? Well, that's a story... as I used to walk around the wilderness of northern B.C. carrying a chainsaw. That I was ALSO part of a crew of guys carrying survey instruments, and we switched off who carried what, might have some significance to this story. I won't need a jacket tomorrow though... even with the snowfall! Thick wool pants, heavy shirt, and a wool overshirt... yeah, it's toasty!

Too bad about the plastic axe. However, as there was a half-mad man holding an office building hostage with a pistol last week - a block from my office - maybe NOT looking like an axe-murderer is a good thing!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wow, bad park!

You know it's bad when a parking 'incident' from York, Ontario, makes it onto the Top Gear Blog!

Alas, if you're a member at a fitness club, and you happen to drive OVER the vehicles of other patrons, don't be a yutz and leave the scene! The police, they don't take too favourably to this. Even if you happen to own a cheap little car like a $60K BMW M5.

If you want to drive over other people's cars, do it in a monster truck, driving over cars bought from the junkyard. Especially when there is a security camera covering the parking lot...

Progressing through it

The Gathering Storm...

Not done yet! But I just finished up the scene, for lack of a better descriptor, that I will call the "fireside chat"

A long way to go...

In other news, this was my mastiff tonight:
cute pictures of puppies with captions

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Move along...

Nothing to see here...

funny pictures of cats with captions

Regular blog expressions to come later, once I've gotten through more of The Gathering Storm.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

But... it's hard!

I find it amusing, in a completely off-kilter way, that the US military machine is finding out what we've known for a long time:

Afghanistan is hard.

I've got friends and former classmates who are either there, in the field, as I type this, or who have had multiple tours through the meat grinder that is Afghanistan.

Now that the US is withdrawing from Iraq and sending more troops BACK to Afghanistan to fight in a fight that it unanimously declared complete before charging off to Iraq in the first place - when it was far from won - it is learning some hard lessons.

Then again, the warnings of the pundits from before the initial invasion are not so much scare tactics now. The country that beat up the British Empire and the Soviet machine is continuing to try and beat up the rest of the armies sent there.

I don't know the answer to the bigger questions, but I do find it amusing in a vaguely perverted sense that what non-US military forces have been saying for years is being realized anew by the present commanders. It's hard.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One more day...

Yes, it's true... tomorrow "The Gathering Storm" comes out.

I might be reading a little bit this week... though, it's only like 400,000 words long or so.

Mrs. Spit could do crack that off over a lunch hour or two!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Comic relief

There once was a time when I would look forward to the daily newspaper arriving at home. I was young and didn't care a bent wiffle for the news on the front page, or local news, or the sports news. Give me the comics!

I had several that I enjoyed. I think fondly back to the days of B.C., Wizard of Id, Calvin & Hobbes, Peanuts, Garfield. These were the comics of my youth. They were humourous and enjoyable. And no, blogger, I don't like that you think I misspelled humourous!!! As my good friend in Australia commented on my FB page a while back: "Have a day with good humoUr!"

Fast-forward a couple of decades. I don't get the newspaper anymore. We found that it, more often than not, ended up on the recycle pile, unread. We get our news online now, or via the radio - why would I want ink that bleeds on my hands? Even when we did get the paper, I didn't much care for the selection of comics anymore.

And then I found the joy that is webcomics. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, I get my daily comic fix through my RSS feed - another Google product, go figure. I enjoy that the comics I read are created by people who are doing it for their enjoyment. Several of these fine folks have figured out how to make a living by doing an online comic. And you know, they are pretty fine!

Here's a list of my favourites, in alphabetical order:
Abstruse Goose - there are days I don't 'get' it, a strip for science geeks
Air Force Blues - written by an active Airman, ostensibly a strip about some fighter jocks...
Dilbert - ok, this isn't really news to anyone, but I enjoy my daily fix!
Girl Genius - have you heard of SteamPunk yet? A very long running strip (Nov 02) that promotes itself as "Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!"
Looking for Group - a fantasy comic that started as poking fun at WoW
Not Invented Here - software developers, and the live therein.
The Phoenix Requiem - I'll let the page describe it better than I can: "The Phoenix Requiem is a Victorian-inspired supernatural fantasy story about faith, love, death, and the things we believe in."
Surviving the World - a photocomic by an engineer. Sounds dry, is anything but.
Unshelved - a comic about... librarians? Indeed... the inner workings of every bookworm's favorite place, somewhat
XKCD - my kind of art - stickmen! Comics that often benefit from deeper geek understanding

Some of these you can just jump into at any point. A few need to be read from the start to understand what's going on. Here is another function that webcomics excel at! You can either buy the author's printed versions, or go into archives and read from day 1. Looking for Group, Phoenix Requiem, and Girl Genius all need the complete story to be fully understood.

Does anyone else have some good reading that you can suggest?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Adversity, part two

I got a short note from my friend, June. It said so very much in so few words:

"Aunt May died this morning."

The family is, of good reason, sad that their sister, aunt, and great-aunt has died. But in the same breath, they are happy as well. It's a crazy thing, except when you remember that she had been suffering from cancer for over six years. The last weeks and months were especially bad, with the pain passing through the ability of the painkillers to attenuate it. May, in her death, has been released from suffering.

And so, now the family grieves, while sighing a sigh of relief at the same time.

Some days, living sucks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting away from it...

I'll bet you've never considered this question before: Within the continental US, i.e. the lower 48 - what is the furthest that you can be from a golden arches location?

The answer is pretty scary, actually. You have to go to the far reaches of the country, but the furthest by car you can get is 145 miles, 107 via crow transport. South Dakota, I never knew ya!

Someone has gone to some effort to show this. Here's the short form:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That time again

Happy Birthday to Me!

Another year gone. Not sure I'm any wiser.

Oh well! Life's too short to be serious all the time.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Surprise, it's your old companion!

I was looking for a term to describe how I felt on Saturday. It wasn't easy. Thanks to this culture of ours, my mind went in the direction of sports descriptions. And frankly, it does a good job of describing how I felt.


Now, to clarify, here's the definition according to my handy source, dictionary. com:

blind-side or blind·side (blīnd'sīd')
tr.v. blind-sid·ed or blind·sid·ed, blind-sid·ing or blind·sid·ing, blind-sides or blind·sides
  1. To hit or attack on or from the blind side.

  2. To catch or take unawares, especially with harmful or detrimental results: "The recent recession, with its wave of corporate cost-cutting, blind-sided many lawyers" (Aric Press).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Sounds really academic when you see it in black and white, doesn't it? And when it's academic, it doesn't seem as bad, or as dramatic. So I must show you in more graphic terms what it means.

(image from here, in case you're interested)

Someone in that photo is about to be surprised by a rapid and forceful encounter with the turf.

That's what I felt like on Saturday morning. I felt like I had things in control, and then seemingly out of nowhere, I got tackled by grief. And like the quarterback, I was slammed down pretty hard, getting my wind knocked out of me. I was caught completely unawares.

Saturday morning I was sitting, waiting for my winter tires to be installed. I had my book with me and I was reading, killing time. And that's when I got blindsided. I had the sudden realization that I wouldn't be able to use tasks such as getting new tires to introduce my son, my Gabriel, into the world of men.

Really, a tire store is a guy's place. You walk in the door to be assaulted by the smell and sight of new rubber. There are tires and wheels everywhere. The sales staff are in work clothes, ready to help you and explain the world of tires to you. You have tires in all flavours, from sporty, to winter, to off-road, to the imminently boring yet necessary cheap tires for small cars. In the corner the popcorn machine churns out it's perfume (at 7:30 in the morning at that). There is a 24 hours sports channel going on the TV. You have a remote monitor readout so you can watch the guy doing wheel balancing. Techs going in and out, especially paying homage to the coffee maker.

And it hit me. I wouldn't be able to explain that corner of the world to Gabriel. Pass on the pearls of wisdom from my own father - such as "Brakes and tires, as long as those are in good condition, the rest is negotiable. Without those two, you have no control and you're not safe." As I looked around the store with a child's eyes, I saw all that needs explaining to a child. How to read a tire. What is the purpose of having different types of tires. Why we were buying four winter tires and not just two.

This little corner of the world had a plethora of lessons that I will never teach Gabriel. I will never take him for a morning away from home, introducing him to things that a guy needs to know.

Later in the day, Mrs. Spit and I went to a baby girl's 'tea party' - also known as an open house for this couple's friends to come and meet their recently adopted infant. I can't say that I was excited to be going, but we have to continue to live.

Mrs. Spit handed me the little girl to hold, though I must admit that she offered me the chance to abstain. I held the child in my arms, and even held the bottle while she went to town. It was enough to rip my heart out to hear Mrs. Spit commenting to others that I am so very good at holding babies, and that babies seem to love it in my arms. I wanted to hand off little Ivy and leave, now. But I couldn't - though I did take the first available chance to hand her off.

It's been almost two years since my little Gabriel was swept out of my life. I thought that I was doing pretty well in my grief. I thought that I had been through the worst of it, and that I could go forward with life with remembrances of Gabe, but without the searing pain of his loss laid open like a fresh wound sprinkled in salt. I thought that, since I was able to attend a remembrance walk earlier this month without wanting to run away to escape the pain, I was living with and adjusted to my grief.

The football analogy breaks down at this point. Sure, quarterbacks get blindsided, but it happens pretty regularly to them. As they are used to it, they are able to stand up, brush off, and carry on. I'm not able to do this. Instead, days later, I am still dazed and bruised from the experience.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Being sick sucks

I'm working on a post. Really. It was going to post today.

But I feel like something the mastiff has chewed up right now, so it's got to wait.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

And the rain came down

Wow. Talk about rain. We sure don't get anything like the rain in Interlagos, Brazil!

Formula 1's penultimate race runs Sunday in Brazil - 10 am local time here - wow, I get to sleep in massively! Much nicer than 6 am local time here.

How fitting that the final pole-sitter is a Brazilian who hasn't been on pole in years. This after the one hour qualifying session ran close to four hours. Nuts.

And then I saw a news piece where King Bernie is suggesting that it will be more exciting if Button doesn't win the driver's championship until the final race of the year. Awfully sporting of him, don't you think? I'd rather see Hamilton in the cat-bird seat, but it's not his year to repeat as champion. Car just hasn't been there this year. And in Brazil? He and Kovi are breathing exhaust fumes off the start, 18th and 17th respectively. Yikes!

And to think, TSN cut their coverage of qualifying after a paltry hour and half... Philistines!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting tyred*

It's now officially not summer any more. We have had snow and ice. Did I hear a groan?

The Spit-mobile is shod with the OEM 'all-season' tyres that came with it. Obviously the person who came up with the concept of naming these tyres was not from a part of the country that has frozen water fall from the skies. If you look into it, you'll see that all-season as regards tyres is synonymous with 'roads that are dry, or have been rained on'. Seriously, they are not all-season when your seasons include snow and ice. As the OEM tires, after 50,000 km, have been chirping and singing under non-extreme conditions already (normal driving), they are up for changing. And on the skiff of snow that we had this week? Yikes! At least we know that the circuitry is functioning on the ABS!

Wednesday I went into a local outlet of Kal Tire to inquire about some winter rubber. They had the specific tyres that I want in stock. In fact, they are the only retailer in Canada to stock Nokian tyres. The previous Spit-mobile has been shod in Nokian WR tyres - a tyre billed correctly as 'all-weather.' So we have the bonus of both excellent customer service, and tyres that rock. The only thing is that the location I went to informed me that they don't make appointments for tyre installs, first come - first served. Ok I thought, I can go in early, wait for the install, and be on with my day somewhat late.

Yesterday morning I arrived 20 minutes before the doors open (7:10 am) to find a lineup of 10-15 people standing at the door. So much for THAT idea.

Saturday will be attempt number two to find my new winter rubber. With luck, by the time you read this - unless you're a real early bird - the new tyres will be on the Spit-mobile. Otherwise I don't know WHEN this will get done. Leave my car there all day? Pigs fly I hear...

I just want the winter tyres that we promised ourselves years ago that we would buy!

*British spelling used for kicks here

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bullet the blue sky

With apologies to U2 for borrowing their title...

You know how the internet is a bastion of wild and crazy videos? Sometimes you see something that leaves people talking about it around the water cooler: "Hey, did you see the one with the baby carriage under the train?" (for reference, here's that link)

And now, to use the term of the infamous comedy group, Monty Python, who was just lauded with a BAFTA, for something completely different.

I came across this link via a link from a military related blog that I read. It's about bullets. Now, before you roll your eyes to the sky about how such a topic could be interesting, bear with me.

Have you ever seen a rifle bullet spinning as it passes through the air? How about impart spiral grooves to the expanding mass of ballistics gel? These are just two of the things that you can see when you watch this ten minute video. In a video worthy of the MythBusters, Werner Mehl from Kurzzeit puts together a video, music by others I believe, of some super high speed footage. How fast is super? 1000 frames per second? 10,000 fps? Not even close. This is purported to be short at one million frames per second. Yeah, 1,000,000 fps. That in itself is pretty amazing.

I was fascinated to watch how different bullets impacted on the steel plates. How bullets reacted when hit with ball bearings (? - not sure what they were) in flight was pretty wild. To see the side of a bullet sheared off when it hits the edge of armour plate was cool. The... unpeeling of a rifle round as it self-destructs against armour plate, including the play of reflection on the metal as it continues to spiral against the plate was indeed fascinating. It also shows the effects of hollow point bullets against ballistics gel.

The lessons today?
1. technology allows us to see some pretty cool things that are otherwise unviewable
2. always set the brake on the baby carriage on a windy day

Less than two weeks to go...

It was four years ago that book nine of the Wheel of Time was released. It seems like forever ago. When Robert Jordan died two years later, there were a lot of fans who feared that they would never know the ultimate conclusion to the story. We would never read the final scene that RJ had in fully fleshed out and completed in his mind when he first put pen to paper to write the first book.

Thankfully, a young author and fan of the Wheel of Time was picked by RJ's widow to continue the series to its completion. Brandon Sanderson to the rescue. He's a good author - and busier than a one-armed paper hanger right now. Not only has he been writing like mad to complete the saga of Wheel of Time, he also has his own projects that he is still writing.

So, like many fans, I'm waiting for October 27th to role into town. I have the book on pre-order at my local, non-chain, book store. The same book store where I retreated to help me find hard cover copies of the first six books in the series a few years ago. When I went to Chapters, they said "Sorry, they are not in our computer, we can't get them." Audrey's, on the other hand, scoured Canada and found new copies of the series tucked in out-of-the-way places. After about 45 minutes, I was making my order and leaving, a satisfied customer. Yeah, I'll keep giving them business!

And then came along a wrench in my plan. Dear Mr. Sanderson posted on his blog, about two months after I had pre-ordered my copy, about the book signing tour he would be taking. If I wanted to go see him, however, I'd have to drive to Washington State - no crossing the border on this tour. However, he did set up a deal with a store near his home, where we rabid fans could order a signed and numbered copy. I have three signed books in the series so far, and here's a chance for another one. Yeah, I got my order in post-haste.

Now for the rub, do I cancel my local order and wait for the post to bring my signed copy? Or, do I keep it and have two copies? Yeah... like any true nut-case... err... fan, I'm going to get my copy and start reading right away. When the signed copy comes, I'll read it and then extend the shelf-space needed for the whole series.

Anyone want a slightly used copy of The Gathering Storm? I'll have one to give away come early November!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


To truly know a person's character, you need to see how they respond in a crisis.

We all want to think that in a crisis, we would be like John Wayne, unflappable and able to take charge and get the job done. Sadly, the truth is that we are not all like that. We can be moved off our center by events.

Last night I was playing a game on Facebook, Farm Town. I saw that one of my internet friends was online and playing the game, so I went to check in. We started to chat. This lady, call her June, lives in Montana. She was sitting with her daughter, Violet, just mucking about with the computer. She started the conversation by telling me that things had been pretty crappy lately. And then the story of how she got to be playing Farm Town with her daughter came out.

June's Aunt May is dying. She is afflicted with both a blood and a brain cancer and has been suffering for about six years now. She is now at the point where the doctors have said that there is maybe three weeks left. And she is in some pretty major pain now. June just wants her Aunt to be comfortable. After all of this time of lingering illness and pain, she just wants her Aunt to be relieved of the pain. She is reconciled to what this means.

June's mom, Sue, is another story. Sue is everything that May is not. Sue is one of those people who refuse to live in the same world as the rest of us. She refuses to accept that her sister is dying, because that would hurt her. She thinks that June is terrible for comforting May, and for telling her that it would be ok for her to die. She is, in a word, selfish. So selfish that she got herself and her daughter thrown out of the hospital last night.

What do you say when a friend tells you something like this? That her mother came into the hospital room where she and her aunt were talking about wanting the pain to end. A talk where she consoled her aunt that it is ok to want to die to end the pain. Into this imagine the mother walking in and pitching a major screaming fit? Mother and daughter getting into a fight. Grand-daughter trying to separate the two women. Grandmother shoving the grand-daughter out of the way so she could get back to her own daughter. Aunt is still in the bed, in pain. June tells me that she ended up with Sue against the wall, apparently threatening to choke her in order to stop the insanity.

Why was Sue so unreasonable? To my ears, it sounds like she is in some pretty severe denial. She doesn't want to accept that her sister is dying. June tells me that her mother is incredibly selfish, and this is only the latest example of a life of selfishness. And Aunt May? Still in pain, watching the meltdown of her family in front of her hospital bed.

While we were chatting, June had to leave for a while as she had a long moment. Violet asked me "Is my mom going to be ok?" Pretty scary stuff for a high school freshman to have to endure. She was concerned because she's never seen her mom go off on someone like this. I tried to explain that, yes, her mom would be ok in time. Extremely emotional times lead to abnormal behaviours. Including her mom, who never runs from things, just wanting to curl up in a corner and hide.

It's a pretty blunt introduction to the psychology of stress for a young woman. In the end, we're looking at further estrangement of the mother from her daughter and grand-daughter, the victory of cancer over another good individual, and another day when I truly wonder at the fortitude of the staff of your typical oncology ward.

There, but for the grace of God, go I.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Slasher apologizes?

Well, this is different. Not to mention wild that we can track this particular feature of the web to a single person. What a difference 30 years make!

BBC article link

And all these years I thought it was some obscure computer code requirement.

Space Travel...

... it's always cool.

Seriously, all intentional puns aside, this is a really cool map at the National Geographic.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Giving Thanks

It's two days after Canadian Thanksgiving. We have turkey yet to be consumed, along with other leftovers from the 'Dinner Party that Shrank', as I've taken to thinking about it. We started with 10, but ended up with 6 people at the table on Sunday night.

We always hear that an attitude of thankfulness should be an ongoing thing - 365 days a year instead of only at the official days demarcated for that purpose. Like so much else that we should do, it is easy to lose thoughts of thankfulness among the noise of daily life.

I am thankful for the blessings that I have in my life, including a wonderful wife, good health, stable employment, a warm home to call my own. I'm not being trite when I mention these either. When single I had times when I despaired of ever finding a partner to share my life with. I'd been terribly sick with pneumonia, been laid off when the economy took a nose-dive, and been sent packing when my lease was discontinued. Each and all of these add stress and strife to a person's life.

I'm also thankful for a friend and partner who tells me that I'm a slacker and should return to my blog. Mrs. Spit can be a firebrand that way! So here begins my work to reinvigorate my little corner of the net. This space will be coming back to life. Thanks for your patience!