Short form: long island to manhattan; cloisters, dinner and broadway. Yes? Yes.

We left dan's parents' 10:30. Arrived at Penn Station 12:30. Checked into hotel near Grand Central; caught the subway up to the Cloisters, the A line up to 190th Street. I meditated, listened to Tapestry podcasts. One had the gem pointing out if we're lucky, we get 80 years- 1,000 months. This sort of stopped me in my tracks, and was one of the filters through which I spent the rest of the day. I guess last week was my 475th?

We got off the subway into a park, which led to a castle made in the 1930s to hold medieval world art. I spent a while looking at gorgeous 800-year-old chess pieces. They were found in Scotland; they think they are Norse. One of the rooks seemed to be a Berserker, chewing the top of his shield. The kings and queens looked  adorably nervous.

Saw wonderful medieval sculpture, tapestries, and paintings; then we caught a bus and the subway back to hotel.

Dinner at "Craft": simple foods, done expertly. I ordered squash ravioli with sage, then scallops (with a Meyer lemon hollandaise) and brussels sprouts. Dan got raw tuna, then swordfish (no longer overfished, it seems) and kale. My favourite of the mains were the scallops- having now had two incarnations of dry scallops to die for, they might be my favourite seafood. Maybe. Deserts: 3 kinds of ice-cream (olive oil ice cream: just OK). But dan got doughnuts, with Meyer lemon curd dipping sauce and dark chocolate. These were the Best Doughnuts Ever. I have never had a transcendent doughnut experience before, and didn't realize it was a possibility. Just wonderful.
Drinks: I tried a sparkling wine from North Fork Long Island (very good); dan tried a citrusy mixed drink. With dinner, I had a taste of "Gruvurtz grape  juice" but, um, it was way too sweet (as I guess you might expect; but our waiter was happy to let me try it). And with desert I had hot chocolate, which I realized in the first sip was gilding the lily. Ah well. So tasty.

Then we caught the train to 42nd avenue and saw Follies. Bernadette Peters was amazing; the show was neat, and leaves me thinking once again about choices we make in our 20s that we live with through our 50s and onward. Thankfully, I have a less dramatic set of choices and mistakes than the leads of this show- I haven't been pining for my best friend's partner for the last twenty years!

Today? Well-seized. 
Last weekend, I got to see Hugo, the new Scorsese movie, and I wanted to report that it is just as good as the reviews say. The basic story is simple enough: around 1930, an orphaned boy lives in a Paris train station, risks capture by the station-master, makes a friend, and tries to find a message he believes was left by his deceased father. Woven in is the history of moving pictures by magician/inventor Georges Méliès, who built the first film studio in the world and produced hundreds of films (including the 1902 "A Trip to the Moon").

It is a fairy tale, with a light magic-realistic touch, balanced by an amazing amount of "this really happened" (which you'll have to go learn yourself; it isn't brought up in the movie). Or, ask me about it if you don't mind spoilers.

The plot has some nuance, which I appreciated, though the acting could have used a lighter touch- everyone was capable in their roles, but nearly all of the characters felt cartoonish at times.

The train station, clock works, movie studio (walled in glass to let in light- apparently historically accurate) and Paris street scenes are all gorgeous. Visually, I loved it. This is the first movie I've seen where the 3d truly enhances the art, rather than feeling to me like a gimmick. (I saw and liked Avatar, and I won't argue with somebody who felt this way about Avatar- but I'm a "gears, steam, and clockwork" kind of guy, rather than "blue alien jungle". TMI? [hush!])

What else to say? I don't think it passes the Bechdel Movie Test- there are various scenes of women talking to each other about men. I wonder if this was different in the original novel or a Scorsese touch. Oh- perhaps I'm wrong- a women talks to a girl (and boy, but mostly the girl) about how wonderful it had been to be an actress; that might count.

Anyhow, I am glad I saw this in the theatre.

One of Those Days

Saturday, 10 December 2011 12:46 am
Thursday was One of Those Days. I didn't sleep well, which is probably enough excuse. I...
- spent much of the day staring off into space like a zombie;
- forgot my keys at home;
- spent a while writing up work-project accomplished steps, and nearly put them into the wrong work ticket;
- was visited by a prof, who asked a very reasonable request, and it took me something like 10 minutes to get her stuff working properly, though it should've taken just a few minutes, tops;
- at the end of the day, suddenly realized I wasn't going to be at pilates on Saturday because I was taking the dog to the vet; and proceeded to send an apologetic un-reservation for Saturday (only to realize the next morning that of course I had already told the instructor, on the day I made the vet reservation).

The thing about Thursday was that I spent a lot of time thinking I was operating normally, and luckily caught myself before I did anything *really* dumb.

On the bright side, I also got to upgrade our parking pass at the University (we carpool in winter; a few years ago I put my name on a waiting list for a nearer parking lot, and apparently my name finally came up; so this winter we get to park just across the train-tracks from our building!) And in the evening, we got to go hang with [livejournal.com profile] catbear and [livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy, at catbear's arts reception, and also ran into [livejournal.com profile] zanate. And then I think I came home and crashed hard. :)

And then Friday I wasn't a zombie any more, which made me quite happy.
So, yeah. We had a week of vacation. The second half:

Suddenly coming up on a pack of bicyclists on a twisty Vermont road? Slightly scary. Seeing their reaction to a car: scatter in all directions, to both sides, and the middle, including making hand-gestures for us to slow down? Eeek! We were a bit rattled, for a while, and I'm glad for dan's reaction-time while driving. When we later ran into them at a nearby town, I was sorely tempted to get out of the car and have a stern conversation with them. (Dan's comment was something like: "what is this, Critical Farmland?")

Sutton, Quebec is charming. I took a jaunt across the border because I wanted to give the wedding couple a bottle of Sortilege maple whisky, which one cannot easily buy outside Quebec. Hey, we were 30 minutes from the border, and it was a nice day for a drive. And Sutton wowed me. Particularly compared with the tiny towns in northern Vermont, Sutton seemed to be a hopping place. Just between where I parked and the SAQ, I found three cafes and a chocolate shop and museum. Also a pair of realty offices, which put the price-per-square-foot at much closer to, say, Stratford, Ontario than Northern Vermont. I found my Sortilege, and the chocolate croissant I got was very tasty, too. (I got a second bottle, for home, and I expected to pay duty on it, but the US customs guard was confused enough as to how it was that an American was living in Ontario, that he only paid attention that I was giving one of them away as a gift, and he waved me through. Whatevs!

We got much better weather than we probably deserved. It was supposed to rain all three days we were in Vermont, but it only really rained one evening. So we got to leaf-peep as well as hike a portion of the Long Trail (we climbed 1,000 feet; the peak we aimed for was apparently a further 300 feet altitude, but we were pretty pooped after that hour of climbing). Rover was quite helpful at finding our trail, actually- it wasn't well marked, but we used an effective heuristic of "if two of the three of us thought it went one way, we'd go that way".

As commented in my last entry, it turns out we weren't the first people we know to stay at this B&B- in the same bizarre room, no less. They were great hosts; I would go back to the B&B, but I think not back to that room.

Onward to Massachusetts! We realized that our route took us through Hanover NH, and managed to get in touch with our friend Judy, so we got to have lunch with her on Friday, as well as stopping at King Arthur Flour, a baker's paradise in retail form. It was Dartmouth's Homecoming weekend, which Judy didn't know when she suggested we have lunch in town. We used up probably a month's worth of parking karma to find a spot just next to the restaurant we were aiming for. And after a really good time catching up with Judy, we were back on the road.

We got to Essex, MA without any Boston drivers actually doing damage to our vehicle or persons; and in the process of getting dinner at a local seafood shack [1], discovered that the next day was Essex Clam Festival. Darn! We'll miss it due to the wedding we came all this way for! Aha- the Clam Fest was at lunch time, and the wedding wasn't until 3:30.

So, Saturday morning, we and a few other people went back to Essex, and sampled a dozen types of clam chowder for $5. Local beers were $4. We had to try a few chowders more than once. In order to properly determine our favourites. Damn, that was good chowdah. We also got our photos taken with Shucky the Clam, the mascot for The First National Bank of Ipswitch (Slogan: "We Dig Our Customers"). Our bank (TD) was also giving away freebies; Rover now has a TD-branded neckerchief, which is adorable.

So, success all around.

OH YEAH. The wedding! Very well organized; the weather once again cooperated, so they got to be married next to a very photogenic pond. The officiant was the groom's mother; she told stories she hadn't cleared with the wedding couple, and they recited vows they wrote themselves, which were very sweet.

Dinner was fun; one of the themes was plush viruses, because the bride has traveled the world working on water-treatment engineering. We came home with Giardia, which felt apropos.

We also got to meet several really nifty people, friends and family of the bride and groom. Sunday we had a big brunch with everybody and hit the road at 11.

At 12:30, we stopped for a stretch-break and dan realized he had migraine symptoms. So I started driving; and I drove until sundown, when he woke up feeling much better. And at that point I realized I had migraine symptoms, in part from staring directly into the sun. So dan drove the rest of the way. All in all, we were lucky that we got our migraines serially, instead of in parallel; we would have stopped and rested if we needed to, but it's good we didn't have to.

Aside from the migraines, the biggest down-side to the last part of the trip was that Rover picked up some ticks in Vermont, and I just discovered them on her this evening. Now taken care of, but... ick!
...and now she is running and barking in her sleep on the floor of my study.

It is good to be home again.

Alive!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011 05:50 pm
Bullet-point form; sorry; I may fill in later.

* left my parents' yesterday after an early lunch at a Thai place down the street.
* the drive through the Adirondacks was pretty, but Vermont has been gorgeous.
* I seem to have slept 11 hours last night
* our suite overlooks a babbling river, has a full kitchen, a wonderful bed.. and more taxidermy than I ever wanted to wake up staring at. The room has four mounted deer-heads, one wolf, one boar, and 2 deer-hoof lampshades.
* Apple waffles for breakfast.
* Today consisted of country drives, mountain roads, a bit of hiking, pretty towns with no open restaurants, and a bit of local color in addition to the trees. Did not successfully shop for cheese. Snacked on the cheese we found yesterday. Yum.
* Almost got clobbered by a 12-tired tractor coming down the middle of a tiny road. Whee!

Now, I hope, a quick nap.

underwater

Saturday, 15 October 2011 01:42 pm
In post-cold torpor. Woke up early enough to drive dan to the train station (he's working at a University Fair all day today) and was going to go back to sleep, but it turns out I'm not at all tired.

Discovered the basement has had undetected standing water long enough to mildew a few cardboard liquour boxes, and probably ruined a bag of flour, sigh. So I did the "dry out the carpet with the big box fan" dance (lifting a dripping carpet to put crates to air out underneath while trying to not get dripped on) along with the "eek, there are multiple spiders in there" shuffle.

And for the last few hours I've worked on pruning the bookshelves. Found roughly 20" of books to go to the thrift shop, along with another pile that aren't worth anything to anybody other than me-of-20-years-ago (Cornell Student Handbook for 1992?).

Haven't figured what to do with two thin books I bought even before then: "Young, Gay, and Proud", and "One Teenager in 10." Almost certainly as much use today as... hm... the Whole Earth Catalog? With less obvious charm?

There's a melancholy of going through bookshelves one hasn't touched in years, especially if one can remember, 4 or 5 years ago, choosing to keep some of the books based on a plan to actually read them. My pleasure reading for the last few years has been almost entirely the daily Globe and Mail and 3 monthly magazines that I am underwater on reading. I've been forging my way through the last six issues of Harpers, dunno what I will do about The Atlantic which I never seem to get to...

I could choose to spend less time browsing on the web, and more time with a good book. But why do I have the feeling that I won't?
Two weekends from now is the opening of the Stephen Hawking Centre at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (at right; click for more flickr stream). It will soon house three times as many smart people attempting to turn coffee into theorems which might in 30 years escape into a different form as (currently) indistinguishable from magic. That same weekend may see Stephen Hawking at the public opening, though if I were he, I would find something better to do that weekend.

I, however, am not he, and I am taking a tour. You could also if you're free Sunday the 18th; let me know if you sign up for something around the 3pm slot and we can meet up.

They are also hosting two free public talks on the evening of Saturday the 17th (which I'm waffling on; but there are still apparently tickets still available for both as well.)

---

I have a fairly unplanned Labour Day Weekend, which means it is going to go by in a flash. I'm going to do some cooking, play some games with friendly peeps, go to a potluck, and possibly go for a long bike-ride on Monday if it isn't storming.

Dan is away until next Thursday; he is currently in Luxembourg, which my father tells me officially speaks Luxembourgish (and Wikipedia backs him up).

---

This evening I talked to my folks. They recently had a distant cousin visit from out west. She brings news of the History of the Allens. Apparently, my relatives who settled in Watertown, NY in the mid-1800s came there via Medford, MA, where they lived since the late 1700s, when they emigrated from England (not Scotland, as my father had believed). In the early 1800s the Medford Allens founded a Unitarian church, which subsequently schismed into a competing Unitarian church just across the street. And there is an Allen Homestead in Medford, which this distant cousin had visited. And that's all the detail I got this evening. I hope to extract more from my folks, as it sounds like there's potential for some juicy stories, or at least some amusing coincidences given that I was, y'know, living in Medford for a year. (A year which ended exactly 10 years ago last Monday! Hey, we've lived here for 10 years now. I can barely believe that!)
Pretend I did finish this on Sunday, OK?...

--

It's good to be home.

I just returned from my first visit to Canadian Yearly Meeting, with approximately 150 Quakers from all over our country plus a handful visiting from the US. My week in Windsor Nova Scotia was awesome. I expected to eventually get bored with Business Meetings every day; I expected people to be less engaged in meeting newcomers (versus reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen in a year); I expected the food to be mediocre. Surprise!

I didn't skip a single Business Meeting, nor did I want to. Quaker process is so cool to see in action, even if the action is sometimes slow. I sung (in a chanting workshop) every day (except Wednesday, when I played hookey to go find lobster). The cafeteria was surprisingly good, with plenty of variety and lots of fresh veggies. The worst thing I can say about the place is that they completely failed at mobility accessibility- nearly everything required at least one stair, or flights of stairs; and there were quite a few people using canes. My new friend Claire, who gets around in a wheelchair, was philosophical, in addition to being patient with being wheeled up single steps all over the place. She said given that the school is 220 years old, they were excusable in her book. I can't say I agree. Anyhow, that's not the main purpose of this post.

Which is telling a few stories about just one of the characters I met.

--
"So, Tom, how are you getting home?" We were in the cafeteria, both eating fried fish, which was quite good. [1]

"Well, circuitously." Tom spoke slowly. He's 90 or 91, a skinny stick of a man with a bushy beard, round glasses, and a baseball cap. He lives by himself somewhere north of Lake Superior in a solar-powered house. "I'm going from here to Maine, for the 40th reunion of some students of mine at Friends World College on Long Island. We built canoes from scratch and paddled them around New York City into the Hudson and tried to see how far we could get over water."

"How far did you get?"

"The Bering Strait," he said, with a twinkle in his eye. I cracked up. He said his boat was well-built, and he brought lots of maps. He went up the St. Lawrence, across the Great Lakes, and at Lake Winnipeg he took a detour, spending a few years in Manitoba doing research on water testing and safety.

When he finally got to the Bearing Strait, he spent a while trying to figure out how to cross it, having mapped how he could get to Western Europe through Russia. But this was the middle of the Cold War, and it didn't seem safe, so he stopped at the Bering Strait.

But they got a lot of water-testing research done over the journey. [2]

--

Tom grew up in Princeton, through the Depression. It turns out he lived in the same block as Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. Einstein was friendly; he always waved from the street as he went by with his huge hair. Robeson came back to give a concert at Princeton University, but the hall master refused to let him sing. So he gave the concert in a church instead, which Tom was fortunate enough to go to. He says he's had a very lucky life.

And here's a photo of Tom, from five years ago.

--

I have more stories that aren't about Tom, but they will wait, as I want to get myself to work!

[1] haddock from Truro, caught 2 hours away.

[2] Google tells me he gave an invited talk to CYM in some previous year.

MBTI

Thursday, 14 July 2011 11:53 pm
I spent 20 minutes earlier this week filling out an online MBTI, and today I went to Career Services on campus to review it with their resident expert, Liz K. (Free for staff; and mah boss has told me it's job-related and I shouldn't count it as personal time. ...But wait till she hears I'm going back.)

It was an entertaining hour, and I took a few notes on things that tickled me. To be read with various grains of salt.

* One area the Myers-Briggs has no predictive power is in the workplace. People with widely different types can both be happy in the same positions.
* However, it is useful for identifying preferences that people might not realize, based on cultural assumptions against those preferences- and, to some extent, strengths and weaknesses for personal interactions.

* ESTJ is what employers almost universally want from their front-line staff. Though many of these companies seem to brand themselves as looking for ENFP. And Introverts get no respect in the workplace. (Which is why we get to impersonate the E/S/T/J types at the office).
* N's are stereotyped as creative, but S's are creative as well- one such area is toward efficiency, parsimony.
* S's prefer to work a project from bottom-up and use language for accuracy; N's prefer to design from top-down and use language to play.
* N's might buy a fast car as a status symbol; S's might buy the car because they like the sensation of driving fast.

* NT's might be energized developing strategies; NF's energized by nurturing people.
* NT's may be known for their sarcastic humour.
* NF's may be known for enjoying taking the MBTI and learning the psychology of others; whereas FP's hate how the MBTI questions try and box you in without any subtlety or context.

* A bad combination in meetings: EN's tossing out half-baked ideas one after another, and after everyone else is in agreement, the IS might come up with his/her best answer, which s/he has taken the time to hone and finish in his/her head; coming across as passive-aggressive.

* A meeting of all J's may make a quick decision that's wrong; a meeting of all P's make the same decision over and over and over.

* Couples usually pair a P and a J. If both are P's, one will probably "fake it" as a J in order to keep the household running and bills paid.

* For J's the T/F dichotomy becomes crucial for how they deal with the outside world (setting their structure/organization via logic/objectivity or values/subjectivity).
* For P's the S/N dichotomy becomes crucial (via present/concrete or future/abstract).

---

I've tested myself online every once in a few years, and I consistently turn out IN__ - neutral between T/F and J/P. Sure enough, this time I rated "T" but just one point away from being rated "F"; and I was rated a "mild J".

But that didn't satisfy Liz; she said this didn't make sense with what I told her. And if I was J, I would be dominant for Feeling/Thinking- I certainly wouldn't be ambiguous on that measure. So, yay! I'm an aberration! She said perhaps I operated as a "J" both at work and home, but they aren't my preference? This seemed likely. So, she had me read some summary descriptions, until we zeroed in on INTP or INFP.

And when I read the long-form descriptions, I identified most with INFP, the same type as I self-identified 4 years ago.

She said if I come back, she can print out the appropriate pages out of their guide for me, but as it was, my custom printout wasn't at all accurate.

A cynical person might conclude that I've been told to vote early and often. Or, roll my character stats but change them around until they look right.

We were supposed to talk about strengths/blindspots I might want to know about, but we ran out of time. Fortunately, the second hit is free as well.

One thread of thought I found interesting is that I will make to-do lists, and refer back to them, which is a "J" type activity. However, the system for lists that I have settled on, GTD, allows maximal flexibility for choosing on-the-fly what tasks you're up for doing next. Which is the embodiment of "Perceiving" type.

So: yeah. INFP inna ESTJ wrld.
So, 20 days ago, dan and I went to see Peter Gabriel play the Molson Amphitheatre near Toronto.

I haven't followed his music very closely for the last few albums, but I have listened to enough Peter Gabriel over the years that I didn't want to miss this opportunity. Thanks to my friend Justin who scored the tickets, we got excellent seats; about 10 or so rows from the stage.

He played with the "New Blood Orchestra," half made of a touring company, half local musicians. Mostly, rearranging for orchestra worked [1]. Particularly, I liked the arrangements for "San Jacinto," "Mercy Street," and "Blood of Eden." I wanted to like "Solsbury Hill" and "Boy in the Bubble" more than I did but they seemed too pared down. And "In Your Eyes" had silly Audience Choreography (as did "Biko", which was annoying because Gabriel was all Social Conscience and the audience was all Play the Damn Song Already).



My overall impression of Gabriel as performer is: consummate professional. It looked like he had done this every day of his life, which he almost has. He was also clearly suffering from a bad sore throat: he was constantly downing a gulp of tea, then a shot of honey. And you could tell where the throat problems came from: gulp of tea, shot of honey, plaintive scream in nearly every song... I had never realized how much his songs have wails in them until dan asked if every one of them did. Not quite, but.



His lights show was fairly cool: very bright LED boards behind the stage, plus a curtain the width of the stage and 20 feet tall, also LEDs, often with video.

One light trick I had never seen before that we both liked: in the second act, he picked up something reflective from the stage, and it was sitting over top of a spot-light. He then swept the light around the audience; it looked for all the world like fire from his hand.

There was a downpour during the first act. The outermost 1/5 of the seats were open to the air. Gabriel apologized; he said on one concerts that week, the moment they had mentioned the word "water" in "Washing of the Water", the skies opened up.

Neither dan nor I had been to the amphitheatre before. I would go to a big concert there again- getting out was remarkably quick, and it was late enough that the 401 was quite speedy on the way home.




And then dan was off to Italy, and while he was gone, I went to see DJ Tiesto, whose podcast I listen to. He's a Dutch DJ, and I'm perplexed why he wound up in our little town: he went from Chicago, to our town for two nights, then Quebec City, and Ottawa (for Canada Day), then Las Vegas for the 4th of July weekend. Then Ibeza for a week. :) But whatever, he came and sold out two shows of about 300 people (versus n-thousand each for Chicago and Quebec City...).

I haven't been inside a dance club in, like, forever.

They confiscated my pen at the door, because they thought I might throw it at someone. I was like, "..." and they said I could get it back at the end if I really wanted to. (and so I did (pick it up again, not throw it)).

The doors opened at 10:00, I showed up at 10:30, Tiesto started playing at 11:45, and I left around 1:30 when I realized I had heard all of the songs I would recognize. And the next day was still a work day.



It was fun, and I probably don't need to do that again for a while. :)



Hope you like the photos, in lieu of earth-shaking incisive content. I would have done better with reviews had I not waited two weeks. Oh well.

[1] Gabriel's set list, which I found somewhere on the net:
"Heroes" (David Bowie cover)
Wallflower
Apres Moi (Regina Spektor cover)
The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon cover)
My Body Is a Cage (Arcade Fire cover)
Father, Son
Darkness
Washing of the Water
Biko
# Intermission
San Jacinto
Digging in the Dirt
Signal to Noise
Downside Up
Mercy Street
The Rhythm of the Heat
Blood of Eden
Intruder
Red Rain
Solsbury Hill
# Encore:
In Your Eyes
Don't Give Up
The Nest That Sailed the Sky

[2] Bigger copies of these photos are on flickr. I couldn't be bothered to link each one individually. :)

The weekend that was

Sunday, 3 July 2011 11:24 pm
Hello world! Happy Canada Day!

Happy 4th of July, those who get tomorrow off (and those who wish they got tomorrow off. Whether or not they live in the US...)

I have three music reviews in the queue, which I expected I'd have time to do this weekend.

Instead of writing them, I:

* went away to the cottage of [livejournal.com profile] the_infamous_j, for an afternoon of lazing and not-sailing (which would have been fun, but watching the water from indoors was also fun, and less effort)

* spent about 5 hours playing with Google Sketchup, enough to turn our notional condo layout into a zippy 3D representation thereto.



I will not, however, spend the next six months making ever more detailed models of the condo and our current (and new) furniture. As much fun as that might be. Just watch me not do that. Uh hum.

* watched a fascinating documentary with [livejournal.com profile] catbear, [livejournal.com profile] dawn_guy, and Boy about Henry Darger, who "became famous for his posthumously discovered 15,145-page, single-spaced fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings illustrating the story." (thanks wikipedia). It was utterly bizarre, and I'm glad we saw it.

* Friday I spent a night away with [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball for Canada Day; at the local inn where we have gone for outrageously tasty food, plus very comfortable accommodations including [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog. Their Canada Day picnic dinner featured grilled trout, beer can vinegar chicken, suasage and lobster gumbo, heirloom tomato salad, pickled veggies, bbq onion rings, morel mac & cheese, and for desert: strawberry shortcake, hemp seed pie, maple crème caramel, s'mores, and something they called "caramelized sea buckthorn tart," though for some reason I have doubts that it contained real buckthorn berries. Because who has actually tasted buckthorn and could vouch for them? Hmmm? (Sorry; side-tracked).

There were fireworks, we had a super 4-km hike with [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog, and in the morning we had a wonderful breakfast: d. had duck confit fritata, and I had french toast, both with the "continental breakfast" which had yogurt and honey smoothie, heaping plates of berries, lox and cream cheese, pastries made with their in-house churned butter, and a really good coffee.

Oh, and the night before, we met this wonderful couple, about our age, who asserted that the honey-butter was actually made of crack, it was that good. (The only down-side to this vacation was that during dinner, back at the room Rover decided she needed to pee, despite having gone right before we left; and the right place to do that was on the feather-bed. Which they apparently discovered when they came to turn down our bed; they left us an apologetic phone-message that they wished they had another feather-bed, but they didn't and hoped we would understand. Eep. And we apologized to them, figured out that over breakfast we could leave Rover in the entry foyer (which had two doors and a comfortable mat to rest on, but not our bed)).

And that was our three-day long weekend, more or less.

What was I doing?

Friday, 24 June 2011 11:37 pm
Turns out I will remember what I was doing when New York State Senate passed the Marriage Equality bill.

I was skyping with my parents; we had just said our good-byes, agreed it could take a while for them to get to the vote, even if it were a sure thing (but what if two senators fell and broke their noses and had to leave the chambers...) and mom made one last check on New York Times before hanging up, and there it was. And she got to read it from our Ithaca friend Diane M's facebook page as well. 33-29 votes in a Republican Senate. The bill will become law 30 days after Gov. Cuomo signs it.

This one, US State #6 for full marriage protection, is particularly noteworthy to me because I was born in New York State, lived there for my first 25 years; and so many friends in New York will now have legal marriage protection. In fact one friend (Vonn N.) is from the district of Steve Saland, the Republican senator who made a 10pm shift from undecided (without religious protections built in) to supporting it (with religious protections).

Congratulations, New York State! ...44 states to go, plus federal.

How's that go? Slow arc? Yeah, like that.

State of the da_lj

Wednesday, 1 June 2011 10:58 pm
At the moment I'm:

feeling well-exercised. It turns out to be 13km round-trip from work, up to the local BBQ place, and home again. Dinner was a totally awesome shrimp poboy.

I"m slightly worried about [livejournal.com profile] roverthedog - she got an abscess next to her ear, and the vet gave us a fairly substantial set of drugs to deal with everything, including an ear infection. She's been wearing her Cone of Shame for a few days, though we trimmed it down so it's slightly less awkward. The cut is doing much better now than it was on the weekend, though, so I'm only feeling slightly anxious about how she's doing. She's a trooper, and she seems in good spirits (she even enjoys being pilled. What a cooperative dog!)

Really looking forward to the weekend- [livejournal.com profile] melted_snowball and I are off to Ithaca on Friday! Wegmans! And Viva Taqueria! And Quakers! Oh my!

A big regret is that we can't take Rover- we had been planning to, but it makes the most sense to kennel her at the vet's. It would be a tougher decision if 1) they didn't love her as much as they do, and 2) she didn't love staying there as much as SHE does.

I'm starting to feel nervous about the Quaker workshop I'm co-leading next weekend in Toronto. I will spend a bit of prep-time between now and then, and I am sure everything will go fine, and now having done this before, I can answer the question of "why the hell did I think this was a good idea?" - because during, and afterward, it is totally rewarding. It's just the before that's a bit anxiety-inducing. :)

I'm grateful for all of the people who spoke up at the Regional Council meetings these last two days, concerning light rail. If you read this, you know who you are- you rock. And I'm also grateful for the people who've been live-tweeting the council presentations. I am cautiously optimistic, though I think the next few weeks are going to feel more nerve-wracking to me than the federal elections were...

I'm frustrated that I got half-way through a book and it got auto-returned on me. I checked it out online, via the local library; it was good for 14 days and there was a hold on it. (Though really I don't know how many holds there are- so who knows when I can check it out again.) While I did take notes on the parts I had read, I'm not sure how easily I'll be able to reconnect with it whenever I can wrest it back again. ...Ironically given my inability to finish, it is Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, about focusing one's attention on the things that matter to you. More words to come, I hope.

And speaking of Rapt, I was reading it over the unRapt long Weekend, which included celebrating Queen Vicky's birthday, my birthday, very few raptures, [livejournal.com profile] amarylliss visiting us from Toronto, and a few people over to watch Left Behind and Left Below.

And on that note, I think I'm Left for Bed. Night!
da: (bit)
I've given up on using LJ for my RSS feeds. I've got 88 of them, which means I sometimes don't see real people posts for pages and pages. I'm jumping to Google Reader. Google Reader will import "OPML" data, so that's how I wanted to do the transfer. This is a how-to.

(If you are hoping to read your LJ friends list directly from an RSS reader, you might instead try this exporter, which grabs the necessary data for friends- it doesn't include feeds and is beyond the scope of this how-to.)

The short version:

1) if you're handy with Perl, grab the code at the bottom of this entry, change the user name, and run the code.
1b) if you're not handy with Perl, give me a shout and I'll run it for you on my server. :)

2) Output is a list of RSS URLs. To translate these to OPML, feed them to this page. Copy and paste them into the big text box, then hit the "Create OPML" link. Seconds later, you will have an output file, which you should save to disk (the file name doesn't matter).

3) Optionally, open the file in a text editor and change the "title" parts from the URL into a sensible title for each feed. Yeah, I was too lazy to write my own OPML and fix that.

4) in Google Reader, the left-hand lower corner, choose "Manage Subscriptions". Choose "Import/Export". Browse and upload your OPML file.

Done!

So far, I like the google reader interface, and now I can actually pay attention to the real people on my list who do still post. (I appreciate y'all! I did this for yoooou!)

---
Don't bother reading the rest unless you want technical details; mostly here for google searching. Let me know if this helped anybody!

The code:

#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;
use WWW::Mechanize;

my $base_url = "http://da-lj.livejournal.com/profile";

my $m = WWW::Mechanize->new ( autocheck => 1 );

$m->get( $base_url );

my $profile_html = $m->content;
my @feed_lines = ($profile_html =~ /watchingfeeds_body.*/g);
my @feed_urls = ($feed_lines[0] =~ /href='(.*?)'/g);

foreach my $lj_url (@feed_urls) {
    $m->get( $lj_url );
    print $m->find_link( text => 'XML' )->url() . "\n";
}


And that's it. I'm using WWW::Mechanize, which is the bee's knees if you have to do screen-scraping in Perl.

I started off with a manual grab of my "watching" page, a word-processor search-and-replace, and was about to run a batch of 'wget's to grab the lj-feed pages when I realized it would be quicker in perl.

The biggest drawback to this method is the cost of installing WWW::Mechanize in the first place. CPAN makes it easy(ish) but it has a tonne of dependencies. ...I guess it's just one step if you're on a reasonably recent Debian/Ubuntu.

Anyhow.

a pick-me-up

Thursday, 26 May 2011 07:12 pm
A capella flash mobs are awesome. A friend linked to this one ("Heathrow T5") last week, and I've kept it open in a tab since then. About 80 seconds in is my favourite part, an opera singer named George Ikediashi covering "I am a Passenger" by Iggy Pop. I found this "making of" video which feels like it captures the exuberance of it, more than the polished end-product, which is, of course, a commercial.

And now that I have posted this, I can close that tab.

Back to your regularly scheduled Thursday evening!
I have been in a writing lull over the last month. I've spent a bunch of free time immersed in that game; I've been thinking about work at other free times, solving problems in my head; I've been thinking about Quaker Meeting and making plans for Quaker-related travel; and while dan was away, I had a cold for a week that made me fairly low-brain.

Then, the cold got better two Sundays ago, and I went to Quaker Meeting and felt absolutely wonderful, and spent the afternoon bouncing around, writing journal posts in my head, only to see them disappear when I sat down at the end of the evening, just as the cold symptoms came back again for the night. So, oh well.

But the last two weeks have been pretty good. I went to a Vote Mob [1], voted early in the national election, went to a birthday party, a pub dinner with programmer friends, and we had friends over for tea and cookies. I think I finally kicked the cold, despite some very rainy and windy weather. And I finished what I needed to do at work, for the start of the new term on Monday, despite a fairly impressive set of potential problems with infrastructure upgrades which have largely been ameliorated. And that is all I will say about work.

Last Wednesday was the start of Open Ears music festival, which is more low-oomph than prior years. It's held every other year, and it's how dan and I have seen Pamela Z, Negativland and Patricia O'Callighan, and DJ Spooky, among other highlights. I hope they can get their act together for 2013; Open Ears has been one of the great things about living around here.

This time the only out-of-town performers I was really excited about was the Princeton Laptop Orchestra; and their concert didn't really do it for me.

So far, the best pieces were by Penderecki String Quartet (with DJ P Love). The Quartet are always excellent, even if I don't like what they play. This time they played Different Trains by Steve Reich, and it totally blew the recording away. The mix was different; you heard less of the recorded voices, and a much more lively violin-against-steam-whistle that just sounded awesome. They also played a piece composed during the CBC Strike (of 2005?) by Nicole Lizee, called "this will not be televised", which at one point, sampled the most famous riff from the middle of Duran Duran/"Rio", and cracked dan and me up.

Last night I saw Tanya Tagaq Trio, who are made up of a percussionist, a violinist, and Tanya Taqaq, an Inuit throat singer. This is not easily described. I'm glad I went. She has toured with Bjork, and I can see the mutual attractions. Many of the sounds she made were ones I didn't know the human body could safely produce. They closed with a set of traditional Inuit throat-singing, between Tanya and a female cousin, which was amazingly intimate and sort of kind of like this, though dialed up in intensity quite a bit.

There are two remaining concerts I'm interested in: Blue Dot tonight, and Da Capo tomorrow afternoon. However, we have our friend Lee-Ellen visiting from Ithaca, and I'd rather see her than the concerts!

[1] Vote mob: if you're outside Canuckistan you've probably not heard the term. And fellow Canadians are probably sick and tired of hearing it. In short: a month ago and at a school not very far from here, students decided to Stick it to The Man via YouTube, to counter the claim that "young people don't vote," and there have now been a few dozen youtube-video-driven events along the lines of Flash Mobs, though none I've seen have had amazing music or amazing dancing or amazing anything. Just lots of energy. Being part of the local campus one was... um, sort of silly. But I got to run through mud puddles, which turned out to be fun.
Friday evening, I popped down to Toronto for a cabaret/theatre/concert production of Spin by Evalyn Perry. I wasn't sure what to expect; I knew it involved spoken word, singing, and music played upon a bicycle. I was nudged into going by my friend John, who came all the way from Minneapolis for this show. I know Evalyn from Quaker circles; last summer, she was one of the evening plenary presenters at the 1,000-person FGC Gathering. She does a political/musical show that's bitingly clever and often requires more than one listen to pick up all the threads...

In retrospect, I wish this production was extended for another week, so I could nudged more people into going- this afternoon was the last performance (a matinee added at the last minute because it was selling out).

The themes were, broadly, the story of Annie Londonderry, the first woman to bicycle around the world at the very end of the 19th century; the joined history of bicycling and feminism; Evalyn's personal story of being a cyclist and artist; and notes on the City of Toronto's mixed appreciation for bicycles.

I *had* thought that the music-played-upon-a-physical-bicycle would be less effective than it was. Her co-performer, Brad Hart, used drum sticks, his hands, and parts of the bicycle, which was wired for amplification, and attached to a looping device. I spent maybe 5 minutes distractedly studying how it worked- they even tuned different spokes to different pitches- but then I could just let go and listen to the music he was making with Evalyn (and Anna Friz, who did on-stage mixing and singing).

Evalyn produced a CD of the songs in the concert; this morning I drove to Guelph, and I appreciated the irony of driving while listening to a CD all about bicycling.

The Globe and Mail gave it 3 out of 4 stars. And she has a cover article in the weekly Xtra paper, which is a good recap of the show, actually.

So- Thanks Evalyn! And thanks, John, for nudging me to come!

Minecraft

Saturday, 19 March 2011 10:12 pm
da: (bit)
I've been playing Minecraft. This game seems to suit me. If you've never heard of it: it's world-building/exploring, first-person, with a fairly sophisticated physics engine. And intentionally blocky graphics, as you can see in this picture with a duck [ETA: chicken].



The waterfall was created when a nasty-bad blew up right next to me, also killing me in the process. The explosion took out a roughly 6x6x6 sphere of ground. Since it was next to water, the water rushed in to fill the hole. But fluids seem to flow forever, without equalizing pressures, which leads to interesting effects.



Here's the same area from a different perspective. I'm perched atop 30 or so blocks to make this shot. There are big, fluffy, square-edged clouds just off-camera. They always drift East to West.

You can see my working inventory at the bottom of that screenshot. Much of the game mechanics involve crafting items. For example, the bow was made from string and sticks. The sticks were fashioned out of processed wood, from trees which I cut down with my bare hands. The string was acquired by killing a few giant spiders, which was possibly the most exciting experience in game so far. I was experimenting with pouring water on the heads of the spiders when I got caught in the down-flow and trapped in a cavern with a monster-generator. I am surprised I survived.

I'm sticking with the one-player mode for now, because I've heard too many people getting their creations blown up by other players in multiplayer.

Meanwhile, I'm digging up a storm- that hill is basically my home. There are three doors to it in that screen-shot, though you'd have to know what to look for to find two of them. You also can't see the reason I adopted this hill. On the other side, there's a lava flow coming out of the cliff that's really pretty at night-time.

open data

Sunday, 13 March 2011 11:19 pm
Guess what? I'm too tired to make a very coherent post. Busy weekend. Very social.

Yesterday afternoon, I went to an "open data codefest"- I had a blast learning, though I didn't write any code.

What's open data? It's a philosophy that public data should be machine-readable, so people can produce software mashups such as smartphone apps or websites that repackage the available information for (different, perhaps unexpected) purposes. Think realtor websites that incorporate municipal property data and walkability scores... or lots of things Google does now, such as maps incorporating transit schedules and bike paths. Or there's this LCBO search app that has indexed all the liquour stores in Ontario, to give you inventory search results in a more clean way than the official LCBO site.

So, I wanted to work on transit data, but we don't yet have a clean data-source. The best available is "screen-scraped" (unofficial, therefore suspect for accuracy and legitimacy). So instead I learned about GTFS, the common format for transit feeds. I learned how to geo-locate via web-browser (not just mobile; it works from the desktop, thank you googly overlords).

The region is investigating what sorts of data they can open up; apparently a few region staff-members were present earlier in the day.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out!

August 2013

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