Friday, October 31, 2003

Ghost Train

Jason doing his best impersonation of "The Blair Witch Project."
The Ghost Train through Stanley Park was more goofy than spooky, more cheesy than chilling, but it was a good excuse to go out with friends for Halloween.

Eliza, Tom, me

Jason and Eliza

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Southern California Fires

My friend Lisa is caught in the middle of the fires raging in Southern California at the moment.

She says they're tense, but coping. Freeways, schools, county offices, and many stores are closed and ash covers everything. The air quality is terrible and she says they have to wear masks even though they don't make much difference. They've packed up their things so they can evacuate if necessary. They're suffering from headaches, sore throats, and burning eyes. She says the authorities think they'll have the fire north of them contained by Saturday, the one south by Nov. 4.

Fires Continue to Ravage Southern California (

Jehovah's Witnesses - Am I Going to Get a Call from Prince?

I'm listening to Prince's "Purple Rain" at the moment and lamenting over his conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses. There goes all his creative energy. Yesterday I received a random phone call from a Jehovah's Witness and was surprised that they've expanded from handing out pamphlets on the streets to phoning people at home. Maybe they've done this for years and I just haven't been "lucky" enough to get a call. Highly doubtful, though, since I've been working from home for years now, so I'd be an easy target. My number's even in the book -- I haven't resorted to my little trick in the past of listing my phone number under a different name to avoid the ex-directory charge. The Caller ID device is a pretty good filter as it is.

The Jehovah's Witness guy wasn't pushy, though, to his credit. When I was a teenager and they'd ring my parents' bell, it took a lot more effort to get rid of them. This guy kept it short and to the point.

Now, if Prince had phoned me, would he be short and to the point?

Ananova - October 15, 2003

Watchtower's press clipping from USA Today, 2001

J.P. Morgan Chase's Answer to Lowering Operating Costs

Lay off 1,000 people in New York on Monday to open a new call centre across the continent in a Vancouver suburb in April.

J.P. Morgan Chase to shut U.S. call centre, moving jobs to B.C.

I'm surprised the second largest American bank would make such a move. It's a vote of non-confidence in the U.S. economy.

Monday, October 27, 2003

The White House Whine

Hmmmm..... The White House whine: 'It's all the media's fault' |

Maddy Turns 2

Maddy actually turned 2 last Wednesday, but we postponed the celebration until Sunday, when I was able to put the books aside for some F-U-N.

Ofoto Photos

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Michael Moore at the Paramount, Seattle

Am I a Michael Moore fan? I wouldn't call myself that. Heaven forbid that I should call myself a fan of anybody. That said, I find it difficult sometimes to get past his style to get to his substance. But kudos to anyone who takes risks to state opinions that challenge the status quo. Being of an incurably curious nature, I decided to go to Seattle to check out Michael Moore live, to follow up on his words since the brouhaha of Bowling for Columbine.

I enjoyed Bowling for Columbine. Was it entertaining? Hell yes. Did I think it deserved an Oscar on its own merits as a documentary? Hell no. But it led to an opportunity for Michael Moore to be in front of a microphone at what could very well be called the throne of undeserved self-congratulatory spectacle -- the Academy Awards. For that I say give the man an Oscar! The Academy Awards needs humour and chutzpah!

Kevin dropped off my car in the morning, and I decided to drive it down to Seattle. After introducing May to the weekend hangout Bon's on Broadway ($2.95 all-day breakfast), she and I hit the road. At the border we were unlucky enough to get randomly selected for an agricultural search, which meant they took their sweet-ass time ransacking the car, but it was already a mess so I wasn't concerned. At least they didn't take it apart, looking for marijuana or gay marriage licenses or any one of the many other vestiges of abhorrent liberal-mindedness that some Americans find somewhat loathesome in us. (Not that they'd find any of that stuff, anyway.) But the border was otherwise fairly uneventful -- in this case a good thing -- and the U.S. Immigration guy had no idea who Michael Moore was. I have long ago learned to reign in my sarcasm with immigration officers, but I did have the tiniest of urges to play around with this guy and say something like Michael Moore was a good friend of Osama...

Anyway, the drive felt easy and the weather was impeccable... traffic heading into Seattle was heavy, so we ended up getting to the Paramount with less time to spare than we'd anticipated. But it was all good: the show itself was entertaining and definitely worth the trip. I was wondering if the show would resemble an evangelical revivalist meeting -- after all, wasn't Michael Moore preaching to the converted?? Instead of hallelujahs and amens, it would be rousing applause. I couldn't imagine Republicans or conservatives paying their hard-earned corporate dollars to listen to Michael Moore's political diatribes in person, but partway through the show he asked if there were any conservatives there, and one brave soul did identify himself.

I'll get into the details of the show (and our evening that followed) later, but for now I'll post some links of e-pinions:

Shame on You, Michael Moore : Vancouver Indymedia

Moore's Oscar Speech - Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune, Tuesday, March 25, 2003

BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE - Documentary or Fiction? - David T. Hardy

Michael Moore responds to attacks

Friday, October 24, 2003


Allan phoned me after Cheryl's ultrasound yesterday, and they are expecting TWINS in March!!

I'm researching double strollers and equipment for twins. I will probably do a trip down to the U.S. after Christmas for a week and bring back some stuff using duty-free allowance. One possibility is to drive down the coast to San Francisco again like I did in 2000. That way I've got a trunk to put this stuff in.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, October 23, 2003

I Am Free!!!

The paper's been faxed and now I can... ?? sleep?? eat?? I'm so lost!!

Elliott Smith

What???? Ananova - Elliott Smith dead at 34 of apparent 'suicide'

On the Home Stretch to Sanity

It's after 6am, and I'm seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I have actually nearly made it to the halfway point in my Communications paper, and once I send this sucker off this afternoon, I can start living like a human being again... wow, fancy that. Sleeping at night!

Now I Can Safely Spill the Beans

Erich proposed to Caroline over the weekend! She said YES!

I had no idea if he'd sent her a link to my blog, but I wanted to wait until the coast is clear before I mentioned anything here...

I'd posted this twice before, because three weekends in a row I thought it was *the* weekend. Erich kept saying "next weekend" but he never said the actual date. He proposed to her last Saturday, which was his birthday.

So, what's below was actually written on Saturday, October 4.

I was given word on Tuesday (Sep 30). I was pulling my hair out that afternoon, trying to get presentations done, make some headway on this Psychology paper, and was mired down on issues with graphics and logos and stuff that was pretty much out of my immediate control. And I was famished... I needed to get out of the apartment and away from all this stuff!

Then the phone rang. It was Erich, calling me down to the Vancouver Club, one of those posh exclusive clubs with a membership fee akin to a golf membership except... without any golf. But the fees are similar. (I mean, at least with golf, there's an activity!) Ross and Lee have had a membership for years and years, so I've been there a few times, but not with Erich, who is the only other person I know with a membership. So, I headed down there... it was "wine night," i.e., wine at cost, so how could I say no???

Anyway, after making myself look presentable, I made it past the guardians of the Vancouver Club (not unlike Cheers, "where everybody knows your name"), found Erich, and he broke the news: they were going to Banff this weekend to celebrate his birthday, and he's going to propose! This is big news! I've known Erich for over four years, and I've met a couple of his ex-girlfriends... suffice to say, Caroline is definitely the only one I could see Erich marrying. Even a year ago, before he'd met Caroline, we'd discussed women at great length over the weekend of his 40th birthday, when I'd taken him down to Seattle as a surprise to see Janeane Garofalo at the Paramount Theatre. He'd broken up with Michelina in the spring, and I breathed a giant sigh of relief (a whole other story). But at the same time, at milestone ages like 30 and 40, I think people wonder about the emotional security they feel they are missing when they don't have that special person. I was 30, so I'd had those thoughts myself, but maybe not to the extent Erich was having them. It was a revealing weekend, because for the first time since I'd known him, I learned the entire chronology of his adult life. How often do you do that with your friends? It's a particularly strong memory, probably fuelled by the atmosphere and the vodka. We were in the Baltic Room and everything was red. People were streaming in, and over martinis I was hearing new details. It was a revelation!

Here's the link to the posts from that weekend, in which I don't mention much except a trip to the Seattle Art Museum, and how small our hotel room was:

Erich's birthday trip to Seattle

I'm going to Seattle again on Saturday, to see Michael Moore at the Paramount, but I don't think I'll be staying overnight. We're celebrating Maddy's birthday on Sunday, and I haven't seen the kids for nearly two weeks!

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Satan's Laundromat

Have a look at this!

Satan's Laundromat

"This is a Brooklyn-based photolog with an emphasis on strange signage, urban decay, and general weirdness." -- oooh, my kind of blog!

Monday, October 20, 2003

Monday Morning Graph

The reporting deadlines at work and the mid-term deadlines at school have me pining away for the days when all I had to do was produce nice graphs. So I thought I'd share one that I did not make, and has no relevance to anything I'm working on today.

Interesting that this graph has no time scale...

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Indian Summer Makes an Appearance

Indian summerFor all those who've only heard about the torrential rains and flooding in recent days in this corner of the country, here is a pic (it's actually brighter than this, but I took the exposure down a stop to bring out the cloud definition). The view from the balcony -- the literal one, rather than the metaphorical one -- is pretty good today. But it seems ironic to be studying sociology away from the buzz of people. If only I could figure out a way to leave my brain at home to analyze information and let my body go out and do what it would really rather be doing.

Normally this is my day with my brother's kids, but I've had to postpone our weekly outing until next Sunday. 'Tis a shame. I received the "You Must Declare Your Major" letter from SFU the other day, so at least I know I've reached the mid-point of my degree. This is the quickest yet most demanding two years I've ever had. It seems like I'm always playing "Beat the Clock"... I've got online calendars, wall calendars, text message reminders on my mobile phone to work on this and complete that, send this in, check that, follow up on this and verify that... I've got all my bills set up on preauthorized payment so I don't have to think about it, and post-it notes for the rest. I don't know what I'd do without the mobile phone, I use it for everything: reading my e-mail on 10 accounts -- work, school, retirement party, personal (my home computer checks 18 accounts), it's one of my alarm clocks in the morning, a reminder device for tasks and birthdays, SMS, and oh yes, phone calls. Thankfully I'm on a grandfathered plan from when I started on Clearnet in 1999 (which was bought shortly after by Telus), so I get a wicked deal:

- free incoming calls (no airtime deduction)!
- billing by the second
- weekday evening starts at 7pm (looks like all the networks moved to 8pm)
- free SMS/text messaging
- free e-mail retrieval
- free browser

... and I got a new phone free, too. When I returned from New York in January, I got a bill for $750+ from Telus (most of it was US roaming), and my jaw dropped to the floor. I had expected a large bill, but nothing quite that big. After a bit of haggling, I got them to write off nearly all of it. Amazing. I really learned a valuable lesson: negotiate everything. I would have had to pay about $650, since the office pays the plan and taxes and all that, which amount to about $100 a month. The Telus plan gives me more daytime airtime than I'll ever use (500 minutes) since none of my incoming calls incur airtime. After the business with the New York bill, I told Telus in January: "You've bought my loyalty!"

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Taking a Break

... from evolutionary psychology and physiology. Not exactly a stimulant after a late night (5-something in the a.m.) and an alarm-induced start to the day.

Fondue at "Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins'" last night was a welcome respite from recent downside undulations in life such as this damned cold trying to break my immune system (my voice keeps coming and going), sad news, academic stress, and general feelings of wanting to jump on a plane to just be somewhere else at the moment... but, I'm still here and still plugging away at the books. On a brighter note:

I am now officially a member of The Co-operative Auto Network! My car is still in Sechelt, undergoing diagnostic testing, but at least I have a means to get to the office next week. But, I still have to figure out a way to get my car back to Vancouver...

Serendipity strikes once again! In the process of trying to hunt around for some other information on the internet, I stumbled across a photo of someone who looked really familiar... I had a feeling I knew who it was, but curiosity got this cat to e-mail him and ask him if he was so-and-so from my days in Banff in 1990/91... got home last night from North Vancouver and found a reply: it was him! He doesn't remember me but I'm not surprised, since those days in Banff were fuzzy at best for most people (alcohol consumption had a lot to do with that), and I have a better-than-average memory for faces and names. I hunted down and sent along some photos today that might jog his memory. He might not consider his photo particularly flattering, but hey -- it was taken more than 12 years ago! He looks pretty different now, but I probably do, too. I used to hang out with his roommate Tom at their staff accommodation at the Inns of Banff. Tom had two roommates -- this guy, and his friend who was also from Montreal. I remember the three of us would sit around and drink and shoot the breeze together, but this was so long ago I can't remember what the other guy looked like, and I can't find a photo. What I do remember is that these two Montrealers were really funny... for me it's a distinct memory, which is probably how I was able to make a connection between the photo of him now and the one that's in my album. Wonder how many synaptic transmissions it took to bring THAT about???

Anyway, I e-mailed him my phone number, and he rang me today and we chatted a bit. He's got a friend from Montreal visiting, but we arranged to meet sometime later this week. Trippy, or what?

Last night was very Montreal. Mark, Vicky and I went over to Tosca and Mike's for a catch-up after their wedding on September 6 and honeymoon in Italy. They went to school together in Montreal, as well as Colette, who was Tosca's bridesmaid -- she'd flown out all the way from New Jersey to attend. Mark went through Tosca's school yearbooks and they discussed mutual friends and classmates... oh so many moons ago. Talking about high school brings back memories of big hair, unflattering clothing, and strange liaisons!

Friday, October 17, 2003

In Loving Memory

Maureen Ann Hawker, age 73
Loving mother, grandmother, wife, and friend to many people, passed away Wednesday morning, October 8, in hospital, Wolverhampton, England.

Received the sad news by registered letter yesterday from my friend Lucy. Grandma Hawker was my surrogate grandmother, taking interest in my life when I was living in the U.K., and even after I moved away. I spent Christmas and holidays with them, and visited with her on every trip to England except last year. Made it to the post office last night before they closed to send a condolence card, but have to admit I'm feeling a bit blue about it. Lucy's family is very close, and I'm sure they are devastated.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Society and the Media

Has society become infatuated with gore these days, to the point that newswires such as AP/New York Times feel it necessary to make repeated references to decapitation and limbs being torn off in reporting yesterday's Staten Island Ferry tragedy?? I've looked at a few of the news services which are listed at Google's news site, and not all are as filled with details about body parts.

[Google's news site uses computer-generated algorithms rather than human judgement to show how news is reported from thousands of news sites around the world. You can list list in chronological order, with the newest listing first, or by relevance. I like to use this site when I have time, to get a more global perspective on major stories. News is largely a matter of perspective. The majority of what the public is spoonfed come from sources aligned with political and financial interests. I try to keep that in mind when reading news, and look at other sources, especially indie sites. This is one of the easier ways I've found to do this.]

Anyway, I read the AP/New York Times version of the Staten Island ferry tragedy, and wondered, "Are we feeding our own morbid fascination by reading grisly news, or do the journalists feel the public is desensitized enough to accept whatever journalists do to grab the reader's attention?" Maybe both. Along the same vein, I was also wondering whether to see Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. I know it's violent. I loathe violence, and I can barely sit through it when watching a film. I couldn't even bring myself to watch Tarantino's Dusk to Dawn. If I feel any visceral pleasure out of watching Kill Bill, what does that say about me? Is it the same as reading gory news?

Life of a T2200

On Tuesday I picked up the camera and took a photo of part of my home office space, which is not as much a bedroom as it is an office that has a bed in it. Tuesday was a fine sunny day, but with the room having six sides, it's pretty tough to get into a position to take a decent shot of English Bay from the window. You can't see any of the ships at all -- at this angle only the big tree is visible. I tried a bunch of different perspectives, but what I was also trying to capture was the towers of shelving... I need a pan shot for that. But I think what made me get the camera out in the first place was considering how much my bed resembles a board room table when I lay out all my papers... it's better than a boardroom table! Who sleeps on their boardroom table??

Trying to Stay Sane

The past couple of days have been a mix of slogging through the quicksand-like mire of work / school / retirement party / vehicular madness combined with happier events such as celebrating Kevin's birthday today. Allison baked him a birthday pie, but had worked herself into a tizzy because it was only the fourth pie she'd ever made (she counted, even)... she says her husband John is the baker in the family, and she even had to phone him in Vancouver to coach her through it!

On Monday night I studied all the way to 6:30am Tuesday morning before imminent collapse, which did me no favours at all for the rest of Tuesday. Why do I do this to myself??? I am my own worst enemy. The bad news for Tuesday was that the mechanic reported a possible leak coming from the gasket area, because coolant was getting into the engine somehow. That meant they had to take apart the engine, which meant major labour time. The pressure was on for getting an appointment with CAN, the Cooperative Auto Network, because if the car is too expensive to fix, I have no viable means of getting to the office. It would involve hours on top of the four it already takes to get there and back. I made the appointment for the earliest possible time, which is Friday at 5pm.

I did manage to have a fairly productive day yesterday without giving into any temptation to nap, amazingly enough. Phoned Kevin, who was on the highway back to Sechelt from his parents' in the Interior, and decided to catch a lift to the Sunshine Coast with him. I threw my stuff into a bag and ran downstairs to meet him, but also, I wanted him to come with me to have a look around the Renaissance, which is where the retirement party will be held. Kevin wasn't familiar with the layout, and I needed his opinion on layout. Thankfully the hotel is enroute to the ferry, because we had to hoof it over there to make the 7:25 sailing, and by that time I was feeling seriously on the brink of a major cold/flu. All the symptoms were there -- sore, inflamed throat and a nagging achy feeling. I really should start taking vitamins...

At least we had a chance to chat. There are many challenges ahead for the company transition, and if I started to outline them here, I'd be typing until dawn. Kevin and I don't have many opportunities to have a conversation, much less a discussion about anything as serious as our work futures. Plus, contemplating the rough transition road ahead over a BC Ferries dinner (unappetizing, I can assure you) probably didn't help the way I was feeling. I was completely shocked to hear how Kevin's mum was doing... she is so ill she may not make it to Christmas. I can only imagine what Kevin has to deal with at the moment. My stress seems relatively manageable compared to his. When Kevin and I passed the office on the way to his house around 9pm, we saw Ross working away in his office and we wondered out loud about how on earth this so-called "retirement" was ever going to fly...

By the time we got to Kevin's house, I knew there was no way I would be able to read any more textbooks. For the first time in recent memory, I just went straight to bed... do not pass go, do not collect $200... by 10pm, I was in deep REM state.

Until the alarm clock went off at midnight. Midnight! What a shock to the system! Apparently they'd had a power outage and somehow the alarm clock in my room had set itself to go off at 12:00am. It was pitch dark, and suddenly this crazy electronic shriek pierced into my brain, which was in complete shut down mode. If I was over 60, that probably would've induced a cardiac arrest. But my heart rate finally crept back to normal after I figured out how to shut the bloody thing off (no easy task when it's pitch dark -- didn't even notice there was an alarm clock in the room), and I was able to get back to sleep.

I thought I would wake up totally sick this morning, but after a marathon shower, I felt more like a human being again. Way to go immune system!! This would have been the absolute worst week to be sick, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

You Can Google in Elmer Fudd

I'm sih-wee-ous. It's not just for wascally wabbits... See?

Here's the current list of Google Interface languages (scroll down a bit).... what the dickens is Bork, bork, bork! ?????

Monday, October 13, 2003


zeit geist | Pronunciation: 'tsIt-"gIst, 'zIt | Function: noun | Etymology: German, from Zeit (time) + Geist (spirit) | Date: 1884 | Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.

By permission from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate® Dictionary at by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

This is interesting! Google Press Center: Zeitgeist


We shot lots of video over today's Thanksgiving pow-wow at Allan & Cheryl's place, but only a few photos, so I thought I'd post a couple of the photos that my dad gathered from his albums to show us. It being Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate to revisit the past. Canadian Thanksgiving is a holiday placed in October to distribute holidays evenly throughout the year (we celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11, so that takes care of November). We don't share the historical significance of American Thanksgiving, so I guess the Canadian government decided some time ago that the second Monday of October was as good a time as any to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Allan scanned this photos and added these comments:

Edwins in the 1960s

This first photo is a scan of a black and white photo taken of my grandfather and grandmother on the steps of (I assume) the family home in Guisad, Baguio City.

This is only the 2nd picture I have ever seen of my father's parents. The first is a set of portraits of them in the background of some of my parents wedding photos. I never knew before now that my grandfather was so tall, or my grandmother so short. It explains the wide range in heights among my uncles, aunts, and cousins and also my height comparatively among most Filipinos.

The photo prompted comments from my dad and step-mother about my grandfather. Apparently he was a snappy dresser, slim, and handsome. My grandfather died the year before I was born and my grandmother died 6 months after I was born. I do not know how old they were -- though it seems safe to guess that they were in their 70's by the time I was born.

Also pictured are some of my aunts, my uncle Thomas, and some of my cousins who are only a few years older than I. There are a few who are almost a generation older than I. Their children are younger than me by the same measure that I am younger than the children in this picture, about 3-5 years. My dad commented that uncle Thomas was the one who appeared most like his father. He was very handsome and had dimples...


Uncle Thomas met with a rather grim end to a short life (26 years), but I'm going to see if I can verify the story with more people before I try to describe it. The deal with cultures which favour the oral tradition is that you definitely have to speak to more than one family member to get the full story.

I think I've seen a similar photo to this one, but I don't recall my grandparents in it. I'm also surprised by the height differential... but this is probably explained by the fact that the only photos I recall of them are during their funerals, when they're lying down...

We have a LOT of cousins. To this day I still don't know how many first cousins there actually are. I think this photo was taken in 1971 or 1972, because Allan is still an infant (he's the only baby in the photo), and my mother was pregnant with me. Allan and I are only 12 and a half months apart in age, which is closer than any of his kids, even though it's impossible to tell!

My dad was from a family of originally 12, but a few died at childbirth, I believe. This was common for the time, and for a culture that relies upon midwives, not hospitals, one can expect a higher infant mortality rate. (As of 2002, the Philippines is 101st out of 224 countries for its rate of infant mortality -- nearly 28 deaths out of 1,000 live births, as compiled by The remaining 9? (I'll need to do a recount) bar one had children, and my dad is one of the younger ones. In fact, he was practically raised by his eldest sister, Jane, who is now being taken care of by her daughter Maureen, in upstate New York. I visited them briefly when I was in New York the last week of 2002, and hope to make it over there before too long. After all, my Aunt Jane is in her 80's now. In fact, one of her great-grandsons is in his 20's! It's amazing that she would outlive her husband, daughter, and son, to remain the matriarch of my father's family.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Time Flies... When You're on Dial-Up

I've exiled myself to my parents' house for the Thanksgiving weekend. I'm supposed to be studying, but I've been setting up my dad's computer (Allan & Cheryl's old computer) and connecting it to the internet. To get my parents started, I'm using my 20-hr per month dial-up allowance that's bundled with my Enhanced ADSL connection at home (2.5MB/sec). Dial-up is excruciating...! I've never had it, although I've used it on the rare occasion when the ADSL servers have gone down. There's just no comparison. Dial-up is painful!

Allan and Maddy


An hour ago Allan, Cheryl, and the kids dropped me off from a walk around Green Timbers Park. It's raining, but the kids love the puddles! Don't all kids love puddles? There's just something about them that draws kids like magnets. When Michael sees a puddle, he makes a run for it, so going outside means dressing the boy up in as much rain gear as one can find. Stomping in puddles is Michael's forté.

As you can see, the other kids don't mind rain, either.

Green Timbers Park photos
(22 in Ofoto album)


I'm glad that Allan and Cheryl aren't put off by rain. They'll take the kids out in rain or shine, which is good, since winters in the Lower Mainland (at least near sea level) consist of a great deal of rain. On the flip side, we don't get snow -- we're lucky if we get one decent snowfall that sticks around more than 24 hours -- so that means no shovelling! It was fine when we were kids growing up in Winnipeg, snow was synonymous with fun and we didn't have to deal with the inconveniences that adults had: plugging in the car so it would be warm enough to start, making sure the sidewalks were clear, etc. etc. If we got a huge dump of snow, it meant no school! Toboganning! Krazy Karpets! (*I did a little search on Krazy Karpets, and I can't believe they're still available and selling for $1.99!*)

I like rain, myself. I think people in BC appreciate rain a bit more now after a summer of fires, dangerously low reservoirs, and a record lack of precipitation. I'm happy to see the grass green again after all that ugly brown... we needed the rain so badly. Bring it on!

Friday, October 10, 2003

Call Me a Sucker (or sook, as they say in Oz)

World Vision Canada
After my little fiasco with the car, I let out a big sigh and hoped I would be able to finally get to Richmond before the whole World Vision Canada Sponsor Evening was over. It was the first one they've had in the West -- the World Vision office is based outside of Toronto and it's costly to have more offices and organize functions like this. I wanted to hear about some of the projects they've been working on, and there was a project manager from Honduras who was giving a presentation.

World Vision phones every year to ask if I'd like to sponsor a second child, and I've always declined. I've been sponsoring a girl in Brazil for over 6 years (she will be 11 in December), and since then I wanted to stick to sponsoring one child and spend more time doing local community work and volunteerism. Which is what I've done, volunteering for the West End Seniors Network, Hostelling International, A Loving Spoonful, soup kitchens and doing a number of other things. But attending one of these meetings and seeing what differences child sponsorships make for a village makes it very difficult to leave without considering sponsoring more children.

So I went over to the table that had the sponsorship photos and profiles and pored over all of them. It's not supposed to be like picking fruit at the supermarket -- I wanted to look closely and get a sense of the child. There were children of all ages, from all parts of the underdeveloped world: Bangladesh, Honduras, Central Africa, etc. How would I be able to choose?? I think you just have to go with your gut in these situations. All I had in mind was finding a little boy who wasn't in Latin America, because I sponsor a girl in Brazil. This little boy, Kerneus from Haiti, turned 11 in June and when I looked at his sweet face I knew I couldn't put his card back in the pile. Kerneus looks small for his age, and right now he's in pre-school, but even though he has the body of a little boy, he has the eyes of an old man. In fact, the more I look at his photo, the more I'm reminded of the esteemed actor Sidney Poitier.

Of course, there were others I would like to sponsor, especially this little girl named Melissa from Honduras (which made me think of my own niece Melissa) and a little girl from Bangladesh who had a very striking face. But in the end I told the lady from World Vision that I would take another card to see if I could get one of my friends to sponsor a child -- I chose Auxense from Chad. I signed on for both Kerneus and Auxense, and told her I would make arrangements in my own time for a sponsor for Auxense down the road, because I could only sponsor one other child besides Glecia Jessica Felix, and that would be Kerneus. I had in mind the idea to go and visit one of these children, and it's much easier to get to Haiti from Vancouver than it would be to get to either Brazil or Chad. Plus, in Haiti I believe they speak patois and French and maybe some English. It would be much harder for me to communicate in either Portuguse or the native tongue spoken in Chad (I'll have to look that one up).

I'm deliriously tired now. After I got home I was invited out for drinks, and we stayed longer after last call than we'd realized...

I Hate My Car at the Moment

It just wouldn't co-operate earlier this evening. I've decided to go the co-op route and let Allan use the car to go to work so Cheryl can have the van to drive the kids around.

The car had been sitting for days, and I had a hard time starting it. I was frustrated -- after all, I'd just dropped a chunk of maintenance money on it, and it should be grateful! I was parked on an incline, and I had to make sure it was warmed up properly, otherwise I would roll back into the T-intersection, a rather busy one with pedestrians, cyclists, and cars accelerating to make it up the hill. As I was sitting in the car, trying to keep it from stalling, an attractive guy with a couple of bags of groceries was strolling up the sidewalk. He turned around and saw me in the car and gave me a big smile, while I tried to hunker down and pretend I was doing something, all the while I felt like crawling under the dashboard as my car sputtered and coughed and protestedly loudly. He stopped for a moment, tried to get my attention, then started walking backwards up the hill, sticking out his thumb -- like he was hitch hiking -- and making funny faces and smiling...

Argh! Why does this have to happen NOW??? I was thinking of how I could pass this off as a joke: wave him in, then say, "Hey guy, I hope you're not in a hurry..."

But what did I do??? I just smiled back and then pretended I was reading something!! I couldn't even look up anymore, I thought maybe he'd walk backwards up out of sight, which he did, but am I a dufus or what? If the car was running fine, would I have responded? I think I would've! But I didn't... argh!

Damned car. It's pissed off at me because I leave it for a week at a time, then expect it -- in its old age -- to just go. It doesn't even make sense for me to own a car -- I live in the city, work from home, and have a U-PASS. The best thing for it is to be driven every day, otherwise when it's colder and it just sits, it's a pain in the arse to start. It's being ornery, so my solution is to let Allan drive it, and I'll join the co-op. Done deal.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Viva Italia!

If you've ever been to Italy or are familiar with Italian culture, you'll appreciate this. It's in Shockwave Flash, so make sure you've got the player first, your speakers turned on, and a few minutes to watch this little movie showing how Italians are different from the rest of Europe... it may take a little while to load, so just be patient.

I've watched it I don't know how many times, but the driving and pedestrian parts always make me laugh!

No Spilling the Beans...!

Mon Dieu! I have removed the post from Saturday about "spilling the beans" because a certain event that was supposed to happen LAST weekend is not until THIS weekend, so I will have to make that post now a DRAFT... more later...

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A Nice Surprise

The postal carrier just chucked a *real letter* through my mailslot today from my friend Carole in Switzerland! Real letters are so noticeable because they are as rare as rollerskates nowadays. But I had to write Carole a letter a while ago because she doesn't have a computer at home and no internet at the office -- she lives in an old flat in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the phone is literally fused into the wall so it would take an electrician to re-wire the place for modern jacks. No dial-up, and forget about ADSL. Can't even get cable. So, no computer... cos what's the point without internet?

I really like Carole's place, though, it's spacious and comfortable and homey, but we have a good laugh about the quirks of living in a building that's older than any museum in Canada. There are things so easily taken for granted living here, in modern buildings. First of all, her washing machine is super-old and hyperkinetic -- I had to basically sit on it while it was running so it wouldn't shimmy across the floor and pull the rubber tube off from the kitchen tap. I tried reading a magazine while waiting for it to do its thing, but the machine shook so violently during the spin cycle I nearly fell off! Also, of course, there is no elevator in her building, and she's at least on the sixth floor, which doesn't sound very high until you account for the high ceilings. You feel like you've done a session on the Stairmaster by the time you reach her front door. Which is not a bad thing... people in North America are fatter and lazier as a result of our mod cons and reliance on vehicles. Big refrigerators means more food at our disposal without making as many trips to the grocery store, and we're eating food that's designed to have a longer shelf life. Elevators are ubiquitous. I'm off on a tangent...

Anyway, so I got this letter today, and it's a nice respite from the usual stuff that comes through my letter slot. I don't get much junk mail, but I'm on the mailing list of probably every charitable organization in Canada. They also phone me, but I have to tell them my university tuition has doubled over the course of 16 months, and it's creating a situation where I have to monitor my expenses, but they are welcome to contact me again next year. It's bad enough that I've had to shrink down my volunteer time to nearly zilch this year because of the increasing workload, but I'm going to have to cut back on my charitable donations this year. Drastically.

Tomorrow night is World Vision Canada's sponsor night at the Radisson Hotel in Richmond. I'm looking forward to hearing about their projects in Honduras and meeting some other child sponsors. I've been sponsoring a child in Brazil since 1997 who is now 10 years old, but I want to feel a stronger connection to my sponsorship than a passive occurrence of a monthly charge on my account.

The Tuesday Files

While Arnold talked Californians into voting him into the governor's office, Germany pummelled the U.S. 3-0 in a women's world cup soccer semi-final upset (Sweden beat Canada 2-1 in their semi-final), Izzy Asper -- the Canadian media mogul who founded CanWest Global -- died, the Canadian dollar broke 75c U.S. for the first time since November 1996 (good for some, terrible for others)...

... and me? I felt like a Vegas promoter making phone calls, e-mailing, updating... I worked long into the night with windows of spreadsheets, Outlook, Yahoo calendar, online white pages, and Google in front of me on the monitor. Thank God for 21-inch screens, otherwise I'd go blind.

I did have some interesting phone calls, though. At 10 o'clock I got this bright idea to track down Rovin, who I haven't seen for years, but I'd heard was in the Vancouver area. Keeping under the radar. So when I phoned, I was happy to get a very positive reaction -- albeit after a very long pause! Once Rovin figured out who the hell was calling him at 10pm, it was like I'd set him on fire! I told him about the party, seeing Martijn and Jennifer and their baby Isla in the Netherlands in April, Tosca and Mike's wedding, seeing Jackie at the wedding, and how these days I'm not the "party-girl" he remembers me to be...! I thought it was hilarious Rovin thinks of me that way, but last night as I was telling this to Christa I realized how much bar-hopping and late nights characterized that time back in '98-'99. It feels like light years away from today.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Manic Monday

It's just another manic Monday (oh-woe)
I wish it was Sunday (oh-woe)
'Cause that's my Funday (oh-woe)
My I don't have to runday (oh)
It's just another manic Monday...

The Bangles were absolutely right about today. It was, indeed, a manic Monday.

The manic-ness actually started on Sunday night and continued for 24 hours... to complicate things further, Ross and Kevin are in Montreal, Lee and Allison are in Sechelt, and I'm in Vancouver, and it's all one big juggle to get through today and prep for this Investorside presentation in Toronto. Things that could go wrong went oh-so-wrong today, and bloody hell do I ever need a vacation!!! It's Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday, and I am seriously considering taking off somewhere. The problem is, I have so much course material piling up around me that wherever I go, I will have to take it with me. Anybody have an empty house this weekend I can take over??

Monday, October 06, 2003

Laity Farm

Laity Farm
The kids, Allan and I spent the afternoon out on Laity Farm, an historic working farm with heritage buildings in Maple Ridge. They open the farm to the public in the month of October, and the grounds are completely kitted out for kiddies: a corn maze, a forest filled with scenes from Hans Christian Andersen fairytales and various nursery rhymes, dinosaurs, zoo animals, woodland creatures, gnomes, a pioneer village complete with prospector's cabin, covered wagon, sherriff's office, school, a general store and more! All in a wooded area in the middle of the farm!

Adventures on Laity Farm: the album

Michael, exactly one year before.
I went back in the blog to discover that I'd taken Michael by himself to the farm exactly one year ago. I think it was the very first time I'd ever taken Michael out by himself, and I could tell he was a bit lost without Melissa running around and bossing him around. But we had lots of fun once he'd tasted his first nibble of personal freedom and realized how exhilarating it can be, especially knowing that he didn't have to share my attention with an older sister and a baby.

I think this is my favourite photo of Michael. He's also wearing my favourite "Mister Michael" wear. He had just turned two years old a month before, and still a bit baby-ish. We were playing hide-and-go-seek in the pumpkin patch at Laity Farm, and this is Michael's idea of hiding.

Here's Maddy in the same outfit, exactly one year later. I'm surprised the outfit is still in one piece -- Michael wore it all the time, and it has gone through a lot of abuse!

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Some Blasts from the Past

with Jamie and Eric

with Rob and Marlene (& Eric & Jamie's baby Lillie)

It's been an interesting week of people activity. I got an e-mail from my friend Eric down in California to inform me that he's now the CFO for Banana Republic and they've moved to San Francisco! Eric and Jamie had been in the L.A.-area a few years as Eric was CFO of Before that they were in the D.C.-area as Eric was CFO of Choice Hotels. My, that guy gets around. It was great to see both he and Rob last year -- it was a total surprise to see Rob, I had no idea where he was living. When I rang Eric's doorbell, I was shocked beyond belief to see them both standing there! It had been more than 10 years since we'd all been together, and so much has changed since then.

I wrote about the visit on a page in my Geocities site, which I don't really keep up anymore. I've copied the story and pasted it here:

How I met Rob and Eric:

At the end of 1990 I was a Kermit-green 18 years of age and working at Banff Rocky Mountain Resort's sports facilities when I met these two nutters from California, Eric and Rob. In the middle of what was soon to become one of the harshest winters in Banff's history, Eric from L.A. and Rob from Sacramento showed up and settled into a house on the main strip that had no central heating and a landlady named Suki who regaled me with stories from her stint as a bathroom attendant in Italy. Believe me, it was still an upgrade from living in staff accommodation, so I moved in, too! There was also later another housemate, Noel, from Nova Scotia, who thought nothing of answering the door in his underwear and was obviously unfazed by temperatures of -50C (with or without the wind chill factor, it's enough to crack ski boots). That winter for Rob and Eric was legendary. It is just like a fishing story -- the recalled temperatures keep dropping as the years go by. What I can remember distinctly is that Rob and Eric bought space heaters for their rooms, while I toughed it out and slept under the weight of no less than 7 wool blankets. (As a footnote, the house was condemned by the Health Authority and we had to move, but it turned out the town wanted the land to build a clinic. When I visited Banff in September 2000, the lot was still empty. [I was there again November 2002 and February 2003, and it was still empty.])

Fast forward from that crazy winter to the next time I see Rob and Eric together, less than one year later, at the end of 1991, as I am about to head off to Australia with a freshly-purchased airline ticket but no itinerary past the next day. Eric and Rob are living in a house in Redondo Beach, along with an aspiring actor named Craig who is Axel Rose's personal assistant, regaling to their then-girlfriends Jamie and Marlene -- and all other captive audiences -- stories of braving the relentless Arctic Canadian winter...

Fast forward more than 10 years to January 2002: 3 weddings and 4 kids later, Eric, Jamie, Rob (and, later, Marlene) and I are sitting around Eric and Jamie's kitchen, eating brunch and marvelling at the flight of time. Rob and Marlene's two kids are already in primary school, and Eric and Jamie also have a couple of wee ones. Those Banff days seem like lightyears in the past, but that Sunday when I rang Eric's doorbell and the two nutters answered the door, it was like entering a time warp -- they looked exactly the same! Eric and Rob turn 40 this year and say they will write their memoirs. I'm going to read the chapter on "the winter in Banff" with great interest to see how cold it *really* was.

Fedor in Brussels, April 25
I also finally heard from my friend Fedor, a Dutch guy I've known for nearly as long as Rob and Eric but have seen a lot more often on various trips over the years. I saw Fedor briefly in Brussels at the end of April, where he was on a contract for the European Union. I was only in Brussels for the day, since I went to Amsterdam to visit some other friends, and was on my way to Bergamo, Italy, to meet up with the other Chickens -- Iris and Christa, and also my best friend Lucy, her fiance John and her son Joe, who were flying in from England. So we only had time for a beer and some conversation before I had to head off, but it's ALWAYS good to do this, even when the time is short, because you just never know when you're going to see people again.

Now Fedor's on another contract, this time for Mastercard, and he tells me his Thai wife is finally getting her visa to come and stay with him, after being in Thailand for more than a year. Fedor and Da were married in Thailand probably less than two years ago, but because of the visa restrictions and her mother's health, it's difficult for them to be together.

I met Fedor on May 4, 1992, in Australia. I remember that day very clearly. I'd seen a note at the youth hostel in Melbourne that this Scottish guy was going to Sydney in a van and was looking for paying passengers. So I rang this guy, Lachlan, and told him that I wanted to go to Sydney to pick up some stuff and look for work, and we agreed to meet the next day at the youth hostel where he'd left the note. I'd waited and waited and waited, then finally went to the front desk to see if they knew anything about someone waiting for me. Well, Fedor and Lachlan were standing right there, and apparently they were expecting a "Canadian girl," and obviously in their minds that wasn't me!

Fedor had answered Lachlan's ad, too, so the three of us embarked on a journey from Melbourne to Sydney that would normally take 12 hours. We took two weeks.

It was an adventure that sparked even more adventures, which led to other events in my life that would never have happened if I hadn't answered that little ad on a Post-It note square. Some good, some not so good. But never a dull moment.

I Figured It Out!

I read over some comments at Phil's Unofficial Blogger Pages, and obviously I wasn't reading it properly last time, because apparently someone else had the same problem. For archiving titles, when apostrophes are used in subject titles, javascript reports errors because the script thinks the title is over after the first apostrophe. I've been trying to figure out why my pages are loading with errors, and what those errors were... so, I've changed the script to use double quotes instead of single quotes (I just have to remember not to use full quotation marks in the post titles)... now, all the titles that happen to have apostrophes will finally show up! Yay for me!

Saturday, October 04, 2003

I'm Losing My Favourite Scrabble Opponent!

Adrian focussed and ready to strike.
I spoke to Adrian briefly on Thursday night when I was on the ferry, and he broke some big news -- he's accepted another position in his company, and he could be moving to Toronto as early as next week!

How do I feel about this? Pretty mixed.... I mean, he was always out of town, anyways -- Adrian's office is in Toronto, and he worked from home, like me. We even have the same accountant because Lou was doing such a good job with Adrian's forms, I took Lou on board, too. There was some comfort in knowing another T2200 (which is what we are according to Revenue Canada). But that's besides the point... Adrian and I go way back, but in the past few years I feel I've been given glimpses into the inner sanctum of his mind, and it's a place not many have access to!

It's not as if I saw Adrian often even when he was around. But knowing that I have to fly to Toronto to see him makes me a bit blue: no more wine nights, fiercely competitive Scrabble... inspections of new piercings (ha ha!). No more concerts, hockey games, or evenings like at Fiction, where we drank 14 martinis between us... hell, I think it's time for a martini... this is getting me all nostalgic...

Sunshine Coasting

Ross, New Year's 1985

Lee (left) and her best friend Marion with Santa, 1967

... a rare occasion of overnighting on the Coast. Normally I only go to Sechelt for the day, but it was easier to go with Ross and Lee as Ross was returning from a conference in Seattle, and I wanted them to go through their photos so I could scan a bunch for the retirement party. I've asked them for photos on numerous occasions, but this was the only way I could make sure they'd do it! They have thousands of pictures, so it was a bit of a daunting task, but once they started going through the albums and going down memory lane, they were glad they did it.

Looking through their photos, I think, made all of us realize how quickly time passes. Life is such a mixed bag, with the morbid and the joyful and everything in between, all jumbled up together: illness, babies, old flames, holidays, embarrassment, weddings, hard times, it's all there. My employers (husband and wife) both turned 67 recently, and are at a crossroad in their lives: retirement. Both of them have been working for around 50 years each. That's a CENTURY of work! That's why this retirement party is such a big deal for me to plan -- it's the kind of event that combines elements of a wedding, funeral, anniversary party, work party, birthday party... you can get married more than once, you have a birthday every year, work parties at least once a year, but how many times (unless you're Michael Jordan) can you retire??

Ross the hippie, far right, 1974.
This is a classic picture. Ross is the hippie guy on the far right, with the beard, long hair, and Jesus sandals. Apparently, he was back from India or on his way to India, and was living out of his van in his brother Hugh's driveway. The neighbours, not recognizing the van, called the police to report a vagabond!

Ross has a colourful past. His hippie days and sabbaticals to India and roughing it around Europe in the 1960s and early 1970s are fairly common knowledge amongst his closer colleagues, but I'm sure there is plenty I haven't heard yet (although I've heard a lot). One time in late 1999, he was giving me a lift somewhere to meet friends after I'd done some extra work in our office when it was downtown Vancouver. He asked me what I was doing for New Year, since I made it a practice to fly somewhere every year. The previous year I was on the Reeperbahn (red light district) of Hamburg, and the friends I was with there expressed an interest in meeting for the 'millennium' New Year in Goa, India. As soon as I said that, it was like a movie flashback started to play in his head, and he started telling me what kind of a drug hub Goa was... !

Lee dancing with her dad, 1977.
1977: Lee dancing with her dad, who passed away in his sleep December 30 last year in Toronto at the age of 93. Because of his declining health, they had to fly to Toronto 3 times that week. I wasn't sure how Lee would feel looking at some of the photos of her dad, because she was close with both her parents, and she was their only child. Her mother had passed away in the 70s, not long before Ross and Lee were married.

Lee's father was always dancing... (keep dancing, and you'll live to 93!) In practically every picture in their albums, Syd was dancing with someone. The man had an incredible sense of humour, even in his final years. And what a sharp dresser! I'd met Syd once, when he visited in Christmas 1998, my first year to work for ERA. He was 89 years old at the time, and when he walked in, Eliza and I were in awe. Syd was impeccable, in a wool coat to die for, a hat, cane, and great shoes. The man had always lived in downtown Toronto, and was the consummate Torontonian: urbane, active, aware. Eliza and I were so excited to meet him, I think we nearly knocked him over with our enthusiasm. (We both loved his coat!) Syd's zest for life made Lee's visits to him in Toronto the last few years sometimes difficult, and with every passing year we wondered how long Syd would hold on. The man was playing tennis in his 70s, and it was only in the last few years that his ray of light started to flicker. It's been a tough year for Lee since her father died, and even though we can't bring Syd back, I'm going to try to restore some of the photos I picked out from the albums to add to their "Hay-Rogues Gallery" (one of their retirement projects). That way Lee can remember her father not the way he left this mortal coil, but how he was for nearly all of it -- a vibrant, energetic man.

I'm looking forward to the retirement party -- some key people are flying in for the event: Marion, the lady in the Santa Claus photo with Lee and her closest friend. Jacki, the lady who took care of Lee's father in his ailing years, is flying in from Toronto. I've lined up some speakers, people they've known for longer than I've been alive. I've also hired jazz musicians and have been working on the audiovisual portion -- LCD projector and such for presentations. I've got some old photos now and the event is coming together.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Putting the Psycho in Psychology

That paper nearly killed me. I did the conclusion so fast I'm sure the tutor marker's going to think someone else wrote it. If I were working at the CDE, I'd make bets with my workmates on how often papers for student # 20006-9827 just manage to squeeze through the fax at precisely 4:30pm. Too many late nights are frying my brain. Just a few minutes ago as I was packing up my stuff to head to the Sunshine Coast I noticed a proliferation of gray/silver hairs on my head.

I find the material for all my classes this term fascinating, but I swear these deadlines take months off my life. Every time I hand something in, I feel like I've just given two pints of blood. I need to top up the supply!

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Dunno Why

The first post today won't show up in the index for some reason. I've tried everything, even changing its posted date and time, but it refuses to show. The index, by the way, is at the bottom of every blog page. Blogger quirk? Dunno. Time to get going on this psychology paper.

Need. . . Energy. . .

OOF, took me a while to wake up this morning... too many late nights and last night a bit of wine, and that's all it took.

Maddy's papa (my brother) and her maternal grandparents in Maine sent comments on the videoclip, so I watched it again. Even after many viewings, it still makes me laugh:

Cheryl was having problems getting the candle to light, and Maddy kept looking over at her with a look of "Now what?" Also, after we lit the sparkler, Maddy had no idea why we were looking so expectantly at her -- everyone was shuffled to one end of the table and she was left by herself at the other end. It must be so bewildering to be one year old. People staring and flashes popping left and right... And the singing! What a bunch of goofy adults!

Then Maddy does this funny little swaying motion, and I don't think we were playing any music. Watching babies dance demonstrates that dancing is natural -- we're all wired for it, but if our culture doesn't nurture this natural sense of movement, we become inhibited. Take a look at a nightclub dancefloor, and you'll see what I mean.

When Maddy slaps her hand down on the cake surface and feels the gooey texture of the icing, she shrinks back in apprehension. She's got that "uh oh" look on her little baby face. Maybe it's a girl thing -- Melissa didn't like getting her hands gunked up, either. When Michael had his first birthday cake, he ate part of it with great relish and dumped the rest of it over his own head! He didn't understand why we were laughing so hard -- instead, without missing a beat, Michael picked cake off his face and hair and ate it. Who needs a bowl? Or even cutlery, for that matter? Need a place for your food -- just put it on your head! The stickier, the better!

Maddy has so many allergies: the poor child can't eat beef, fish, nuts, oranges, soy, egg, or sesame. (Also, she's allergic to bees and dogs.) She is also lactose intolerant, so she had to drink rice milk. So then what kind of birthday cake do you get? One that the average person would never eat, that's what. No wonder she got the shivers once she put some in her mouth!

Maddy's First Movie: Now Out on Video

Maddy turns 1
Guess what! I was tinkering around a few hours ago, showing Christa how to use her new Canon A70 (I'm telling you, Canon should be giving me commission!!), which led me to tinkering around with Quicktime Pro, and VOILA!

I produced my first Quicktime movie! I spliced together the 6 short clips of Maddy's first birthday last year, added some music, did some editing, and this is what happened:

Maddy Turns One

The original file is far too large (23MB+) to upload to my webspace, so unfortunately I had to lower the resolution. But it's a funny video to watch as a compilation nonetheless. The expression on her face when she tries her first piece of cake is priceless!

Maddy turns 2 years old on October 20.