Archive for the ‘Non-technical’ Category

Geeks and global justice has moved!!

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

I have finally moved blogs – for a number of reasons I will not enumerate here.

But suffice it to say I’ve got a new (and improved) blog over at It’s the hub and clearing house for my research project, which is finally underway. For the personal musing (ranting?) you’ve come to know and love from this blog, check out http// And change your RSS feeds!

See you on the other side!

I am a nerd

Friday, July 20th, 2007

People who know me well, know this about me. But for those of you (well, most of you I suppose…) who think I am ultra cool, know this: I like coins.

Now, I’m no coin collector, if that’s what you’re thinking. I don’t like all coins. In fact, I don’t like most coins. What I like, and maybe this makes me even nerdier, is Canadian quarters. As a kid, there were only two kinds: the regular kind (moose head) and the “fancy” kind (mountie). As I recall there was also a “fancy” dime – some sort of bird – a tern perhaps? (feel free to correct me, anyone). That’s about it.

Whenever I came across one of these special quarters, I would feel a little thrill. And then tuck it away, to be spent only when I ran out of allowance and wanted a junkfood fix from Tucker’s corner store. But that habit of saving these coins, even if only briefly, stayed with me. When they changed all the bills, back when I was a late teen/early twentysomething, I saved the old ones too.

So you can imagine I was in heaven when the new “province” series of quarters came out. I began collecting with diligence that only (or often or sometimes) comes with early adulthood. Infrequently, but then with increasing regularity, “they” (that would be the mint, I suppose) began releasing more and more “fancy” quarters. This made them a bit less special. But I still stowed them in my old jewelry box – the one my dad brought me back from Egypt when I was 10, and which I have carted around with me from apartment to apartment, and from house to house, ever since.

I can’t say that I have saved them all. But certain ones did get me excited. Like the colourized ones – the breast cancer one, or the poppy one, which caused a great spy kerfuffle south of the border. I also liked the Terry Fox one, and the recent hockey one I’ve seen (though I’m not an especial fan of the sport) but have yet to hang on to. Now I tell myself I’m saving them for my kids; my son, already, shows sure signs of nerdiness. He is a gearhead, and also enjoys simple, repetitive actions, like digging and planting in the garden, or packing and unpacking the camping cooler.

All of which brings me to a news story on CBC radio I heard at suppertime. There is a new $20 coin which is the world’s first coin with plasma effect (to create the “blue hues and capture the frigid essence of the Arctic”) and which, ok, didn’t interest me too much at first. As I say, I like quarters. But then I heard the story behind it. The coin is meant to honour polar exploration, and so on it is 16th c. explorer Martin Frobisher, as well as an Inuit man paddling his kayak. But, “as it happens”, this juxtaposition evokes a dark moment in Canadian history. This Frobisher dude actually kidnapped some Inuits, on two different occasions, and brought them back to England as proof of his successful voyage to the “new world”, and where they promptly died. So that was a drag, to say the least, and a poor choice by the folks at the Royal Canadian Mint.

Goddessforbid anybody do a little fact checking never mind learning a bit of history.

Either way, I’m still a nerd.

Gettin’ it strait

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

My Friend informs me (with a certain amount of smugness) that it is the Georgia Strait, or more preferably, the Strait of Georgia. Not to be confused with the Georgia Straight and its hippie-freak origins, whose biggest claim to fame, as far as I’m concerned is that Bob Geldof did a stint there in the 70s.

I’m not from here. What do you want? I’ve always liked homonyms anyhow…

Which reminds me of a t-shirt I saw on this guy during my first Gay Pride Parade, when I was all of 20 tender years. It read: I’m so gay, I can’t even think straight.

Oh how I digress… But seriously, back to Marx.

Communing with nature

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Tonight I saw the sunset.

The temperature was much warmer today and I went outside seeking relief from the heavy heat inside. This time I had no blanket, but was not cold. The wind was flirtatious, at times coming on strong, massaging my whole body, then withdrawing to nothing but a light tickle about the face and neck.

The sun was a low, ill-defined orange ball. It was the same sun I’ve seen set many times over various bodies of water – Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Lake Superior, the Detroit River (you can tell I’m from Ontario…) But I haven’t seen it go down over the Georgia Straight, while sitting on a bench, caressed by the wind, reading Marx’s Capital Vol. 1 (Ch. 15). It was nice.

An aside: last night I dreamed I was blogging. Let me clarify: I wasn’t dreaming about blogging; I experienced my dream as if I were writing a blog post. I dreamed through the device or act of blogging. So far, I’ve dreamed “in game” – again, unconscious experience mediated through metaphor of gaming. Also I have dreamed I’ve been instant messaging someone – communication twice removed (first through IM, second through the dream, or vice versa). Now it is the blog that is enframing my unconscious self. Goddess help me.

Parksville or bust

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

I am sitting on a log, on the beach, looking upon the ocean. Well, the Georgia Straight. Same diff. It is sunset. I came out just to catch it, because the house I’m staying at in Parksville overlooks this vista, and it seems like something I should do. Also, my kid was out here last night, and I wanted to see what he saw, if that makes any sense.

When I first came out, in my jams, with my tea (Twinings Earl Grey) and an afghan wrapped around my body, I immediately went back inside. I was looking for the camera because I figured, if I was going to see this ocean sunset, and it was going to be as beautiful as everyone would have imagined, I should take a picture of it. You know, preserve the moment etc. etc.

But I couldn’t find it. So I grabbed the next best time-freezing technology, my iBook. And here I am, now sitting on a log, casting the occasional glance out to sea and the setting sun. On the horizon, mountains meet ocean; some clearly snow-capped. Oceanside sounds surround me: the white noise of the ever-moving mass of water before me; the raspy shifting of sand grasses; the occasional distant honk from a flock of geese; the worried cheeping of the Sandpiper who has a nest around here somewhere (saw the babies on the beach when the tide was out yesterday).

We spent most of the day on the beach. The kids had a blast – we barely moved 50 feet from the backyard. What with the tide pools (too many crabs to count), fresh water stream complete w/tadpoles, all those geese (I counted 96), a blue heron, terns, the aforementioned sandpiper and brood plus sand, all manner of rocks, driftwood logs, shells — well, the kids are in heaven. Their needs are so simple, really. A picnic of peanut butter sandwiches, fruit and juice and we were set.

It smells good out here; reminds me of northern Ontario, when my dad would take us kids camping to Lake Simcoe. OK, not so north, but out of the city, cottage country anyhow. For this city girl, it might as well have been Temagami (never mind Fort Severn!). I vaguely associate this outdoors smell with bug repellent, though it’s clear to me now that referent was misplaced.

So it was a good day, in all. The worst is trying to keep the children from destroying this nice house we’re staying in. It’s full of all these nicnacks and artwork from Indonesia or some such place. Already the daughter’s (non-exotic) fairy statue has been dropped and chipped. Not sure what to do about that one…

As I look out at the mountainscape, it appears that I missed the sunset. It’s just a diminishing line of dull orange, sinking deeper and deeper behind the mountains, and also into the sea. Gawd. I need to commune with Nature more.

An aside: I haven’t had wireless access. This was a rude shock, and has taken some adjustment. Have I become spoiled? As my friendly acquaintance Derek said the other day, what did I use my computer for before the Internet? Crazy (shaking my head). Obviously, there is a bit of a time lag with this post…

Fashion vs. Ed Grimley: Academic smackdown

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Today it is raining – torential downpour-type rain. It began last night in a short, violent burst evocative of a monsoon. It cut the heat, sending a blissful wave of cool rolling across everything. Right now, it is raining hard and I love how people are walking around without umbrellas (myself included) – as if to say, no, we don’t really live in Vancouver; as if their denial of this moment will sustain the stretch of dry, mostly warm weather we’ve been relishing of late.

A thing on my mind lately is fashion (or lack thereof) in the academy. I know this is fairly unimportant, superficial, even. But when you’re surrounded by total fashion victims on a daily basis, it becomes a strangely pressing issue. I’m not kidding: I saw this guy the other day dressed like Ed Grimley.

Now I love Ed Grimley. He was my all time favourite on SCTV which I used to watch regularly with my friend KA, back when were 10 in her house on Wineva in the Beach. Those were the days of pay4view TV (KA’s dad had SuperChannel) and listening to Richard Pryor and the McKenzie Brothers (other SCTV alum) on record. The early 80s were good times – innocent times – no matter what anyone says.

But I don’t think anyone in real life should dress like Ed Grimley. Not only is it aesthetically disturbing, it also looks to be uncomfortable. And so to my mind, wrong. Often, on my way to the School of Communication I take the less travelled path – through a lower level of the Schrum Building. It is one long corridor that streches on and on, eventually ending at our school. This corridor passes through possibly the nerdiest departments at SFU: physics, biology, chemistry. At the beginning of this tunnel of fashion devastation, is the office of one prof who is, in fact, stylish. Not just stylish, but almost couture. I first saw this physics prof in line at the coffee shop. I commented on her shoes – some very funky pumps that I’m sure had never set foot in a university before this woman brought them there. After I’d gotten my coffee, I made my way, via this less travelled path, to the Grad Lounge. And I was behind this woman all the way. That’s how I know where her office is. I’ve seen her since, here and there on campus. And you know, she kicks it every time, with the most unlikely but totally awesome ensembles. Now every time I pass through Physics, I keep my eye out for her, just to see what she’s wearing that day.

I’m not saying academics need to go to this length (although I certainly appreciate it). But there should be an aesthetic standard; or if not standard, at least not acquiesence to the stereotype of befuddled, carelessly attired professor. Why? Simply because it’s unnecessary. And it can be depressing. I have to say that our school is fairly fresh (if not fashion forward). There are a number of young profs who are mildly to moderately aware of or concerned with what they wear. And of course, their is our fearless fashion leader, the school’s director, Martin Laba. He carries the torch for our school and I, for one, am grateful.

That’s all I’m saying.

A beautiful day in the neighbourhood

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Today is a beautiful day in Van. As I walked to the skytrain this morning, I paused mid-sidewalk to absorb the sun. My friend’s dad said I’m not getting any real immediate benefits from Vitamin D but I *believe* this to be true nonetheless. So I absorb my sunlight, and my vitamin D, and I feel myself grow a little bit, like a plant. And then I continue walking. Incidentally, the sights and sounds of my corner – Commercial Drive and Broadway (basically) are not so life-affirming – typically sirens of various sorts, the emergency vehicles careening by, cars frantically pulling to the side (or not – some like to try to outrun the firetrucks etc.), and also garbage, assorted motley crews sitting on patios, waiting for buses or just hanging about, sometimes asking for money or selling drugs. But for all these attributes of downtown, it isn’t – closer to suburban hell, but not that either.

Anyhow. I digress. About the weather. Vancouverites tolerate the rain rather well, I think. It takes a lot (like 29 days of nonstop rain) to get them to complain about it. Mostly, it’s not discussed. On the other hand, a mild summer day, with a weak sun and a cool breeze, is the perfect weather here, and people will not stop raving about such a day. It’s all people will mention, all day long. But like too much rain, there’s such a thing as too much heat in this town. The difference is the threshold. Like today, for example. It was 23 C, but felt much warmer (indeed, the rumour I heard was 30). On Burnaby Mountain, of course, it’s always a couple degrees cooler. And even so, on my way to the gym, I heard one of those “in passing” conversations – you know, not just a “hello” but also some minimal banal exchange. The subject? How it was too hot!! Said with disproval and a touch of indignation.

Too funny… I knew there were some things that I liked about this town. This cantankerousness is right up my alley.

Academics behaving badly

Friday, February 16th, 2007

There is a “race” for director in our school. The current director is being challenged; it seems they got a committee to get him off the block (please somebody get the Beastie Boys ref), and came up with a contender. Now I’ve got nothing against the contender, nor anything particularly for the incumbent (except for his snazzy sense of style, refreshing in a place known for its neglect of – nay contempt for – fashion). But what is putting me off, what is, in fact, offensive, is the way in which this whole thing is going down. For all protestations of “collegiality” and “forthrightness” and “honesty”, there seems to be quite a lot of the opposite.

Not only is this mildly annoying, as in could you people please get a life but it’s embarrassing. If we (as in grad students – supposed future profs) are to be taking an example from their behaviour, there’s much left to be desired. While folks are hopping up and down about procedure, transparency and democracy they are forgetting even basic good manners. I have begun to take it personally, though technically, it has nothing to do with me – grads don’t have a vote.

I have little patience for office politics; I’ve never had a real job before, in part because of bullshit like this. But here I am, getting dragged inadvertently into the muck, by virtue of my status as PhD rep. The faculty have encamped – that is patently clear. They remind me of my kid, when doing a magic trick, thinking he has me fooled by his manouevres, though they are painfully obvious. I can tell who’s voting for whom by their disingenous remarks, meant to seem innocently bumbling when they are clearly poison-tipped arrows. Or by their sheer rudeness, or the acidity in their tone when they speak or by the way they avoid each others’ eyes. Talk about transparency!

While I previously never felt a pull toward either candidate, I am shying away from what certainly appears to be a ruthless and self-absorbed cabal that has taken on the task of “fixing” the school. It will all be over soon but regardless of who “wins”, one thing is for sure: true colours, once revealed, do not soon fade.

Rob Brezsny I take it back

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

I’ve always thought that Rob Brezsny had something against me. Well, not me, personally, but Leos. And you know how Leos are – offend one and you’ve offended the entire pride. I used to read his column religiously in the Metro Times, in the old days, when I lived across from Detroit. And damned if he didn’t despise Leos. I mean, every other horoscope was witty, a piece of literary mastery, with all the other signs clearly admitted to the inner circle, and in on the joke to boot. For Leo, he could hardly be bothered to conceal his contempt with a few (scrawled, I’m sure) barren lines worthy of the trashier rags. I couldn’t help but be personally affronted. And I would say to My Friend, who is a Capricorn, what the fuck (or wtf, as the kids say online – txt me k?) Why does Capricorn get all the good ink? And it’s true. I mean, Brezsny’s insights and predictions for Capricorn were down right freaky they were so spot on, at least as far as My Friend’s soap opera life went.

Well. For some reason, I was bored and aimless, feeling I’d nowhere to roam on the web, and thought, what the heck, I’ll check out my horoscope on Free Will Astrology. And, you know, it spoke to me. In a way that Brezsny hasn’t in, well, ever. Then I went back a couple weeks and they, too, were brilliant. So, Rob Brezsny, though you couldn’t care less, I take it back. Here’s his latest prediction pour moi:

Leo Horoscope for week of December 14, 2006

“Your face alternately contorts with strain and breaks into beatific grins. Your body language careens from garbled jargon to melodic poetry. Your clothes make a fool of you one day and show off your inner beauty the next. Are you becoming bi-polar? Probably not. The more likely explanation is that you’re being convulsed by growing pains that are killing off bad old habits as fast as they’re creating interesting new ones. This is one of those times when you should be proud to wear a badge that says ‘hurts so good.'”

I feel heartened.