jamesq: (Default)
Remember the mystery postcard from a few months back?

Postcard from another dimension?

For the record, the descriptive text describes no one that I know. Unless they've been keeping major aspects of their life a big secret (divorce, selling house, moving across the country. I don't know anyone who has ever lived in Minneapolis.

The mystery sender used the same ink, same stamps, and has the same handwriting as the original, which suggests a common origin.

But where's the fun in that?

No, clearly this postcard was meant to go to a different James Cyr - one in another dimension who actually knows this woman. If that's the case, I'm a little worried. What strange adventures could a solo woman traveller have in the Mojave desert? The desert is notorious for being a soft place, and home to... people?... looking to perform experiments or an arcane nature. And of course, the alternate me has not actually heard from this person, since I got the postcard in error.

And could there be a connection to our LTJG Jacob Keyes, recently released from his cryogenic tube? Mojave California is noteworthy for being the location of the Mojave Air and Space Port after all.  Are they connected?  Time will tell.

As for the alternate me - I wish him well, and hope his universe is a little better than my own.  If he can send me a copy of A Day at the United Nations, and season two of Firefly, I'd be in his debt.
jamesq: (Default)
I'm happy we dodged a bullet this morning and elected a progressive mayor and mostly progressive city council.  Still it bothers me that it was a tight race.  Nenshi was literally named the best mayor on Earth, and a guy with no platform and a questionable past *still* got 43% of the vote. Hell, Smith got more votes in wards 13 and 14 (though they are the bluest of the wards in this city, so if he was going to win anywhere, it was there).
They changed the ward boundaries on me, so I moved from ward 7 to ward 4.  I used to have the city's most progressive councillor (Farrell), and now I have the guy (Chu) who votes for everything wrong with this city, and votes against everything that makes it nicer.  At least I had an opportunity to vote against him, though he kept his seat.
Mostly I'm annoyed that the provincial Conservative party did their damndest to run a stealth campaign, aided by a group of businesses that want urban sprawl to continue, *and they almost succeeded*.  It's not like they're going to give up next time - they're just going to try to be sneakier.
Seriously, Nenshi is still mayor - I should be happy about that, and yet I'm pissed that a zero like Smith came so close.
jamesq: (Default)
 After months of waiting, and a week of UPS farting around, I finally have my Mate Bike assembled. Battery had enough of a charge for me to ride it around the block before it died, and now it's charging in the garage.

I still need to adjust the front brakes (they're dragging a little), and the derailer (it can't quite stay in 1st gear). But those are things that could happen to any bike. If I can't manage these given my usual level of mechanical aptitude, I'll take it down to Bow cycle. Hopefully, that won't be necessary.

Specification-wise, it's more powerful, and has a much larger battery capacity than my Flykly Smartwheel, which makes sense, since they didn't have to squeeze everything into the rear axle.

Ergonomically, it's nowhere near as comfortable as my Electra. The handlebars are too narrow, and the pedals have a smaller diameter, so you have to pedal more. Also, they don't feel right, but that might just be a matter of seat height. I set the height of the seat and handlebars to match my Electra, but that doesn't mean the distance to the pedals is the same. I may have to haul out the measuring tape.

I haven't folded yet, but I'm confident it will fit in the trunk of the car, so this will go on trips with me. Now I just need a car that has a power plug in the trunk.

I probably won't use this for my daily commute, but it will get used. Next big test will be to see what it's range is when hauling my Shrek-like frame around.
jamesq: (Archie)
 I was enjoying Oxford Stomp, the annual concert a bunch of businesses put on every year for Stampede. I've been wanting to see Serena Ryder perform ever since I discovered her a few years ago.  She was playing last year (along with Don Henley) so I bought tickets.  Then the show got cancelled due to monsoons.  They booked her again this year, so I, once again, bought tickets.

Ms. Ryder did not disappoint.  I'm always a little worried that the singing you hear on the album got that way because of multiple takes and sound editing magic.  I'm sure there's some truth to that, but it's always nice to hear that the live artist is just that good. Serena Ryder has a fantastic voice, powerful with a great range - and she's not afraid to use it.  I'd definitely see her again. At another venue. An indoor venue. Away from the sun and the heat.

I was on my second coating of sunscreen when I noticed my eyes were super irritated.  "Swell", I thought, "I've sweated sunscreen into my eyes again."  That means trying to cry the irritant out, which is time consuming.  I basically sat at the edge of the venue listening to Our Lady Peace (who seemed like good performers who could work the crowd. alas, I'm not familiar with them, recognizing only two songs) with my eyes closed.

Irritated eyes is something I associate with outdoor SCA events, except now I'm starting to think sweat/sunscreen in the eyes isn't what's going on here.  There was a ton of hay bales on the site, and quite a few of them did get stomped to oblivion by the patrons.  I think I may be allergic to straw, or some byproduct of straw.  That would explain why I associate it with some, but not all, outdoor SCA events; and why it was so bad this time.

And it was bad. I've been off site for 90 minutes now, and I had a long shower, and my eyes are still sore, and my nose is super runny.  I almost started with the nasal rinse I bought for unrelated issues, but I don't have any distilled water.

Now it could be that my first guess (sunscreen) is the culprit, and the runny nose is just the body's response to an irritant in the eyes.  But it's both eyes, and the nose, and a generally icky feeling.  I've never had to deal with allergies before, except on rare trips to Vancouver.  I suspect there's something native to Van that pollinates for a brief period, and I occasionally catch it when the periods align. No clue what plant it is.  Anyway, now I think hay.  Being a city kids, it's no wonder I didn't put this together until middle age.

And the remainder of Oxford Stomp? It was good, but if this is the price I pay, I'll avoid it, regardless of the performers.  Corey Hart was the last performer.  I got to listen to his opening song as I left to go home - I just couldn't take it anymore.

So hay fever sucks. Hopefully a good night's sleep will clear it up.
jamesq: (Default)
I like to send out postcards.  I often don't write much on them beyond "having a great time in X, wish you were here", but people seem to appreciate them.  So much so that they often send me postcards in return.  As with most presents, I appreciate it, but like to add that it's not necessary.

Anyway, I got this postcard last week:
A short little SF story I got in the mail

In addition to being an interesting four-paragraph science fiction story, it was also a nice, real world, mystery.  Namely, who sent it.

Normally, I'd hold [livejournal.com profile] garething responsible.  However, you'll notice there's a postal mark on the card with B3K on it.  That's a Halifax postal mark, and to my knowledge, he hasn't been in Halifax in awhile.  I did have two friends in Halifax two weeks ago, [livejournal.com profile] wendylicious and [livejournal.com profile] mallt .  I quizzed all three and they all disavowed all knowledge of this heinous act.  Wendy and Lisa were especially amusing as they both pointed the finger at each other!

Since no one was confessing, I needed to do a little more work.  Thankfully, I have kept every piece of handwritten correspondence I've ever received as an adult.  In terms of theme and handwriting, this is almost certainly the work of Gareth (his lower-case "t" is especially distinctive).  And if I were to guess, I'm guessing he passed it on to Wendy (60% chance) or Lisa (30% chance) to mail it from Halifax while they were there.  He has other minions out east - [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia's posse - , which is why that doesn't add up to 100%.

As a good scientist I need to acknowledge that I might simply be wrong.  Maybe I got the postmark wrong and it was mailed from somewhere else.  Maybe my amateurish attempts at handwriting analysis were off the mark.  Maybe I've suffered a sever blow to the head and this is all going in the dream world I've created inside my coma.  Who knows?

But I think it was Gareth.  Thanks bro.
jamesq: (Default)
I'm actually feeling pretty good overall.  I've started running again, and the short runs I've had have not taxed me in any way.  I'm not short of breath running, I'm not particularly sore in the minutes/hours/days after.  I've been consistently riding my bike to work (we moved in at the beginning of May, and I've yet to drive to work except to pick my bike up when I accidentally ripped the stem out of the front tube).  In short, I'm getting plenty of exercise.

I've also be buckling down on Weight Watchers.  Still not tracking anywhere near 100% (or even 70%), but I have been eating better.  i've cut down on treats, but I still have them. My meals are healthy-ish since I'm eating my greens.  I've been back for about six months now and I'm down 23 pounds.  I'm officially no longer obese, according to the BMI - merely overweight now.

Short aside about WW.  I mentioned I was on it at [livejournal.com profile] wild_wanderer's birthday party and some dude and I had the following exchange:

"I don't believe in Weight Watchers."
"It exists, I assure you. I've been to the meetings."

Most of all, my physique has had a subtle change.  Where once my belly stood out and hanged down, now it merely stands out.  I haven't dropped a pants size or anything, but everything is fitting better.  This was remarked upon by [personal profile] yainga who noticed that my kilt was fitting much nicer. Thanks Inga, I noticed it too!

My Plantar Fasciitis seems to be all better now.  Six months of physiotherapy and not carrying around an extra frozen turkeys-worth of mass seems to have finally fixed that.  Also, my knees are noticeably less creaky.

Oh, and I just checked my blood pressure at one of those pharmacy kiosks.  It is normal.  Given it was sky-high a year ago, I'll take it.

Finally, I'll be interviewing with a doctor sometime this month about getting into their regular practice and starting regular checkups.  With luck I won't need the simvastatin I haven't been taking.

Physically, I'm doing pretty good for a guy who's pushing 50.  Woot.

My financial situation is excellent. House paid off; a nice little nest egg building up; and I just exercised a stock option that should give me a nice windfall soon.  Some SAIT students drew up some plans for a laneway house which I'm considering.  It's low odds now until I get some other feedback, but it was nice to see that it was possible.  If I don't go through with it, I might downsize to a townhouse, or keep my current place and do some renovations.  My neighbour just sold her place, so I have a pretty good idea what my place would sell for.  I'm not ready to retire, but it's starting to look like I could.  Being a Gen-Xer, I honestly thought that they'd cart me out of work in a pine box.

Mentally, I'm in a decent place.  Not ideal, but an ideal mental state requires things I don't have, so I'll take decent.  Work has been well paying and is somewhat rewarding.  I'm looking forward to my next big vacation next month (Vegas/Vancouver/Nelson). I mostly keep the existential angst and loneliness at bay with good cognitive-behavioral training.

So there you have it. Everything is looking up.  *knocks on wood*
jamesq: (Dramatic)
So here are a few quotes from Titanic.  First, some exposition from Lewis Bodine, discussing what he's learned about Rose.

"Look, I've already done the background on this woman all the way back to the twenties, when she was working as an actress. An actress! There's your first clue, Sherlock! Her name was Rose Dawson back then. Then she marries this guy named Calvert, they move to Cedar Rapids and she punches out a couple of kids. Now Calvert's dead, and from what I hear Cedar Rapids is dead!"

Later, after Rose has told her story, she adds a bit of an epilogue.

"That's the last time I ever saw him. He married, of course. And inherited his millions. But the crash of '29 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth that year. Or so I read."

Rose was an actress - probably a film actress from the evidence in the movie (Hollywood-style glamour shots, discussions with Jack about nickelodeons, etc.) - at a time when Caledon Hockley was still alive.  What are the chances that Cal would have seen Rose in a movie?  And what would he have done when he saw her?  Had a flashback of recognition that he brushed off as a coincidence?

Here's my elevator pitch:  Cal realizes it really is Rose and tracks her down.  Rose realizes that the life she's crafted for herself is in danger due to the sudden reappearance of stalker-Cal, and she needs to do something about it.  Maybe he just wants the diamond back, maybe he wants to ruin her for some perceived slight. Along the way, she meets the second great love of her life.

Does Cal shoot himself? Does Rose shoot Cal and make it look like a suicide?  Does her future husband, Calvert, do it?  Any of these lead to a much darker ending than the original movie had.

Now this does contradict her story, but it should be noted that Rose is not a reliable narrator.  She has crafted a story for a specific audience and it includes things she would not have personally witnessed (albeit, mostly things that were well-known about Titanic); leaves out important details (That diamond you're looking for? It's in my cabin); and paints her in the most flattering light.

And if you look at Gloria Stuart's face during that scene where she says "or so I read", there's just enough of a slyness to her delivery that you can easily believe she's hiding something. I think she's hiding a whole nother movie.

jamesq: (Rage)
Trigger warning: child sexual abuse.

I just read another story of a man of god abusing kids. I can't say that I'm particularly surprised by this so-called revelation.

Do you remember when you first heard about this sort of thing?  For me it was the Mount Cashel orphanage. I remember making jokes about it that way that clueless young men do, and I'm happy I woke up to not being quite such a dumbass as I was then. Still, at the time it was always Newfoundland priests, and not some larger group.

Later came the Boston Archdiocese abuse that was depicted in the excellent movie, Spotlight.  Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.  I expanded my idea to Roman Catholic priests in general.  Probably something to do with their vows of chastity.  Again, I hadn't put all the pieces together, and thought that child sexual abuse was akin to frustrated sexual desire (in fact, plenty of priests suffer from that, and break their vows discreetly with some willing adult partner, never having considered abusing kids).  Of course, as someone who's had a lifetime of thwarted desire, I've never once thought about abusing kids, because, ew.

I could list more (and more, and more) examples of priestly abuse.  The Duggars, Bountiful, the jackass in the first link, I could fill pages of text with a minimum of effort.  And of course, you don't have to be particularly religious.

But I think being religious sure helps.  Specifically the authoritarian sorts of religion.  You know the ones with self-proclaimed prophets, and strict hierarchical rules where men rule the roost, and women and children obey.  I think that sort of religious belief is toxic and lends itself to abuse of all kinds, especially sexual abuse.  Because if you think that god almighty has given you dominion over some subset of your fellow humans, and you start to think that your own desires are equivalent to god's will, well, giving in to those desires is inevitable.  Combine your sexuality to your authority, and it's just going to happen.

No, religion isn't necessary - it's really the authoritarian impulse combined with feeling entitled - but Lordy, religion sure helps.

And of course, being entitled, they think that simply feeling momentarily bad about what they've done is sufficient punishment for god to forgive them.  Funny how their desires and God's Will always align? It would be comical if it weren't so self-serving... and if it wasn't clear evidence that they haven't learned a damn thing... and if they weren't raping kids.  Could there be a bigger failure to feeling remorse than thinking God is OK with you raping kids?

As people know, I'm not a big fan of Pope Francis.  Oh, he's better than John Paul II and Benedict XVI, but that's a low bar.  Of note, he still hasn't turned over all the molesters or molester-enablers over to the secular authorities.  It's all nice to be the light-and-fluffy Pope, but until he accomplishes this basic task, he's all flash.  I suspect he's hoping that whatever reforms the Roman Catholic church has quietly put into place will do the trick, and the current crop will simply die off.  Of course, as long as the church is a secretive organization that sincerely believes they're doing god's will and that they're entitled to some authority over the rest of us, I guarantee that there's a new crop coming.

So what do we do?  We insist on secular oversight on any organization that works with vulnerable populations.  We educate people on consent.  We insist that molesters don't get a walk.  We acknowledge that it's a moving target we'll likely never reach, and we redouble our efforts in spite of that.

I look at other groups with this combination of entitlement due to God, and a vulnerable population in a subservient position, and I think "Yep, someone's getting molested there".  Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it.  Shine some light into those societal nooks and crannies.

Your Name

May. 22nd, 2017 09:35 pm
jamesq: (Sushi)
I saw Your Name, the top grossing Japanese film of all time (currently), today.  It is sweet and beautiful in that way we expect Miyazaki films to be, though it is not from Studio Ghibli.

Mitsuha is a school girl living in the small town of Itomori, and Taki is a school boy living in Tokyo. Several times a week, they switch minds, living out the day in each other's bodies.  Like a dream, they have trouble remembering the circumstance when they're themselves, but are aware of what's going on when in the other person's life - at least, once they figure out what's going on.  While this could be played out in a lot of trope-like ways, for the most part the characters do try to "play nice" with each other, and take efforts to bring their strengths towards improving each other's lives.

But one day, Taki finds he can't switch into Mitsuha anymore, and in trying to find her, discovers that reconnecting isn't just important to them, but that hundreds of lives are also at stake.  To say more is to provide major spoilers - if you really want to know, the full plot is on the film's wikipedia page.  Be aware that reading it doesn't give anything like the effect of watching it.

This film is gorgeous in that way that the best hand-animated Japanese films aspire to be. It is sweet, and thoughtful, and a little bit romantic.  I highly recommend it.

jamesq: (Default)
Cineplex plays classic movies once a month. I enjoy these, especially when they actually are classic movies, and not things I've seen as an adult. Though as I approach old age, I suspect that's going to happen more and more often.

This month's feature was
Singin' in the Rain, the classic musical with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O'Connor. It was, as expected, a treat to watch on the big screen with a bag full of popcorn. I wasn't sure if I'd actually seen this movie before. My parents liked musicals, so I likely saw pieces of the movie growing up, but being a kid, I wasn't going to sit through it. live and learn. What I did see was a lot of the icon numbers from the movie, namely Kelly singing and dancing in the rain, O'Connor clobbering himself for a laugh in Be a Clown Make 'em Laugh, and our three stars performing the hell out of Good Morning. Comedy wise, I remember a lot of the funny bits with Jean Hagen. Especially when they talk about moving from silent films to talkies, her character declaring that of course they could talk, in a Fran Drescher-like screech. She had comic chops. Seriously, check it out.

A few random thoughts about the movie:

During the opening number, showing Don and Cosmo's early attempts to break into show business, I totally thought of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck singing "We're the boys of the chorus".

It's not quite perfect. The Gotta Dance/Broadway Melody sequence near the end is superfluous, and sorta yanks you out of the picture. But that was the MGM way back then - you need a big production number, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense. Hell, they had them in the middle of Marx Brothers movies. At least Sound of Music was already a musical. I think another song that fit the movie would work better there. Not sure what it would be though.

The practical effects for a lot of the movie were really good. Certainly as good as things I was seeing in movies 20 years younger. The choreography and editing of the musical numbers is easily as good as in any movie I've ever seen. I love me some La La Land - but La La Land wishes it had choreography like Singin' in the Rain.

The movie was laugh-out-loud funny. Again, a lot of this was down to Hagen's Lina Lamont. But also a O'Connor and the supporting players contributed a lot of laughs.

On Lita Lamont. I genuinely felt sorry for her and was imagining a happy ending for her. Up until her dark turn near the end of the movie. Then it was nice to see her hoisted by her own petard.

Gene Kelly is a good looking man. It's rare for me to openly admire male beauty (the vast majority of men simply don't do it for me), but goddamn he had a body to die for. Those arms, shoulders, stomach... and dat ass.  That man must have gotten mad laid.  "I would give that nutcracker butt a workout, if only I could invent a time machine" opined one friend.  For myself, if I had a time machine, I'd go back to when I was six years old and enrol in dance classes. I wish I could do a tenth of what he could do on the dance floor.

I resolve to watch more musicals.  A friend was kind enough to loan me An American in Paris, but I still haven't cracked it open.  That was a mistake I'll be correcting shortly.
jamesq: (Default)
I got a late start due to lethargy and the assumption that the weather in Banff was going to be gloomy (weather report was saying it was only 5C). Drove down the highway with light traffic and the occasional sprinkling of rain. No assholes. Parked in the usual spot and bought some fudge.

I was going to go to Bison to try that rum cocktail I saw last time I was there, since I'd have many hours to sober up before driving home. They close at 2 after their Sunday brunch. I got there at 2:05. Alas. I then decided to walk to the Banff Springs hotel along the road. I wandered around the hotel briefly, then walked down the foot path to Waldhaus pub since I had a few hours to kill. Did part of my crossword, while enjoying a Hacker-Pschorr Weisse.  Given I had only eaten potato chips for lunch, the pint of beer hit me pretty hard.  I was tipsy and very happy.  The radio was playing lots of songs I liked, I was just feeling glad to be alive.  i thought briefly about how being alone while travelling often triggers my jerk-brain, but I just told it to fuck off and I was fine.

After finishing my beer, I left the pub and encountered a guy photographing the scenery.  He asked how to get to Bow Falls, and since it was easy, I told him.

"I can't take two steps without taking a picture.  Even if it's the same mountain.  It's all so incredible."
"I know.  Sometimes I get a little jaded because I live in Calgary, and get to come to Banff basically as often as I'd like.  But then I look at all this..." gestures at Mount Rundle"...and I realize just how blessed I am."
"Well, it's Canada."
That made me incredibly proud, given his accent identified him as being from the UK.  A place that is no stranger to beautiful vistas.

I walked to Bow Falls, then back to the bridge and opted to check out the Old Banff Graveyard.  Always a good place for quiet reflection.  Ultimately, I'm going to be cremated, but I wonder if it wouldn't be worthwhile to have a gravestone made, just so someone will look at it long after I'm gone and have them wonder about my life, like I wondered about the lives bracketed by the dates on all those tombstones.  I'll need to look into which rocks last the longest.  Oh, and a place to put it since my body won't be anywhere.

I walked up the pathway to the Banff Centre and was the first person to be seated at Three Ravens, which, as some friends pointed out online yesterday, ain't cheap.  But it is oh so good, and has the best view in Banff.

By this time the sun had come out, and I was facing right into it.  I donned my sunglasses and my server asked if I wanted to have the shades drawn.

"Oh no, I'm enjoying this sunshine - it's filling me with warmth.  I just need to cut the glare a little."

Bread and custom butters was served. I had the duck breast with beats, followed up by a white chocolate mousse and a chocolate apertif.  Then I hiked back into Banff along the hidden corner lookout.

I was starting to feel quite sore from all the hiking, and would have loved rounding out the trip with a soak in the hot springs.  Alas, I'd forgotten my swim wear.  I opted to come home while I still had sunlight.  once again, traffic was light with no assholes.

In fact, the whole trip there weren't many people.  Banff only had a light scattering of tourists.  I suspect the gloomy weather (that went away once I got there) kept a lot of people away.  For me the weather was almost perfect.  I basically just wore a hoodie and was never hot or cold.  It was a goldilocks afternoon.
jamesq: (Default)
While cleaning today, I found a pressurized canister with a trigger. It was wrapped in a pressure bandage, which suggested it was someone trying to be efficient with their camping equipment. It wasn't mine, and it wasn't Ger's, which means it was abandoned by some long departed tenant.

I didn't know what it was, and it seemed useful for the great outdoors (it was also on a carabiner, so more evidence of that). I thought to myself "I should pull the trigger and figure out what it is". And then I thought "Wait... the most likely thing it is, is an air horn, or bear spray, and neither of the options will be pleasant in my basement". So I unwrapped it.

It was bear spray. Anyone want some bear spray? The odds of me accidentally triggering it are greater than me ever requiring it, so I'd rather just get rid of it.
jamesq: (Don Quixote)
When I was in Vancouver over Christmas, we ended up watching Three Amigos (with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short). Steph mentioned that Martin and Short would occasionally go on tour with each other and hold a show that was basically a melange of comedy, music, and banjos.  Sounds like fun, I said.

Flash forward two months. Steph contacts me and says that they're doing a show in Las Vegas in July.  Hmm, I should be able to make that, I said.  Good, she says, because I've already bought you a ticket.

So I'm going to be in Vegas on July 23rd for that.  Why not plan a vacation around it?

I also really liked last year's road trip, aside from all the driving.  I wanted a vacation that combined Las Vegas with a road trip through the mountains, and time in Vancouver to reconnect.  The only problem is to do all that I'd either need to drive from Calgary to Vegas to Vancouver to Calgary (which given my don't-drive-more-than-six-hours-a-day rule, would take longer than I'm willing to do), or fly in and out of Vegas, then drive to and from Vancouver.  That wasn't ideal either.  What would be ideal would be to fly to Vegas, then fly to Vancouver, then drive to Calgary.  The only problem being that my car would be on the wrong side of that trip.

What I needed was someone willing to drive the car out there.  I was tempted to ask Gerry to do it, but I'd likely have to pay for his lodging as well.  I poked FB to see if anyone was headed that way who would be willing and Wendy volunteered.  She's got a conference in Vancouver, and having a second car (she normally combines this with a family vacation) would help. Just provide me with gas money, she said. Sold!

So here's the tentative plan:

Pre-trip: Pack my folding bike (assuming I've received it in time, they're saying end-of-May now), my laptop (I'll do without it in Vegas because my electronics are none of the TSA's business), a mattress topper, and some extra clothing.  Then give Wendy the car.  This will likely be well prior to going to Vegas, so I'll have to do without my car the weekend before the trip.  Oh well, I have another bike, and car2go.

July 21-24: Vegas Baby! Plans so far include Martin and Short (of course), a Hall and Oates/Tears For Fears concert, the Pinball museum, and lots of gambling when I'm not in the same building as Steph.  We're staying at the Monte Carlo, unless I can get a sweetheart deal at the Cosmopolitan.

July 24-August 1: Vancouver. Grab a BnB, retrieve my car. Spend the small amount of overlap I have with Wendy/Ryan/Miss K to show them some of my favourite haunts.  Maybe some #DNDLive.  Other plans include fireworks on Saturday, andHarry Potter burlesque on Monday.  Hiking, exploring, thrifting, CYCLING.  Hell, maybe I'll daytrip into Victoria.

August 1-2: Penticton. Mostly this is because Penticton is halfway between Vancouver and Nelson.  Nelson really does need to be two hours further west. Or east, I'm not picky. Just close enough to make it an easy drive from Vancouver or Calgary.

August 2-5: Nelson. I'm hoping Rosie will join me for this part.  We'll see.  Fellow philosophers, you should join me for a pint in the Library.

August 5-6: Kimberley.  I've got an AirBnB all booked.

August 6: Home late on Sunday night, after spending an afternoon in Banff.
jamesq: (Default)
Howdy folks. I've now migrated all of my entries over to DreamWidth. I still need to poke a few things over at LJ, but I'll be blowing that account away, with a strongly worded letter, in the next few days.

So why did I move? Russians. Oh, I'm sure the run of the mill people of Russia are good folks, but their government is rather tyrannical. They especially don't like LGBTQ folk, and LiveJournal (which is entirely Russian-owned now) has to bow to government regulations. That means no discussion of LGBTQ-issues that "condone" the lifestyle. Fuck that.

Now from what I've heard, LJ admins have been fighting this, but it sounds like they've lost. So my hats off to them for doing what they could for so long. But I still can't condone it.

Another two things I don't like are that the Russian terms of service take complete precedence over the English terms of service. I don't often read the TOS, but I do like that options. And a legal document is not something I'd care to trust to Google Translate. Beside, what was I realistically going to do? Sue a Russian company (or the Russian government) in Russia?

And finally, I don't like having my credit card info on file over there.  They have it until the expiry date anyway, but I'd just rather not.

The only thing lacking seems to be cross-posting to Twitter or Facebook, which I'd have liked.  Alas.

So here I am at DreamWidth.  Welcome.
jamesq: (Vancouver)
Facebook has a feature where it shows you stuff you posted on this day in years past. Turns out, the end of March, beginning of April is a popular time for me to go to Vancouver. There's no mystery to this - I often have vacation time I have to use or lose, and this is when my company's business year ends. So yay, a reason to visit; and yay, my vacation days have recycled.

Here's a recap:

Before I even got to Vancouver, on Tuesday night after my last day at work, I spent some time with [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie and Allison. We went to Craft for a four course meal with beer pairing put on by a local brewery. They were noteworthy for having a luau theme (so Bruce was happy), and an IPA that was actually super tasty - this is how they're supposed to taste.

Wednesday, I checked into The Burrard and took advantage of a special they had. I'm now the proud owner of nine (well, seven now) $25 Amex gift cards!

Being by myself I decided to go have a quiet dinner at Clubhouse Sushi, and then walk to the Rio to catch The Critical Hit Show (aka #DnDlive). It did not disappoint.

Related to the above, the performer I have a mild crush on, revealed she is about ten years older than I imagined! Also, that she was going to perform at a strip club for the first time the next evening.

Thursday, I didn't actually go to the strip club, mostly because going just to see a crush would be kinda creepy, and doing so by myself would be creepy as fuck. Instead, I opted to go to the Comedy Mix to see Sarah Tiana, who was pretty funny, as were the other three comics of the night. I need to go to comedy clubs more. It really is great value for the money.

Speaking of value for money, chicken fingers normally don't qualify. However, I ordered them at the Comedy Mix because I hadn't eaten any supper that night. When they arrived, the house lights had gone down, so I couldn't really see them. I could tell it was piled high on top of the french fries, making it seem huge. I resolved that I didn't really need to eat the french fries, so I'd stop when I got to them. Except there were no french fries - it was chicken fingers all the way to the bottom. By Grabthar's hammer... what a savings.

Friday, I hung out with [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia in the afternoon, inadvertantly filling my hat with soft drinks (wet. sticky. I've felt it before), baked a cake at Port Wood before everyone got home, and then went to the Burrard Pub with Jonathan, [livejournal.com profile] garething, and [livejournal.com profile] othelianna.

Saturday, Rosie and I went thrift shopping in North Vancouver. I figured, if we were going to do this, we should go somewhere farther afield, so it would be unique to both of us. Nope. She's been to every thrift store in the lower mainland it seems. Among our travels we also went to Filmgo sales, which is a thrift store that caters to professional props people, though they will sell to anyone. I found a Chinese Apothecary cabinet (basically a medium sized cabinet with 33 drawers in it), but didn't buy it.

Back at Port Wood, I prepared for Gareth and Steph's anniversary by icing the cake I'd baked the night before. Freeze your cake, it makes icing it way simpler! A little fudgy - I probably over mixed it. I'll need to work on that for the next iteration.

It was also the Sins Against God and Humanity Potluck party that Steph planned in my honour. Basically, all those weird and horrible recipes from the distant past you've always wanted to try? We tried them. I made Spam Musubi. Steph made Bologna Stew. Rosie made Twix Salad, Here's the thing about those recipes - they're actually damn tasty. Not terribly good for you, but if I was health conscious, I wouldn't have drank all that rum.

Speaking of which, Bumbu Rum is probably the best sip-it-neat rum I've ever had! Definitely picking up a bottle soon. Drinking did happen, but there was so much food, and drinking was at a sufficiently slow pace, that no one actually got drunk. Tipsy, sure, but not drunk. Next time, less unfortunate food, more cocktails.

The night required cheese, so I made them all watch The Nice Guys.

About the only real problem of the trip is that I ended up not getting on my bus because I assumed I was getting on a different bus and didn't actually read the instructions Google Maps gave me. And it was sufficiently late when I left the party that the 2 Km walk to Burquitlam station was less time.

Sunday I hung out with Rosie some more, but we did spend a plesant two hours at Dutch Wooden Shoe enjoying pancakes and the company of Steph and [livejournal.com profile] somejauntypolka!

I also remembered an incident where I waited too long to buy a set of drawers from Consignment Gallery and regretted it. I resolved to buy that apothecary cabinet. About two weeks ago I emptied my penny jar and got enough money to pay for the cabinet. That's exactly the sort of thing I like doing with that "found" money. It gets to live at Port Wood until I can get my car out there this summer.

And now I'm actually planning that summer trip. A full week in Vancouver next time, I think. This time was, as is the way of the spring trips, too short.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Today is Pi(e) day - which we celebrate because March 14th can be represented as 3.14. Presumably we take a moment to reflect on the irrational perfection of pi at 1:59, because 3.14159~. Though I was sleeping at two in the morning, so that didn't happen.

March 14th is also noteworthy for being Potato Chip day, Learn About Butterflies day (aka Moth-er's Day), Science Education day (though I think that's every day), Legal Assistance day, Crowdfunding day, Organize Your Home Office day, and International Ask a Question day. Who came up with that last one?

Every year seems to bring a new reason to celebrate some random day because of the Internet. At first it was Talk Like a Pirate day (September 19th), then Kiss a Ginger day (January 12th). The Star Wars pair, May the Fourth (be with you) and Revenge of the Sixth (of May) have been added.

The latest seems to be Nintendo day, celebrated on Mar 10th, because Mar10 looks like Mario. This was the first year I've heard of it.

Sometimes they have really good causes, like Pink Shirt day (last Wednesday in February) to but a spotlight on the negative effects of bullying. Or International Women's day (March 8th), who's reason for being should be self evident. Or not, if you're the sort of person who hears that and immediately gets indignant and asks why there isn't an International Men's day. It's November 19th, BTW.

In addition to being π day, it's also Steak and a Blowjob day (because romantic dinner and flowers day was a month previous). That was all over the Internet a few years back, but now seems to have vanished. I suspect because that joke is funny once, then starts to seem a little desperate if you harp on it year after year. I may be guilty of that myself.

I wonder if the joke would have died on it's own, or if Pi day did it. I suspect it supplanted it precisely because S&BJ day has a limited audience. Anyone can celebrate Pi day, and more importantly, help the idea spread virally on the Internet. Your teenage son might joke about S&BJ day among his friends, but if he makes a public Facebook post about it, you're likely to have a word with him about inappropriate humour. And let's face it, it's a joke that appeals to our inner-teenage-boy, which makes promoting it troublesome. No such problem with pie. Everyone loves pie.

Mmmm, pie.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
[livejournal.com profile] garething asks, on FB, "What, in your view, is the job of government?"

I'm answering here because I think it would make a good post. And also because if I answer directly in Facebook, I'll need to type this out on my phone, but here I can use a proper typewriter, because reasons.

First, broadly, government is there to protect people's rights. This can include protection from enemies within (criminals) and without (invading armies). As I am fairly liberal, I also think it requires protection from actions that, while not criminal, are in everyone's best interests. Exploitation of the commons for example - environmental laws, and laws protecting individuals from corporations' predatory practices are two examples. This includes being mindful that government itself can be one of the biggest threats to people.

I differ from Libertarians, in that I acknowledge that there are threats to people other than government. I differ from Anarchists in that I think only government can protect people in the long term from a world of competing local warlords.

Beyond mere protection, I think it should also promote an increase in general happiness. "Happiness" here is a stand-in for lots of things. Generally, a population that is healthy, productive, and able to do their own thing with a minimum amount of stress and hassle. If people are starving, then government can improve happiness by making sure there is enough food. If people are oppressed, then government can increase their happiness by stopping oppression. If people are ignorant, educate them. If they're dying of preventable diseases, cure them.

Of course, the world has limited resources and death will come to us all, but in the meantime I think we have a duty to do what we can with what's available to us.

So, to summarize the what they should do, I think it's protect rights, then try to improve everyone's lot.

As for how, I'm all for a social democracy that keeps a firm hand on the forces that exploit people. So no religion in the public sphere. Criminals should be prosecuted. Corporations should have a firm hand controlling them (including corporate governing documents plainly stating what public good the corporation provides, and an expiration date). We should recognize oppressed people and work to remove that oppression.

And it should all be paid for by steeply progressive taxes. Given that we're rapidly moving towards an machine-automated society, we'll likely need a Universal Basic Income too, or some other tool that insures we don't have a permanent unemployed underclass (instead of a UBI, maybe a reduction in the hours worked per week). I think this is definitely doable for the simple reason that the world economy generates enough value for everyone now. That there are lots of desperate poor people out there is due to all that value going to tiny oligarchy.

Anyway, this is what I could come up with in ten minutes off the top of my head.
jamesq: (Archery)
Montengarde 12th Night 2017 was a good event. Overall, I enjoyed it. First, a quick GBU:

  • Got a decent last-minute deal on a hotel room, which meant I had a bolt-hole I could use.
  • Hung out with some lovely ladies on Friday night.
  • Saw some nice presentations during afternoon court.
  • Wasn't terribly interested in either the rapier tournament (though I'm happy to hear S and J did well enough to get into the semi-finals, and that T had won) or the Meet-the-geese meeting (I've already met them all). Instead, I left the event for a few hours to go to the Woman's March.
  • Following the march, I hung out with [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie and [livejournal.com profile] conejita_diabla at a late lunch at The Guild.
  • Court was mostly good. Watching Kraig and Una step down, and Peter & Bronwyn, jointly (hereafter referred to as PBJ) step up was the highlight.
  • Cookies and conversation that evening were both well-received.
  • I've decided I simply cannot watch any part of court involving the OGGS. For my own mental health, I fucked off whenever they were called up. More on this below.
  • Had at least one person try to glad-hand me - which is a pet peeve. For reference, glad-handing is something I view as different in intent from merely shaking my hand. Though I acknowledge that they'll look the same to an outside observer. It's like art - hard to define, but I know it when I see it.
  • No ugly! Yay!
  • Some SCA-exclusivity, but for this event, I was expecting it and it makes perfect sense. Still, the feelings are there, whether they're rational or not.
  • Remarkably low amount of snubbing this time around. Partially this was because I actually had some positive, non-snubbing interaction with some of the folks I expect it from, and partially because I simply didn't interact with other folks I expect it from. I may have to consider that I've over-estimated the issue. Confirmation bias with regards to nobody loves me everyone hates me; going out to the garden to eat worms is strong with anxiety and depression. Not currently depressed, but the mental ruts remain.
That I went to this event at all was mostly because I wanted to see PBJ step up. I'm finding that without an archery focus, it's harder to justify going. Mostly that half my friends are in the SCA is what's keeping me going.

Archery Drama

So why no archery? Well, In the immediate term, I wasn't interested in Friday night's archery social because we were having an event at a local hotel! What's the point of socializing there when we should have been socializing there. I mean, I'm happy they still had some archery for the event, even though it wasn't super official. But since I wasn't shooting, why would I socialize there when I could socialize here?

I'm not shooting for two reasons. First, I've been fighting a persistent repetitive stress injury in my right shoulder for awhile now, I want to give myself time to heal. Second, I burned a bridge, so archery practice has felt hostile. Is it actually hostile? eh, probably not. I can be civil.

Background: For several years, I've been kinda-sorta nursing a hope for becoming a member of the OGGS. And then for years, whenever the Geese would gather at court, I'd get my hopes up. And it was never me. Then, early on when I was kingdom champ, I had an encounter that convinced me I was never getting it. That really soured the whole idea in my mind. Later, when I saw others get it, that underlined the point further. While I'm happy that some of those people got it, it was still heartbreaking.

This all came to a head at the previous event, where I encountered the person who convinced me I wasn't getting it, and I told them, fine, don't give it to me. Some will call that burning-the-bridge. I prefer acknowledging-there-was-never-a-bridge.

So now, when the OGGS gets called up, I'm just going to avoid it. I hope those chosen make Avacal proud. I just can't bear to watch.

In a few months, I'll start shooting again. In the meantime, I need to figure out what to do with my Friday nights. Perhaps some Call of Cthulhu.

On People Leaving the SCA

First, I'm not leaving. Just resting and picking-and-chosing which events to go to.

But I did have a conversation with an acquaintance about this and she had observed that there are stages when people are likely to leave the SCA, and what stage you're at informs why you're likely to be leaving.

one event. You had a taste and it wasn't for you. Nothing wrong with that.

three-to-six events. You probably like the idea of the SCA, but for whatever reason, you didn't make any inroads into joining the community outside of events. Really, events are just the tip of the iceberg - so much more goes on below the surface.

two-to-three years. You feel you're not being acknowledged by the community. My acquaintance opined this was because you need to work for it. I would agree, but add that some people simply might not have the aptitude, or they've pissed the wrong people off. That I got through this stage is largely due to becoming Seneschal ten years ago.

seven-to-ten years. You've maxed out your award path, and recognize that you're never going to get that next step. That's kind of where I am now. At this point you need to either accept it, or possibly change your focus. That said, I know a handful of people who redoubled their efforts and grabbed that brass ring. They're rare though.

She also suggested that there was another age, past this, where you have no more worlds to conquer - you've succeeded in all your goals. However, people who are capable enough to do this, are rarely the same people to be satisfied with this.

As I said, I'm not leaving, but I need to think about what I'm going to do in the future. Will I just be a fringer? Will I redouble my efforts simply for the joy of it? Will I find something new to do in the SCA context?


Jan. 20th, 2017 11:47 am
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Donald Trump is a loser.

  • He lost the popular vote by almost three million people. Loser.
  • He only "won" the electoral vote because Russia and the FBI threw it for him. People who "win" by cheating? Losers.
  • Bankrupted several times. Loser.
  • Can't run a profitable casino. Loser.
  • Brags about assaulting women. Loser.
  • Doesn't pay his fair share of taxes. Loser.
  • All of his business ventures resemble grift more than they do actual businesses. Loser.
  • Is so thin-skinned, he can't stand being satirized on TV that he has to attack them on Twitter. Loser.
  • Won't release his tax forms, probably because he's afraid that people will see he doesn't have as much money as he claims. Loser.
  • Has so few friends, he doesn't know enough people to fill all the federal government positions he needs to. Loser.
Going forward, I think the best protest strategy is to call him a loser. All. The. Time.

Every protest, chants of "LOSER". Every sign, a picture of Trump labelled "LOSER". Everyone interviewed on the media should make a point of calling him a loser. Repeat it over and over until it sticks - until his name is synonymous with loser.

And don't try to explain it - don't give reasons for why he's a loser. Don't give him something to argue against. "Well, he's a loser because of X, Y, Z. Nope. He's just a loser.

He will lose his fucking shit. Because the overriding trait of Trump's psyche is that there are winners and losers, and he wants to believe he's a winner. Don't let him think that. Remind him that he's a loser from now until he vanishes from the public eye. Every protest. Every Op/ed piece in the news. Every time he has to meet someone who's not one of his sycophants. I want to hear all the Democrats in Congress chanting "loser". I want him to meet Angela Merkel at the G7 and have her whisper "Verlierer" in his ear.

At first, he'll respond like a grade-school kid. "I'm not the loser, you're the loser."

Next, he'll try to ignore it, while still responding to it. "People are still calling me loser. Pathetic."

Eventually, he'll try to shield himself from the relentlessness of it. He will not succeed if everyone who opposes him sticks to this.

Trump should exit office (hopefully sooner, with criminal charges pending) thinking that running for President was the worst mistake of his life. Because he became President, and he's still just a loser.

Anyway, that's just my thoughts on President Trump. I've got another post brewing over dealing with Republicans in general.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Today was a nice day off. Be warned, this is a pure I-had-toast-it-was-crunchy post.

I wasn't going to take today off. I could have, but I wasn't, because I had things to do at work. However, a new policy came in at work that meant instead of 23 Fridays off each year, we're only going to get 15. The only reason seems to be because other companies aren't as generous, which seems a poor reason since it's not like we're working more or less now - those extra days are turning into 15 minutes less per day. Frankly, I'd rather work the extra 15 minutes and get the days off, even though I typically don't take all 23 in a year (looking back over the last few year's hours confirms this).

Anyway, I decided that I'm going to take every scheduled Friday off between now and the end of March when the new policy takes effect. Just because.

The day was nice, and full of hygge.

I went to lunch at Blue Star with [livejournal.com profile] hislittlekitty. It was nice to catch up with her, because I hadn't had any one-on-one time with her in many months. She even paid for lunch, possibly because she knew if she'd dawdled, I'd have done it. She may be on to my "It's my turn to pay" ploy.

I did get to give her the present I bought for her last summer when I was in Portland. It was a purple boa that whispered "Kathy would love me" whenever I walked by it in the thrift store. Amusingly, when I was waiting in line to pay for it, the woman behind me told me she was going to buy it, but waited too long to get it. If I didn't have an intended recipient, I'd have let you take it, random stranger.

I spent the afternoon baking cookies. I'm pretty burned out from cookie making, after all I did during the holidays. However, I wanted to use up the last of the perishable ingredients. So I have another batch of Peanut Butter Squares (which are rapidly becoming even more desired than my chocolate chip cookies), and what I'm calling Hodge Podge cookies. Basically chocolate chip cookies that got the random stuff thrown into them. In this case, walnuts and some mint milk chocolate shaving I picked up by accident from Cococo.

Afterwards I played some Dark Forces, which I picked up for five bucks off of Sony, and have been replaying for nostalgia sake ever since I saw Rogue One. Because Rogue One retcons Dark Forces out of existence.

I whined a bit online about being bored, and I ended up getting invited to Metal Galaxy by [livejournal.com profile] cat_cetera. I showed up and played a small amount of Machi Koro, a city-building card game that seems to actually be a cleverly disguised version of Craps with fellow-SCAdian CT, and a random girl named H.

Funny thing about H, she was quiet, and also very knowledgable and cutthroat about the game. A true QLP. If I was twenty years younger, I'd have fallen for her instantly.

I'm kind of glad I'm not twenty years younger. It's nice to be able to relate to people without the goddamn hormones getting in the way and making me drive them away with creepiness.

We soon got kicked out because the store was closing and I briefly considered offering H a ride (she was exiting the parking lot in exactly that way that people who rely on transit have). That would have been creepy though, and I'd have had to go into a big rigamarole of getting [livejournal.com profile] cat_cetera to vouch for me, and that's just awkward.

Aside: It occurs to me that I inadvertently crashed some woman-gamers thing. I hope that wasn't the case, and this was a open-to-anyone thing.

I drove home, cutting through Elbow Drive for shits-and-giggles. Now I'm enjoying a delicious Red Racer White Ale (which I am definitely picking up more of. Yum) and the Leeroy sausage from Carnivore Club that I got for Christmas from [livejournal.com profile] conejita_diabla and [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie. Which brings me to a story...

So a few months ago, I went to a movie with some friend. I mentioned that I had just bought myself the Lego Beatles Yellow Submarine kit.

"Dude, why are you buying yourself stuff like that, right before Christmas. I might have bought it for you."
"It's $70. The last people who spent that much money on me for Christmas was my parents, and they've been dead over ten years. No one is spending that much money on me."
Now, I need to point out that I'm all right with that. Nobody needs to get me anything, and they're certainly under no obligation to spend a certain amount. If you're thinking of me, take me out to dinner, or buy me a bottle of rum. I'm easy to please.

While the conversation about did not include [livejournal.com profile] conejita_diabla and [livejournal.com profile] thebrucie, they were present for it. I don't know precisely how much they spent on the gift box of cured meats (that I've been happily consuming for the last three weeks) and artisan cheeses, but my best guess is that it's just a bit over $70. Thanks again BTW.

I also related that story to [livejournal.com profile] stephtopia while I was in Vancouver over Christmas, as well as a desire to a) go back to Vegas with people sometime, and b) go see Steve Martin/Martin Short in concert. The Steve Martin/Martin Short tickets in Vegas that Steph just bought me are at least $70.

So here I sit, feeling loved. Not because I'm getting presents, but because people are thinking of me.


jamesq: (Default)

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