May you live in interesting times

May 7, 2011

That’s an ancestral proverb/curse, and the way things have ramped up in the last few weeks it seems a bit like someone uttered that in my direction.

Fortunately, it’s been manifested in the benign sense, but it does feel a bit like a whirlwind hitting after sitting in the doldrums for some time.

More details to come in the fullness of time – patience, grasshopper.



April 29, 2011

Tick… tick… tick… counting down the last few letters in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, with just “Y” today and “Z” (and that’s pronounced “zed” around here, OK?) tomorrow.

Tick… tick… tick… counting up the years – there have been a few elapse since I first took a breath, although it doesn’t feel like as many have passed by as the calendar seems to tell me.  Perhaps age is just a state of mind.

And things go in cycles through the years – for example, my birth being followed some years later by the birth of my two sons, and now No. 2 son (who will turn 27 in a couple of months – just realized that I was about a year older than that when he was born) has in turn had his own new baby boy arrive in his life yesterday.

No. 2 son's new baby boy: Gryphon, born April 28, 2011.

Well, I guess the years do eventually start to add up, no matter whether we ignore them or not.  So we may as well make the best of them and not have too many regrets when looking back.


April 27, 2011

We’re all rounding the last turn onto the homestretch of the A-Z Blogging Challenge with the letter “W” today, and I’ve chosen to write on three Ws: the World Wide Web, and the Internet in general.

WWW logo by Robert Cailliau (released to the public domain)

First, thanks are due: to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, credited with creating the World Wide Web at the beginning of the 1990s, and to Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, who are known as “The fathers of the Internet” for their pioneering work that led to its creation.

Of course, I wouldn’t be blogging without either of these existing, and despite having lived a large part of my life before the creation and phenomenal growth of the Internet and the Web, it’s difficult to remember the time when it wasn’t there.

What’s more interesting to me than the technology which enables the Internet and the Web (although I still marvel that it works as well as it does, or perhaps that it even works at all given the many potential points of failure in routing all those bits and bytes across the globe) or the explosion in online commerce that it’s brought (a two-edged sword, but that’s a discussion for another day) is the way it has enabled personal connections and the growth of communities.

I can honestly say that the bulk of the friends I now have were connections that have been made, one way or another, through the Web.  Not much more to say than that, really – other than to observe that perhaps the greatest contribution to society that technology makes is to intermediate those personal connections.  To paraphrase a well known ad campaign – Internet connection: $50 a month; Having a conversation with people across the globe: Priceless.


April 24, 2011

As in Sir Terence David JohnTerryPratchett, OBE – author of, amongst other works, the Discworld series of novels.

First, back up a few decades.  When growing up, I read quite a bit – both books and magazines.  The magazines were largely of the Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Mechanix Illustrated ilk at first, supplemented and then finally replaced by specialist car magazines like Road & Track, Motor Trend, Car and Driver, and various British motoring magazines.  As well, I read a lot of comic books and humour magazines – Mad, Cracked and National Lampoon.

Books were generally of the science fiction genre – Asimov, Heinlein (in particular, his books ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ and ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ were instrumental in shaping my worldview – something that persists to the present day), Clarke (in addition to Clarke’s writings, I have to cite the Stanley Kubrick movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ as another seminal influence on my development – I was fortunate enough to see it in the Glendale Cinerama theatre in Toronto when it was first released; quite an experience),  Anderson and so on.  Later on, spy thrillers and the like – le Carré et al.   Non-fiction? I don’t recall any, outside of textbooks.

For quite some time (largely during my first marriage, while raising our two sons) I don’t think I was reading nearly as much – well, unless you count the innumerable readings of Richard Scarry stories and the Mr. Men/Little Miss books at bedtime. Oh, and I can’t omit Groundsel by Fergus Hall – that was one of the older son’s favourites.

After a while I did start reading more again, mainly mysteries – the Matt Scudder series and others by Lawrence Block, the Gideon Oliver series and others by Aaron Elkins (and a couple written with his wife, Charlotte Elkins), the Matt Cobb series and others by William L. DeAndrea (including a couple written under the nom de plume of Philip DeGrave – ‘fill de grave’, get it?), and so on.

And around then I also discovered Terry Pratchett’s Discworld through The Colour of Magic, the first in the series.  Usually, I’d rip through a new one in a short time and then end up jonesing for another – once I’d caught up to the ones that had already been published, it was tough waiting until the next one came out.  Fortunately, Sir Terry has been a prolific writer and the wait was tolerable.

Prolific, that is, until recently.  Sadly, he’s been diagnosed with a rare form of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and as a result his output – understandably – has slowed.

More and more I’ve been reading non-fiction – in part because the authors whose works I most enjoy (Elkins and Pratchett in particular) are not releasing many new works, leaving a gap to fill.  I’ve tried finding fiction by other authors, but it’s been hit-and-miss, with mostly misses – there haven’t been any that really captivated me recently.  Non-fiction, whether it’s a technical book that I’m reading to learn something specific or a more topical work, lets me expand my knowledge and that’s something that always interests me.

And let me end the “T” post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge by saying “Bugrit, millennium hand an’ shrimp” – this was supposed to be posted on Saturday, but the day turned out to be a busy one and by the time I got to writing it ended up running into Sunday (well, at least it is where I am – for those of you who are at least a couple of timezones to the west, it will still be Saturday…)


April 21, 2011

This will be a short* post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge, which is now up to the letter “R” – as in racing; more specifically motor-racing, and even yet more specifically Formula One (F1) racing.

If you’ve been following my blog, you should have realized by now that I’m a gearhead – a somewhat conflicted one at that, but nonetheless still passionate about cars and making them go fast.  And that can be fast in a relative sense – there are plenty of racing series for cars with modest speed potential that make up for it with close competition and dramatic action, with the objective to be faster than the next person rather than just fast (or slow).

Anyway, if you follow F1, you’ll know that they’ve tinkered with some of the rules and other aspects of the sport in order to increase the number of opportunities for passing – which is, in principle, Not Such A Bad Thing since passing is all about Being Faster Than The Other Bloke.

Some of the changes they’ve made seem though, to me anyway, a bit of a kluge, but I have to admit the results of the first few F1 races this season tend to indicate that There’s Something To This – despite Sebastian Vettel having more or less pwned his rivals at all three races to date and looking likely to retain his position as world driving champion, there has been some exciting racing going on.

And if you don’t follow F1 but are interested in finding out a bit more about it, can I suggest you take a look at either the BBC Sports F1 site or the ESPN F1 site?  Each has qualities to recommend it (as well as a few warts, but nothing evil enough for me to want to dissuade you from checking them out – after all, YMMV) so do have a look at them both.

Short because I’m a bit knackered tonight due to having had to make a quick – as in: I left a little after noon on Tuesday, returned home noon on Thursday – trip across 3 time zones and back for a job interview.


April 20, 2011

OK, this post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge is a bit self-serving, for several reasons: due to an upcoming bit of travel, I am writing this in advance, then scheduling it to publish on the appropriate day for the letter “Q”; as well, it will be a brief post, relying mainly on linking to the QN Podcast, formerly known as Quirky Nomads; and finally, it’s self-serving because I have done some voice-acting for Sage Tyrtle, the writer/producer of the QN Podcast, so it’s a bit of horn-tooting for me.

So go check out her work on the podcast’s website or subscribe to it in iTunes – you may not find all of the episodes to be your cup of tea, but it’s definitely worth listening to, as many episodes are absolute gems.  Er, just be warned that it frequently heads into NSFW and NSFC territory, so do listen to it in appropriate circumstances and surroundings.

And if you’re listening through headphones/earbuds, you may find people staring at you oddly – don’t worry, it’s probably just because you’re laughing out loud (but to be fair, not all of what’s on QN is humourous – Sage mixes it up and pulls on your heartstrings too, so it could also be that people are wondering why you’ve got a tear in your eye…)

By the way, if you’re interested in becoming one of Sage’s minions (um, voice-actors) you can check out how to audition on the website.


April 19, 2011

As a person with a logical, scientific bent (a degree in engineering, schooled in scientific method and just being an all over analytical type) I know that there is no reason to believe that the the motions of the planets and their alignment with the stars can reliably predict events – the whole astrological schtick, you know?

So, the last week and on into this one has been part of a “Mercury retrograde” period where the motion of said innermost planet of our solar system appears, from the vantage point of observers on the Earth, to be in the opposite direction to its normal orbital motion; in astrological terms this signals a time of upheaval, difficult communications and technology going wonky.

And my logical left-brain says “hogwash, there’s no reason that a visible peculiarity of planetary orbital mechanics can produce widespread effects at such astronomical (pun intended) distances.”

But despite holding that belief, it’s been a week of truly disproportionate wonkiness, especially with various bits of technology in my life but certainly not limited to that.  In the words William Shakespeare put into Hamlet’s mouth:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I am eagerly looking forward to Mercury going direct again.  Er, not that I believe it could possibly have any effect.  Really.  But what could it hurt? 🙂

And before I forget, this post is part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge – with today’s letter being “P”.  Of course, if I had forgotten to mention it, Mercury retrograde would have had nothing to do with it… right?