~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


The Song of the Open Road ~ Friday, June 27, 2008

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not-if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv'd in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles.

   From Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road

So--we're off on our road trip eastward tomorrow or possibly Sunday (and how about them high gas prices--especially for diesel!!  Damn them all!!!).  I'm going to miss the cats most of all, I suspect.  They'll be staying with Tom's parents for the duration (thanks again for taking care of them for us!!  :-D)  

But, I imagine it will be a fun adventure.  I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the Maritimes, after having heard so much about them.  

We've also been well armed with suggestions, places to stop and take note, and restaurants that are worth planning to be hungry for.

Similarly, we've been warned off certain stops--e.g. Magnetic Hill, which is apparently overrated and not worth the stop.  However, I'd still like to go.  If I'm going to practically be there anyway, I'd like to see the wee optical illusion, overrated or otherwise.  I don't insist that spontaneous levitation or immolation be on the roster, so I'm hoping my expectations will be suitably low-key.

Wish us luck, in the mean time!  I'll post updates as and when I can.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 5:36 PM::::



Mum on CBC Radio, aka, you know you're famous when... ~ Thursday, June 26, 2008

... someone calls you up from the CBC and asks you to prepare some comments about what life might be like if gas prices remain high and flying becomes too expensive for the average person.

Mum is a pundit!  How cool is that?!  And she consulted Tom and me about what we thought the future might look like under such circumstances, which I guess makes Tom and me pundits to the pundit.  Not bad...  ;-)  

Of course, chortling over mum's latest coup aside, I hope that doesn't happen--that gas prices do settle and so does life.  Though I'm well aware of the environmental impact of flights, and so on, it would sadden me to see the horizons of our worlds grow narrower and more circumscribed.  The cultural impact of those greater distances between places and people is worrying, particularly given the rise of other trends, to do with dogma and fundamentalism.  It's partly those smaller distances between diverse locales, and the resultant ability to see how others live--or to change the way we live (e.g. via immigration)--that, while it creates some frictions in the short term, has allowed us to develop insight into each others' differences.  It's a big factor in what has helped us dispel at least some of our assumptions and the mystification of the "other." We have a long way to go, and if the distances between us grow larger, I fear that culturally, we may regress.

The thought of all those distant lands becoming once more inaccessible for most--and that our children might not have the opportunities we have had, to see so much of it, with such relative ease--is a sobering one.  I'm hoping that those alternative energies come on line soon and that we're able to make the transition without too many bumps and skips.  I don't really know if that's actually plausible, but as I say, one can hope!

The show will be broadcast tomorrow at 9 am (local time, I assume), if you want to check it out.  Or, I assume one will be able to download or listen to the podcast at this link.  

Update:  Mum's broadcast has been moved into next week--either Wednesday or Thursday, I believe. 

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 6:03 PM::::



How a notion becomes a meme, or, your Morning Smile ~ Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I saw this on Jorrie Spencer's blog this morning and had to post it as well.  It's one of those ads that just too loveable to resist (Stride gum sponsored a world tour for Matt Harding, who then produced this bit of fun).

The other recent bit of advertising that I also really liked was "Paint," created for Sony's Bravia.  It was made in Scotland, and it apparently took days to clean up the paint (with extravagant bits of lovely, mad and utterly showy bits of ephemera like this, I adore that it has been done for the sake of it--just to create a marvellous spectacle.  But I'm also very happy to hear that everything has been cleared up and set to rights afterwards).

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:07 AM::::



"That's an arcane question": Prentice on the Copyright Act ~ Thursday, June 19, 2008

I listened to the podcast on CBC's Search Engine a few minutes ago.  As the interview progressed, I found myself shaking with the strangest combination of hilarity and outrage.  I was laughing at the absurdity of Prentice's responses while at the same time feeling a rising anger, as he again and again responded to commonplace scenarios with claims that the questions were very "technical" and "arcane."

Just for some context, the "arcane" and "technical" instances he referred to were scenarios like:  "My grandfather had a large collection of vinyl standards.  He then bought them on cd.  Some of those cds are locked but it's easy enough to break the copy protection so I can load them onto an ipod for him.  Given that he's already purchased them twice, would we be liable for breaking the copy protection so he can listen to his music?  Does he have to buy the same music a third time, just because the technology has changed yet again?"


"If I go to another country and get my phone unlocked, so I can use it there, is that considered illegal?"

For the first question, I think Prentice blustered that it was very "technical," also indicating that there aren't too many copy protections on cds anymore.  

Right, Prentice, but what about the dozen or more cds I bought a couple of years ago that are copy protected?  Given that I suspect that most of the cd-owning public has at least one or two cds whose copy protection they'd have to break if they want to listen to it on their portable players, I don't see how the question being "technical" makes it any less pertinent or worthy of a straightforward answer (which, incidentally, he never gave--because it would be damning, or because he didn't know the legislation he's putting forward well enough?  He did, after all, make several references to the fact that it's a very long and technical document.  Either way, it doesn't look good for Minister Prentice).

The second question, Prentice felt, was "arcane."  Because after all, so few of us travel abroad and want to be able to call ahead to hostels and pensiones using a locally-purchased SIM card rather than paying the astronomically high rates charged by our carriers here.  It just NEVER happens.  

The bottom line of that, btw, seemed to be that if we unlocked it here in Canada, we were potentially liable for the $20,000 in Statutory Damages (because that's totally different than a "fine," as he was careful to spend several minutes pointing out--though regardless of what you call it, our bank accounts will still be short $20K).  If we wait till we go abroad, then it's just fine and dandy.  

Prentice blustered and dithered further (and this on obvious questions that all of us are facing--and are the very reason we're fretting about the proposed legislation in the first place!), before citing a meeting and hanging up on Jesse Brown, the interviewer, who never did get a chance to ask the key question:  "How exactly is any of this going to be enforced?  Will ISPs have the right to monitor and report traffic to the government or other regulatory / watchdog groups?" etc.

Aw shucks, Prentice.  Just when it was gettin' interesting...

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 5:57 PM::::



Seizures induced by music ~ Sunday, June 15, 2008

This I found absolutely fascinating.  What a terrible predicament for this woman--to develop a condition whereby hearing certain kinds of music causes you to have uncontrollable seizures.  It began with only one or two songs--or types of music--but eventually, the seizures were triggered by everything except jazz and classical music, neither of which forms she particularly liked.  

She couldn't work, couldn't go to college (in both cases, people's cell phones, with personalized ring tones featuring excerpts from songs would trigger the seizures--which also meant she couldn't go to any crowded public places, like subways, etc.).  She couldn't go shopping, because malls and grocery stores have piped-in music.  She basically became a shut-in--and couldn't even listen to her favourite tunes to help while away the hours.

Imagine how difficult life would be without music!  

Brain surgery was eventually the only thing that helped.  Now, apparently she's back at school and things are much better.

I had a friend who had a fragrance allergy, which made me aware of the ubiquity of fragrances. Reading this piece made me realise how widespread music really is, in our everyday lives!

Musicophobia: When Your Favorite Song Gives You Seizures: Scientific American

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 9:00 AM::::



Art made from Edibles... ~ Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chewing gum art, if you can believe it (and oddly, I actually could.  There are more things in Heaven and Earth, and all that...)!


Or, if chocolate is more your thing, then here's a great assortment of wacky chocolate shapes, plus jelly beans, chewing gum packs and a variety of other toothsome treats!

Dark Roasted Blend: The Tasty Art of Chocolate & Candy

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 12:00 AM::::



Japan legislates waist size; Canada legislates Big Brother ~ Friday, June 13, 2008

An article in the New York Times today really disturbed me (well, many articles I read, in a given day, disturb me).  You may need to sign in to see the article.  In a nutshell, they seem to be legislating a waist size in Japan.  33.5 inches for men and 35.4 for women.  The onus would seem to be on employers to enforce it.  You have to get measured, and if you are over the above maximums, then you have to lose the weight.  If you don't eventually do it, then the company gets fined.  

Kinda nasty, IMO.  It's hard enough to lose weight--or to arrive at a positive self-image, at whatever size one happens to be.  Somehow, I don't think getting fined will help.  I can see the argument (that old chestnut) that everyone should be healthier and that carrying extra weight means a heavier toll on the health care industry (though as a side note, apparently a relatively high percentage of adults in Japan smoke, but no-one seems to be fining employers for all the smokers who work for them--which makes the "it's for good health" claim ring a little hollow).  Why not just encourage exercise and healthy diets, but let people choose how they want to live, rather than fining people who don't conform to a certain, exact measurement?  And in the mean while, I can just see the trickle-down effect.  

Peer pressure and prejudice are already bad enough--imagine how much worse, if you start getting the evil eye from your employers because they're getting fined, thanks to the metabolism you've been cursing for much of your adult life already!  Legislated discrimination, anyone?!

Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions - NYTimes.com

The other thing that's got me up in arms these days is, of course, the new proposed copyright act, here in Canada.  Here is the site of an activist against it (so, admittedly, he's going to be somewhat biassed).  I haven't yet tracked down the actual wording, but general coverage seems to be highlighting some pretty freaky aspects of it.  What I'm reading as a bottom line, though, is that it's either unenforceable, or would require something of a police state in order to pull it off.

Essentially, you can get fined for watching an out of region DVD (like those European releases that aren't available in North America?!).  There are some reasonable facets to it, but ultimately, it will either mean that you lose some of your rights to privacy (as ISPs are forced to pass along information to the government or watchdog/Big Brother) or it'll make not one jot of difference (if you manage to retain your privacy).

A side point that Tom brought up is that right now, we also pay a tax on all digital media purchased (blank CDs, DVDs etc.) which goes towards compensating artists, because of the widespread piracy taking place right now.  Fine--even if you don't pirate, you're paying for those who do.

If this law is put in place, they'd presumably have to remove that tax, or, as Tom says, it would be like taxing illegal activities.  But that's just an aside.  The real issue is that I'd frankly rather pay the tax on the CDs and not be spied on.

This is particularly problematic, since I suspect the actual result will likely be somewhere between "unenforceable" and "police state".  It will be selective prosecution, based on other factors (scapegoating, crackdowns, extortion or worse come to mind).  Nasty stuff.  

I'd be open to any counter-arguments or mitigating factors for either of the above pieces, BTW.  I'm reacting based on what I've read.  If you've got another angle or can complete the picture in a different way, I'm open to hearing it!  

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:30 AM::::



Edo period-style Pac-Man fanart - Boing Boing Gadgets ~ Thursday, June 12, 2008

This just gave me a smile.  But it's also quite lovely!

Edo period-style Pac-Man fanart - Boing Boing Gadgets

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:49 PM::::



BMW: Gina, the Fabric-covered car ~ Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gina?  Don't they mean Christine?  I mean, it's really pretty cool, but then those blinking eye headlights kinda took it over the line into creepy for me.  That and the way it bends when the doors open, so it looks like flesh.  What do you think?!

From Slashdot today.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 9:30 AM::::


Two for the price of one!  I don't know if I'll get around to checking it out, but it's pretty freakin' cool, all the same!  That's tonight, BTW, that they'll both be visible.  Cool, no?

Double Spaceship Sighting Alert | Universe Today

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 8:00 AM::::



Rushdie's Reading and Q&A ~ Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A lot of things surprised me at the reading, in some cases for the better and in other cases... not so much.

1) The theatre (Danforth Music Hall) was full or very close to it. I remember seeing the film "Capote." There was a scene in which he read an excerpt from his much-anticipated but as yet incomplete novel _in Cold Blood_, and the theatre in which he read it was packed. And I thought "wow, if this was accurate, then times have changed. In our multi-media culture, with so many things clamouring for our attention, I cannot imagine such a good turnout." Well, now I've seen it.

Urban Culture + Really Famous Writer = full theatre, apparently. Nice to see, that. And the Capote scene was in NYC, so be proud TO, that we could fill a theatre with enthusiastic literati types, so eager to hear what a respected author has to say and read that we pay for the privilege (I could see it if it were a discussion of some general but intriguing topic--but it's nice to see this for just a reading and a Q&A as well).

2) He is not a very good reader. I'm not sure if this is just the start of the tour, but alas, he was not particularly riveting. He read too quickly and with little inflection. He had an extraordinarily long and complicated explanation/lead in to the passage he read (why not just choose an excerpt that requires fewer introductions, or test it on someone and see whether it stands on its own?). This is especially odd, given that people have not only given up their evening to go and listen to him speed through a dizzying reading, but they have paid $20 + any books they bought at the front desk. So surely, knowing that all these people have paid in time and money, you'd want to be somewhat rehearsed and interesting in your reading from the book they've just dropped another $32 + tax to purchase (I didn't buy the book--I was waiting to hear whether the content would sufficiently pique my interest. More below).

It was funny, too, because during the Q&A the question came up about his interest in acting--and he revealed that yes, he was most interested, and he has been doing some acting recently. So why not act a little as you read? Why not use a slightly different pitch, tone or intonation for the dialogue? etc. It felt rather like he hadn't read much before at all (which I can't imagine would be the case, given his reputation), and that he hadn't bothered to go over the passage he had selected to read before going up on stage last night.

3) He seems like a nice guy. Not surprising in itself, but one always feels somewhat curious about the personality underlying the talent. His seems rather professorial. Pleasant, knowledgable, and with a slight tendency to wax over-enthusiastic about topics that interest him, and lose sight of whether his audience is actually engaged or completely following what he's talking about (this, I would say, is common to many people. I'm that way for sure--I can still wax enthusiastic about the Cuban methods of farming, if you can believe it. I found what I read of it to be fascinating and, mystifyingly, few people I have spoken to share my enthusiasm. ;-D What's better still is that I'm not a gardener).

At any rate, I'm not totally convinced that this latest book will be much of an improvement on what I read of the previous one, Shalimar the Clown. I may go back to that one, as perhaps I just didn't get far enough (~100 pages or so) to really have it start to gel together. It still felt like it was in the setup and I was waiting for the linking of the narratives--or at least, for an inkling of where we were going (also known as a sense of momentum. It's the point at which you're getting the links and connections at an unconscious level and become eager to turn the pages because things are coming together in an interesting way. 100 pages, and that hadn't yet happened for me). The prose, too, was largely undistinguished, and certainly didn't have the burgeoning, playful, almost carnivalesque energy of his earlier works--it felt fairly blah and banal and functional, with the occasional interesting forays.

And yes, his choice of excerpt from The Enchantress of Florence also seemed so-so. Kind of neat, but more of a "get it from the library" than a "I've got to own it now!" reaction from me. I am, however, very intrigued by his portrayal of Fatepur Sikri, since that ghost city has fascinated me ever since we visited it, so many years ago, now.

So, that was my impression of the Rushdie talk. I don't know that I would recommend going, if he comes to a town near you. I don't generally have high expectations for such things--a good writer does not necessarily a good (viva voce) reader make. But I was curious about how he would be on stage and how he would present himself and all.

I also prefer it when a capable interviewer does the asking/mediating. Q&A's can be bothersome because often the questions that seem to come up are odd or fatuous--with the occasional, rare exception. This seems to be particularly the case at events like this, where there's an element of adulation/Cult of Personality or Talent involved--people are overwhelmed at the thought of speaking with the man. While I think they should be proud of what they did in going up there and asking their questions, as paying audience, I just don't find the content all that interesting. I'd rather be out, sipping coffee and chatting about the talk with Tom than sitting through tedious questions and tactful, somewhat belaboured answers. Last night, there were few exceptions to the fatuous rule, alas.

Still, interesting to see the grace and tact with which Rushdie responded to them. He handled it well. Lots of practice, I imagine. Now, if only he devoted a little time to polishing his reading skills....

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::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 8:49 AM::::



Composite of Arecibo and Antennae makes for interesting results! ~ Monday, June 09, 2008

Arecibo Joins Forces with Global Antennae to Simulate 6,800 Mile Telescope | Universe Today

A fascinating article.  We went to Arecibo a couple of years back--kind of bizarre, in a way.  The roads to get there and back were often these narrow little dirt roads--or ones that were, in some distant past, paved--that were practically one way.  It really was remote.  But worth the trip, if ever you're in Puerto Rico!

Favourite word in the article:  interferometer. 

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 8:00 AM::::



Women interviewed about Infertility ~ Sunday, June 08, 2008

This was in the NYT today.  Most interesting indeed, to hear about the different journeys each of these women have taken.

::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 8:47 AM::::


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Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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