Friday, November 09, 2012


This is a play in 1 Act, inspired by an actual event that happened a few days ago at the place where I work.


Crazylegs is on an elevator on its way to the ground floor. It stops to pickup more passengers - the doors opening to let two middle-aged men, Bob and Tom, onto the elevator. Crazylegs steps to the rear and observes. Bob sniffs the air in an obvious fashion.

Hey! I smell fries. Someone got their lunch, I guess. Smells good!

It does smell good. Definitely the kind of smell that guys notice. I'll follow that smell anywhere when I'm hungry. 

Well I do like my fries. My wife hates fries, though. We hardly ever have them at home. I think I'd like some fries right now!

That's what I mean. The smell of fries does something to men. We should get some fries.

There is a pause in the conversation. Crazylegs avoids any eye contact while Bob and Tom study the display above the door, watching the floor numbers change.

Do you think it works on gay guys - the frie smell thing?

I'm not sure. Maybe it does... Hey - don't ask, don't tell! Right? Am I right?

Bob and Tom chuckle in that way that only frie-loving manly-men can chuckle. The elevator doors open and the occupants leave. Crazylegs makes a point of lagging behind a little bit, just to think for a moment and try to make sense of things.

As a post-script to this little vignette, I can confirm that neither Bob or Tom bought french-fries for lunch that day.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Stop Kicking This Dog!

I'm going to come clean: I voted for Mayor Joe.

The breadth of my reasoning had less to do with liking his platform and more to do with stirring the pot a bit and seeing what could happen - very scientific, I know. The incumbant, Anne Marie, had run out of steam from where I was sitting - not that I was ever that impressed by her rein. We needed some new faces and Joe's was new enough.

Don't get me wrong, I never bought his 0% tax schtick. I knew it wasn't workable. And I assumed he knew that, too, just like we both knew his promise of 10,000 new jobs for the city was never really going to happen. He was a character - a guy who was a lttle over the top in his enthusiasm for the job. On the whole, he had a Big Picture in his head, which was more than I could say for the others running that race.

"Why not give the guy a chance?", I thought.

I was wrong, of course, and I'm not the only. one. Joe's Big Picture these days seems to be doing whatever it takes to meet a few election promises vs. taking the long view for a city that desperately needs one. In a better world that would be a great thing - a politician trying to keep their promises. But we've learned too late that those promises are mostly about Joe, not about the city.

That Joe is a damn fine cheerleader for our city is not in dispute, nor is his genuine desire to bring jobs and prosperity back into town. Urban sprawl, neglected parklands, development at any cost (despite the best advice of city planners and residents), secret deals to sell off city assets, dysfunction in the council chambers, fuzzy surtaxes, Ombudsman investigations - these are just some of the reasons I regret giving the guy a chance.

Now the latest embarrassment: an RCMP probe into Joe's office finances from his time as a federal cabinet minister. The guy who has never been at a loss for adjectives has suddenly lawyered up and makes a point of running from the very media-types he loved to court. Ego intact, he refuses any discussion of stepping down from his post until the investigation is complete (perhaps the most honourabe path). Worse still, he will not even provide his side of the story to the very people who voted for him.

And for those who say Joe's RCMP troubles don't matter to our city - they're wrong. They do matter because these allegations speak directly to the ethics of the Mayor. They matter because we trust the Mayor to be a Stewart of the city's finances and growth. They matter because they cast doubt on the ability of the Mayor to put the city before personal interests.

We need to give Joe the benefit of the doubt under due process, but the Mayor needs to respond clearly to the citizen's of the city who elected him. A resolution is simple, really - 2 easy questions. Observe:

My free advice now complete - and apropos of nothing - here's my one-and-only Joe story:

Back in the mid-1980's, David Suzuki came to town and gave an evening talk at a local high school. I happened to be in attendance that night. Somehow, I ended up sitting in the front row of the auditorium and, to my surprise, Joe was sitting directly beside me (he was a city councillor - or maybe on Board of Control - back in those days).

Over the next 90 minutes or so we listened to Suzuki give his impassioned plea for us all to be nicer to the animals, plants, and natural resources all around us. Suzuki's talk complete (and our eyes opened), we all got up to leave and I found myself near the doors standing in a small group that included Joe. At this point in the story I have a vague sense that Suzuki was standing nearby, but that might be my own wishful thinking for a great embellishment.

As we milled about, waiting to leave the auditorium, I remember Joe making a small joke to no one in particular (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Well, after listening to all that, I guess I should stop kicking my dog, eh?".

You could have heard a pin drop after Joe's quip hit the floor with a meaty thud. I recall a few awkward chuckles as we all concentrated hard on getting out the door. All of us, I suspect even Joe, knew that a faux pas had been committed - in capital letters.

With our current troubles in the Mayor's office, I kind of feel that way again.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Birthday Time!

So JediBoy turned 17 yesterday. In my mind's eye, he's been 12 for an eternity - perhaps because that matches my own mental age. Stll, there's no denying that my youngest brat is getting older. If there's an upside to being reminded of my own mortality like this, it's that finding a birthday present for JediBoy is easy-peasy these days. I pretend to buy something for myself, I wrap it in pretty paper, and I give to him.

Thanks to family far and wide, the boy hauled in some Doctor Who and Minecraft nerd-wear, Dishonored for Xbox, and some books courtesy of Doctorow, Moore, and Inman. While I'm well past being able to share clothes with a tall, skinny teenager, I look forward to reading his books and playing his games once a respectful number of days have passed (I calculate 17 is about right).

But back to my own mortality since this is my blog. Once the rest of the house had gone to bed, JediBoy and I retired to the basement to catch a few episodes of Adventure Time and sip an illicit bottle of birthday beer (his Mom will never find out). In between making our standard WTF Faces at Finn and Jake, I kept reminding myself that things are changing. In a few months, the boy will be figuring out his post-high-school plans. A few months after that he could be moving to some other town to attend school.

I want the best for him, of course. But I selfishly don't want things to change too much for me. The idea of sitting alone to play my video games or watch my zombies - it's a sad picture. I know my wife will try to step up her geekiness (she'a already hardcore into Doctor Who), but I still lament the idea that JediBoy won't be in his chair while I'm in mine.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting patiently for the Xbox to be free.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just Because You Can

.... does not mean you should.

I feel like I invented that phrase. I probably didn't, but since it's nigh-onto-impossible to have a truly unique idea when you share a floating rock with 7 billion of your species, I kind of like to think that phrase is mine. And it's an important one, because it makes me remember that some things are worth doing and some are not. Case-in-point: anyone can jump of their roof wearing a cape and holding an umbrella, but it's a good bet that no sudden updrafts will break the laws of physics.

Keep that mind while I talk about technology and its usefulness when sitting on my workbench.

We'll get the GameCube Portable out of the way, first. Yes, we've worked on this thing off and on for well over 18 months. We've had a false starts, miscues, do-overs, ephipanies, modest successes, and have amassed what is probably the largest collection of dead GameCubes in the county. A few months back we got to the finish line and discovered it had been moved 10 feet further away. Completely assembled, our creation had a piece of electronics go bad ('go bad' is not an official engineering term, by the way).

So we've ripped the thing open and have been doing repairs - repairs that necessitated finding yet another used GameCube to harvest for parts. Finding our donor is a story in itself - one that took us to a rundown farmhouse on a remote rural intersection where business was quickly conducted with a wall of tattoos. The price we paid was far too cheap for the goods we bought. Take that however you want to.

So now we're in the process of getting the GameCube Portable back together. So far, so good - but we're not 100% positive all problems are solved. A couple of hours would get us to 'done', I suspect. I also suspect we're dragging our heels because, deep down, we fear another problem will stop us in our tracks - maybe for good.

So with one project on the go, we've started another (sort of).

The RaspberryPi is a Linux-based computer a little larger than a deck of cards - and it costs just $35. For that price you get a remarkable piece of tech with HDMI output, USB ports, an Ethernet jack, and 256Mb of RAM all running off a Linux stack stored on an SD card. These devices are made available through the non-profit RaspBerryPi Foundation, founded by a few Cambridge University students whose goal is to make cheap computing available for educational purposes.

It would be hyperbole to say the Foundation has been wildly successful beyond their dreams. But the fact is, getting your hands on one of these things has a wait time of 2 to 3 months these days. Geeks and Makers have been snapping these up and doing amazing things. We were lucky to get our hands on one these devices (shown below) and have really just been tinkering a little bit:

We haven't decided what we'll do with ours, yet, although JediBoy has been doing a lot of playing around with Python scripting. We actually have a second one on order and my plan is to turn it into a small, cheap appliance supporting XBMC (XBox Media Center) and Skype.

Like projects that have come before, we'll see what happens...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Guess I Overslept or Something

Showing up here every month or two with nothing much to say was never my intention. I'll need to fix that. So listen, I'll do my best to show up here far more frequently. In return - assuming you show up, too - you'll kind of overlook the fact that I still have nothing much to say. It can be one of those secrets we both know and dare not admit to each other beyond the awkward honesty of direct eye-contact. Deal?

Where were we? Right, Disney stuff.

So we went there and it was great fun. August in Florida means hot weather, and we had lots of it.And where there is hot, humid weather there is oftem thunderstorms, and we had lots of those, too. But the weather did not get in our way in the least. In fact, it served to chase off the more fragile tourists and, on one occasion, left us with an entire waterpark to ourselves. That was a fun evening once I got rid of the my Omega Man vibe.

It was a quick trip for sure - arrived on a Tuesday and home on the following Sunday. The weirdest part was leaving my daughter behind (sucks to grow up and hold a job, eh?). We struggled a bit without the more-perfect symmetry of having a foursome at the House of Mouse. Things just didn't fit right sometimes - rides and attractions aren't built for odd-numbered parties.

As for the big day - my wife's birthday - it seemed to be everything she hoped for. She got her rope-drop birthday button at EPCOT and was wished 'Happy Birthday' more times than we could count. She got to join forces with Agent P to solve a theme-park mystery. After a sprint and a soaking under a Florida downpour, we had a lovely lunch at Teppan Edo where I made sure the staff acknowledged her birthday with just the right amount of embarrassment. Many giraffes posed for pictures just off the balcony of our hotel room. And she got to finish off her day in a plummeting elevator.

What else could one ask for, eh?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Spontaneously Cautious

I'd like to think I'm capable of being spontaneous. But with the possible exception of going out for ice cream at a moment's notice, I'm not really wired that way. I see every angle of every situation, every pro and every con, and I tend to take my own sweet time to reach a conclusion. While that approach may work well in my chosen IT Guy career, it frustrates my poor wife who just wants to know whether chicken would be okay for dinner tomorrow night.

Maybe there's hope for me, yet. I'm going to DisneyWorld next week. Little more than a week ago, I wasn't. So in the past 10 days, I've planned things, booked flights, arranged hotels, BEEN SPONTANEOUS! - all under a light sheen of perspiration that betrays my true nature.

You see, my wife's birthday is next week and it's a milestone (not saying it's 50). Like me, she never makes a big deal over birthdays. But this year, for this milestone, she wanted to do something special and take a little trip to mark the occasion. So we looked at all kinds of ideas (she really wanted to hike the Grand Canyon), but nothing was working out very well.

But she had a (sort of) secret thought about being at DisneyWorld on her birthday. Really, I think she wants the damn birthday button. Now we've given a fair chunk of our time and money to Disney over the years and we know that it's not a cheap vacation. But some heretofore unknown planets seemed to align in the past week and, on a whim, I checked things out. Disney was having a sale on rooms and there were good deals on flights to be had.

With a few clicks of the mouse and a liberal spreading of credit card numbers, we're booked. My wife will have her birthday celebration with Mickey, and I get the naughty satisfaction of doing something spontaneous.

All this new-found free spirit living aside, I'm still not sure about chicken for dinner tomorrow night.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Hate Indoor Plumbing

After spending several days at the in-law's cottage a few weeks ago - days spent rebuilding a deck and having no luck getting a water pump to work - we're going back for a spur-of-the-moment long-weekend.

My theory is that it's not safe to sneak up on the cottage like this. Big jobs (even bigger than deck repair) that were out-of-the-question for lack of strong backs, suddenly head to the top of the To Do List when a few more able bodies show up at the docks.

On the plus side, the weather There will be better than the weather Here, so it's conceivable that I'll get a few minutes to sit on that freshly-repaired deck with Book, Beer, and Snack. And if I really luck out, I may use the next three days to plough through six or seven pages of Infinite Jest.

Dare to dream.