Thursday, December 27, 2007

What Geeks Get In Their Stockings

Christmas is all about quiet reflection, lazy times with Loved Ones, and re-energizing the soul. It's not about presents.

Am I right? Of course I am.

So I won't say anything to the contrary. I'll just show pictures and smile warmly.





I love my family. And now I get to upgrade my video card.

Monday, December 17, 2007

News Flash!


I love old newsreels. I love their quick-cut soft-focus black-and-white style. I love their off-beat stories and over-the-top narratives.

I also love hyphens, so it seems.

So imagine the tingly feeling I got when I discovered - quite by accident - that venerable British Pathe Limited has digitized their entire library. That's 75 years of still photos and, yes, Pathe newsreels.

It's all out there at www.britishpathe.com and it's free. You can search their vast database, you can view the content, and you can even download videos. Just as good as the actual stuff are the comments tagged onto each bit of footage in the archive.

A random search on 'turtle', for example, yielded a few gems such as:

Professor Huxley introduces a new policy of encouraging public access to the animals.

Turtles crawl across a beach, a woman turns a turtle over and boys are cruel to turtles.

Quirky news from France and Florida.

Maybe it's not everyone's cuppa, but it's a cool little gift to me.

Oh, and the comment about imagining tingly feelings... you can ignore that... unless you're Billie Piper or some such, that is.... in which case you can imagine all you like so long as you video yourself imagining such tinglings and post the evidence so that everyone (and that means you Mr. Twist!) knows it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Forget lolcats

Let's start a new meme, my friends. Lock up your citrus trees -- 'cause the Innertubes are clogged with lemon-eating babies. The horror...the horror...


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mind The Gap

I'm loathe to re-gurgitate someone else's re-gurgitated story on the Net, but this one is too good to let go unacknowledged. The voice of the London Underground, Emma Clarke, was recently let go from her job after 'management' discovered she was keeping a personal blog of spoof Underground announcements.

Listening to her MP3's will evoke much chortling, I guarantee. A few of my favourites:

"We'd like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loud."

"Would passengers filling in answers on the Sudokus please accept that they're just crosswords for the unimaginative and are not in any way more impressive just because they contain numbers"

"Do not drop litter on the train. Please use the tramps provided"


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

CanCon Despair

I read today that CBC has a few new made-in-Canadaland TV series lined up for January 2008.

Now, sit down. Comfy? Good.

One of the new series is a 13-part serialization of Coupland's JPod.

I'm not kidding.

The good news - I guess - is that Coupland, himself, is executive producer and wrote the scripts. Maybe the visual medium will translate Coupland's story better than print. But I'm not real hopeful.

The bad/weird news is that Alan Thicke is in the cast. Now, William Shatner would be sort of hipster-casting. But Alan Thicke?

I'm from Missouri, but you know I'll watch an episode anyways.

Oh, and another new series is MVP. A hockey-meets-Desperate Housewives soap that was shot in London over a few months earlier this year. I can't wait to see the JLC and Convention Center on my TV.

Oh wait, I can. Guess I better head to Chapters soon.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now, Where Were We?

It cost a few extra coins, but I've ferried back across the River Styx and have left Death behind for awhile. After a week of visitations, funerals (two of them, actually), long-lost relatives, too many death certificates, and a quiet spot for ashes under a leafless Magnolia - it's time to cast these eyes back towards the Living.

Today was Winter Preparation Day at Casa Crazylegs. The lawn got one last trim, the pump has been pulled from the pond, the deck chairs and bikes have been crammed into the shed. I can, once again, fit the van into the garage.

Now - we wait.

I hate Winter a little bit more every year. Sure, all you glass-half-full types might have said something like, "I like Winter a little bit less every year". Not me, though. My hatred for Winter just grows.

It's not that I don't like snow. I like snow just fine. And cold? Bring it on, man. It's just that Winter has become much too ambiguous for me. Winter in Southwestern Ontario is decidedly an under-achiever these days, and someone ought to do something about it.

What has happened to the Winters of our youth? When was the last time we had to call out the army to rescue stranded motorists? Anymore, Winter is nothing but nothing but feast-or-famine snowfalls and a continuous cycle of freeze/thaw. We have a whole generation of kids who've never had that sense of entitlement for Snow Days.

So come on Winter. Show us what you got, or I'm calling Al Gore.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Surreal Life

So now it's over. Last night, surrounded by his family, Dad passed away. It was the oddest experience I've ever had. I've known death before, but I've never watched a person actually die. But that's what we did - just watched him cling to life, all the while telling him it was okay to let it go.

There were tears. Of course there were tears! The seven of us huddled around Dad's bed just kind of watching him, holding his hand, murmuring sadness. Soon his breathing slowed and we suspected the end might be near (the will of the body is impressive).

There were a few laughs, too. Dad's wife made a teary jest about 'the Energizer Bunny' that lie before us. I shared a secret dread that we might be living a sitcom moment - fast-forward an hour or two where Dad is still hanging on while our collective deathwatch succumbs to tired legs and hidden boredom.

At 7:10pm Dad's breathing stopped. He winced once, twice - his lungs drowning, giving up. And with JediBoy holding Dad's hand, he was committed to oblivion.

Not knowing what one does in these situations, we stood around the lifeless body and we told each other funny stories about Dad. The weight had lifted and a few of us dared to admit we felt better, somehow, someway.

We packed up Dad's things and the detritus of several days worth of living in a hospital room. We hugged the nurses - the amazing nurses. Then we drifted into the night without looking back. Dee, JediBoy, BandGeek and I - having not eaten since lunch - made our way to one of those interchangeable roadhouse joints and ate ourselves silly. There was little talk of Dad - just the happy-chatter of a family together.

The funeral arrangements are pretty much taken care of, so I now just await word on the when-and-where. Today I will write a eulogy. And it will be a happy one, I think.

Monday, November 05, 2007

When Did You Last?

True to my somewhat cynical nature, I tend to consider the darker side of things. When someone says, "What's the worst that can happen?", I'm usually the guy who can answer the question. I'm great at parties. To my credit, I can usually figure out a way to avoid the Worst. A footnote: This is not to say that I have no sense of humour. On the contrary, I chuckle and guffaw on a daily basis - and, in fact, there is no topic in which one cannot find humour - at least in the right company.

So where's this headed? I may in the minority, but the topic of Last Times has invaded my moments of lucid dreaming on more than one occasion. It's usually on those sleepless nights, in the lonely hours, where I ponder about the 'last time' I might do something before I die. Some examples:

When will be the last time I kiss my wife and kids?

When will be the last time I eat in a restaurant?

When will be the last time I am in complete control of myself and my dignity?

When will be the last time I see my beloved DisneyWorld?

You get the picture.

If that isn't morbid enough, I consider whether I would know - or would want to know - when these Last Times occur. Would knowing it's a Last Time be harder on your psyche? Would you do anything differently if you knew it was your Last Time? Do you do anything today with an actual realization that it may well be a Last Time? The excercise always leaves me felling small and melancholy - and I suspect it's all about becoming middle-aged, with a dim understanding that you're not immortal after all.

Things do end. Life is not fair, nor is it unfair. It simply is.

My Dad, all of 64 years old, has been fighting cancer for a little over a year now. We've know for quite awhile that the prognosis is terminal, and we've mentally prepared ourselves for the inevitable conclusion. This past Saturday we took one more final step together and admitted Dad to the Palliative Care Unit at Parkwood. Realistically, we're probably counting time in weeks before the rounds of chemo, radiation, morphine, tumours, pneumonias, and a hundred other Dreads finally collect the price they've sought for these past 15 months.

And then it occurred to me as I thought about the ambulance that took him away on Saturday afternoon. This a Last Time. This is the Last Time he will ever see his home: his own bed, the deck he loved to sit on, the walls he painted, the workbench he built, the turkey dinners he hosted, the once-happy woman he married some twenty-odd years ago.

I've been wondering what he thinks of all this, but I cannot bring myself to ask Dad about Last Times. I think such a question would belie a selfishness in myself - like looking into the eyes of a dying man to catch a glimpse of what lies beyond.

Things do end. Life is not fair, nor is it unfair. But sometimes I wonder.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Butterfly Wings


At this precise moment, I'm listening to the insufferable Kris Kristofferson doing his piteous warbling on an bondfide 8-track tape. If you must know, it's his classic(?) 1978 offering called Easter Island. It's torture, even for someone like me who owns the original version of Video Killed the Radio Star (Bruce Woolley and the Camera Club, not The Buggles' ripoff version).

How'd I get here - and why do I stay?

Rewind to a couple of months ago (something one cannot do with an 8-track!). My father-in-law, Clarence, sends one of his infamous Monday morning emails. In between the usual weather report from the Sudbury area and his rundown of local news, he asks if it's possible to copy 8-tracks to CD. Like the great guy *cough*idiot*cough* that I am, I say, "Sure! We can probably do it. I can show you how next time you visit. Just bring some tapes and a player and we'll figure it out.".

Clarence has the world's largest collection of 8-tracks. The Guinness people don't know it, but it's the truth. He does. His tastes run decidedly towards old-school cowboy music, but he throws in a Carlton Showband or Burl Ives here and there. He also has a modest collection of 8-track players that he picks up a garage sales and flea markets. His primal fear - his vast collection perishes (the tapes tend to break easily) or he runs out of players. Hence, his email.

Long story short, he brings me a player and 24 tapes. While Clarence is long gone back to the wilds of Northern Ontario, I sit here copying 8-tracks to CDs for him. I could have shown him how, but it's fussy, tedious work and I wanted a chance to come up with an easy system. Next time I see him, I'll pass the torch and he can beaver away at the remainder of his collection.

For now, I'm on tape number 8, with 16 to go. Got me some Stompin' Tom and Wilf Carter to look forward to - if I can just get through Kris. I'm sure he's a nice enough guy, but lord he sounds painful. I've learned my lesson well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Low Rent Tableau

It was brief and hard to understand. I was driving too fast - my attention focused on merging into traffic from a parking lot. My mind, juggling too much input and too many decisions, registered the scene as humourous. When I changed my mind, it was already too late.

A family walked together down the street. They looked young. The street was one of those places always dusted with grey leaves that sometimes take their breezy orders from passing trains. The tracks inevitably perch on a high embankment that marks boundaries for the neighbourhood of grey leaves. The boundary says this is a place for the dispossessed - relying on welfare, workfare, angry machismo, one more training course, too much rent, and too much time.

The family really wasn't walking. They moved first down the sidewalk and then across an expanse of scrubby grass . They moved forward together, but they moved as an ever changing swarm - the four of them.

Mother - blond and small and emotional - arms gesticulating wildly at Father as she struggles to remain in front of him, face to face. She keeps falling behind, though.

Father - tall with patchy facial hair and adorned with ball-cap and backpack - walks with deliberate strides. Paying no attention to Mother and eyes fixed ahead, he has Brother's arm and is drag-walking him to whatever objective he had set.

Brother - small and scared and probably 5 years old - hangs lop-sided from Father's grip as he stumbles to wherever he supposed to go. I knew he cried and screamed.

Sister - blond like Mother and a protector for her younger Brother - follows Father with angry screams dampening her face. She uses a long, thin stick to weakly hit Father's backpack, but to no real effect.

I had driven a few blocks before my brain put it all together. These were people in crisis and sorrow, and I could imagine many reasons. I remembered this feeling. It's been so many years, but I remember the Kid-Me and his fears.

At the next block I turned the van around. I needed to see this family again. Maybe I would do something, but I wasn't sure I could help. Maybe I just needed to see Brother and Sister. They could be alright now and I wouldn't even know it if I didn't see them. Kid-Me made that snide smile because he knew that all the years hadn't dulled the ability to justify and lie on the inside.

But they were gone already. It had only been a few minutes, and I'd missed them. Two weeks have passed and I'm still bothered by it all. I hope they're okay now, but I doubt they are.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Best Line I've Heard Today (So Far)

The difference between blogging and flogging is that flogging leaves an impression.


Discuss - all you bloggers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We Have Liftoff!

It wasn't perfect, but it'll do. As the late Tom Synder was known to say - fire up a colortini, sit back, relax, and watch the pictures, now, as they fly through the air.


video

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Houston?

So we've been building this water rocket. Actually, I've been doing the design/build work whilst JediBoy as been the much-too-eager ground crew. Like most projects I start, my reach tends to barely exceed my grasp and the rocket-building took on new complexities at every turn.

The concept is simple enough: use a standard 2-liter plastic pop bottle as the main component, add some fins for stability, a nosecone for aerodynamics, fasten a parachute, and hack together a launching apparatus. Then you fill your rocket with water (about 40% full) and pressurize it with air. The launcher keeps it all together and, when you release the rocket, it flies. In fact, 100 feet is not an unusual target with these things.

We built the rocket. We built a lovely standing launcher to control pressurization and rocket release. We tested at every turn with small, controlled flights of about 20-30 feet. Everything just worked. Watch:

video

Today was our final test before going for serious altitude. The test - make sure the nosecone would fall off easily and release the parachute.

Here's the 'before':


And here's the 'after':


Yes, after 2 semi-successful tests, the nosecone failed to fall off when we increased the amount of water and air pressure. The additional thrust (we think) caused the nosecone to jam, and the parachute could not deploy.

But we will try again. London needs a space program.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From Whence They Came

When I'm really bored I like to check the tracking info for this blog and find out how people end up here. Obviously I exclude the 4 or 5 sick puppies who come here on a semi-regular basis of their own volition. Usually, it's pretty pedestrian stuff - somebody Googling for theater of cruelty or one of its isotopes. Other times it's someone even further to the right than I on the Bored-O-Meter who clicks 'next blog' just for giggles - and wins the lottery.

But sometimes.... sometimes I scratch my head and wonder what chain of events, what drunken scheming, what wild-ass lost bet led them here. So, here are some recent Google faves that inexplicably resulted in some poor bastard clicking a link to my Vanity Project:

tourist spots in London Ontario - a paradox, since Google should return no hits

Seinfeld hair - can't even imagine what they were after

crocs bare feet - do clowns 'go commando' inside their big floppy shoes?

bullwhips london ontario - makes me feel tingly all over

theater of cruelty pictures - sick individual or English lit major? You decide.

knights of the dinner table geocaching - a geek looking for fresh air and daylight. Godspeed son.

So, how'd you get here?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kid Dork, 1965 - 2007 RIP

Sean Twist - noted pop culturalist, Guitar Hero, and guerrilla-writer for hire - was found dead today in his heretofore unnoticed Fortress of Solitude, somewhere in London, Ontario. The gruesome discovery was made by a delegation from Comic Retailers Against Poverty (CRAP) as they marched on Mr. Twist's residence. They had intended to confront Twist about lost revenues they claim resulted from his recent decision to focus his energies away from comic books towards hard-to-get overseas cartoon DVDs. Instead, they found themselves calling 911 after a brief slapfight over who should make the call.

CRAP spokesman Norbert Nerdlinger had this to say, "We were pretty shocked about what we saw through Sean's basement window. But, you know, we're still kinda mad because he's got like 9 people who read his blog and they don't buy comics from us anymore just because Sean went all nuts for anime or something. We think it's a warning. Just stay away from that Japanese stuff. I mean, Sean saw The Ring. He knew the risks!.".

Special Constable Doug (Doug) Douglas of London Police Services issued the following statement shortly after news of the Twist's death was leaked to the media:

There will be no official cause of death until the Medical Examiner's office has had an opportunity to do their job. You know, with laser lights and science stuff. However, we do not believe foul play is involved in this case. Observers at the scene of Mr. Twist's demise are pretty sure the cause of death was a 'head explosion'. The deceased was discovered clutching a computer monitor and the top of his head seems to have blown completely across the room. The following image was displayed on said computer monitor and we will be treating this as a solid lead.


While London Police puzzle over the this clue in what has been dubbed The Monitor Girl Mystery, crack reporter Natasha Duvet of The London Freak Press did an intensive Google search through an entire lunch hour and dug up a few juicy clues of her own.

According to Duvet, the mystery girl is, in fact, British actress/bombshell Billie Piper. "Our sources indicate that Mr. Twist was something of a fan of Ms. Piper. As well, Piper has apparently made some kind of sex movie. We believe there might be a link here and...oops, lunchtime's over! Must run now - reports of cougars attacking teachers or something out in Byron...".

Ms. Duvet added as she ran for her car, "You know, that Billie Piper has a nice smile. Makes me feel funny in my stomach.... shame about Sean's head exploding and all. Still.... that smile...".

Stay tuned for more lurid updates as the story unfolds.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hard Time in the Internet Age


Apparently I've dodged a bullet, but I may be a wanted man. You might recall my abject failure in blogging from Europe last month. You may also recall my one small success in exchanging a few quick emails courtesy of a wide-open private wireless connection I encountered.

I broke the law, as it turns out. Using someone's WiFi signal without their permission is a crime in the UK. And the authorities are prosecuting. At first blush I thought this sounded a bit harsh. As I think about it a bit, I'm conflicted. It probably should be viewed as theft, but what is the best punishment?

Either way, I'm polishing my shiv.

Monday, August 27, 2007

David Tennant Saved My Marriage


For as long as I can remember, Dee and I have always had 'our show'. It's very seldom that we ever find ourselves sitting down in front of the TV at the same time, but we've always found 1 or 2 programs that we would make a point to watch together. Really, it's been an excuse to spend time with each other - and the fact that we always have a good snack and a good red wine only enhances the ritual.

Way back when, it was Twin Peaks (we're still pissed about the dancing midget ending). These days, we try to catch the Daily Show and we eagerly await the new seasons of 24 (aka Fucking Jack!) and Heroes. Lately we've been in a lull, however, as there really isn't much on the tube that we both agree deserves our limited, combined attention spans.

While our tastes are somewhat divergent in the general sense, I know she's a repressed geek. So I delicately introduced her to the The Doctor. As in Who. I have to admit something - I'm somewhat of a lapsed Doctor Who fan myself. This season I promised I'd watch every episode, with no exceptions. So one evening I casually popped in the latest epsiode that I had taped, and proceeded to watch The Doctor whilst Dee did a crossword.

Long story short - she's hooked. Now she's not content to wait 7 days between each CBC airing, so I've managed to.... ummmm.... 'find' a complete set of Series 3 that we can watch at our leisure. So now we have 'our show' again. Dee looks forward to each Doctor Who adventure, and has even wondered aloud what other 'stuff' David Tennant has done. I believe she's smitten.

I just don't have the heart to tell her there are only a few more episodes in a the current run. Maybe it's time to 'find' Series 2.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Invisible Threat


In the not too distant past it would have seemed somewhat odd to talk about terrorist threats while leafing through your vacation snapshots. Sadly, the Bogeyman is our regular traveling companion anymore. I'd swear we know some TSA agents by name down in good ol' Orlando MCO. And the sight of National Guardsman (with serious firepower at the ready) is almost an unremarkable fixture in many tourist spots throughout the US.


But Europe was different. In the UK, the threat of the Bogeyman seemed more ominous; the feeling of safety more tangible.
  • Salisbury Plain - tank crews patrolled the back-roads of Salisbury Plain as we casually strolled the walking paths of Stonehenge. Yes, the picture above is real.
  • London - as London Eye riders exit their 'capsule', 2 attendants calmly enter the capsule with over-sized dental mirrors. Their goal: search under benches and above light fixtures for anything suspicious. Oh, and don't take video footage of this process - they don't like that at all. Trust me.
  • Portsmouth - the current terror threat level is causally posted for all to see in this, the home of the British Navy. Two heavily-armed (i.e. automatic assault rifles) security officers stand watch over a group of burka-clad ladies and their children as holiday photos are snapped beside the HMS Victory. The security officers don't pretend to be doing anything other than watching these people. When the Muslim tourists move, so does the security detail.
  • UK in general - We heard a statistic on the radio as we putt-putted down the M4. The UK employs more CCTV (security) cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world. While actual numbers are not known, the estimate is something close to 1 camera for every 12 people. That's over 5,000,000 cameras keeping citizens safe - or something. George Orwell sprang to mind as London police arrested the latest batch of terrorist suspects based on CCTV evidence.
France - or rather Paris - was another story. The only overt security we really saw were a few soldiers patrolling a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere as we sped by on the Eurostar. As well, the President's residence enjoyed the protection of a few dozen Surete and soldiers. Their job was mostly standing around making idle chit-chat and some occasional spirited blowing of whistles at rubbernecking tourists.

Beyond this, it seemed that the French are somewhat half-hearted about the whole idea of terrorist threats - no armed officers prowling tourist hot-spots, no posted threat levels. There were some very token bag inspections at the Louvre and Disneyland, but that was it. Our hotel was a stone's throw from the Saudi and Japanese embassies, but we saw exactly one rent-a-cop in the vicinity. His job: keep the illegal parkers from his part of the street.

Two countries. Two realities. And both different than ours. It's a strange old world, isn't it?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Checking Out

Because I work much too hard, I'm taking a week off for our annual pilgrimage to Dee's family cottage. I wish we could get an Innertube connection there. One can only spend so many nights playing Rummoli and dreaming of air conditioning and indoor plumbing.

Nevertheless, I shall be back next week with a few more self-absorbed posts about Europe. Brace yourselves.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Meezer No More

We've lost a few friends in the past 12 months - both the 2-legged and 4-legged types. And just when we thought this particular planetary alignment had been re-shuffled towards chaos, it spent the last of its cosmic influence on the weakest among us.

We were compelled to commit little Maple to the oblivion of the veterenarian's needle yesterday. She had been a member of the family for a scant 6 weeks or so, but the last 10 days saw her change: drastically, rapidly. Within a few days of our return from Europe, Maple had become lethargic and her apetite was lacking. Even her favourite game of 'chasing the little plastic thing down the hall' could not hold her interest.

By coincidence, we received word from the Cat Breeder that there had been problems in Maple's litter, and that we should call her if we noticed persistent sluggishness. We called and learned that Maple's father had passed along a disease called FIP - Feline Infectious Peritonitus. This wasting disease has no cure, no accurate test beyond autopsy, and is always fatal.

Maple stopped eating. She stopped playing. She spent the past week just sitting in patches of sunlight trying to keep warm while she dozed. We brought her water and we sat with her. She seemed to like that and, sometimes, she'd summon the energy to crawl into someone's lap for a neck scratch. Unfortunately there was little else we could do and, with Dr. Sears' blessing, we decided to end Maple's suffering rather than commit her to a painful and sad end brought about by a full run of FIP.

The kids are devastated. This was the 'real pet' they had never been able to have in the house until they discovered the uniqueness of Siberian cats. Now she's gone. To their credit they put Maple first, however. JediBoy put her in the carrier, kept Maple calm during the car ride, brought her into the vet's office, and handed her over. There were (and are) lots of tears, but we all played the best hand with cards that had been dealt.

Under the circumstances, Cat Breeder has dealt with this well. Maple's father has been sterilized and removed from the cattery. The other cats have been isolated according to standard FIP protocol. We have the choice of a refund or a new kitten (apparently this not the case with all breeders, so our vet tells us).

We'll have to decide what we want. While she wasn't with us long, Maple will not be forgotten - or replaced.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

White Knuckles

Part 1 in semi-regular series detailing Euro Tour 2007 highlights. While guaranteed to be interesting to the Author, it's likely and expected to be less so to Readers like you. All hail the Wankosphere, for it feeds my ego. Let's begin, shall we?

Phase 1 of the adventure was a 4-and-a-half day free-spirited driving tour of Southern England. The general plan for Day 1: land at Heathrow, pickup the car, visit nearby Windsor Castle, then drive to Salisbury for some R&R in a B&B we had booked. The theme here was to keep jet-lag at bay and quickly get ourselves acclimatized to UK time.

The plan generally worked, but not in quite the way we had intended.

Air Canada fulfilled all of our expectations and ensured our flights were late. The culprits, as always, were ominous mechanical issues followed by the tried-and-true 'bad weather in Toronto' gambit. This time, it didn't matter. We were getting into Heathrow at 6:30am anyways, so Air Canada could be late as they liked as far as I was concerned.

After an uneventful flight filled with boring movies, uneatable 'food', and free booze, we arrived at Heathrow (late) and spent almost an hour clearing customs. Because I don't sleep much on airplanes, I had already achieved a Zen-like state of fatigue and the customs lineup took on a slightly psychedelic tinge around the edges.

With some perfunctory questions from a customs dude with frosty-tipped hair, we found our bags, found the Avis shuttle, and - before I could think twice - we were standing in front of a gleaming blue 2007 VW Passat diesel wagon. Good news: it would easily hold our luggage. Bad news: the steering wheel was on the wrong side.

According to Google Maps, Windsor Castle is but a mere 18 minutes from Heathrow. Armed with these instructions, a traditional map, and a GPS, we managed to extend the trip to about 45 minutes. Finding Windsor was easy. Finding the Castle was dumb luck.

Prying my hands of the steering wheel required gentle coaxing. I knew my heart would explode before the end of the day, but my family would not believe me. I wondered how they would get my body back to home soil. I could only imagine the Air Canada screw-ups.

But the sun was shining, the air was warm, and the Castle was the first friend we would make on our journey. It was interesting enough, but not really the sort of place that would inspire awe in Her Majesty's subjects. We saw the changing of the guard, some staterooms, the chapel - but my mind became fixated on the journey ahead.

Soon enough, we decided to head to Salisbury where we would be using Rokeby Guest House as our base for a couple of days. Notwithstanding the valiant efforts of our navigational tools, we could not escape the environs of Windsor. We got lost, got lost again, found ourself back where we started, then did the whole thing over again. For 90 minutes we did this as the muscles in my neck crept ever-close to my earlobes.

This was a trial-by-fire driving lesson in England. I soon got the hang of driving on the left and my tires were hitting the left-hand curb less frequently. It soon became apparent that the mechanics of driving would not be the issue. Navigating would be the problem - and a big one at that since roads tend to Not Be Straight and Not Go Directly Anywhere. Traffic circles were a cute idea, but little-resembled circles. Imagine a highway clover-leaf flattened out and shrunk to fit inside the smallest English village. Now imagine that finding your road inside one of these hairballs is decided by a lottery who's rules are a secret. Now you've got an English traffic circle.

Then came Eton, home of the venerable Eton College. While not on our agenda, we nonetheless found ourselves quite suddenly on its narrow, ancient streets wistfully imagining the circumstances under which the authorities would find our bodies decaying inside a lifeless blue Passat. I made a mental check of the location of our passports. It would make identification easier, I imagined.

That's when we had 'the incident'. The left front tire (or is that tyre) kissed the curb yet again and emitted a rubber-on-stone shriek. As a cabbie would soon point out to us, this had caused the sidewall to develop a plum-sized rupture. Day 1, and I was already having to deal with car repairs. It was Nova Scotia all over again (another story for another day).

Into a gas station for driving directions and a check of the tire. The spare tire was full-sized, so there was no urgent need to locate a garage to buy a new tire. I made the decision to drive on the damaged tire and, if it burst, I'd throw on the spare. Damn the torpedoes.

90 minutes later, we were in Salisbury - 3 hours in total to take a trip that the good people at Google promised would take 1 hour. And the tire - still intact.

The final irony - we got lost 1 block from the B&B because the lovely people who own Rokeby Guest House gave us incorrect directions. Once we sorted this out (with some help from a convenience store clerk), we found the B&B a comfortable oasis in which to encamp. To put things in perspective, a pile of leaves under a tarp would have been equally as comfy for us by this time. We had long ago ceased to be running on fumes. Now it was spite.

The last act of the day before falling into comas would be dinner at a local pub where the people were friendly and the food was better than Air Canada's.

This was Day 1, and I already had an irrational fear of driving blue Passat's. What would the next 4 days bring? The large beer told me to forget about all this for while, and so I did.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Myth of Free WiFi


Okay - Euro Tour 2007 was an utterly amazing 2 weeks. Portsmouth, Bath, Salisbury, Old Sarum, Windsor, Eton, London, Paris, Versailles - and the list gets longer. It was truly a family adventure and there are stories to tell, pictures to share, and impressions to paint.

I so hoped to be posting from Over There. I had my cool little Palm device with WiFi and had figured out how to post to Blogger via email. All I needed was an occasional wireless connection and I'd be reporting from the front lines. I had read so many breathless accounts of the European penchant for free hotspots, I suppose I pictured myself sitting in a cafe or in a park exuding a diamond-cool Wired magazine kinda vibe as I casually jacked into the Net from my PDA.

Cue the squeeze-box music. A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and the Information Highway running through my hands.

But I 'supposed' wrong. Nowhere did I encounter wireless access for the proletariat. Hotels, airports, cafes - they all wanted my credit card. Only once did I find a free connection, and that was some poor soul's unsecured home network that appeared for only for a few moments late one night at our room at a Salisbury B&B. I managed to squeak out one quick email to our house-sitter to let her know we'd arrived in England reasonably intact. Then, the connection evaporated - consumed by the Salisbury mist, I imagine.

I'm going to share some stories anyways. Maybe I'll even post it as a day-by-day account (set the Wayback Machine, Sherman) - at least until someone cries "Uncle!". But I can't help being a tad disappointed that my little experiment in 'You Are There' ended up a failure.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Does Anybody Here Remember Vera Lynn?

In about 6 hours we'll be on our way - London Slightly-International Airport to London Heathrow, by way of Toronto Pearson. Assuming I can sleep through the in-flight flicks - Wild Hogs anyone? - we'll be touching down about 6:30am local time Monday morning. The weather there is predictably cool and wet.

The anxiety levels are high, but time will lurch inexorably forward and we'll be there soon enough. The biggest problem right now is packing light. I'm counting no fewer than 6 different electronic chargers for various cameras, phones, iPods, and other whatzzits that are apparently key to our survival over the next few weeks. Contrast that to my first trip abroad 22-ish years ago when I brought a duffel bag, a Russian-built manual camera, and a travel iron. Note that the travel iron was never actually used.

I'm hoping this is not my last post for awhile. I plan to blog from Over There whenever I get the opportunity. I have this cool little used Palm Tx (thanks eBay) that can do email and limited surfing whenever it's in range of an open WiFi connection. So long as I can send email somehow, some way - I'll post something here. The downside - it's unlikely I'll be able to post any pictures. And, yes, I'm bring a charger along for the Palm.

Be back soon. I hope.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Frumious Bandersnatch


This is Maple - no doubt resting after hunting her latest kill.

We stay off the stairs now. And we never let our feet dangle off the bed. It's just better that way.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Ummmm.... Oi?

Fundamentally, I own 3 pairs of shoes. One is the running shoes I wear everyday - even to the office. Two is the sandals I wear when I can't manage bare feet - outside the office. Three is the formal black things that I wear on those oh-so-rare occasions when a suit is required.

Of course I have boots, but we're Canadians here and talking aboot boots is redundant, eh?

The imminent Euro Tour demands a new pair of shoes that exist in the theoretical rift between running shoes and formal black things. I'm not sure these exist, but I have to believe they do. I believe Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle was based on this theoretical footwear. Or maybe it was Adams' Improbability Drive.

No matter. I needed shoes.

So I've been searching shoe stores for the past few weeks and have been largely unsuccessful. Strike One is that I'm an Average Joe, and stores don't really - you know - exist for us. Strike Two is that my feet aren't wide enough. All the nice shoes are for guys with wide feet. I don't understand why, but I'm secure enough in my manhood that this doesn't bother me too much.

After hours of searching (I'm not kidding) I finally found a pair that worked for me. That's pretty good news in itself. Even cooler is the fact they're Doc Martens. At least I thought this was cool for about 10 minutes.

You see, my perception of Doc Martens was forged in the crucible of Punk many years ago. They were the uniform of young toughs who were all about senseless anger and useless gestures of pointless violence. And they attracted the right kinds of girls back in the day.

But they were beyond my means back when it meant something.

Apparently everyone grew up, and Doc Marten went legit. So my uniform now includes casual dark brown Oxfords with a logo that echoes back to a different era. Just when I thought I'd finally arrived, everyone left.

Oi.

As in 'Syrup'

Because you're dying to know, the rare and deadly Siberian cat moved into our home just over a week ago. And her name *tympany please* is Maple.

Maple is doing great and has pretty much taken over the house - as cats will do. She's friendly, will set the 'playful dial' to 11, enjoys sitting in the upstairs shower stall for some inexplicable reason, and will undoubtedly be huge. My guess is that she'll tip the scales at 20 pounds or more when all is said and done.

I've owned many cats over the years or, rather, many cats have deigned to acknowledge my presence. But I have to say this is the most vocal feline I've ever encountered. When she enters a room and sees someone, she talks. When she wants to play, she talks. When she needs a lap to flop into, she talks. Odd, that one.

So, that's Maple. I'll post a pic when I get a chance, but be forewarned that I'll need to balance all this cute-and-fuzzy talk with a few unreasonably violent and/or pornographic posts in days to come.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sick of Being Sick

It never fails. I rarely get sick, but when I do the Gods of Virii (that's a virus with friends) pick precisely the worst time to strike. Like now. For the past 4 days I've been lethargic to the point of catatonia. Judging from the apparent swelling and soreness of my throat, I really should be spitting up blood and smallish pieces of tissue.

But I can't enjoy my illness right now.

Work has been nutso-crazy the past few weeks, so I can ill afford any time off. The kids have managed to save their dentist, optometrist, and orthodontist appointments until after their recent cessation of hostilities with teachers and such, so I can ill afford to cancel any of these appointments just because I've lost the ability to swallow or breathe. And finally, our Euro Tour '07 begins in just 1 week and, of course, I'm not ready yet. I need shoes. I need Pounds. I need to know how to dial a phone in France. I need to believe every detail is known and documented.

But I don't have the energy.

Someday, before I die, I'm going to get sick at precisely the right time. The cupboards will be full of good snacks. We'll have a big screen TV that even shows all the correct colours. There'll be a lock on the bedroom door. And I'll just relax.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Houston? We Have a Problem

You have to be 'a certain age' to remember Commander Tom. He was a staple on WKBW (Buffalo, channel 7) for about a hundred years or so - first on Rocketship 7, followed by The Commander Tom Show.

Even if you never crossed paths with the Commander, have a look at the following clip from his old show. I can't decide if he's bored, or quietly earnest about his work. Either way, watch for a particularly uncomfortable exchange (about 1 minute in) between the Commander and a young fan on the topic of cigarette companies. It's weird.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Time for Gifts

'Fits and starts' pretty much describes my blogging efforts lately. I have simply been feeling overwhelmed by 100 other things lately - with the Must Do and Like To Do camps often in mortal, bloody opposition. Blue skies are ahead, I think. That's what I have to believe for sanity's sake.

While I simply lack time right now, I feel obligated - to myself if no one else - to offer a gift or two. The simple truth is that I've been relying on the fruitful efforts of other Bloggites to keep me entertained in my passive stupor the last few weeks. As recompense, I offer these mementos from Star Wars Celebration IV. I hope you enjoy them. But if you do not, then please don't click here.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Who Am I?

Say "hello" to - well - we don't know, exactly. All we know is that she's kinda cute and she'll be moving into Casa Crazylegs sometime around the end of June.

Let me explain, and make my plea to you, Gentle Readers. We love animals in our house. But we love Dee - Mom to some, Bestest Friend and Critic to others - even more. Dee has pet allergies, big time: watery eyes, hives, the whole works. Dee can simply stand in the doorway of a pet owner's abode and immediately tell that furry creatures dwell inside. It's that bad.

As you might guess, this has limited our pet choices to a few fish and Bernard the Hamster (RIP 2004 - 2006). The kids have wanted a more substantial pet forever, and have basically adopted other peoples' pets in lieu of having their own. Late last year, kid number one (aka Band Geek) did some research and discovered the Siberian breed of cat that purportedly has hypoallergenic properties. While this breed has only been in North America for about 10 years, we managed to locate a breeder in Welland.

To say that I was skeptical is putting things rather mildly. There's no scientific evidence that supports the rather anecdotal evidence that this breed is allergy-friendly. Naysayer that I was, I really enjoy cats (always had one as a pet during my formative years) - so we contacted the breeder and arranged a 'test visit' to see if these cats really have the magical property that allergy sufferers seek.

Long story short, Dee spent an hour with Mama Cat on her lap and kittens crawling all over the place. No sneezing. No hives. No nuthin'. Stunned and surprised, we put our money town and picked out a kitten. And that really is her picture above.

Did I mention we were stunned?

So our little Russian ball of fur will be moving in at the end of June. There's just one problem: we cannot decide on an appropriate name. In fact, we seem to suck mightily at this game.

Sasha? Mischa? Hey You? We've even had a suggestion of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). Wizzy for short, I guess.

Here's the mission: bring to bear your impressive creative skills and feed me suggestions. A cat's very identity rests in the balance.

Spasibo!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Glenda Got Some Splainin' To Do

Mea cupla - having a cellphone that takes photos is pretty useful for capturing weird little everyday moments when you think, "Wouldja look at that.".

Such was a recent lunchtime fly-by of London's venerable downtown market-come-cattle-barn. My Lebanese walking companion, in need of pita bread, led me to a market stall named simply Glenda's. While pitas were being squeezed and examined for their pita-bility, I listlessly perused a wide assortment of dips in the refrigerator case. Typically, I wouldn't pay attention - but today was different. Glenda has either a bizarro-world marketing plan, or a truly macabre set of recipes behind the counter.

Thanks to my Swiss Army cellphone, you can check out the labels from Glenda's offerings and judge for yourself. One more mea culpa - the photos are grainy in that way that lets you just know they're clandestine. Quite honestly, I'm lucky to be alive to show them to you.




Spicy Pinto Beans with Chimp









Sandinista Dijon










Howler-Monkey Tzatziki garnished with bird heads









Asiago Dips - please god let this be for cats









Mexicali Sauce - Lions love it!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why Is This So Hard?

For pure entertainment value, nothing beats Rogers Wireless customer service.

In most ways, I loathe the idea of electronic collars. But I made an exception when Rogers offered a rock-bottom deal through my employer. I managed to get 2 cellphones for less then the street-price of 1 phone, and this lets my oh-so-active daughter keep in touch with her oh-so-neurotic Dad. So, yes, we wear electronic collars.

Just a tangent - the only other exception I'd ever make on the whole electronic collar issue is for those perimeter wires that train your dog to 'stay put' via electronic shocks. I don't own a dog, but I think this technology has fun possibilities. I'm guessing the legal, moral, and philosophical issues are probably a little thorny.

Back to the phones. So I have 2 of them, and I discovered that this model (they're identical) will work in Europe, but they don't support the cell frequencies used in England and France. I wanted the comfort of a cellphone for our upcoming vacation, so I did some research and found that the current generation of phones will work fine for us.

I went to Rogers with the simple goal of replacing my phone, and I was prepared to pay. I wasn't looking for anything else: no changes to my account, no extra services, nothing. I quickly learned that I'm naive. Where cell service is concerned, nothing is simple.

First off, the Rogers outlet was staffed by teenagers, on a Wednesday, in the middle of the day. Great, I thought. Highly educated service technicians. Turns out one fellow was the Veteran and he was supposed to be training the New Guy.

Over the course of the next 40 - count 'em - minutes, I descended into a bureauatic miasma that even I found breathtaking - and I've spent the last 25 years working in multinational corporations. I will never be able to recreate the conversation that, at various points, brought Veteran, New Guy, and myself close to blows.

The highlights:
  • I have a 'corporate plan', and store computers can't access these. They had to phone someone, somewhere who could see Who I Am and What I Have.
  • paper forms needed to be filled out like I was opening a new account, except they wrote 'hardware upgrade' across the top of the form. I fear this.
  • Veteran thought my corporate plan sounded too good to be true. I must be mistaken, apparently. This made me mad at Veteran.
  • my new phone was a free upgrade! Naturally this makes me nervous. Nothing is 'free'.
  • the new phone takes pictures and videos, and plays MP3s, and surfs the Web, and plays games! I'm kinda hoping it makes phone calls.
  • Veteran was sick of New Guy, and the feeling was mutual. This erupted into frequent verbal fisticuffs.
  • you need to write down several codes to replace a phone. They are secret, and I believe they can cure the sick, raise the dead, and hack HD-DVD videos.

40 minutes for this. My favorite part - as I left the store New Guy gave me a wink and let me know this would have been much easier, but Veteran is kind of an asshole.

I can't wait to open my next Rogers Wireless bill.

I'm anticipating a Part 2 to this story.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Gonna Party Like It's 600 BC!

When I first read this story, I was pretty sure it was a put on. Then I wondered about how an invitation to such an event might sound.

Sony Flack: "Hey there! Just wanted to let you know we're having a big coming-out party for God of War II and, you know, you're invited!"

Me: "Wow! Cool! So it's a party?"
Sony Flack: "The biggest, man! It'll be a whole Ancient Greece kind of vibe..."
Me: "That's amazing! I'll look forward to it!"
Sony Flack: "Amazing is not the word. We'll have lots of food and wine..."
Me: "Great!"
Sony Flack: "...and PS/3's setup everywhere - with the game, of course..."
Me: "Excellent!"
Sony Flack: "....and, ahem, topless serving girls..."
Me: "Holy cow! Topless?"
Sony Flack: "...thought you'd like that...and, of course, the decapitated goat..."
Me: "...love the topless ladi...say, what?"
Sony Flack: "And snake handling! You get to touch snakes, man!"
Me: "...wait, what?"
Sony Flack: " Got more calls to make. Don't wanna to tell you all the surprises! See you there!"
My phone: "Hummmmm"

Update: Looks like the goat was pre-decapitated.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Big-Ass Pixels

Question: What do you get if you mix 10 bored people with 5 hours to kill, 6,400 spare Post-It notes, and 4 stories of window-glass?

Answer: Retro-gaming Awesomeness

I am impressed. I can barely manage spray-on snowflakes.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

C'mon You Guys!

Okay, I'm done biding my time. A guy can only stand on the sidelines for so long; waiting for the real smartalecks to show up. So, I guess it's up to me, Mr. Pedestrian Blogboy, to weigh in on the news that's been hanging out there like some turgid piece of rotting fruit just waiting - nay, demanding - for someone to pick and hurl at a fitting target.

Our beloved London Free Press has discovered that people in Kilworth use YouTube. The Freeps plastered their scoop on the front page 3 days ago - and breathlessly detailed how a noted Kilworthian made his own video, with music even, and posted it on the Internet. As if this, alone, wasn't enough to send shock waves through our community (dare I say Future Shock waves?), they further report that some people even watched this video on the Internet!

The future is here and now, folks. The Freeps says so.

So where have you guys been? This was front page news in a Saturday edition!

Discuss, dammit!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Let's Think About Bridges

I'll go first. I have been thinking about bridges lately. Actually, I'm pretty sure I think about them a lot; maybe too much. I don't know what it is about bridges that makes them so interesting for me. I suppose I could get all introspective here, and imagine them as metaphors for dealing with life's obstacles blahdy blah blah. But that would be dishonest and end up as a crude ripoff of a really boring novel. I think.

I just like the looks of them. At least the interesting ones. In my local environs:

Blackfriar's Bridge is one of my favourites. In warmer weather I'll take a lunchtime stroll that includes a trip across this bridge. It's a noisy, historic, lovely-to-look-at piece of Secret London. I can't imagine why some local residents would want to get rid of it. Oh...right. This is London, Ontario we're talking about.




The Sarnia Road CPR bridge is actually in my neighbourhood, and I love it. While it's rickety and constantly in need of repair, this wood-and-steel span seems to defy the encroaching development all around it. It's a one-lane bridge serving a two-lane road and, as a result, it forces traffic to wait while oncoming traffic crosses the bridge. Folks treat it as a four-way stop - and waving at the stopped vehicles as you cross is de rigeur in these parts. This is what I love about this bridge: no matter how hurried you might be on any given day, crossing the CPR tracks here forces you to acknowledge your fellow human beings in a courteous way. Just for a minute.

The Guy Lombardo Bridge, I hate. You really can't tell that you're on a bridge, so it's handy that we spent the dough to make a sign. Actually, I think the sign was stolen from a Provincial park - it has that look. Anyways, the bridge spans one of London's best vistas of the Thames River. Why the city erected this drab, flat, concrete shrine to blandness; I cannot say. Although it does make a lovely matched set with the nearby Guy Lombardo Museum. And his music. *rimshot*

So that's my sampling of local bridge-stuff. I could go on, of course, but I want to leave a few bridges for the rest of you. I await your well-crafted witticisms on Lloyd Bridges, Nash Bridges, Todd Bridges, etcetera etcetera.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

North Post


This post has no real point - other than it's the most northerly post I've made since The Beginning. I'm sitting in the basement office-slash-spare-bedroom at my in-laws' house. This house is in a small mining town called Levack. This small mining town is 30 minutes northwest of Sudbury where, of course, it's cold and snowing. The TV upstairs is tuned into (wait for it) curling - which I actually enjoy.

If Norman Rockwell was a Canuck, he'd be here drawing a picture right now. Of course, he'd have to drive 7 hours through snowsqualls to get here - like I did yesterday and will do again on Monday.

Thanks be for the Innertubes.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Where Can I Get a TARDIS? - Part 3


In hockey, it's called telegraphing your shot. In writing stuff down, it's called... errr....(KD, help me out here!).... lack of real suspense?. So I might as well confess; Part 1 and Part 2 of this silly tale were just preambles to the real story, and that is that we're biting the bullet and heading for Europe in July.

I'm excited for sure; largely because it's been Dee's Northern Girl Dream for as long as I've known her. Pre-Crazylegs, she had never traveled - and we've made a point of making up for lost time. Where other folks might save money for a rainy day, buy a new car, or put rainforest hardwood into the sunroom - we put our pennies into the travel account.

We've had this agreement of sorts that Europe would wait until (a) we'd saved enough pennies and (b) our youngest kid was at least 10 years old. As I've pointed out before, the agreement seemed easy at the time. There were lots of years and lots of pennies between Me and Driving In Europe.

Now it's time. And I'm anxious about it.

Guided tours aren't really my cuppa tea, but we've agreed that having something reasonably structured and worry free would be the way to go for the sake of both parents and kids. After leafing and clicking through countless brochures and websites, we were certain that there was no such thing as a 'family friendly' tour Over There - only the loathsome If It's Tuesday It Must Be Belgium kind of tours. Ugh!

We did find something, eventually, from a tour company called Adventures by Disney. Laugh if you must, but it looks like a winner. Family oriented (natch), first-class all the way, striving for a unique experience; we're excited. It'll be 4 days in London and 4 days in Paris with highlights such as backstage passes to a West End theater production, first-class seats on the (chunnel) Eurostar, a bicycle tour of Versailles, and a DaVinci Code-inspired scavenger hunt in the Louvre (for the kids). Here and there - a free afternoon and/or evening to do your own thing.

I thought this was going to be perfect. Disney picks us up at the airport in the England, they show us a great time, and they deposit us back on a plane when it's all over. Reasonably structured. Worry free. I'm so wrong.

Dee started like this, "You know - while we're there...".

I knew where this was going. "Yes?", I countered, using my patented ruse where I inspect a wall, magazine, birdfeeder, etc. with laser insensity, all the while avoiding direct eye contact with Dee.

She started her attack using the direct approach. "We could go to Europe a few days early, or maybe stay a few more days after the tour. You know, I've always wanted to go to Switzerland. And everyone says the train system over there is fantastic!".

"Ummmm", was all I could muster. I wasn't against this in principle, but I knew logisitics would end up killing us in a dozen different ways. My only defense in keeping the vacation scope in check was The Kids - the A-Bomb in our household. "Sure, we should think about that. But the kids... I don't think the kids are ready for the, umm, backpack experience. You know you have to travel pretty light on the trains."

I got bolder. "And what about hotels? I mean, if it was just you and me, that'd be different. Just kinda go somewhere with no planning...seat-of-the-pants...but the kids. You have to think of the kids. You don't want them wandering around some little foreign village after dark looking for a hostel, do you?".

It was unfair, and I knew I was going to win. But winning is subjective at our house. It's all about tactics - lose a battle, negotiate terms of surrender, end up winning the war. And win she did.

First off, we're staying in France one extra day to spend at EuroDisney. That was an easy one. We're in Paris anyways, so it makes sense to travel the 30 miles for a visit to The Mouse.

Also, we're arriving in England 5 days early. We'll land at Heathrow, pick up a car, and roam around Southern England for a few days before joining the tour in London. This is where I'm getting my angst. This is where I become Chevy Chase.

I'm sure this driving part will be okay. 20-odd years ago, I never worried about this stuff. Today, I'm older and more neurotic - so I worry about it all. While we'll have to drive in and out of Heathrow (and various places in the countryside we hope to visit), I laid down the law that we would not set foot in London with Crazylegs behind the wheel of any vehicle.

It's not a bad compromise. I don't think we're biting off more than we can chew travel-wise, and we'll get 2 full weeks of family fun. We're thinking we'll visit Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, maybe Portsmouth, etc. We'd love to head west out to Land's End, but that looks too ambitious for us. (Question - anyone have any advice on not-to-be-missed places in Southern England?)

But I am worrying, and probably will - until it's over.

So why the TARDIS? Simple; it would alleviate all of these travel logistics and angst. Of course, I'd probably end up driving the thing into a binary star. Or worse.

Glistening With Irony

My musical tastes are pretty weird sometimes - and I'm betting that's pretty normal, actually. But I can't say that I've ever been a huge fan of Alanis Morissette. Some of her stuff I kinda like, most of her stuff I don't. She's just kind 'there', you know?

But I have to admit, she's got that sliver of genius somewhere inside. Her video rendition of that donkey-sucking My Humps is so achingly sad and scathing all at the same time. Or maybe I'm just thinking too hard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It Depends


Sure, we've all thought about it. Buy a new video game, take the phone off the hook, bolt the door, and geek out for, like, a weekend.
But this guy went ahead and did it - and pissed off a lot of people in the process.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Do They Know?

While the flyer has been sitting for over a week in the perpetual pile of crap that guards our kitchen phone, I only just noticed something yesterday. The Grand Prize home in London's annual Dream Lifestyles Lottery has a rather interesting address.

It's 2046 Logans Run, London, Ontario

That's Logans Run, folks.

I'm guessing someone with a sense of humour nominated this street name, and someone who didn't 'get it' did the approval. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a geek down at City Hall who has a sly sense of humour.

Either way, if I win this lottery I'll have to take the cash. I'm already too old for that neighbourhood.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thanks, Ze


I've been a huge fan of The Show with Ze Frank ever since I stumbled across the site back in Summer 2006. It's tough to describe exactly what it is, other to say it's been an experiment of sorts by the aforementioned Ze Frank to host a video blog 5 days a week for 1 full year.

But it's been more than that. Every show is well-produced, entertaining, damn smart, and sometimes silly. Along the way, Ze has attracted thousands of fans from around the world, who have been active participants in this weird, collaborative experiment.

The Show has invented its own culture and vocabulary, including: Sportsracers (fans), Ride the Fire-Eagle Danger Day (Fridays), Power Moves (must be seen to be understood), and the signoff "...thinking, so you don't have to". I can't even begin to describe the fan-collaboration projects such as Earth Sandwich and Dress Up Your Vacuum Cleaner.

If nothing else, The Show has proven there are lots of 'regular people' out there who are full of creativity, and just need a little spark and direction to unleash what they have inside.

Yesterday, March 17 2007, was the last show in the 1 year experiment. I'll miss it, although I imagine that we'll see Ze pop up elsewhere (he's already being courted in Hollywood). Here's to hoping that his future endeavours are as intelligent as the The Show has been.

In the meantime, I'd invite you to check out The Show and Ze's main site. There's lots to do there, and the shows are still archived.

It's been an interesting year. Thanks, Ze.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Where Can I Get a TARDIS? - Part 2

Let's recap Part 1, shall we? It's 1985, I'm in London, England, and I'm driving a car. In what would be an amazingly prescient moment were I, in fact, Chevy Chase, I'm stuck in a traffic circle for all eternity. I'm traumatized to the point where I vow never to drive on the wrong side of the road ever again. Ever. At least, not on purpose.

Now let's set the Wayback Machine for somewhere in the vicinity of Summer 1998. My youngest kid is 2 and a half years old. My oldest kid is 6 months shy of 6 years. We're still basking in the warm memories from our first Big Time Family Vacation, which we had taken in Springtime of that year.

Emboldened by a truly enjoyable week in Florida with 2 young kids (one still in diapers), my wife wonders aloud about 'Europe'.

"I'd love to go someday", she says. "I guess the kids would need to be a bit older".

I know where this going. It's going to be one of those conversations where we both know the right answer, but one us will have to speak The Truth aloud. It's gut-check time.

"That's a long way from home", says I, using my amazing grasp of the obvious. "The kids - the kids are kinda young, aren't they?". I'm looking for the soft landing, but Dee is not going to let me go that easy.

"Sure. You're right, they're too young. I'm mean, they were great little travelers down to Florida. But Europe, that's big isn't it?". Dee's reaching for something, I know. She wants measurable objectives. She wants goals.

So I give her what she wants. "I think we should wait under our youngest kid is, like, 10. You know, old enough to appreciate castles and stuff".

Perfect, I thought. That gives us 8 years - minimum. Not so long a wait as to be unimaginable, but not so short a time as to oblige anyone (like me) to plan or worry about anything.

That was 9 years ago. You probably think you know where this is going.

Stayed tuned for Part 3.

Monday, March 12, 2007

So How Cool Is That?

Okay, I know the world waits for Part 2 - breath baited, lives on hold, phones off the hook, etc. - but my Monday steadily upgrades from craptastic to pretty nice.

My kids just sat and watched "Singing in the Rain" with me. I tuned it in as a joke; something to annoy them, really. They sat and watched the whole damn thing; all of us on the couch with arms and legs akimbo. And they liked it.

Yeah, that's what it's all about.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Where I Can Get a TARDIS? - Part 1

It's funny how events separated by time and space can converge in unexpected ways. In this case, there are 3 events spanning 22 years and 2 continents that have come together to cause me much anxiety. It's a long tale and I'm telling it in 3 parts; beginning with where it began.

Back in 1985 I spent a couple of weeks in Europe with 3 friends. This was the cliched 'students do Europe on the cheap' kind of trip. Except it wasn't. None of us were in school, and we could afford to avoid the whole youth hostel scene.

Rather than use cheap rail passes, our plan included - in part - a driving tour of Scotland, Wales, and England. We rented a car with the intention of sharing the driving chores. We would start at Prestwick, Scotland and end this leg of the trip in foggy ol' London. From there, we would head to the Continent.

I won't bore you right now with the physics involved with a transatlantic flight, too much booze, and driving on the wrong side of the road. The most excitement we had driving-wise was a close call with a flock of sheep blocking a road. Turns out it was our fault - or at least that's what the old guy with the wooden staff told us. Generally, though, we made out alright.

That was before we made it to London.

It was my day to drive. The route: drive from Salisbury Plain (Stonehenge) and drop the car off at the rental depot in London (just off Hyde Park). No one had warned me about the impossibility that is The Traffic Circle that contains Hyde Park. That scene in National Lampoon's European Vacation - Chevy Chase caught in a traffic circle for an entire day - that was me. We spent 90 minutes circling Hyde Park; trying to get to the outside lane so we could pull into the rental depot.

It just could not be done. I'm serious about this. That traffic circle seemed to suck us into the inner lane like some great automotive whirlpool, and It was loathe to let us out. All that was missing from the experience were skeletal remains of tourists and their rental cars strewn about the inside lane. Maybe we were going to be the first.

In the end, Our Saviour was the cop who investigated our illegally-parked rental car at one end of the Park. He took pity on the poor tourists, and used his radio to summon someone from the rental depot to pick up the car. The depot, it turns out, was right across the street from where we had made our last, desperate stand.

I vowed never to drive in England again. Ever. You must remember this as we head into Part 2 of my tale.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Kids Are Alright

Right now - at this precise moment - two 11 year-old boys are sitting in front of the 'kid computer' down the hall from where I sit. They're laughing their asses off. They're watching episodes 1 through 6 of Chad Vader.

I'm so fucking proud.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Geek Clutter

There be Geeks here, so be warned.

I collect a lot of crap; especially odd things I run across on the Net. The only trait worse than being a website pack-rat is the act of squirreling stuff into forgotten corners. And the only thing worse than that is using two rodent references in a single sentence. So, I guess I'm guilty on all counts.

Today I ran across an interesting Star Wars story. And as I prepared to squirrel... oops....archive the website, I ran across a folder of bookmarks entitled Star Wars. Obviously this was created during one of my legendary creative periods, but finding it (again) was just the kick-in-the-lightsabre I needed to do a thorough airing out of all the weirdly useless bookmarks I've collected in past months.

But the Star Wars folder seems to be a keeper. Whether you're into the whole George Lucas scene or not, none can deny that the man created a happy cult. How else can one explain the time, effort, dedication, talent, and general weirdness that Star Wars has fed through the years?

So here's a small shrine to the uber-Geeks of Star Wars. May you all experience the Sun and kiss a girl someday soon. Oh that I had a tenth of your talents.

-- The story that started this post; a Chicago suburbanite decides to make his own Star Wars movie. Long live public access television!

-- I don't know how or why I have this, but it cracks me up; slightly more mature than fart jokes.

-- Quite possibly the geekiest video ever made; simply and utterly amazing.

-- My personal favourite (and likely a tip from Kid Dork). As a fan and a horribly amateur video-maker, this is High Art to me.

Now the clutter is put into slightly neater piles, and there's room for new shiny things. I wonder what's in the other 28 folders of bookmarks...

Friday, February 16, 2007

Life is Februray

Many years ago, I was with a group of friends at bar. Everyone was just cutting loose - chatting, drinking, smoking (those were the good ol' days). Through the general din and nonsense, Someone said something and Someone Else misheard Someone and, magically, the phrase Life is February entered our lexicon.

We laughed a bit at how a mistake-of-the-ear in a student bar on a Friday night could produce such a pithy philosophy. But we knew it was true. Life is February, sometimes - too short from the outside, too long from the inside, a little bit odd, a little bit overcast, and a little purposeless. What's February for after all? What it's reason for being? Why does it seem to last forever and, yet, get nowhere in particular?

That's kind of how it's been this month for me. Too much shit to worry about and too little energy to deal with it, but I'm determined to make progress. I just need to get something done - get something behind me.

And this is how it starts - post something here after almost 2 weeks of silence. It's not really for you; it's for me. And I just accomplished something.

Think I'm going to track down Shinobi and watch it with JediBoy.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chain Blog?

Normally, I don't go much for chain letters. I think it started with a rather embarrassing exchange with a Cub Leader back when I wore a leather woggle. It involved a hole in my pocket, a chain letter from a (girl)friend, and a very public discovery (and lecture) by said Cub Leader.

While you think about that, I'll talk about this.

I'm not sure of the feminine equivalent of a Bon Vivant; but whatever it is, it describes Sheena. So when she tagged me with a chain letter of sorts, I knew I'd be obliged to comply. Frankly, I'd rather not be on the wrong side of sarcasm where Sheena is concerned. I think her words can kill.

So here is for all the world to see: 6 Weird Things About Crazylegs.

1. I cannot stand to see or hear a refridgerator door slam shut. I really can't. When making a sandwich (or whatever), I'll leave the fridge door open until I'm done. Open once. Close once. And since our fridge has never been perfectly leveled, I've had to discover the exact point at which the door equilibrium is matched between 'open' and 'close'.

2. Under the right conditions (spirits can play a part), I can dislocate my left shoulder - and then pop it back in again. This is not a natural talent, but the result of an unfortunate sporting accident from 20 years ago. I prefer not to do this since it hurts the next day. Also, there is no empirical evidence that this ability gets me invited to more parties. Or maybe that should read any parties.

3. I can do cartoon voices - some really well. My Scooby Doo is outstanding and, consequently, children love me. However, I get embarrassed if someone asks me to "do that Scooby Doo voice" and I typically find an excuse to beg off. I only feel comfortable doing these cartoon voices if it's my idea. So don't ask, okay?

4. I did not date in high school. I wanted to, but I just didn't. In hindsight, I know some girls who wondered why I never asked them out. This proves that regular sessions of Dungeons and Dragons and Risk where not necessarily stunting my sex appeal. So why didn't I? Who knows...

5. I'm just 44 years old, and I think about retirement. I think about a lot. I'm betting not a day goes by when the thought of retirement doesn't cross my mind. Whether I love my job or hate it (I don't happen to be lovin' it right now), I'd think about the fact that it's just 11 short years until I'm 55. In all likelihood, I can't retire when 55 - but I'm in denial. Even weirder, there's nothing I'm particularly looking forward to in retirement. I have some vague ideas about travel, hobbies, and volunteering. But the real allure seems to be just 'not working for a living'. The reality may involve dumpsters. I can't wait!

6. Back to the physical abnormalities department: I can wiggle my ears and my nose. I can wiggle them independently. I can wiggle them in grand unison. My kids have never considered this entertaining and, in all honesty, this used to creep them out. Now they simply consider all of this as one of the many annoyances I bring to their lives.

There you have them. This was actually harder than I thought because I've never thought about myself as 'weird'. It must be the people I surround myself with.

Now, to complete Sheena's bargain - and risk losing the majority of my semi-regular readership - I pass the torch to:

Kid Dork
David
Sonny

Good luck.