Shadows from the corner of my eye

Are you ever sitting, maybe eating, maybe reading, maybe doing something else fairly quiet and notice a movement out of the corner of your eye?

You turn and there is nothing there.

Does it happen to you frequently?

It has been happening to me a lot, in the house in Ottawa, over the past week. Many times each evening, I will perceive a movement and when I turn to look - nothing.

Almost nothing.

It is fast.

It vanishes without a trace; leaving me frustrated as I hunt for it because I know it was there.

At first, I thought I was going mad. But I have seen them. I know they are there and I am not mad.

It is not alone. There are many of them and as I hunt for one, another will tease me from the periphery of my vision, distracting me, pulling me away from my prey.

But I am persistent. I have caught some and killed them. I will catch them all and destroy them.

They beckon me and I follow them. I pursue them throughout the house.

I don't know where they came from, but I know where I am sending them.

Susana (Sofia's cousin) suggested they may have come on some bananas she had bought, but they are not fruit flies.

There are two types. Both very small. The larger of the two could almost pass for a fruit fly with its fat little body, but it is not. The smaller of the two is like a mote of dust. I spend far too much of my evening trying to eradicate them.

I know they weren't there two weeks ago. I can’t stand bugs in my house. I have ordered no food standing outside. The countertops to be clean and dry and garbage to be taken daily to the garage. I want to eliminate any sources of food.

Image taken from BackgroundCity.com. As a bonus, this site did not have any annoying popups or ads.

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"When We're Together, I Am Alone"

The powerful opening to Bif Naked's great song Tango Shoes, off her album Purge , that ranks right up the with the opening "When the Truth is found to be lies and all the joy within you dies" from Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love.

The usual caveat, I prefer to just listen to the song without watching the video.




In the Year 2525

A brilliant video montage for the 1969 Zager & Evens song of the same title.

Most times I advise ignoring the video and just listening to the song. In this case, the video complements the song perfectly.

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"The day you no longer burn with love

many others will die of cold." - Mauriac

Photo credit: Jim Richey. With Permission.

[Update: 29-October-2007 @ 17:17. Correctly credit photo]
[Update: 30-October-2007 @ 07:26. Acknowledge that I have permission to use the photo]

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What Classic Movie Am I

Ghee kindly tagged me with this one a few days ago.

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by similarminds.com

My Thoughts: erm ... it doesn't end well.

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Mr. Postman, Have You Got a Letter for Me?

Despite my abject social skills, I did manage to make some friends while at University. Some came from various regions of Canada, though many were from overseas. I would say the majority where from overseas.

At the end of the school year, when people were returning home, I would get their address (note, I only get addresses of people I am interested in. I am not polite enough to ask for an addresses I do not intend to use).

I would then write a letter and mail it a week before they left, so the letter would arrive around the same time they did. It was a real letter, several pages long, no an anemic postcard with a trite “Welcome Home!” message along with "Don't forget to keep in touch" admonishment.

I thought they would appreciate receiving a letter; knowing that they had not been forgotten once leaving Canada. Maybe it was naïve, but it was remarkably effective. I always received effusive replies of thanks back.

Now there is only one left and pen and paper have long since given way to e-mail.

I don't remember where I grabbed the image from (it is from a collection of photos I keep and, sadly, don't track where I get them from). It is available from a number of places on the web. If you know who the credit belongs to, let me know.

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And Darkness Covered the Land

It was dark yesterday morning. Very dark.

Unable to sleep, I was out of bed at 05:00 and, well, it is pretty dark at that time of the morning. I wasted some time on the computer and then headed upstairs to the kitchen at 07:00. Something was wrong. It should have been light outside, but it was not.

I then realized they set the clocks back on Sunday.

Only ... I didn't remember doing that and if the clocks had been set back an hour, the mornings would get brighter, not darker. Not only that, but I had taken my car for servicing the previous morning at 06:30 and it was reasonably light outside.

I took a closer look outside and confirmed it was indeed night time dark. I double checked the clocks and they all agreed. The clouds were heavy and low and blocking out a substantial amount of light. I called Sofia in Montreal and she confirmed that it was very dark there as well.

Even around 09:00, it was still a near dawn dark, though grey instead of red and gold.

Image nabbed from here.

It just occurred to me that I should have taken a picture, although ... my camera is not very good in low light, I had left my tripod in Montreal, my sleep deprived brain didn't think of it and, finally, it would have been significantly less exciting than the picture I've attached.

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What Instrument Should I Play?

You Should Play the Harp

You are a sensitive soul, with a great admiration for beauty.

You definitely have what it takes to make beautiful music, but most instruments are too harsh for you.

You are subtle, shy, and even a bit spoiled. You're very picky about most aspects of your life.

It's just your style to play an eccentric, hard to transport instrument like the harp that few people consider.

Overall, you have the relaxed demeanor of a leisurely upper class person, and your music would reflect that.

Your calm yet soulful harp playing would be sure to help people forget their troubles for a while.

Your dominant personality characteristic: your zen-ness

Your secondary personality characteristic: your quiet independence

What Musical Instrument Should You Play?

Since it is midnight and I need to sleep and thinking is out of the question (and maybe you are all tired of pictures), I have done this meme instead (and fulfilled my goal of one post per day and can ignore it for the rest of the day).

An unexpected result. I was thinking trombone (which I played in high school).

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Genuine Montreal Spider

I think it nicely compliments the Long Island spider photo I posted a while back.

Photo credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet

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Magical Cover

Image scanned by me, but copyright remains with the publisher.

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Thinking like a vegetable: how plants decide what to do

If you happen to be in London this coming Wednesday, 24-October-2007, you can attend this lecture at The Royal Society given by Professor Ottoline Leyser.

As the blurb for the lecture says: A good example is the number of branches a plant makes.

It sounds like a fascinating talk. Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend. Nor will I be able to listen in to the live webcast (since I will be at work).

You can read the public notice here or you can just continue scrolling down to read it.

The Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Prize Lecture 2007

By Professor Ottoline Leyser, Department of Biology, University of York

Plants monitor a wide range of information from their surrounding environment. They combine information of multiple sorts, and respond in an appropriate way. In animals a large part of this job is done by the nervous system, with the brain acting as a central processor for the information collected. In plants there is no brain, and the information processing is distributed across the plant body. Much of this is achieved through the action of hormone signals that move throughout the plant and interact to integrate information and control specific responses. A good example is the number of branches a plant makes. This depends on many things - the quality of the light in which it is growing, the availability of nutrients, and the health of the existing growing tips of the shoot. All this information is channelled through a hormone signalling network and integrated to allow the plant to produce the number of branches most appropriate for its environment

Ottoline Leyser is Professor of plant Developmental Genetics at the University of York. Her research is aimed at understanding the complex network of long-range hormonal signals that regulate shoot branching in plants. She is particularly interested in integrating cellular level gene regulatory networks with hormone transport and whole plant level effects.

This lecture is FREE. No advance booking or registration required.

This event will be webcast live at www.royalsoc.ac.uk/live/

Image freshly picked from here

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Uses for Waste Water

As tin-tin commented in my previous post, waste water can be reused for other pruposes.

While I would not advocate reusing toilet water to water your garden or lawn (unless it is going into a septic tank - in which case, you are already reusing your waste water). You can certainly reuse dirty dish and bath water. Granted, the convenience of scooping the water out the sink, into a bucket and carrying out to your garden may be a bit much. However, here are two ways waste bath and sink water can be reused, rather economically, if only they would build houses this way:

(1) irrigating lawns and gardens. It would be a fairly simple matter to have option of redirecting the water into the drainage tiles (like a septic tank) under your lawn. I envision the drainage for the bath and sink would be switchable between sewer and irrigation. Alternatively, it could be fed out to a cistern, though I am not sure I would want standing dirty water :P

(2) waste heat could be reclaimed from the water (mostly the bath I presume). I often lament how much hot water quickly flows out of the tub and into the sewer (I insist on leaving the hot water in the tub until it has radiatedits heat to house). I would prefer to be able to switch the flow of water through a heat exchanger that would extract the heat and put the heat back into my house during winter (in summer, I would prefer the water just flow directly to the sewer without heating my house, thanks). Of course, another way might be to run the water through pipes embedded in the floor, thus warming the floor and radiating heat back into the house.

I don't think these are terribly complicated to implement during the construction of a house (though a bit trickier to retrofit, since it would mean some re-plumbing work).

While we are at it, we should insist that new homes be equipped with solar water heaters, and, indeed, solar heating. There is always some heat you can extract during a sunny day - even in the midst of Winter.

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What's Wrong with this Ad?

The problem is not that the tap water is dirty (as the commercial implies), but rather that we are flushing perfectly potable water down the toilet.

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Art and Fear and Changing Minds

"When Columbus returned from the new world and proclaimed the earth was round, almost everyone else went right on believing the world was flat. Then they died - and the next generation grew up believing the world was round. That's how people change their minds."

Art & Fear : Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland

This is a pretty good book if you are interested in thoughts and observations on artists and art making. It is a short book, but it has a number of interesting passages.

"The poem in the head is always perfect. Resistance begins when you try to convert it into language" - Stanley Kunitz quoted in the above mentioned book.

"... most artists don't daydream about making great art - they daydream about having made great art. What artist has not experienced the feverish euphoria of composing the perfect thumbnail sketch, first draft, negative, or melody - only to run headlong into a stone wall trying to convert that tantalizing hint into the finished mural, novel, photograph, sonata. The artist’s life is frustrating not because the passage is slow, but because he imagines it to be fast." (bold emphasis is mine).

Imagination is in control when you begin making an object. The artwork's potential is never higher than in that magic moment when the first brushstroke is applied, the first chord struck. But as the piece grows, technique and craft take over, and imagination becomes a less useful tool." (bold emphasis is mine)

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"I want to jump."

Said my friend Megumi, as we stood on the landing looking down. This did not reflect my own thoughts, which were more along the lines of "Why is this railing so low?"
This is the other end of the hall (actually, it is the starting point of the Grand Hall). You can see the sculpture at the far end of the photo - more like a white blob than anything clearly defined.

Photo credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet. Photo was taken at the Canadian Museum of Civilization

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Friendship Quote

Photo credit: Richard of Forbidden Planet (picture was taken at the Canadian Museum of Civilization)

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"A nation ...

... is a group of people united by a mistaken view about the past and a hatred of their neighbours." - Ernest Renan (commonly quoted, though I have not sourced it yet).




Going Green

Today is the Ontario provincial election.

I voted for the Green Party.

Not because of any ideological attachment to them (although, listening to the Green Party leader on CBC radio two weeks ago, he was far more reasonable, coherent, and less inflammatory and divisive than the main party leaders).

No, I voted for the Greens because it was a strategic vote. I suppose I could have spoiled my ballot, but I have grown tired of that. I reckon the politicians ignore it and assume I am an idiot who doesn't know how to mark a single X next to a candidate's name. I figured it was better to give my vote to some non-mainstream party in the hope that it will spur greater choice and genuine debate. (At least in the Federal elections, doing so makes sense, since parties are funded according to the number of votes they get - assuming the cross a 3% of popular vote threshold. I believe that only the province of Quebec similarly funds its political parties).

The hot button issue for this election was whether or not faith based schools should be funded. Currently, in Ontario, we have 4 publicly funded school boards: public English, public French, English Roman Catholic and French Roman Catholic. Other faith schools: other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc are not publicly funded.

The Conservatives had campaigned to extend public funding to faith based schools. The Liberals and NDP pounced on this, decrying how this would divide Ontarians, how it would further erode and destroy the already rickety publically funded school system . Blah, blah, blah. Etc, etc, etc. They spared no opportunity to vilify and inflame the issue as much as possible. Lots of loud heated rhetoric was spouted forth.

Only the Green Party seemed levelheaded about it. As they put it, the current funding system is unfair, it discriminates against other religious groups. There are only two fair things that can be done: (1) fund all faith based schools, or (2) fund no faith based schools. Their position was to fund no faith based schools.

I should point put that Roman Catholic schools in Ontario are not permitted to be exclusive. They must allow non-Catholic students and must make allowances for non-Catholic students (i.e. during religious instruction, non-Catholics get their choice of some other form of moral / ethics instruction). I would expect the same to be true for other faith based schools, should they be publicly funded.

To me, it doesn’t matter which way school funding goes, but it should be fair for all - not used to score political points with divisive and inflammatory rhetoric.

Image nabbed from here.

[Updated 11-October-2007 @ 07:45 EST. Voter turnout was a record low 52.6%. Unofficial results show the Liberals with 66% of seats with 42% of the vote, Conservatives with 24% of seats with 33% of the vote, and NDP with 10% of seats with 17% of votes. The referendum on Mixed Member Proportional representation was soundly rejected with 63% of voters wanting to keep the First Past the Post system.]

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It stands for Mixed Member Proportional.

In the upcoming Ontario provincial election, we are also asked to vote on whether or not to change our current electoral system from a first past the post to a mixed member proportional system. As far as I can recall, this is the first time I have ever been asked to vote for a new government and in a referendum simultaneously.

In Canada and all the provinces and territories, our electoral system is a representational system. That is, the region involved in the election is subdivided into smaller regions (for this election, Ontario is divided into 107 regions or seats). Each region elects a representative to the legislature. In general, representatives belong to one of the 3 major political parties in Ontario (Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, and New Democratic Party). There are other parties, but they are small and generally don't account for much of the popular vote. On occasion an independent candidate will be elected, however, he (can't think of any independently elected women) was previously a member of one of the major parties and left because of disagreements.

Candidates are elected on a first past the post system. This means that the candidate with the most votes in a given riding wins the seat for that riding. If there are five candidates for a given seat, it is theoretically possible for a candidate to win with just over 20% of the popular vote.

As a general rule, the parliamentary makeup does not reflect the popular vote. It is not uncommon to have a majority government with less than a majority popular vote (for example, in the Canadian election of 1993, the Liberals had 60% of the seats in parliament with only 41% of the popular vote, the Bloc Quebecois had slightly more than 18% of the seats with only 13.5% of the popular vote and the Reform party had slightly less than 18% of the seats with 18.7% of the popular vote. See full results here).

The mixed member proportional system attempts to correct this by increasing the number of seats in parliament to 129 from the current 107. Those seats would be divided into 2 groups: 90 to be filled by direct vote (as we do now), the remaining 39 to be filled from party lists to try and balance out parliament based on popular vote.

While this is not a perfect representational system, it goes some way to correcting the imbalance of the current first past the post system. Despite its flaws, I will be voting for it. It may be an imperfect step towards representational democracy, but it is a step in the right direction.

However, I think it will likely not pass because awareness of it is poor. As well, people irrationally hold on to the notion of electing their member of parliament when in reality they are electing a political party in which their member has little true autonomy. Finally, given the choice, most people don't really like change.

[Updated 11-October-2007 @ 07:45 EST. The referendum on Mixed Member Proportional representation was soundly rejected with 63% of voters wanting to keep the First Past the Post system.]

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Meming the Desktop

I was invited (read tagged by Renny to show what my desktops look like. Most of the time, I do not see my desktop because it is covered with applications (much like the way I don't see my physical desktop because it is covered with documents and other stuff).

This is my home computer desktop.
This is the desktop on my laptop. Tania asks why I have Jason as my wallpaper, so, to be fair, I alternate wallpapers between them.
This is my work desktop (with stuff blurred out so I don't run afoul of giving away anything confidential).

I am going to tag the first five people in my Visitors Reflections column (left side of the blog).

MOI, KayMac, breal, tin-tin, and Barbara consider yourselves tagged. The rule is simple, post a picture of your desktop on your blog.

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Now 50% Older!

Jason turns 6 today, making him about 50% older than in the photograph. And no, we do not get snow this early in October (the photo is from mid-December-2005).

Photo credits: Richard of Forbidden Planet

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Fire Suppression Personnel

When I was a kid, we used to call them firefighters (or firemen, for the non-gender inclusive).

I heard this while listening to a news story on the radio about Ottawa not going ahead with a plan to fine people for false alarms. Apparently, there were 8000 false alarms last year, 33% of total calls, but the majority of them are first timers, so it was felt the effort and cost to enforce the Bylaw would not be worth it. (the online news article does not use this expression).

Image nabbed from here.

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