Category Archives: General

Stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else

Open Up and Connect

Well, when I started my new feature last week, I didn’t realize what effect it would have on my blogging routine, if you could call it that. You see, it’s going to look like I’m not very active with this blogging thing once I start piling up “This Week Online” postings back to back. Well, the weekend is coming, so the pressure’s on.

Certainly, I have material for the new “This Week Online”, but what can I put in a normal post today? Let’s try this.

I am looking forward to Halloween, which is just a few days away. Halloween is one of my two favourite holidays. The other is election night. I like these two “holidays” because they are both times when people in urban North America actually get out onto the street and talk to each other. They look around. When they’re riding the bus, they look at each other. People are more open than ever because they’re sharing a common experience. And that’s what I love about Halloween and election night. The rest of the time we live our lives ignoring other people.

Of course, I’m no where near North America right now. And I’m living in an odd situation where lots of people notice me (and stare) because I’m white. And I spend most of my time on the street not looking at other people. But the approach of Halloween is a good reminder to open up and connect.

Detecting Climate Signals, Detecting Life Signals

A new manuscript came across my desk this morning which pleasantly surprised me. The author was Samuel Shen, my Master’s thesis research supervisor with whom I continue to have a mentoring relationship, and the subject was detecting climate change signals using statistical methods.

This topic in particular brought me back to a moment in 1999 when I was floating around the university in my home town, trying to decide what to do next in my life. I noticed a posting in the math department for a colloquium talk on this topic to be given by a visiting researcher. The topic interested me, even though I had no background in climate studies, so I went and checked it out. Samuel Shen, whom I had not known before, was the host professor for the talk, and I was sufficiently impressed by what I experienced in that moment in time. A few days later, I found myself in his office requesting to study a Master’s degree under him. This led to two and a half years of study, and upon graduation, the opportunity to work in China. The rest, they say, is history.

Compact Love

If you have a digital camera, it probably came with a memory card (Memory Stick, SD Card, Compact Flash, etc.) that’s too small for practical use, and in all likelihood, you replaced it with a bigger card. So what can you do with the small card? Well, here’s a great “little” idea.

Create a slide show of pictures and text that tell a story, number the filenames consecutively, and place them on the card to give to a loved-one. The best way would be to borrow the card that came with your loved-one’s camera and slip it into the camera when they’re not looking. Then they’ll find it someday when they turn their camera on.

Now you’ll probably want to make the last frame some kind of arrow or something that indicates which direction the storyline goes, since the camera will show the highest-numbered frame when it starts the playback mode. The rest is up to you and your imagination. You can make textual frames in any image editor, but remember that some cameras have very tiny screens.

Happy Valentining!

Let the Gravity Move You

It was fashionable in my day for parents to ask, “If a friend told you to jump off a cliff, would you?” Well, it turns out, I would.

During my recent trip to Canada, I reconnected with my childhood friend Scott Crabbe, whom I hadn’t seen since about 1988. In fact, I found him on a poetry site via a Google search. Surprised to find that his two-year-old email address still worked, I got a reply back from him in the form of a poem, no less, which referred to things we did as kids.

THE NUMBER’S ON THE WALL TONIGHT

KXL!!! –

and the smell of back alley tree lots
the sound of the pop
when you lost the plot
and bounced the bottle
off the head of the littlest Hawk
in the daze of our youth
we were the sleuth
the criminals reared
not necessarily feared
and most likely (at times) smeared
our names
upon the walls
surrounding urinal stalls.

Yeah,
it’s been a long day
at 1:30 in the A. (I’) M.
fine
tired
wired
from cigarettes and beer
but it’s all here
three screens
two guitars
a husky
a hussy writing letter’s to her fantasy out east

a beast of a belly
swelly
from a meal of
chicken veal
spag bog blu

And this moment was for you.

Not having much time during my stay in Canada, I took 24 hours out of my schedule to drive to Jasper for a visit. Currently, Scott is the manager of the Jasper International Hostel. How convenient. And how cool! We hung out for the night, ate an awesome breakfast wrap in the morning, swapped stories, and basically had a great time catching up. I brought a cassette tape of a “radio show” that we had recorded when we were about 8. A good laugh, and I was impressed at the sharpness of Scott’s memory. He showed me a postcard I had drawn for him in art class from about the same time. Good times.

Before I had to go that afternoon, we went for a short hike, and then Scott took me to Horseshoe Lake to get “baptized” Canadian style. It was a 10-m drop into a crystal-clear, bottomless lake. And so cold I stopped breathing. Awesome! Here’s Scott’s performance:

[Scott cliff jumping at Horseshoe Lake, Jasper Alberta]

Thanks for the great time, Scott. It was awesome!

Swing abates, my online life abounds

Today is July 4, which marks the two-year anniversary of my involvement with Swing Beijing!. And how am I celebrating? By skipping, actually.

For the last two years, Swing has not just been a part of my life, but it has been my life. I found it at a time when I was just emerging from a one-year hermit phase. Thus, it launched me from my social isolation into a world where I was having multiple encounters with people each week. It also broke my one-year isolation from other foreigners here in China. It allowed me to develop the extroverted part of my predominantly introverted nature.

But it seems as though that time has come to a close. No, I’m not closing myself off and re-entering a hermit phase. I’m just moving away from Swing and concentrating my creative energy in other areas. In November last year (2004), I started to discover other bloggers and also the phenomenon of podcasting. I started connecting with people online, and I began contributing to conversations with others through leaving comments and giving feedback through email. And it has been an exciting time for me.

I’m not sure what the ultimate goal of this new direction in my life is, but I can tell that it’s the right direction. And that’s thrilling.

The hosting woes that I experienced a few months ago forced me to find a new hosting solution and ultimately a new blogging tool called WordPress. And the change has been fantastic. It’s a very powerful tool. But I’ve been sitting on the default look of the WordPress 1.5 install since then, so my site looks like too many others out there. I have been looking for a new design for the header at the top of the weblog, and I finally found one last week. So, here is the new look. It’s a star scene that I generated entirely from the mathematical functions found in the GIMP drawing program. I feel it suits my character and the nature of a “Mad Philosopher” quite well. Here is a screenshot of the new look. Here is the old look for comparison.

As always, comments are welcome. Thanks for joining me in the journey thus far.

A new direction

From my editing work, I’ve discovered a new direction that can be added to the four cardinal directions: weastward. Note that it is impossible to tell which is the extraneous letter.

Michelle vs. the big scary Lab

In her latest post, Michelle gives us a fascinating tour of “the lab” in Winnipeg. “The lab” is the National Microbiology Laboratory, a complex containment facility for researching and replicating the world’s most deadly pathogens. She describes the building’s construction, the containment procedures and facilities, and muses about what life would be like working in such an environment. (They use “spacesuits” in the level 4 lab to protect themselves and the outside world from the pathogens.) It’s a good read, where Michelle truly “geeks out” about her expertise. 🙂 Go check it out!