Monthly Archives: August 2010

This keeps me happy

Nay, I think I’d go so far as to say this keeps me alive! So this evening, after a long day, Nefarious says to me, “you know, I really feel like watching a video,” and because I assume she means watching things on YouTube with me, I ask her what sort of videos? She says, “with that guy that looks like this,” and does a very strange mime of her holding her hands to her chin and wiggling her fingers. I tell her that I have absolutely no idea what she means, and she runs off to get a pencil and paper, saying she’ll draw me what she means. A moment later she returns with this Pictionary training session:


At first glance I thought it was Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean but then put it into the context of what Caitlin and I had just been talking about — it’s Dr. Zoidberg, which makes sense, since she’s always excited at the opportunity of watching PG-13 cartoons like Futurama. I guess that is my own private moment, and the joy in it is probably more clear to me than to readers who see my life through the telescope that is a blog, and thus the moment is most appreciated by me, but it’s in these small bubbles of laughter that everything feels wonderful, through and through.

We’ve gone to the public pool the last few days (which was most appreciated after a grueling afternoon of Canadian geography lessons and worksheets), and for the first time she’s passed the deep end test (meaning she can swim in the nine foot deep end, and that she can do it solo). She’s been swimming for a long time, but has never taken lessons, so even though she can swim the length of the pool underwater, until recently when you told her to do it in a front crawl, she had no idea what you were even talking about. However, she’s picked up the front crawl this summer (with some instruction, but mostly by watching others), so doing the two lengths followed by two minutes of treading water was simple. The lifeguard, who I think was a little dubious at first, kept throwing more requests at her, but she met every challenge successfully.

After that we had a ton of fun in the deep end with other kids, mostly diving over and over and over. Nefarious started with cannonballs, then twirls, then belly flops, then deep dives, and even managed to (after seeing me do a few) do a couple of mid-air somersault flips, although at that the lifeguard told us to cool it and go back to cannonballs. For some reason — maybe not enough winter swimming, or maybe damage from just that — I find the cold unbearable, even the relative warmth of an unheated-but-still-summertime-sun-saturated pool, so Nefarious took special glee in dragging me through the fountains and sprayers in the play area next to the pool, which are straight out of the ground pipes and hilariously torturous. But as much as she enjoys the bravado, I think the main reason she does it is that she’s figured out that forcing oneself to be sprayed with the chilly water makes the pool seem so much warmer by comparison. Anyway, it was a great time, and I’m so proud of how much her swimming has improved lately.

While there is much truth in the statement that the physical activity has been far from helpful with my physical reality, I am still quite pleased to say with conviction that as I knew they would, things have improved since Friday.


One step at a time

pukerNot that I am superstitious, but I had the worst imaginable triskaidekaphobia-confirming Friday the Thirteenth. I was out with Nefarious grabbing some groceries and Caitlin was off at work. It had already been a trying day, but I thought I’d be okay to do these simple chores. Nonetheless, I was really at the limits of my ability to fight the exhausting pain that was growing worse as I struggled against the throbbing weakness that was trapping me in a body that I could hardly control, pushing myself ahead literally one step at a time. I might not be able to do two more steps, but I know I can take one more. And then one more. And again. And again. I was approaching a point where I wasn’t going to make it home, so with obvious urgency I lined up with perhaps half the shopping list fulfilled. I’ll spare you the retail-rage-inducing story of me being forced to waste the last of my resources searching the store for the woman in front of me at the checkout, who’d realized she’d forgotten to find herself the perfect bag of chips and decided to go and look for it, never mind the fact that all her other groceries had been scanned already and there was a long impatient line with no other options behind her.

On one hand, making it to the car was a huge relief, but on the other hand, I wasn’t looking forward to driving home, even if it is only a ninety second drive home. I told Nefarious as we neared the house that I was worried I was going to throw up and she comically pinned herself against the car door, putting as much distance between us as possible, making a hilarious grossed-out face as she did some mental calculations as to whether she should be amused or concerned, quickly settling on both. After a sloppy and skewed parking job, I turned off the ignition to a chorus of “quick, open the door, because Caitlin will be so mad if you throw up in her car!” In a haze, I did just that (the prior, not the dreaded latter), narrowly succeeding in launching past the door sill a psychedelic stream of bile-heavy vomit with a few bits of pear to add another shade of green. I was half collapsed and hanging out, not entirely conscious, held in the car by the Mustang’s old fashioned lap belt, and when I came to a few minutes later I undid the belt and unceremoniously felll out of the car into the vomit, crawled a few feet and collapsed completely, prone.

It took a minute to find the strength to make my arm go through the motion of reaching into my pocket for the keys, which I gave to Nefarious. Without prompting, the first thing that she did was run inside to grab a pillow to put under my head to keep me comfortable. She then got the heavy bags of groceries out of the trunk and put them in the fridge as I lay there. She wanted to know whether to call 911 (something that I’d already considered), but I assured her that I was just sick to my stomach, which forced me, after fifteen minutes of lying there recovering what little I could, to drag myself into the house to avoid being over-ruled on the 911 call. Nefarious helped me to the bed in our front room, which is also the coolest room in the house, and got me some water. She really did take excellent care of me.

I was at once horrified at what she’d just been exposed to, but also very proud at how maturely she handled it and how well she kept her head on her shoulders, to say nothing of how touched I was at the kind and caring treatment. But what really broke my heart and left me not knowing how to respond, was when she said matter-of-factly but with deep sadness, something to the effect of “I know that you’re sick, but when things like this happen I think that you’re going to die soon.” It was everything I could do not to break down in tears. I did my best to reassure her that everything was back to normal by reading and playing cards, both things I could do without having to move, and I think it helped but the doubt and worry was obviously still troubling her. At every opportunity that I’ve felt strong since then, I try and pick her up and do other “feats of strength” to show her that I’m alright, but it’s difficult, because I’m not, and that’s getting much harder to hide, although I hope that Friday stays an anomaly for as long as possible. I grew up with a dad that seemed like the biggest, strongest, most indestructible guy on the planet. That was my experience. I don’t really know what to do, how to handle this, how to talk to my family about these issues… I’m not afraid of dying, and I have to admit that some days I wonder what the value is in having a long drawn out painful death, but then I think of the responsibilities that I have to Nefarious and Caitlin, and I just feel horrible guilt for having those thoughts.

Anyway, tomorrow’s another day, and I’m completely certain that it will be a much better day.

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Oh, and I liked this valedictorian speech that a girl recently gave, echoing many of the points I raised ages ago in BME editorials that quoted all the same John Taylor Gatto et al sources (the original links and formatting are gone, but a couple are still archived here and here).

While I’m posting a inspired video (and not the classic sort that I regularly send Nefarious in her email), I was happy to see Anderson Cooper beating up on political liars, not letting them get away with using the news (let alone the floor of Congress) to spread blatant disinformation… if only this was a regular occurrence, journalists doing their jobs of bringing the public the truth. Now that I give it some thought, I shouldn’t feel inspired by this — it should be the norm. But until it is — and imagine what a different world this would be if it was — a guy can dream, right?

Oh, and I don’t think I mentioned this, but I wanted to give credit to the flikr group from which I’ve been pinching the excellent distressed vignette type textures that you’ve seen here recently. Here’s that link — it’s definitely worth your while to grab them to save yourself some time making your own.

* * *

Anyway, it’s very late and although I’m plenty exhausted I’m not at all tired, I’m going to try and find the sleepiest music I have and hope for the power of lullabies.

Last Couple Wikileaks Videos

I’ve grown bored of the visualization project so I don’t think I’ll do any more renders unless there are requests, but before I sign out on that topic I wanted to post two last test renders, that are similar to the last one, but instead of just IEDs, they include much more. Small black circles are crime. Flashing diamond-sort-of-things (they were supposed to be muzzle flares originally) are combat incidents. The same thing, but reddish is friendly fire. A green circle is an IED or mine that didn’t hurt anyone. A red one is an IED/mine that caused casualties. Red crosses are MEDEVAC type missions. Blue dots that expand to a hollow blue circle are psyop or intel gathering incidents. Purple X’s are accidents. Areas of the map become tinted red permanently as they experience casualties there.

I’ve created two versions, one that’s the entire country and the surrounding area, and one that’s a zoom in showing the area between Kabul and Kandahar. Each one has been rendered at 1080p (ie. 1920×1080), so when YouTube’s servers have had a chance to do the conversion, you should be able to watch it at high res if you’d like. I haven’t bothered with music or intro or anything like that because I was just testing, and then, like I said, got bored.

Among other things, we went to the Royal Ontario Museum today to check out the terracotta warriors exhibition and the still excellent after several recent viewings biodiversity displays. Instead of walking, I used a wheelchair, which was an experience that I have mixed feelings about. I know for sure that I hated being pushed, because it made me feel really helpless and low and “less than”, but rolling it myself was enjoyable and it sure was nice to be able to move around without every step being an effort.


Teenager ducks and stuff like that

One of the things that annoyed me about my iPhone was the 800×600 camera resolution… Oh, the embarrassment I felt when I realized that this was just because I was “transferring” photos by emailing them to myself — and when I plugged the phone in directly via USB cable, there was a folder full of nice big photos with six and a half times as many pixels apiece in comparison to what I had begrudgingly accepted. Well, people learn at their own pace.

On that, I recently added a couple of books on unschooling to my Kindle and have been giving a lot more hands-on thought to treating life as the school. Today at the park Caitlin and Nefarious discovered the carcass of a big fat cicada, so I told her what I knew about them, and when we got home we looked them up on Wikipedia and read the entire thing and then some, discussing the interesting points, and then spent another half hour reading other interesting entries, and lots of worthwhile side paths (for example, “is it louder than a crying baby?”, leading us not just to the comparison, and then various other noisemakers, but some specific use of the technical term “decibels”). It was highly enjoyable for both of us — the joy of learning together — and educationally productive without feeling like work. I feel like it’s something that deserves a great deal more thought, because it felt very “right”.


It was very nice to see our old friend the heron, standing just a few feet away from us in a heavily trafficked pond that I rarely see it in — although I am not sure if it is the same heron that we photographed two years ago (a photo which Nefarious has framed in her room). There were also some teenager ducks.

Finally, I saw (on the web) some very cool upcycling of cheap wood furniture that I want to try out, but I have some fear as to weakening the legs and me crash landing on the floor as Nefarious cackles in glee. There are so many interesting themes one could tackle…



Knife Excuse

As you know, I almost always carry a knife, usually an assisted-opening tanto-bladed Kershaw. As I understand the law in Canada, carrying a knife like this, even with a silly product name like “Cyclone”, is legal, but carrying a concealed weapon is not. However, as with many laws in Canada, the definitions are nebulous and very “eye of the beholder” — a legal phenomena that works out nicely if your police are trustworthy members of the community, but falls apart quickly when times shift to more of an us-versus-them hostility — so there’s nothing written in stone as to the length of blade that’s permitted or any other easy codifier. If you can convince the police that it’s a tool, you’re fine, so they’re not going to arrest you for carrying a machete down a country road if you tell them you’re clearing some prickly ash. However, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble over your sword cane (to my sadness), or even a regular katana, because they’re not going to pass their “legitimate use” test.

I truthfully do carry the knife for utility, but still, the reason I mention the above paragraph is I realized after the fact that having my phone full of pictures of whittled sticks may well keep me out of jail one day! Haha, although in today’s climate, it could just as easy get me a vandalism charge… In any case, while Nefarious plays at the park, I pick up whatever is nearby and chisel a rather crude face (and perhaps body), looking up occasionally to see her in the distance with her mouth wide open pointing out gaps as she and her friends spend a surprising amount of time discussing their personal encounters with the Tooth Fairy. The funnest part for me though is hiding my creation for a child to discover in the future… The farther in the future the better, because if the carving has had some time to weather so as not to look quite so “fresh”, I think it’s even more able to capture the imagination, and perhaps in life there is no more honorable quest than to do just that.



Unfortunately the found wood is quite hard, so it’s physically beyond Nefarious’s strength to carve (it’s hard enough for me to do with any accuracy), but that didn’t stop her from using marker to make this little voodoo twig of me (thus the beard). Because these sticks pretty much guarantee a serious and bloody injury if she goes at them I think I’ll keep my eyes open for a more blade-friendly soft balsa wood or the like. On one hand I miss the days that you could find craft stores on every block, but on the other hand, these days it’s only a click away… I’m not sure which is better.


Our other unschool-y (as in unschooling — and, question to self: why does the Firefox dictionary default to having “unschooled” but not “unschool”?) activity today was taking a handheld soldering-type blowtorch to small pieces of all the different kinds of styrofoam around the house — various structural computer packing materials, stuff that I think is insulation, ultra-light packing peanuts, and so on — and it was actually quite an interesting experiment. Most of the foams quickly melted into a hard plastic that solidified very quickly. We’d just finished repairing a plastic toy with glue, and next time I’m thinking about welding it with melted styrofoam. The packing peanuts were the most fun, because their ultra-low density made them disappear with pretty much no smoke and no debris other than a tiny grain of green plastic. One of the styrofoams, which almost felt like the material that a thick cold-water wetsuit is made of, was interesting because instead of melting and burning like most plastics, it disappeared and was replaced with a thick shiny coat of tarry oil that seemed to be bubbling, even after the heat was stopped, and then instead of hardening like all the others did, it maintained a flexible rubbery character. Anyway, it was interesting and I may even have learned something.

And no, I didn’t learn that it’s always fun to burn stuff.

I already knew that!

In a way it’s my father’s fault, because when I was a kid, he was always so cheerful about his many adventures and occasional misadventures alike, and so enjoyed telling stories about them. After a case of a lawnmower repair going wrong, instead of instilling in me a sense of careful fear about fire, visiting my father in the burn ward did the opposite. This was doubly reinforced by his subsequent glee at the scars. (Which for all I knew also helped create a love of scars, but that’s a different musing).