Friday, March 28, 2014

Sick Day Haiku

Confined to bed rest
With my phlegm and weary limbs
Poetry cures naught

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Grad 78

I shot this on the west side of the Leduc Junior High School sometime during my Grade 8 Industrial Arts class, which included a unit on photography. We also had to develop the negatives and make prints.

I would have been in Grade 8...let's see...during the school year 1982-1983. So the class of '78's graffiti lasted at least four years, assuming it was actually painted in 1978. That seems like a long time for graffiti to cling to the side of a school, but back in the 80s Leduc had a rough reputation. Maybe the school officials felt it added to the ambiance. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Introducing the Cocoa-Nut

Many humans enjoy the succulent white meat of the coconut. Others are fond of chocolate. When mixed in desserts and candy bars, chocolate and coconut are a winning combination.

BUT! What if some mad genius - and I'm not naming names here, cough cough - were to use genetic engineering techniques to combine the coconut palm and the cocoa plant into one STUPENDOU-FOOD - the COCOANUT! It would have sweet dark chocolate meat! The chocolate to plain coconut's vanilla!

Where is my Nobel prize? TWO Nobel prizes - one for Peace, one for Science! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Parking Person

As I rolled into my downtown parking lot of choice this morning I noticed a woman with a clipboard standing at the ticket vending machine. After backing into my stall I saw that she was still there, poking away at the machine for far longer than it should have taken to purchase a ticket. 

By the time I clambered out of my car, she was gone. But as I was about to slide my credit card into the machine, I saw that there were two tickets already poking out of the ticket slot. Curious, I fished them out and noted that they were both valid for the day. I looked around for the woman, thinking she'd somehow mistakenly left the tickets behind, but then I realized that it would be silly to buy more than one ticket in the first place - unless your intent, all along, was to leave them behind for other motorists. I realized I was the recipient of a random act of kindness! 

My faith in humanity renewed, I took one of the tickets for myself and returned the other carefully to the ticket slot for the next lucky passer-by. This was no cheap gesture - parking costs $14 per day on that lot, and my anonymous benefactor had paid for at least two strangers to park. 

So thank you, anonymous do-gooder, for your generous gesture. I'll likely never know your name, but the thought is very much appreciated nonetheless. I'll pay it forward sometime this spring. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Revolutionary Repast

Even after  half-dozen Geekquinox dinners, Peter Harris' inspired feasts continue to stun his friends into gastronomical submission, our groans of sated delight the conclusion to each of these wonderful evenings. Last night Pete treated us to French cuisine with a twist - a meal based on the French Republican calendar, with a course or drink for every month. Here are some selected highlights:

Ventose ("windy"), one of the winter months, here captured as a deliciously light and puffy pastry of wheat and roasted red pepper. We inhaled these as if they were air itself.
Ellen serves up a tray of ventosian delight.
For the wintry month of Nivose ("snowy"), Pete warmed us with raw oysters on a bed of snow.
Oyster sauces.
Bottoms up! Before this moment I'd never had oysters, let alone raw. Drowned in hot sauce and lemon juice, I found them quite appealing.
The chef and his assistant present the oysters. Ellen wounded herself several times while prying the shells open.
Pluviose ("rainy"), the final winter month, here symbolized by escargots in mushroom caps with buttery garlic sauce, served alongside...
...bread, a French staple.
Germinal ("germination"), a spring month, a time when there can still be a chill in the air to be warmed by French onion soup. Pete bought sixteen French onion soup bowls for this meal, and filled ours with roughly one onion each, along with the bread and cheese that make this soup a favourite.
For Prairial ("pasture"), another spring month, Pete served flame-broiled steak in a cream sauce with mushrooms. Things were beginning to heat up...
Flames of the revolutions.
And finally, the piece de resistance, lobster Thermidor ("heat") served alongside green beans and bacon (Messidor, "harvest") a summery dish to sum up the evening.
And here we are, a thoroughly filled-up and satisfied group of culinary revolutionaries, French for the evening. Thanks again to Pete and Ellen for yet another superb dining experience, and to everyone for an important night of fellowship. Even fighting off our various colds and flus (poor Scott had to put up with my constant hacking), it was another memorable, can't-miss occasion. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

An Alberta Legend Passes On

CBC reports that Al Oeming, he of the Alberta Game Farm, died earlier this week. Zoos get a bad rap these days and I'm not well-informed enough to debate their merits, but as I wrote in one of this blog's most popular posts, the Alberta Game Farm left quite an impression on me. It was quite a thrill when just a couple of weeks ago Al's son Todd commented on that post, outlining some of his plans for the site; you can see what the younger Oeming is up to at www.wildsplendor.com. I'm sure Todd will build a legacy his father would be proud of. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Maul in the Family

I'm not sure what's happening in this photo, but I love Sylvia's shocked expression. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sean's Rage Level

My brother Sean created a Rage Meter to express his level of frustration with the world; here it is in animated form. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Inaction Figures

INT. SUBURBAN KITCHEN. BOBBY RUNS INTO KITCHEN AND TELLS MOM:

BOBBY: "Mom, I'm bored!"

MOM: "Why don't you and Timmy play with your action figures?"

BOB: "We're sick of action figures!"

INT. PAN ACROSS DISCARDED CONVENTIONAL ACTION FIGURES, TOSSED ASIDE CARELESSLY.

NARRATOR: Tired of action figures that have exciting adventures all day? Tired of soldiers, astronauts, superheroines, cowboys, Amazons, cyborgs, SCUBA divers, tennis pros and Navy SEALS?

Try INACTION FIGURES! New from WoodsWorld!

SPFX: PAN ACROSS INACTION FIGURE LINE

NARRATOR: Inaction Figures are the ultimate in toy realism, because they could be YOU! There's the garbage man, with trash can. The accountant, with pocket calculator. The politician, with briefcase stuffed with bribe money. The office worker. The stay-at-home dad. The travelling salesman. The out-of-work actor/waiter. The sherpa. The Bollywood director. The obnoxious audiophile, with real vinyl record player. The ageing hippie. The refugee. The dock worker. The auto mechanic. The poet with inkwell, feather pen and scroll. The teen with pickup truck. The research scientist, with stack of grant applications.

FULLY COMPATIBLE with your child's existing action figure line! Does your child's supervillain need someone to torment? Bring in the Innocent Bystander Inaction Figure! Does your Captain Kirk need to put together an away team? Bring in the exclusive Inaction Figure Redshirt Squad!

SPFX: Swirly lights across INACTION FIGURES logo.

NARRATOR: INACTION FIGURES from WoodsWorld! Don't let these figures go missing in inaction - collect them all - before they continue with their mundane lives! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

hashtag hashtag memecough phlegm war

hashtag hashtag memecough phlegm war
#hashtagmemecoughphlegmwar
hashtag antibiotic resistant bacteria
#antibioticresistantbacteria
clogging up my lungs and making me cough

hashtag hacktag the drugs aren't working
#thedrugsaren'tworking
I'm still stuck here slurping
#nyquiladdict

hashtag barfbag oh oh here comes dinner
#onething'sforsurewe'reallgonnabelotsthinner

hashtag anti-vax crusaders hose me
#sciencedoesn'tmatterjustmyfeelingsOprahtoldme

#ifIhadachoicebetweenrhymeandreasonyouknowwhatI'dpickinthisresurgentmeaslesseason


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Atari 410 Program Recorder

When Mom and Dad bought Sean and I our first computer, the Atari 400, it came with the Atari 410 Program Recorder. We used the Program Recorder to load games like SCRAM or Caverns of Kafka into the computer's memory or to save BASIC software programs of our own making, all using conventional cassette tapes.

To load a program you booted up the computer, plugged the cassette into the 410 and pressed Play. For the next 30 to 45 minutes you'd be entertained by the bleeps, bloops, hisses and buzzes of the software being loaded up. Then, assuming something didn't go wrong at the last minute - which happened more often than not - you'd enjoy your game. Little wonder that cartridges and floppy discs were more popular.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

My First Modem

This is the Atari XM 301 300-baud modem, which I connected to my Atari 130 XE 8-bit computer to access local bulletin board systems over the phone lines. This was surfing in the late 1980s to the early 1990s: you dialled a local number (unless of course you were willing to pay long distance charges to access a non-local BBS) and waited for your turn to connect. If one other person was on the BBS you wanted, you'd get a busy signal. Sometimes it took hours to connect, all for a few rooms of text-only ASCII-glory delayed conversation with fellow geeks. Good times.

I could read the text faster than this modem could transmit it through my computer. Upgrading to a 1200 baud modem midway through university made surfing much more pleasant, though still nothing like we enjoy today. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Space Centres

Here's the last of the posters I photographed at Mom and Dad's before giving them the reluctant go-ahead to start recycling. I wonder how many of the space launch centres indicated on my map still exist? How many others have sprung up, and where?

The Space Centres was drawn on construction paper with felt marker. The rockets were cut out of construction paper and painted with red model paint, then glued onto the map. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Brain Freezeth Over

Tonight I participated in the Corporate Challenge Brain Freeze again, this time with my team from ATCO Electric, the Mutant Masterminds. Sadly, we proved more mutant than mastermind - the questions tonight were far, far tougher than Monday. I'd be surprised if we scored 25 out of 100; I'll find out tomorrow. However, I think we won on style - we were the only team with personalized costumes and our own living brain in a jar. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Apollo Flight Profile

Things don't always improve with time; young Earl, primitive as his skills may have been, was a more talented freehand artist than old Earl. I believe I drew this poster with pencil crayon and felt marker sometime in grade seven or eight. It was part of a science project. I like the little spaceships separating with little plumes of fire. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Brains, Brawn and Bronze

Peter Harris has organized an Intuit trivia team for Corporate Challenge for several years. This year, Dustin couldn't make it and Pete asked me to substitute for Dustin. But today Pete got sick, so Mike's brother Paul was reigned in at the last possible second. Changing things up worked out pretty well; we wound up with 72 out of 100 possible points, enough to earn third place. (The winning teams had 74 and 78 points.)

I'm ashamed that I couldn't remember Major Don West from Lost in Space and that I put Chariots of Fire in 1980 instead of 1981. (To be fair, I did a lot of "ARGH! Was it 1980 or 1981?" Should have second-guessed myself.)

Thanks for inviting me out, guys! 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle, Earl J. Woods circa 1981-1982, coloured pencil and construction paper

Sometime in grade six or seven I created this poster of the Bermuda Triangle, complete with locations of ships and plans that supposedly went missing in or around the Triangle. Amusingly, even my then-credulous pre-teen research concluded that even if a bunch of ships and planes had gone missing in the Caribbean and mid-Atlantic, most had been lost outside the boundaries of the phenomenon. I must have spent a lot of time on this, because the coastlines seem pretty accurate and clean to me; it looks as though I marked out gridlines and then drew in the bits in each square. The ships and planes were cut out of black construction paper and glued onto the map. 

Saturday, March 08, 2014

O Atari, Where Art Thou?

Today Sean and I visited Mom and Dad to help them carry some drywall downstairs. At the same time, we began the painful process of sorting through the old junk that Mom and Dad want us to get rid of - including our old Atari 8-bit computers. Here I am with the Atari 130 XE that got me halfway through university. I'm afraid it's off the the Eco-Station for you, old friend.
Halfway through university I picked  up a more powerful Atari 520 ST. The infamous screenplay "Toilet Chase" was written on this machine.
When the 520 ST crashed, you had to twist it and drop it to get it working again. This was Atari's real-life, no-kidding solution. As the years went by I had to twist it harder and harder and drop it from greater and greater heights to get it working again. What a great computer, and I say that without a trace of irony. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

And the Guessing Oscar Goes To...

Typically Sylvia and I tie in our informal Oscar guessing game, but this year I pulled ahead early and kept my lead for most of the night. I cheated myself out of another point by attempting to game the system, though; I had suspected that 12 Years a Slave would win Best Picture, but thought the preferential ballot might result in an upset win for Gravity, in much the same way that Ed Stelmach and Alison Redford crept up the middle in the last two PC leadership races, and look how well that's worked out for them. Argh, how did politics get into my Oscar blogging? I've been so good for the last year and a half...

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Our Oscar Picks

If you click to embiggen this image, you'll see our Oscar 2014 picks. Who's more attuned to the Hollywood pulse - pop culture professor (sort of) Earl, or glitterati diva Sylvia? We shall see in a few hours. 

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Best Picture 2013

Tomorrow's Oscar night, and the pundits say it's a three-way race for Best Picture between 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle and Gravity. Personally, I think all nine nominees were fine films; this was a good year for movies. Here's how I'd rank them:

9) Captain Phillips. This movie is tense, exciting, and features a great performance by Tom Hanks, especially in the final minutes. Is it better than any of the other action movies of 2013, though, just because it's based on a true story? I think not.
8) The Wolf of Wall Street. It's a very funny movie, but I find it hard to laugh at the evil that's helping destroy our civilization.
7) Nebraska. This film features absolutely stunning black and white cinematography and a great performance from Bruce Dern, an old favourite.
6) Dallas Buyers Club. I really enjoyed this, but I would have liked it even more had the main character been given just a little more backstory. We don't really see him before he's stricken with AIDS; it would have been an interesting contrast.
5) 12 Years a Slave. Given the subject matter, I thought this film played it too safe, which sounds shocking given its scenes of cruelty. And yet I found it just a little sterile.
4) Philomena. I hid it from Sylvia, but this movie made me tear up a bit; the senseless cruelty and loss angered me, which shows the film did its job.
3) Her. Finally, an SF film that explores an important SF concept without resorting to action and explosions. A great script, superb production design, wonderful acting...one of my favourites.
2) American Hustle. Nostalgia and a fantastic ensemble cast really pulled me into this story of con men and women and complicated love and the tragedy of overreaching. Just gawking at the 70s decor and fashions was entertainment enough!
1) Gravity. The story is simple, but seen in theatres and in 3D (which I normally hate), Gravity provided one of the most tense and visceral movie-going experiences I've had in years.