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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Deactivated Listening

I've been taking a Foundations of Leadership course through Mount Royal University, and the course ended today with The Art of Listening. Today's class included practice in active listening techniques, which reminded me of an embarrassing incident from my past...

During either Math or Science class in Grade 10 or 11, my friend and next door neighbour Keith Gylander was speaking to me. For some reason, I tuned out completely and turned to look the other way.

"Earl, I'm still talking," Keith said dryly, and my attention snapped back to him. I was utterly embarrassed, and to this day I can't remember what could have possessed me to be so rude. I certainly wasn't listening actively - or at all! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Obsessive Cleaning Disorder

A few years ago I accused Sylvia of having OCD, or "Obsessive Cleaning Disorder." Turns out it's a thing after all...

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Geekquinox Time Lapse

Last night Pete treated us to another fantastic Geekquinox dinner, only a portion of which is captured on this time lapse of the final course: steak, lobster tail and green beans, all juicy, scrumptious and masterfully prepared. Later this week I'll blog about the dinner in more detail. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hawk One Canada

The mysterious Hawk One Canada, glimpsed on the ground at an air show in 1984. Was there a Hawk Two Canada? Or a Hawk One Turkey? 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Full Fathom Fish Fry

Full Fathom Fish Fry
Cries the crier on the pier
Flipping fillets for five friars
Serving up his bitter beer

Drink your ale and eat your cod
Cries the fryer with his tongs
Handing out the fresh white meat
To the kings but not the throngs

Salutations from the grill
Cries the liar through his horn
Tossing condiments like hand grenades
To those who are not noble-born

This is not a protest poem
Cries the typist to his keys
This is just another artifact
Of art that's dying by degrees

Monday, September 21, 2015

Enterprise-D Construction Project

Some enterprising fan has finished modelling the first four decks of the Enterprise-D with the Unreal engine. It looks amazing, and apparently it's ready for Oculus Rift. Imagine walking the decks of a beautifully rendered USS Enterprise! I hope he finishes this project - it's really well done, and there are a number of cool little gags. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Ares 3 Mission Guide

I have to hand it to the marketing department tasked with promoting The Martian - they're doing a bang-up job of getting me excited about this movie. Of course, I decided to see it the moment I heard Ridley Scott was adapting Andy Weir's wonderful novel, but for more casual moviegoers, there have been in-universe chats with the crew, a fake episode of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Star Talk, and now a PDF Ares 3 Mission Guide, which you can download here. It's very slick. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Oranges & Iron

In a conversation with Jeff about the intrinsic hilarity of throwing up (don't ask), I was distracted by a turn in the discussion and came up with a cool new adventure story for Paranoid Productions:

O R A N G E S & I R O N

In Oranges & Iron, ambitious industrialists are on the verge to completing the fabled Cape to Cairo railway. As part of the festivities, a massive shipment of Capetown Oranges will travel via the new railway to the citrus-starved denizens of Cairo.

But not everyone is sanguine about the new line, a product of European imperialism, an iron scar carved into the spine of Africa against the wishes of that continent's people! Fierce Bantu tribesmen and scurvy Indian Ocean pirates plan to sabotage the shipment for reasons both noble and nefarious. Against this backdrop of colonial conflict, our heroes struggle to survive the nearly 6,800 km journey!

Characters would include the dashing but villainous robber baron, the fiendish orange grove owner, an Egyptian merchant prince, a young Bantu warrior, the plucky railroad engineer (a woman), a British debutante on her first train journey, her fretting governess, a German spy, the conflicted pirate first mate and his cruel captain (and assorted scurvy dogs), the stalwart but harsh sailors of the British frigate HMS Recalcitrant, an 8 year old stowaway rascal, and Tarzan.

There would be a crate of hand grenades fashioned to look like oranges; the pin would be disguised as a pair of leaves growing from the "navel" of each "orange." At one point, the stowaway rascal will toss a faux orange into the confused hands of a pirate attacking the train. After the orange/grenade blows up in the villain's face, the boy will exclaim "Orange you glad you experienced that explosion of flavour?"

I think it could be a winner. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Frantic 4 Fallout 4

Long-time readers will know that I'm a huge fan of the various Fallout computer role playing games. I'm thrilled that soon there will be a brand new Fallout game to play, Fallout 4, set in post-apocalyptic Boston.

In the run-up to the game's release, Bethesda Softworks is releasing amusing promotional videos to welcome players old and new to the whimsical world of Fallout. Here are the first two videos in a series explaining the seven primary attributes of your Fallout character...Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck...or S.P.E.C.I.A.L.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

That Elusive Second Degree

For years now, I've dreamed about working on a second bachelor's degree. Over the course of several years, I've completed course after course, attended hundreds of classes, and yet I'm always one or two courses away from completing the program. I'm not even sure what the program is; my dream never defines it. But it takes far longer than the standard four years, and though I do well in each individual course, I never seem to measure up within the program as a whole.

It's a little frustrating, but not as aggravating as the parallel series of dreams in which I discover that I never finished my first degree, and that I have to start school over again in grade seven and work my way back up.

The classes all take place at the University of Alberta, which I suppose is natural, but it's a very different U of A than the one I actually attended; it's far larger, with as much land area as this world's Edmonton covers. I seem to spend as much time walking to class as actually attending lectures, which perhaps explains why I'm so fit in the dreams. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Me Earl, Like Jane

Robin Maxwell's Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan is a delightfully revisionist, reflexive and feminist take on the Tarzan story. The novel's framing story introduces Jane to one Edgar Rice Burroughs, casting him as the steward of the Tarzan legend, a device Burroughs himself used for his John Carter of Mars stories. But while Burroughs' Tarzan tales grew increasingly fantastical with time, Maxwell's version of the tale is far more grounded, taking only a few liberties with science and probability.

This, then, is the "true" story of Jane and Tarzan, in which we learn that Jane is a budding scientist, proto-feminist and libertine. She's reflective, capable, intelligent and brave in all senses of the word. But Maxwell doesn't ignore Tarzan; her version of the character is just as heroic, brawny and brilliant as he is in the original stories, if slightly more realistic in his capabilities.

The bulk of the story covers Jane's early relationship with Tarzan - their first meeting, their efforts to communicate, their growing respect and love for one another. Meanwhile, they must contend with Jane's enemy, a cutthroat treasure hunter, and Tarzan's mortal foe, the mangani Kerchak, killer of his parents and his mangani foster mother.

Maxwell writes with clarity and sensitivity that Burroughs may have envied. While she's certainly a better prose stylist than Burroughs (this may be damning with faint praise, however much I love the man's work), not once does Jane parody or disrespect Burroughs' achievements. Indeed, published as it was during Tarzan's centennial year, 2012, Jane is a celebration of an enduring cultural icon -Jane, the woman who loved Tarzan, returned to prominence as one of the great women adventure characters of the 20th century. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Of Inspirations Lost

Today at work, in one of those moments of clarity that sometimes appear as you switch from one task to another, I came up with a a great idea for tonight's post. "Aha! I like it. It's funny, original, and it's not recycled or lazy content!"

I was pretty pleased, since a good portion of my posts of late haven't been terribly special.

Of course, you're not reading that post, because I've completely forgotten what I meant to write about.  I really should carry a notebook. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Chez Earlbert

Since getting back into Lego a couple of years ago, I've quickly determined that my favourite sets are the various modular buildings. Last night I completed the Parisian Restaurant for my growing Lego street...and now I've run out of room the office desk I devoted to Lego stuff. Even in Legoland, urban sprawl rears its ugly head. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015


The /writingprompts subreddit offers, as its name implies, story ideas for budding writers. Today I noticed an amusing story prompt game has been posted: use Wikipedia's random article button until you get three names. The first name is the protagonist, the second the antagonist, and the third the reason they're fighting. I'm going to try out this game right now.

The protagonist is Stephen Geller, a novelist and screenwriter. The antagonist is Alexander Hollaender, a scientist. They're fighting because of Edmund Griffith, the bishop of Bangor.

Considering Hollaender died in 1986 and Griffith in 1637, crafting this story presents some challenges. Were I to outline it, I might imagine something along these lines...

Aging novelist Stephen Geller is working on a biography of Hollaender, but he discovers something he doesn't like about the man - Hollaender, it turns out, had an irrational hatred of Griffith that coloured his research, and Geller finds it difficult to build a sympathetic portrait of Hollaender given this revelation.

Not exactly riveting stuff...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Final Sunset

There is no pleasing it,
This scattered tableau of sin,
Devouring every kindness and repaying it with spite.

For every heartfelt offering a new insult, a fresh attack
A black crust congeals and hardens o'er the Earth

Until at last there can be no more offerings
And evil spits its last breath with a curse unheard

Oily spittle defacing the last tapestry

As sun and blue skies retreat with mournful dignity
Leaving nothing but the stars' cold pity. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Granddad's Tools

A few days ago Mom and Dad mounted this collection of old tools on a board from the Etsell barn. Mom writes, "The wrench on the top is for the old Rumely threshing machine, and the one second from the bottom is for a Fordson tractor. The sickle, we found at a garage sale here in Leduc many years ago."

"The one that looks like a pistol is a cylinder tooth from the Rumely threshing machine."

Monday, September 07, 2015

The Etsells and Their Flowers

Sometime in the early 1970s, my maternal grandparents posed behind their coffee table, which was laden with flowers. Mom inherited that coffee table, and we had it at home for many years until it finally wore out.

I often think about moving to southern Manitoba - it's really beautiful there in the summer. But then I remember what winter is like in Manitoba...

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Hell's Club

Another reason to love the Internet: this amazing mashup of an imaginary nightclub where all your favourite movie characters eventually meet. Spectacularly well done. 

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Insert Inspiring Quote Here

Years ago, while volunteering for the Alberta Liberals, I began to assemble a "sorry I missed you" card for door knocking in Calgary Mountain View, Dr. Swann's constituency. This would probably have been done for the 2012 election, though I'm not sure if Dr. Swann's team ever used this template to electioneer. Anyway, I thought the placeholder quote was kind of amusing, and as it turns out Dr. Swann didn't need my help getting elected anyway - he even survived Alberta's Orange Wave, and is now the only Alberta Liberal in the Alberta Legislature. 

Friday, September 04, 2015

Community Boxing Day KO

Beneath the browning turf lurks the snaking coax
Snipped in twain, all signals lost
Screens crash to blue; Mike fumes
Netflix, PVR, YouTube, Amazon -
All entertainment lost
As Canada Postmen cement over the fragile connection
Dooming Mike to analog pastimes
But the mail must go through
Community Boxing Day delivers a knockout punch

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Savage Reminder

The air cracks
And a shower of red petals flutters
Across the gold Savannah 
A beast's howl echoes 
As the sun sails serenely on

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

That Sidelong Glance

I believe this was the Grade 9 Debate Club at Leduc Junior High School. In the front row we have Nevin Pottinger, Jason Hewitt, Mark Lede, David Ruel, and me, looking off-camera at something - I wonder what it may have been?

Michelle Wilson is standing at the far right in the back row, but I can't remember the names of the other women. Too much time has passed.

I believe this was the year I was named Top Speaker at the provincial debates. It came as quite a shock!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

On the Back of a Grecian Postcard

I wish I had a plan
To revisit Japan
And overnight in bonny Iceland 'long the way
Had I Fleming's golden ticket
I'd photograph a Siamese thicket
And drink all the virgin Mai Tais in Calais