RIP Jack Bruce

27 10 2014

Only just heard that Jack Bruce passed away on Saturday.

A third of Cream, he was the bassist and co-vocalist with Eric Clapton. He was 71 and apparently died from liver failure.

Have a contemplative moment while enjoying the Sunshine of your Love – one of the best bass-lines of all times.





Ying, yang, and disproportionate effects

24 10 2014

I just got back from a business trip to Las Vegas. Almost a week.

I hate that place.

It oozes excess and waste and pointlessness.

Arriving home this afternoon, I underlined my hypocrisy by getting onto the internet, burning up a few watts of electricity and seeing what vital bits of trivial nonsense I’d missed whilst i was away. Almost immediately I depressed myself by watching a documentary online about the great Pacific Gyre. A huge area of the northern Pacific where the currents conspire to trap and concentrate pretty much anything that floats. Historically this was mainly organic waste, and so it became a great feasting place for animals. and the animals that ate those animals. now though… it traps plastic. The wave action and UV from the sun break down that plastic into ever smaller pieces. This is NOT a good thing. All that happens is that the pieces of plastic eventually get to a size where ever smaller animals can eat them. Even larger pieces such as plastic carrier bags are consumed. They look surprisingly like jellyfish, and get eaten by relatively large predators. But the tiny pieces of “microplastic” can be eaten by the smallest of fish. It’s depressing.

Even people who don’t consider themselves polluters are culpable. We consume. We might not directly throw plastic into the sea, but we consume any number of things wrapped in plastic. Only a fraction of that plastic is recycled. In my entire stay in Vegas (a city built on vacuous consumption) I didn’t encounter a single opportunity to recycle plastic or aluminium drinks containers. Of the non-recycled plastic, some “escapes” during transport to the waste tips. I was surprised how much of the ocean pollution was of plastic pellets – “virgin” plastic. It hadn’t even made it into a consumer product before it became pollution! Lost freight off a transport ship perhaps.

Thoroughly depressed, I was consoled by this short film. Despite the huge onslaught that the human race makes against our shared home, this gentle Indian man shows how the efforts of just one of us can help reverse some of that damage. In this case, soil erosion due to deforestation. One man. A labour of love over 35 years. A huge impact. So what if we did one small positive act? As small but as frequent as the many daily negative acts.





Abby Normal

20 10 2014

Ever seen “Young Frankenstein” with Gene Wilder?

Classic spoof of the Gothic horror genre.

The monster’s brain is wrongly selected and shall we say is less than optimal.

These Belgian organ donor ads riff off the idea. Classic dark humour…

More at Ads of the World.





Creative Writing

5 10 2014

As part of my birthday present this year, I was bought a creative writing course at Vancouver’s UBC. It’s a 10 week evening course aimed at teaching the participants how to objectively assess their output and hopefully therefore write more better ;o). Though we get set weekly assignments, most of the focus is on providing solid objective feedback to the work of others. Our own assignment is there primarily to offer material for others to practice their feedback on. Hopefully towards the end of the course we reach a Zen state where we can disassociate from our own words and assess them as an impartial reader might – removing the element of “well, I REALLY meant…” and reacting only to what is actually on the page.

The course instructor is Paul Belserene, a “professional story-teller”. Being the detail-oriented anal-retentive I am, I checked him out via the well of occasionally accurate information available on the internet. Turns out he is an American by birth. Originally educated there, he saw the light and now lives in BC. He even occasionally puts ‘u’ into his words just to show he’s open in principle to assimilating into his adopted country. Though gently spoken and dry of wit, his knowledge and experience on the subject make his 2 hour sessions seem far too short. He also has the patience of a saint which, not myself being of a religious bent, I would equate to other mere mortals, so I suppose that’s just a truism.

As I mentioned, we’re provided a handful of assignments each week to provide some fodder for the main task of learning how to objectively evaluate the written word. Since this course has reinvigorated my writing juices, I thought I’d share one here on my much neglected – though steadfastly quite irrelevant – blog.


 

Write an email that is a follow-up from one person after their first face-to-face meeting in an internet dating situation.

Hey Greg,

I wanted to write to let you know how much I enjoyed last night. I’m sure you’ve texted me like you said you would, but my stupid kid brother dropped my phone in the bath and it’s stopped working, so I can’t get my texts until I get a new one.

Going to the cinema was such a treat. I had no idea that “Death in a Storm Drain” was still showing. Thanks for letting me buy your ticket – so many men these days insist on paying, which hurts my feminist ideals and would have ruined the romance of the movie. I still can’t believe you had your wallet stolen while we were out. Don’t worry, you can pay me back for your train ticket later.

How is your flat mate? It was sad to hear of his Haemorrhagic Fever, but maybe we can go back to your place next time instead. I think I wrote your number down wrong because when I called today there was a Chinese restaurant that answered. Please email me back soon – I bought us tickets for that batik design seminar I told you about.

Hoping to be yours – Elsie


Now, if you want to play the game, you assess the piece in three phases:

1) What do you read? Assess it AS WRITTEN. Infer what YOU will, as the reader.

2) What do you imagine? Use your own experience and knowledge to paint the mind pictures around the specific words you read. What do the words lead you to imagine?

3) How does it make you feel? What emotional response results from that?

As the reader, these are your assessment of the impact of the piece. Only the writer knows if those responses are even close to the intent – but they’re valid nonetheless. Notice that there’s no judgemental element? There’s no concept of good/bad, only a report of how one reader was “moved” or had reactions to the piece. The writer can then use that feedback to tune the piece if those responses are not aligned with the intent.

Eventually I hope the course will allow me to perform that feedback loop myself, and get at least one step closer to my intended reaction before letting my writing loose on an unsuspecting reader. I’ll let you know how things progress…





Just Eat It – A food waste story

4 10 2014

Well, it’s VIFF time of year again, and Vancouver is hosting films from around the world once more. Tonight I saw “Just Eat It!” and was stunned.

It’s a quirky Vancouver-made film with a serious message. The film-making couple use humour to bring home some uncomfortable facts. 40% of the food we grow… goes to the land fill. For 6 months they live off “waste” food… and live very well with Grant putting on 10lb! They spend only $200 in 6 months on food, and yet eat their fill of top quality chocolate, organic food and fruit and vegetables. They even end up giving food away, they have accumulated so much.

At one point we learn that in order to produce a single hamburger, enough water to have a 90 minute shower is required. Meat is one of the most energy and resource consuming foods we grow… and we throw 40% of it away!

If you can – watch this film! Now… go and eat your vegetables. You’re not leaving the table until you clean your plate…

Just Eat It – A food waste story Trailer – YouTube.





The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

4 10 2014

And Hell is where bankers are created!

I have a very good friend and work colleague who is currently in Europe on business. She was expecting a cheque, representing a considerable amount of expenses from a previous business trip to be paid her by the company, but knew she’d have already left. I was quite flattered that she asked if I’d mind depositing the cheque into her account so she could use online banking whilst abroad to handle her various domestic banking affairs. We determined that the requisite flavour of bank was indeed available in the town where I live, and we jointly made sure the various company finance people involved in the cheque cutting and distribution process knew that I was to receive the cheque rather than keep it under lock and key until her return.

So far, so good…

The cheque was due on Wednesday, and she was relying on the financial promise it represented to be safely sloshing around in her bank account by this coming Monday. For reasons unknown, the expense cheques weren’t processed until yesterday… Friday. Because of our careful preparation, there was no problem getting her particular cheque raised in priority to acquire the two necessary managerial signatures and safely placed into my possession well before I left for the weekend.

Then the fun began…

I ambled up to the appropriate bank’s local branch and briefly took my turn in the Saturday morning queue. The polite young man asked how he could help and I explained my task, handing over the company cheque and the card number previously supplied to me by by friend. “But this is a VISA Card number” I was informed. I explained that my friend – clearly identified in type on the computer printed cheque – was a customer of this august establishment and felt it was not beyond their means to identify her chequeing account based on the provided information from their own VISA number. Politely, the cashier explained he’d need to talk to his manager. After a few minutes where I felt I was being scrutinised by many unseen eyes, and frankly felt like some dodgy bank robber, he returned to explain that the cheque was not “certified” and that were it to “bounce”, my friend would be required to pay fees associated with that event. (Here in Canada, the recipient of a fraudulent cheque is charged by their bank rather than simply not having the funds made available to them!). There was a fee of $35 – payable by me  – to have the cheque certified, and I would have to travel in person to the branch of the bank used by our company, in order to have it certified.

At this point I checked my watch… no, I hadn’t slipped back in time. This was still the 21st Century. Here I was, trying to place money INTO an account, yet I was being treated like a fraudster trying to extract money illegally. I had already had to show ID to establish my own bona fides and now I was being expected to travel physically to downtown Vancouver and pay my own money so that the issuing BRANCH (not merely a random branch of the issuing bank) could verify that it was indeed from our company’s account and that they had sufficient funds to honour it. “But there’s good news” enthused the cashier – “It’s with the same bank, so we may be able to do it on the phone from here.” Oh joy! We have at least recovered time back up to the ’70s.

Having reluctantly agreed to pay the $35 to have my friend’s money deposited into her account, he went back to check the process with his manager. After a further interminable wait, and phone calls, he returned and apologetically gave me the cheque back. They had decided that since my friend had not flagged her account to tell them that she was leaving the country, and had not informed them in writing ahead of time that a third party was to deposit the cheque, they could not assume that I was in fact carrying out her wishes. What if she had really wanted the cheque depositing into some other account?

I was gobsmacked! Here in the internet age where utility companies insist on charging you money if you want a paper copy of your bill, and we encounter steady pressure to go more and more to a paperless business world, I was in a position where I couldn’t place money INTO an account on behalf of a friend. Other banks let you take photographs of a cheque and email it. This one wanted me to travel on a 100km round trip to have a business cheque physically certified AND obtain written permission from the account holder before they would accept the cheque.

Hours later, I still find myself snorting in disbelief. Their only offered alternative was for me to give them CASH (my own).

Bureaucracy… mankind’s greatest triumph!





It’s not procrastination if it’s educational

27 09 2014

At last… a posh sounding southern lass that can define “mardy” whilst insulting Wayne Rooney!








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