A penny for your thoughts

24 12 2012

Transitions are great times to be reflective. And no – that wasn’t a geek joke. OK – perhaps it was… sometimes I think physics would have been so much more fun at school if I was teaching it.

Whether it’s leaving high school; getting married; getting divorced even; having a child; losing a friend or relative; the end of a millennium… or even the drawing to a close of a “normal” year – the perceived leaving behind of one state and the contemplation of the opportunities ahead seems to be a natural time for us to be a little introspective and contemplative. But Auld Land Syne is just an excuse to drink – let’s be fair! And while we’re at it – what’s that iPhone bagpipes App all about FFS?!

As I walked the dog this morning, in the rainy We(s)t Coast of BC, I was in quite a good mood. A great friend and ex-colleague always quipped that I wasn’t truly happy unless I was miserable, so this good mood was worthy of self-exploration as the rain dripped off my nose.

2012 was certainly an eventful year. I changed jobs – leaving my old employer only a few weeks before the annual bonus was awarded. I like to think I do things because it’s right, not because it’s necessarily advantageous to me. I recently watched a TED talk about the shame question around abortion. Worth a few minutes of your life, no matter which side of the debate you stand on: http://bit.ly/WBoCwb

Anyway, it taught me a couple of things: (i) even great thinkers can over-simplify and (ii) the wartime king of Denmark was my kind of person!

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Ms Cannold is very careful to show nothing but respect for Niemöller in her TED talk, but points out that though the self-preservation argument is sound (if I don’t stand up for you, why would you stand up for me?) it is not enough. She points to Pricess Di’s stance in the early days of AIDS awareness. Making a public, positive stance and embracing (literally) people who were suffering from HIV and full-blown AIDS. De-stigmatising the disease and making it acceptable to talk about. De-shaming it. Allowing sensible debate and research available to everyone.

Source BBC: 1989: Diana opens Landmark Aids Centre

And then Cannold mentioned the king of Denmark, who allegedly took a moral stance during the war. (Funny, don’t you think? “The” war! There have been so many before and since…). When Hitler demanded the Danes should force Jews to wear yellow stars, he is alleged to have said “sure – along with me and every other Dane”. According to Snopes – the myth busters, this isn’t actually true, but it is true that King Christian X of Denmark and Denmark as a nation did indeed protect many Jews during this particularly loathsome era of European history. Can you imagine the cojones it would take to do that? With no way of knowing what the reaction might be? Just because it was the right thing to do. Now that, dear reader gets my attention.

So – this walk in the park I was mentioning. It was wet and miserable this morning – hence my good mood, I suppose. The local park has several benches overlooking the duck ponds. On less damp occasions, or when people just don’t give a shit and need a rest, they are occupied by the gentle folk of White Rock watching the world go by. My dog on the other hand likes to pee up them. As she performed this doggy version of Twitter (I just went to the park – sniff me sometime!) I noticed that someone had left two pennies on the lower brace of the bench. Sure enough there were two on the other side too. I prodded with a finger to make sure they weren’t glued on (the difference between a statement and a prank).

Ha – so this got me thinking. What was the statement? I have too many coins in my pocket? If you really need a penny take it? Art? Interesting…

As I walked around the ponds I found the same “installation” on every bench but one. Here’s Spiketta the devil-dog guarding the last but one bench…

What're you looking' at?

Anyway, I returned home in fine spirits, ultimately pleased that I felt loved by those I love, and satisfied with most if not strictly all the choices I had made in 2012. And someone out there was doing weird, unexplained stuff in my manor because they felt like it. I like it that I’m not the only one.

Here’s wishing you a great 2013, and comfort in the choices you’ll make, still ahead of you…





Hanger Tea – Teabags Packaging by Soon Mo Kang » Yanko Design

22 12 2012

Hm – now I know I’ve shared stuff from Yanko Design before, but this one has EVERYTHING!

Like all good design, it actually solves a problem. In this case that issue of where to put your tea bag when it’s provided enough flavour and you don’t want to turn your drink bitter. (Of course – I wasn’t even aware of this issue before I moved to Canada. In the UK you’d make tea in a proper tea pot, even if it was only for one cup. Here, it’s often the case that the bag is placed directly in the cup).

Anyway, the problem, as well as being solved, is being solved with WIT. WIT always gets my attention. A little clothes rack to hang your hangers on. Classic. Love it. But there’s more! Word play. The bags are in the shape of (wait for it…) “Tea-shirts”! Brilliant!

Hanger Tea – Teabags Packaging by Soon Mo Kang » Yanko Design.





Book Sculptures by Guy Laramee [12 images]

22 12 2012

I’ve posted the work of Guy Laramee before, but this page had some different images. He’s Canadian, so I’m slightly more inclined to let him off for desecrating books in the name of art!

Book Sculptures by Guy Laramee [12 images].





Pish!

18 12 2012

No idea where “pish” comes from, but it was often used as a euphemism for “shit” or somesuch when I was a kid. It predates Shakespeare, as Othello attests:

“Pish! Noses, ears, and lips. Is ’t possible? Confess!”

Today I learnt something and I thought I’d share.

I came across an ad site. Not this one actually, but I can’t find the original. Anyway, this one will do: Rashers: Pish | Ads of the World™.

It displays the work of Illustrator Steven Hall for Ad Agency Ogilvy & Mather on their campaign for Rashers. Who are they, thinks I? Rashers.ca tells me a little more, but not much… they’re not up and running yet. Oo goody – I’m in at the start of something big! Of course it’s going to be big! (i) It’s Canadian (deduced from the .ca Sherlock, keep up) and (ii) it involves bacon!

rashers

But wait! Though I now have my suspicions from the “948 Queen Street East” on the pish, there are many cities of the world with Queen Streets. And there’s this Hogtown thing on the website. Abracawikipedia, via google, and the answer is some Canadiana history…

“Hogtown”, related to the livestock that was processed in Toronto, largely by the city’s largest pork processor and packer, the William Davies Company

The ad below is a pish, but follow the links or click on the picture to see my favourite – the picken. This is for those advocates of Agile software processes who can’t decide if they’re a chicken or a pig. If you’re fortunate enough to have not been exposed to agile methods (the software equivalent of having JWs beating on your door every weekend) just enjoy the art of Mr Hall and think yourself very lucky indeed…

Source: Ads of the World. “Pish” for Rashers

When all’s said and done, you can’t beat a good ol’ bacon buttie!





Age is just a number

16 12 2012

So one of my Scouty contacts is 27 today.

He is bemoaning his new-found “crispiness” as he puts it. Actually, 27 is a big thing in Scouts Canada… he can no longer be a Rover Scout, so I was a little more sensitive than his youthful whine would normally have solicited.

Source: World of Technology. 111 year old Cuban Man

Indeed, I even tried to cheer him up with the well established adage that “You’re only as old as the woman you feel”. OK, so it is a tiny incy wincy bit sexist, but I think ultimately the fact that I said it proves my point – you don’t HAVE to grow up, just because you get old. Plainly I’m a case in point! Being aware of sexist remarks comes with age and experience, ergo sexism is childish. Ergo men are doomed to remain sexist, since we struggle to grow up.

Of course, I look for excuses outside myself (also a childish behaviour). Personally, I favour evolution. Men would have been regularly trampled by mammoths or fall off cliffs trying to collect eggs well before they needed to stop having fun and take on any real responsibilities. Evolution never needed to select for responsibility, since that developed AFTER you’ve mated and subsequently fallen off a cliff due to shoddy placement of your protection, and trying to summit before dark. (Climbing joke, just smile and carry on).

Women of course needed to develop stability and thoughtful consideration in order to safely bring up the offspring. Even if their better sense told them to drown the ones with boy-bits. Men – no they were all about showing off, hunting and getting laid. So nothing really changes, does it? Except maybe the addition of  options since the discovery of the brewing process. Civilisation (as we’ll laughingly call it) has bypassed the whole evolutionary thing and left us men ill-equipped to deal with today’s reality. Our minds have cheated and side-stepped the whole genetic adaptation game totally, leaving us with a mental attitude that had a life expectancy of say 20-30 now living into our 70s… and the tools to do way more damage!

So here we are, with the male of the species genetically unprepared to live beyond youthful playfulness, yet now typically living well into old age. And look at the harm that causes! Old men are in positions of power both economically and politically (in the few countries it’s not actually the same thing). The women have the skills, but the men make the rules. Perhaps politicians and CEOs should have to collect eggs from a cliff freestyle before they’re sworn in.

Where was I going before that surprisingly pro-feminist rant?

Oh yes – Lego. I love Lego. Because I’m male and therefore childish.  :o)

Actually, I do seriously believe that play is an important part of how we learn – at any age – and Lego is a great engineering and design tool as well as a toy for younger fingers to learn dexterity and problem solving in the physical world. And so I wanted to make you aware, dear, patient reader (and I am truly grateful you choose to spend your limited time on this spinning rock reading my random irrelevancies) of a web page I found that really pushed the boundaries of Lego. Enjoy, if you will Funky Lego Gift Bags on Design Soak.

Source: Design Soak

Source: Design Soak





Nora Batty’s seriously wrinkled stockings

15 12 2012

So if you’ve no idea who Nora Batty is, firstly check out a few classic episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. It’s based in Holmfirth, a lovely little place in West Yorkshire.

Kathy Staff as Nora Batty. Source Jane, over on Noisy Shoes

Anyway, apart from the inherent value attributed to it simply because it’s a mention of Yorkshire, the reference is entirely irrelevant. If you’ve already been and checked out Last Of the Summer Wine – I apologise. It’s not very funny, is it? But the scenery is worth it. I have no idea how they found so many non-raining days to film the series!! I can attest that a great way of upsetting your spousal partner is to frequently interject with “I’ve been there”. It works wonders at whittling away marital stability it seems.

Anyway, now we’re safely back from that cul-de-sac (Literally “bag’s bum” in French), on to the real tale…

I often have lunch at Murchie’s in Richmond, near my office. It’s actually their distribution centre, but they have a little café on the side which sells lovely salads and of course their luxuriant range of tea. The lovely serving wenches there (I jest – no comments thank-you. I wouldn’t DARE call them wenches to their faces. Or bottoms, for that matter) are very friendly and pleasant. To the extent that the whole point of having a salad at lunch seems lost on them. I often have a serving so large that it cascades apologetically over the tub (designed to standardise the portions!) and onto the paper plate added to the ensemble for the purpose. I always have Russian Caravan to drink. I am reportedly the only person to have it, yet am teased frequently with questions of whether I’m having “my usual green tea” or the Earl Grey.

Anyway, where was I? Holmfirth, Murchie’s, tea, ah yes…

So Murchie’s often have the radio going just to add a little ambiance to the otherwise rather stark room. They’ve done their best with the addition of a (non-functional) pot-bellied stove and some half-hearted Welsh dresser thing as a display cabinet, but when all’s said and done… it’s an industrial unit. And it looks like it!

But the music helps. I’m normally trying to read some book or other, and the music helps set the mood. Usually it’s Sirius satellite radio (why do North Americans pronounce it “serious”?!) The time of day I’m there, it’s some acoustic programme, and they often have classic songs being re-imagined either by the original artist or someone covering it. There’s no commentary (cheap radio production), but thanks to Shazam, I can usually figure out who is singing any songs I like, and I can acquire a version when I get home.

There was one tune on pretty frequent rotation, and it really hooked me. I used Shazam, and it turned out to be Norah Jones – Say Goodbye, from her brand new album Little Broken Hearts.

Bring me back the good old days,
When you let me misbehave.
Always knew, it wouldn’t last,
But if you ask, I’d go again.
Yeah, I’d go again.

Here she is performing it live

So anyway, I duly ended up getting the whole album, which is moody and opulent. There’s some boppy yet thoughtful tunes like Happy Pills

And the downright creepy Miriam. Ms Jones is plainly not someone to cross in matters of love!

Anyway, I now listen to this album on rotation in my car, alongside Regina Spektor, Coldplay, Mother Mother, Lloyd Cole (who was VERY cool and personally messaged me the other day!) and a bunch of other equally eclectic tunesmiths. And then I hear the other day that Ravi Shankar has died.

Wikipedia: Ravi Shankar

I confess that I was only vaguely aware of his work, and that was strictly in the orbit of George Harrison and the Beatles. A tiny fraction of his work and influence. And those two threads might have stayed forever blowing independently in the breeze until this evening. This evening (after watching Life of Pi), Mrs E casually mentioned that Norah Jones was his daughter! Turns out her full name is Geethali Norah Jones Shankar. Her half-sister Anoushka Shankar took after their dad and is an accomplished sitar player too.

Music it seems really does flow through your blood!





It’s irrational

15 12 2012

Just got back from watching Life of Pi.

It’s all backwards. I was aware the film had been released and remembered I’d always meant to read the book (which came out in 2001 I believe). Saw the book at Costco on Wednesday and bought it for a song. It’s still unread, but now I’ve seen the film which is by all accounts is very close to the book.

I liked it. Clever. I liked the twist (don’t we all?!)

I liked the little piscine jokes.

I liked that Gérard Depardieu was in it, contenting himself with a very minor part, but playing it with wit.

I liked the idea that we need to come to terms with multiple sides of ourselves to get through this thing we call life.

I like the idea that Martel, the author, is Canadian (I didn’t know that) from back East.

Richard Parker, it seems, is the name of several real people involved in documented shipwrecks and cannibalisation events. Just sayin’…

If I was to rate it out of 5, I’d obviously have to give it
3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731159562863882353787593751957781857780532171226806613001927876611195909216420198938095257201 065485863278865936153381827968230301952035301852968995773622599413891249721775 283479…

Or more rationally, maybe 3.5.

It’s got some stunning effects, thanks to Ang Lee. “You can’t see the join” as they say, when it comes to the CGI. And at the end, having enjoyed the visual spectacle, you have to rewind and think about it. Excellent.