Wednesday, October 25, 2006

TTC Escalators: Stand On The...?

Stand Right
Something strange is going on in the Toronto subway system. For years, we've had these signs on all the escalators encouraging people to "Stand Right, Walk Left". And lately...they've been removed!

Does that mean there will be chaos on the escalators? People will be pushing and shoving each other, and pandemonium will surely ensue. Lest you think I'm overly dramatic, others feel the same way!

The Washington, DC website
The argument gets quite heated on this thread
Some good English humour about the whole situation here
Of course, London Underground has an entire Tube Etiquette page

Sunday, October 22, 2006

10,000 Flushes

Somehow, in the last short while, this blog has surpassed the 10,000 viewings milestone.

Ten thousand???

I remember when one thousand people had wandered by, and how significant that felt.

So what am I gonna do when it reaches one hundred thousand...

Sad News

Last night, our 16 year old cat Thunder went to a new plane, passing gently in Kirstin's arms. She had become increasingly ill over the last week or so, and there was little we could do. She lived a long and fiesty life...she will be missed by us all - me, Kirstin, Orbit the dog, and Courage the cat.

The place seems to be little quieter around here today. Interesting how that feels, even though Thunder was so silent. Clearly, this isn't about acoustics, is it?


TVOntario Best Lecturer Update

The word's out. TVOntario's producers of the Big Ideas program announced yesterday their Top 30 semi-finalist selections to send onwards to the panel of judges who, in turn, will select the 10 finalists.

Yep...they apparently think I'm telegenic enough to carry on in the competition. Here's my blurb...

Cross your fingers...let the games begin!

PS: I got to the bottom of this not having my video available on their website. Apparently, they had a problem with the DVD I sent them (although, I would guess, it played well enough as regular video for them to make a decision on the semi-finals.) Anyway...they've asked for a Flash version of the thing, which has been done and will be sent to TVOntario on Monday. So, stay tuned to their site for video clip. This time, Definitely Coming Soon!

Time Rant

Yeah okay, so it's been a couple of months since the last entry. I don't know how it happened, but I ended up incredibly busy once school started again. Lots of Practicum groups, outside committees, and other stuff meant that I just hit the ground running and haven't looked up until now. The good news is that things are mostly settled and I'm gaining the slightest bit of a life back.

So why does life move so fast these days? Some say it's only happening to folks who are old enough to remember a quieter, more leisurely time. But I don't know about that - it seems my students say the same thing, life is rushing them by. I think that this is more due to the pace we all demand of each other. The electronic Internetty world we all live in hasn't helped, either. We send email and then, 24 hours later, a follow up: "Didn't you get my email?"

Why do we expect this sort of short turnaround from each other? And worse, it's as if we didn't think that our friends and colleagues had anything better to do than to answer our email. Yeah we're the only one that sent them a message today.

Imagine if we didn't have email (perish the thought), but had to contact each other with real face time. Now, imagine contacting the number of people you touch base with daily with couldn't possibly fit in that many meetings in a day. And so...the pace would simply have to be slower. But we conduct our high velocity business...because we can.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

TVOntario Best Lecturer Nomination

Okay, the cat's out of the bag, so to speak, so it's time for a blog entry about it.

Last spring, a student (Matt Calabretta - thanks, Matt!) nominated me for the Best Lecturer competition. I duly taped and edited a one-hour TV Tech lecture and hand delivered it to Yonge and Eglinton by the deadline. There were 258 separate applications, which they then narrowed down to 155 nominations that they asked to supply videos. From those requests, they've ended up with 71 videos.

Clips of the profs (with the exception of two) are available on TVOntario's Big Ideas Best Lecturer web page. Astute observers will notice that I am only one of two videos not on that page. Apparently I am "coming soon" whatever that may mean. Why my video is not on TVOntario's website, I'm not sure of, although I've left them email asking if the video was technically acceptable. Maybe it's because I gave them a DVD? I don't know...

Anyway, they sent out a press release and in due course (like, the next day) Andy Lee from Ryerson's University Advancement was on the phone to me for an interview. His article can be found here, on the Ryerson website. Always doing what I'm told, I supplied Andy with a decent resolution headshot, which they have published full rez (!) on the press release - I figured it'd be thumbnail sized, at most...

Thank you to those who have emailed me with congratulations - keep those cards and letters coming in. Keep in mind, though, that so far, it only means Matt submitted my name, and I sent back to TVOntario a video sample of my teaching. The real fun comes when the judges start looking at everything.

Keep your fingers crossed.


Monday, July 31, 2006

Turning Fifty

Yep. Yesterday I turned fifty. I've been on the planet officially for one half of a century.

I got to reflecting, as one does on such an occasion. How has the world changed? Indeed, has it really changed that much? For the better...or not? The answer, of course, is going to be different for everybody. But to give you some perspective, I've uploaded a new webpage, called Fifty Years. It features some pages from Life Magazine, July 30, 1956, and a newsreel from the year 1956.

Have we progressed? You decide...


Thursday, July 27, 2006

England 2006 Webpage Now Online

Thanks for waiting....I've been busy, what with trying to put the finishing touches on my new textbook Audio Technical Theory: Unplugged, and all (more on that later...)

Anyway, it's up. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

England, Part 2 - All This Backpacking...

...kinda does your head in. I'd forgotten about that. It's not that physically demanding even lugging 40 pounds of backpack from hostel to hostel. It's more the time you have to contemplate the world and your life. As a result, I write stuff in a steno notepad while on the road. Some excerpts:

* * * * *
I'm not scared of dying. What frightens me much more is growing old. The slow, inexorable deterioration of the body as it ages. [ed. note: the 20-somethings reading this blog are probably thinking I'm now starting to sound like their parents...] You hurt more; your agility goes downhill; your youthful 20-30-something good looks deteriorate. It's a tough fight, one you can never win. There's a phrase - "growing old gracefully." What does that mean? That your life is fulfilled - literally, filled up? That you've done all you wanted to do? That you could do, perhaps? On this trip, I've been almost mesmerised by St. Paul's Cathedral. Is that it? Do I want to leave the legacy of a Christopher Wren? Would that be full-filling?

I was thinking the other week how we all leave a legacy. All of us. Whether it's a family in the next generation, passing on knowledge to others, or just being a good person with other people. Any of these things, and many others.

Or not.

How we define our legacy depends on many things. It's not what we leave, but how we leave it. If we are (or, at least, try to be) a genuinely good person, then that's at least half of it. If we're honest, sincere, loving and/or caring, that's a good first step. But there's more. Because, as the Christians sometimes say, you don't get to Heaven on your good works alone. Heaven, to me, means being at peace with oneself. My view is that people who are at peace don't resort to violence. This seems obvious, but understand that anger takes many forms. No matter how nice a person you are, if you are angry with someone (or, for that matter, the world) you are not at peace. Ergo, you leave, as your legacy, a fallacy, no matter how nice you've been. That is the way you will be remembered by all - a nice person, but angry at the world. To leave a respectful legacy, you must let go of anger towards other people. And towards yourself.

* * * *

There...that was a little more philosophical. I actually wrote that in London a week ago, but only got around to posting it now. How much has changed in just five years. I would have loved to have a blog on the road during the world trip - this is what I ended up with, due to the technology not being there, yet.

That aging thing - y'know, I think this might be the last time I backpack around. As Indiana Jones said, "I'm getting too old for this." Although I did meet up with a 65-year-old Aussie in Penzance Backpackers hostel. Go figure. But it's not the physicality. It's that, alas, at age 50, I just have less tolerance for the early-20s backpacking atmosphere - everybody's clothes and, frankly, pretty much all personal possessions strewn all over the place (including into my space), all hours of the day and night sleeping and waking, 'interesting' cooking arrangements, labelling your food so it won't get ripped off, and so on. This is not a slam on those of you who are doing this sort of thing - hats off to you! And it wasn't so long ago I did it extensively, myself. So I do "get" it. And I've enjoyed it. I guess it's not so bad that it only took me half a century to want to do something different.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Special Report from London: 7/7

Today in England is a day of reflection - the first anniversary of the London terrorist bombings. The city here is moving and working more or less normally. But one can't help but notice the extra police presence at the tube station...the helicopters hovering overhead...and the Union Jacks flying at half-mast. It is a day of sorrow, of heightened awareness as Londoners go about their day, and of remembrance with a minute of silence that occurred at noon today.

As it turns out, my conference is just down the road from Russell Square station - one of the areas most affected. On July 7, 2005, the blast from Germaine Lindsay's rucksack killed 26 other people and injured 340, as it exploded between King's Cross and Russell Square.

I have some photos of the area today, but they are difficult to upload at an Internet cafe. I will post them when I return to Canada on the 17th.


Thursday, July 06, 2006

Greetings from England, Part 1

I'm writing this from a cheap Internet cafe right near Leicester Square - �1 an hour. I'm here for a few days at the Information Visualisation conference, and then off to visit some friends and backpack for a few days in Cornwall and Devon.

Had a brilliant flight - British Airways upgraded me to business class, so I had a seat that reclined into a bed on the flight over - got almost three hours of sleep, which for a 7 hour flight is pretty amazing. And the food was really good too - fresh greens, steak, dessert, complimentary drinks, a Cointreau as a night cap. I've always heard that BA treats you well...

The conference is sort of interesting. There's the truly esoteric papers, and then some neat ones about icon recognition, visualisation design, and things I actually can understand. There's only about 200 people here, and most of them are presenting papers. I've had some good conversations with people about their research. Presented my paper at the conference on Wednesday, and it went fine - no hitches at all.

But you know, I think there's something a bit odd, in this day and age, about flying 7 hours, 3500 miles, and spending a lot of money to give a 10 minute talk to less than a dozen of my academic peers in a room. Surely, there must be a better way! It is kinda neat to see, in a 1 1/2" thick proceedings book, your own paper. Fun. Why they don't publish these things on CD-ROM is beyond me - I now have a several pound book to lug around backpacking for the next week after the conference is over.

I maintain that we are in our information exchange infancy. We generate all these papers, news items, books, journals - not to mention the Internet's pages, obviously. But we still have no genuinely efficient way of finding and getting at all of it. Bless , but it's still a text-based, somewhat archaic search engine. For real collaboration, I should be able to access a fuzzy logic engine which finds relevant material to my interests. Not only should it get the content easily, it should also allow me to get in touch with the author for further collaborative work. Then we would be getting somewhere!

On a non-conference note, the weather here was insanely hot and humid Tuesday and yesterday, with some serious showers. The temp has broken today (high 25), but it's drizzly. Feels like summer in England to me.

And, my sketching creativity has returned. I went to the pub down the road overlooking the Thames last night, had a pint of Strongbow (only �3!) and drew a decent drawing of St. Paul's Cathedral's dome. I'll upload it to the blog when I get back.

Sorry this reads on and off like a bit of a "dear diary" - hopefully I'll have more deep thoughts as the tour progresses...stay tuned.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Mosquito Ring Tones

You've all heard (or, perhaps not heard, I suppose) about them - the ringtones that you can download for your cellphone that old guys like me can't hear.

They're commonly referred to as "mosquito" ringtones. The sound was originally designed to keep wayward youths away from places like shopping malls (the sound, in theory, drives them nutz), but of course like all good things technological, tables get easily turned these days.

Now, the sound is used as a ringtone so that you can hear incoming phone calls in class without the teacher (or yes, the prof) knowing that your phone's ringing. As far as I'm concerned, being one of the latter, I'd rather have a phone ring with a mosquito tone than Coldplay in my classroom any day. At least it's not nearly as disturbing.

As I'm also in the middle of writing an audio technical theory textbook this summer, I've been doing some reading into frequency response, hearing loss and so on. As a public service, I've uploaded an mp3 file which has high frequency bursts from 15KHz to 20 KHz in 1 KHz increments, followed by a mosquito ring tone. It's about 1.6 Mbytes sampled at a high rate to keep the quality up. Please feel free to help yourself! Test your own hearing - to do this, plug headsets into your computer, most computer speakers are crap for this sort of thing. Or download it to your iPod!

Have fun, l8tr...

Monday, June 12, 2006

"Q" Revisited

Not John DeLancieJohn DeLancieThose of you who have been to the Separated at Birth part of this web domain will know about the many times I've been stopped on the street with "Hey, has anyone ever told you that you look like..."?

Well, I had the ultimate take on this, Saturday night at the pub. Steve Tilley, who writes the Hollywood North column in the Toronto Sun on Fridays, came up to me and said,

"Has anyone ever told you that you look like that guy on Star Trek?"

Now, this is a guy whose job it is to do celebrity spottings, and even he thinks I look like John DeLancie.

I really have to apply for an "extras" job in Hollywood someday...


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wow, the search engines are getting f*cking weird...

Check this out, apparently I've been surfed by:

Okay, let's get this straight...MILITARY DATING SINGLES DOT COM??? WTF? It links back to my blog entries of 2003. 2003? Hello,'s three years LATER! And it's soo not relevant anyway...

Sorry...alcohol induced googling always gets me pissed off...eventually. Arrgh, how dare they make assumptions about my political stripes...ahh, arrgh, bleuggghhhh....splat.

Before I blog off...I'm heading to England just after Canada Day (how apropos is that?) and I'll be there for two weeks at a conference delivering a paper and then on the road backpacking just like the old days (read: 2000). Do you realise there weren't blogs back in 2000? I *so* would have liked to have a blog back then. But you can count on entries here, while I'm on the road in the southwest of England, early July.

Stay tuned, lots of entries coming up, l8tr,

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Of Typewriter Ribbons and Telephone Message Pads

Phone Message PadI went looking for a telephone message pad the other day - you know, those simple pink or blue or green pads we used to see everywhere. You could always find them in your local corner store, or the drugstore, or certainly a dollar store. I couldn't find one anywhere! I wondered whether they, like typewriter ribbons, had been relegated to antiquity because cellphone voicemail is now so popular.

I am pleased to see that both Staples and Grand and Toy still carry the message pads - and what a bargain they are! The 1970s lives on!

They sell typewriter ribbons too! I can still purchase a generic black and red ribbon to reburbish my 1970s Olivetti portable that I typed all my RTA essays on (yes, everything was typed back then - the personal computer hadn't been invented yet.)


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lots of Pictures of the Week

I don't think the TTC's new recycling plan is that clear to everybody...

This may be the most redundant sign I've ever seen (you've probably seen it too, on the TTC subway cars...)

Light stand hit by a Coca-Cola truck. I think Pepsi's getting a lead on Coke, at least by looking at this picture...

Proof that Virgin Mobile is in league with the Devil...

Just a pretty pictures of the mountains, taken in Las Vegas, at the airport...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Creepy Casino

Dead CasinoThere's something a little weird looking about an old casino that's about to be torn down...

Las Vegas and America - Report From The Field

[admittedly, filed after my return...]

I have a love-hate relationship with America. Of course, I shouldn�t mistake the clientele of a cheap Las Vegas casino with the population of a country at large. So, I won�t make assumptions - we�ll just read about the Americans I found at the Imperial Palace.

On the one hand, I really like Americans - they�re bold, outgoing, willing to talk to strangers (at least in my casino, they were), and are generally pretty nice. On the other hand, as they say in the restaurant ads, "the portions are big." In fact, to me everything seems out of proportion.

The people are often big (and I don�t mean tall.) While walking down the corridor, I met up with two rather wide young ladies who were walking side by side, thus preventing me from passing them. That�s right - two people filled the hallway. I have nothing against larger people at all, but my two biggest friends couldn�t have accomplished that feat.

Odd thing about food, too. One morning, I was asking for my same old breakfast, at the cheap fast food place in the hotel. The order taker asked why I selected this meal day after day:

"I�s cheap, it�s filling..."
full after eating this?"
"Yeah. I guess I don�t each much."
"I thought
all guys ate a lot...."

Now then...the breakfast was two scrambled eggs, sausage patty, hash browns, and a pretty large glass of OJ. Who wouldn�t have had enough to eat after this? This is why I don�t go to the buffets in Vegas. To me, it�s a real waste of money to just eat a regular amount of food. But not surprisingly, they seem to be very popular there.

The people are loud, too. Hootingly, holleringly loud. Actually, let me correct that. The men are loud. Well, some of them. Actually no...a lot of them. Maybe it�s a wild west thing. They yell at someone when they meet them:

"HOWYA DOIN�, HANK? YA FUCKIN� SONOFABITCH!" (loud slap on the back here) "WOO-HOO!"

That is an actual quote from one particularly solicitous chap one evening at the bar. Oh well, at least he was having fun.

And, being a socially democratic Canadian, I realise that while all this spending of ginormous sums of money is going on, there are a lot of people in America who can�t get health care, or a decent meal. Las Vegas is capitalism�s showcase. And I can only take about a week of it.

Scatter Magic Slot Machine
Scatter Magic Front PanelDid I gamble? Not really. But I did find a slot machine that I just had to try if only because of its theme: Scatter Magic. Check out the pictures (click on them for a bigger view) - I especially liked the sexy witch, so I threw about $5 into the machine. Did I win? Of course not - this is Las Vegas!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

NAB 2006 - Report From The Field

Ray Dolby NAB 2006Well, day two at NAB in Las sure is a big place!

Really, television has turned into just a bunch of DVDs, computer hard drives, and networking...and repurposing, of course. It's pretty much all 1's and 0's now. Videotape is pretty much dying - it will go away in the next decade, I think. And of course, High Definition is now an accepted reality, and our old way of thinking of television in terms of standard definition is pretty much shot. The people who are running booths with analog equipment and/or SD are looking pretty lonely this week.

Interestingly, I went to the Ampex booth, who were the guys who invented the videotape recorder in 1956. They had an old VR-2000 quad machine up and running, and all the old broadcasters keep milling around it, swapping war stories (myself included, gawd have I been the business this long?) Anyway, who should visit the booth but Ray Dolby, one of the inventers of the machine and, yes, that Dolby - as in Dolby sound. I have a picture of him in front of the old quad. I felt so honoured to be even in this guy's presence! He's probably in his 70's now. Check out the picture, he's the one holding the digital still camera (!) I can only imagine what he's thinking, how things have changed in the last half century.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pictures of the Not-Week

News BoxesI've been busy, but I found a few more Pictures of the Week. Check 'em out, my favourite is on the left, click on it for a bigger view. Enjoy!


Marking Hell 2006

Yes, it's that time again...marking hell.

I have 167 first year papers to mark (I've done 53 as of this writing.) I like to take enough time on each one of them, so it's about a 30 hour job. But of course, I don't do 30 hours straight. That would be so unfair to the 167th student! So I'm doing it in 2-3 hour batches. I'm getting there.

The practicum projects were great this year, as always. The three advisors will sit down for a couple dozen hours and view and listen to everything these remarkable students have submitted. It's incredible, the quality of these productions. You guys (if you're reading) should all be proud! I have six MRP paper writers too, and those have been also quite good this year. It makes me happy to be a prof, and proud of my students because they've shown they can do such great work.

But all of this takes time, so be patient, dear students, as I wrap things up before the marks deadline (May 3rd.)

We're also interviewing the new incoming students, who will start with us in September. There are over 400 interviews split up among the profs. Again, we like to take our time with this, because it's such an important decision - the next four years of their lives are in the balance, so it's something we take a lot of care with.

And then...NAB (see next posting.) If you're going to be there, drop me an email so I can look out for you in the Canadian Suite!

I think I get my life back...sort of...around May 4th.


New High Definition Blog Format

Hey why not use the words High Definition...everybody else is. I even saw an ad for laser eye surgery that referred to the resultant visual acuity as high definition. What a rip off...anyway...

I've updated the blog template to reflect the reality that there are few of you still reading with an 800 x 600 screen (and if you still are, the body text will still fit on your screen, just drive on the left, like the Brits do.) This means that the screen is actually relatively filled with text, and the paragraphs don't word wrap nearly so often. Enjoy!

Oh, I'll be heading down to NAB on Sunday, April 23rd for a week. Look for more blog entries, live from Las Vegas! You'll remember my diatribes from last year's trip...


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Over 8000 Hits...

...and counting.

I don't believe it. At Danalife, we've had over 8000 hits since November, 2002 (8095 as of this entry, actually.) That's around 155 hits a month, which is about 39 hits a week, or five every single day (okay, when you divide it down that way, it sounds pretty lame, admittedly.)

Still...who knew? And that doesn't count the "back hits" from the previous years' blogs which are all archived. I am but a minor player in the blogosphere (augh, sometimes I hate that coined phrase.) Anyway, somebody's reading this darned thing. I have had comments from people worldwide, and of course, the No Smoking blog has its own weird following.

So, this is just a short entry to thank everybody for stopping by. Y'know, fame is measured in small proportions on the Internet. Indeed. And if a few of you (friends, colleagues, tons of current and former students of mine) have managed to entertain themselves for even a few short minutes on the World Wide Web by stopping by,'s been worth the journey.

I encourage you to surf around more of this domain, I've just put online a whole bunch of archival material, so go to that main page and have a look around.

Another final piece of good news information: my textbook, Television Technical Theory: Unplugged seems to be #1 on the if you search for "television technical" in the search engine. I'm planning a full rewrite of the book this summer, which will be available for sale at a very good price. The old edition will stay online for free (I still want to give something back to industry, after all.) Stay tuned for future details.

Anyway...thanks for being here. More to come...of course!


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Olsen Twins New Faces of Badgley Mischka

Olsens Badgley MischkaCaught this vitally important news in the Globe and Mail on the weekend, and so I clearly couldn't resist surfing over to for the details. I don't's a far cry from their "bohemian style" days (as they say in the Associated Press article.) I think the makeup might be a little too goth for the fashion line, but I don't live in New York's upper circles, so what do I know.

"We have been fans of Mark and James for years and were honored when approached to appear in the campaign," Ashley said in a statement. Mary-Kate described the clothes in the fall collection as "glamorous, beautiful, colorful and fun." The ad campaign will be the first time they have promoted a brand outside of their own company. From the AP article.

Click on the picture for a larger view - all photos from the Badgley Mischka website.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Personal Web Pages Give Dark Glimpses for thought...

This is an interesting article about how, when people commit suicide or are murdered (or when they go off and murder on their own), they often leave traces of who they are and what's going on in their minds - by leaving behind their web spaces.

Andrew Ryan's article (if the link no longer works, google for Andrew Ryan and Personal Web Pages Give Dark Glimpses) begins like this (I'm not trying to copyright infringe here, but rather to give you an idea of the article, which I encourage you to find and read in full...)

It's like countless Internet photo albums: An adorable baby girl aglow at Christmas, at her baptism, in a skunk costume for Halloween � joined in some frames by one or both of her smiling parents.

Those pictures of Lillian Rose Entwistle, now heart-wrenching, have a far broader audience than the friends and family for whom they were intended, after she and her mother were slain and her father charged with killing them. The warm images helped catapult the Hopkinton murder from cable news onto the cover of People magazine and newspapers in Neil Entwistle's native Britain.

As Web diaries and personal home pages proliferate, the likelihood that the victim or suspect of a high-profile crime had a life on-line is increasing. The blogs and photos normally lost in the clutter of the Internet can speak for the dead and hint at the motivation of killers when violence thrusts ordinary people into the spotlight.

"People share their intimate thoughts, writing and rambling," said Lisa Bloom, an anchor for Court TV, who has covered several homicides in which personal home pages shed light on the cases. "You are really looking inside their heads."


Making The Bus Wait

Yesterday, I caught the Bay bus to school.

As we boarded, a black teenager dressed in the classic overgrown jacket with his pants crotch down to his knees, got on and walked directly to the back of the vehicle, without paying his fare. The driver, understandably, called out "Excuse me, sir...excuse me...".

The youth schlumped into the back seat of the bus, and messed around in his backpack with measured slow pace, looking for his Metropass. He took his time with this, while people who had been near him moved suspiciously away to other seating. There he was, in the corner, by himself, nobody else around...still looking in the pockets of his bag. As the minutes ticked on, and the pass wasn't forthcoming, I think people were getting a little nervous, wondering if something other than the bus pass was going to be revealed from the recesses of the pack.

After all, there have been a lot of news reports lately...

Finally, he found his Metropass, sauntered up to the front of the bus, showed it to the driver, and returned to his seat. The whole process had taken five long minutes.

I have some unanswered questions. Probably quite aware of Toronto protocol with the transit system (you show your pass as you board the bus), why would this individual behave in this manner? Was it a matter of holding us temporarily hostage? An issue of control? Of power? And, when I've read so much about stereotyping black youth in certain ways (which I very much try not to do), why would this person reinforce and image that we have all been told we would like to eliminate?

Friday, January 13, 2006

The End of the Queue: Reflections on a Small Event

This past week, I was lining up in Pitman Hall cafeteria for a bagel-cream-cheese. There was a young lady in front of me, deciding on what kind of bagel to slice and toast. She eventually made her decision, and I stood back, giving her lots of room to make her breakfast (after all, what's the rush?) A moment later a guy came up from behind, walked right in front of me, and manoevered his way into the rather limited space to pick out his bagel and start preparation. I'm certain he didn't see me. Or perhaps he thought I was waiting for, oh I don't know, a piece of fruit to jump out at me, or something like that.

What was interesting was what happened next. Two other women began a conversation with the first one, and eventually the guy, and the whole event became a sort of miniature Breakfast Club, with various parties grabbing their toasted bagels, slathering cream cheese on the lightly toasted surfaces, and fumbling with the foil wrap.

Now, to many others of my generation, this whole situation would have been considered rude. Didn't the guy see there was a line-up? Shouldn't he give the first woman some space? What ever happened to everybody taking their turn?

But I suddenly realised that I was watching what may be the beginning of the end of a societal habit (queueing), and the start of something that is actually quite old, but may be renewed: a communal sense of being involved in something together. With this flash of pre-java insight, I decided to join the fray, and was greeted by the others as we discussed how the toaster had been set, and how the first woman had sent her bagel through the machine twice (first round was under-toasted, second time it was almost burnt to a crisp.)

The others went merrily on their way, and I completed my own version of the bagel ritual. I started my day with the realisation that all too often, people are quick to judge a situation based on preconceived notions of what is "right" - and less able to understand that there are constantly new realities forming all around us.

The more we are able to embrace those changes, the more enlightened we become about our vast and diverse world.

Cellphone Gift Ads

Okay. We got the message: "Buy your loved one a cellphone for the holidays." All through the transit system - on the platform billboards (Bloor and Yonge was the worst), in the subway cars, on the buses and streetcars. Alright, already. They were bearable - just barely - until we got through the holiday season. Although the Bell ones with the cutsey digital elves were starting to get on my nerves by the end of it all. And the fuzzy-wuzzy Telus rabbits were just a little too innocent for my taste from the get-go.

Now...may we puleeze tear these things down? It's mid-January - get over it. We're sick of looking at them. Will somebody out there please spend some advertising dollars to replace these things?

Thank you.

Monday, January 02, 2006

From Rainbows to Toilet Paper

Huge Toilet RollsDoes this bug anybody else?

See the picture on the right (click on it for a bigger view, if you really want to...). Okay, look at the size of that toilet roll. I know, I know, they put these huge rolls in the stalls so they don't have to change the paper so often. Fair enough. But the problem with these stupid things is that the paper company is so cheap, they don't make the tissue strong enough to overcome the inertia of the roll! So, everytime you want some from a fresh, full roll, you can't make the spindle turn. Oh no...instead, you get a little square or two, because the damn paper snaps off in your hand, since the roll weighs too much...

Stupid Design #23...


Upbeat Blog Entry for the New Year

Office DaySince the last entry was such a downer, I thought I'd post something that's a little more "up". Here's a short (1.4 Mbyte) movie I made last autumn in my office. It's a span of several hours compressed to about ten seconds. The thumbnail on the left shows a fun 'highlight' in the video - first and second year students reading the blog will appreciate it, certainly! Click on the picture to view the movie (it's a .wmv file, so you'll need Windows Media Player or something that'll play it.)


Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

...well, in a few hours, anyway.

It's time for the annual blog cleanup. Don't worry, you can find the whole last year's worth of entries (all 35 of 'em) archived at DanaLife 2005 (link at the side of this blog page) along with all the other stuff all the way back to 2002.

This time last year, I was celebrating with a whirlwind December - a wonderful wedding, the usual holiday time, and really looking forward to 2005.

Well...what a mess 2005 really was:

* world events such as the tsunami, Katrina, more earthquakes than I can count, terrorist attacks on the London underground, the French riots, and more

* my and my loved ones' personal stresses, because of...

* friends and acquaintances getting gravely ill and/or dying (at last count I think I was up to almost ten people who died last year around me that I knew...and there's more where that came from, I can just sense it)

* 'way too many handgun shootings in Toronto

* train wrecks of Hollywood celebrity relationships (or the celebs themselves just being generally stupid) - flip through any 2005 tabloid retrospective, the list is 'way too huge to type up here

and probably lots more I just can't think of at the moment. Is it me, or was there just a lot of shit going down this past year? Anybody else think it was a crappy year, too?

To borrow Queen Elizabeth's phrase, it was truly an "annus horribilus."

However, always looking on the bright side, but not being a fan of New Year's resolutions, I've nevertheless decided to do some things for me to, if nothing else, give my mind and body a chance to deal with the onslaught. This year, it's "time for me." That's not meant to sound cruel. But really the only way to keep a level head in these troubled times is to take care of yourself first. Starting at...why not?...New Year's Day.

I'm going to do something I haven't done for quite a few years: go booze-free for a month. Not that I'm a much of a drinker in the first place, but I could likely use a good full month's detoxification. That, in turn, will also curtail my desire to sneak a cigarette (alcohol is the only reason I ever want one...see my No Smoking blog for more on this...)

Time to get back into the appreciation of the cycles of life, too - the seasons, the phases of the moon. So, all the moon cycles are back in my Palm for 2006 (along with those pesky Mercury retrogrades), so that I will be reminded, at least once a month, to take a moment, meditate on the fullness of life, and give a little thanks to the Goddess for making all the good things possible (and perhaps even ask for a bit of advice when necessary...!)

It goes without saying that I'll continue to eat healthy and go to the gym, work with my trainer, do my yoga...but those things are now so a part of me that I can't imagine doing anything else.

So, however you decide to celebrate this evening, and whatever you decide to do as "something new" as we begin a new turn of the wheel, my best wishes go out to you and yours for a fulfilling and happy New Year!