linux and more linux

May 28th, 2010 No comments

Last week I spent time getting Linux installed on my desktop in tandem with Windows. I have to say that Ubuntu Linux is absolutely a breeze to install and nothing went wrong at all. It is flexible, everything worked the way it said it would and in 30 minutes tops, the whole operation was done.

So, tonight I decided to download the Ubuntu Netbook Remix and get that working. It’s pretty much as easy as the desktop to install, the only difference is that you have to make a bootable USB drive for the installer to go on. I booted from the USB stick, installed and was up and on the internet in about 20 minutes. There was a bit of fiddling getting the brightness set, but I’ll have to read up on it to find a solution.

On both machines I very impressed with Ubuntu and the effort that they have made to make the install and setup user friendly with lots of help. I’ll definitely be recommending it to anyone who’s interested.

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books, books, books

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

Last week was an amazing event. Our local newspaper, The Times Colonist, runs a book sale every year to raise money for literacy and it is a very popular event. The idea is simple. You line up Saturday morning, and because we’re Canadian :p everyone politely files in and then swarms over 300,000 books. It’s absolutely amazing and mindblowing. It’s also the most exhausting few hours I’ve ever spent, trying to decide what to buy. See, the trick is, the books are cheap. Hardcovers are $3, paperbacks start at $1 each and I found myself just wandering and wandering picking up book after book. I finally had two boxes worth and had to take the time to sit and sort through them. I finally winnowed a few out of the pile and went to pay. More long lines and the joy of watching people with up to ten times the amount of books than me :) Finally I was done and I hauled my prizes home and when my husband woke up, we did it all over again. Cheap books are more than my willpower can stand, so we now have to buy another bookshelf soon, or we’re going to be stacking them on the floor. I took some pics of the wonderful chaos so you can get a sense of how big it was.

And my lovely husband:

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Free Comic Book Day

May 1st, 2010 No comments

May 1st is Free Comic Book Day at your local bookstore or comic/game store and this means you can get a taste of the state of comics today if you haven’t read them in a long time or are new to the whole idea. As a kid I read Archie comics and others, but I never tried many of the superhero style ones. Now the industry has grown and expanded into a wide range of choices. You can still read about the adventures of Spiderman or the X-men, or perhaps Batman, but there are now all sorts of new stories that have come to light and new styles of telling them. There are teenagers with superpowers in Runaways, there is the story of the last man on earth in Y and there are countless interpretations of comic book stories. Then there are graphic novels, a term that the literary crowd seems to use to differentiate more story-centered comic books. These can be everything from a tale about lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo, to a woman’s tale of her childhood in Iran. These graphic novels have become extremely popular with the hipster crowd that may never have even read a comic book but they are of the same lineage. The artists and writers who work on Batman are as dedicated these days to telling a complex and entertaining tale, as the people who write and design their more upmarket graphic novels.

Several of my favourites deserve a little more in depth introduction:

Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi.

Persepolis details the author’s childhood in Iran during the beginning of the Iranian revolution. As conditions worsen, the teenage author is sent to live with a family friend in Paris and has a hard time adjusting to life in Europe and how society perceives her as an Iranian. It’s beautifully drawn, laugh out loud funny and alternately heart wrenching. The author portrays Iran and it’s people with a warm, but realistically frustrated tone. The story is very worthwhile read.

Street Angel, by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca

Jesse Sanchez is 12 years old and lives in a hellish ghetto where she is the only one who can deal with vicious ninjas, demons and all sorts of other surprises. She uses martials arts and skateboard skills to battle evil. I love this one with the fantasy life Jesse has made for herself and the fabulous drawings that show how dangerous and grim her neighbourhood is. I would have been very proud to have written this comic book.

Watchmen, by Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colorist John Higgins

Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 America in which costumed superheroes are part of the fabric of everyday society, and the “Doomsday Clock” – which charts the USA’s tension with the Soviet Union – is permanently set at five minutes to midnight. When one of his former colleagues (The Comedian) is murdered, the masked vigilante Rorschach sets out to uncover a plot to kill and discredit all past and present superheroes. Along with Dr. Manhattan, Nite Owl II & Silk Spectre II, they all set out to prevent their own destruction, but in doing so discover a deeper and far more diabolical plot. It’s a fantastic read and I’m glad I was introduced to it.

So head on over to your local comic book store tomorrow and see what the world of the comic book has to offer in 2010. You might be surprised at what you find.

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language fun

April 13th, 2010 No comments

I have been reading The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, by Steven Pinker, and the first thing that struck me was the whimsical ambiguity of language. Here’s a great example:

“During the final days at Denver’s Stapleton airport, a crowded United flight was canceled. A single agent was re-booking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk and slapped his ticket down on the counter, saying, ” I HAVE to be on this flight, and it HAS to be first class.” The agent replied, “I’m sorry sir. I’ll be happy to try to help you, but I’ve got to help these folks first, and I’m sure we’ll be able to work something out.” The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, “Do you have any idea who I am?” Without hesitating, the gate agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone. “May I have your attention please?” she began, her voice bellowing through the terminal. “We have a passenger here at the gate WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate.” With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the agent, gritted his teeth and swore, “****you!” Without flinching, she smiled and said, “I’m sorry sir, but you’ll have to stand in line for that too.”

What’s wonderful about this story is the many levels of language play there are to look at. The mismatch between “Do you have any idea who I am?” and asking his identity is great, because it uses a literal interpretation of the sentence for the joke. The next level is the use of the same exchange by the crowd in line, knowing that he really meant to point out his famous status and they get to laugh at him, and last the reader gets to see that the exchange was a tactic to reverse the dominance relation between the gate agent and the passenger. This use of one sentence to convey so many meanings is wonderful and highlights how complex language can be.

Of course the final zinger at the end is priceless for just the same reasons :)

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March 18th, 2010 No comments

Meme from Anoisblue. This was answered a while back but I still like the answers very much:

1. What bill do you hate paying the most?
I don’t like paying the cable bill because it’s a stupidly high amount to pay for lying on the couch like a vegetable when I should be being creative. (Note the sarcasm, althouh I still resent paying for my laziness)

2. Where was the last place you had a romantic dinner?
My husband and I were shopping at the local mall and after having done all the necessary shopping like socks and things, we treated ourselves to a visit to the great bookstore and bought a new book. We were both tired and outshopped and a bit crabby so we bought mall food to eat and sat reading our books and the newspaper and suddenly we looked up at the same time and I realized how much I adored him. We sat in the swirl of teenagers and families, completely silent in the sea of noise, just staring at each other.

3. Do you regret losing your virginity to who you lost it to?
Not at all. I had fun and it was probably risky but he was my boyfriend and silly about it. It’s a good memory for me.

4. If you could go back and change one thing what would it be?
I would have gritted my teeth and finished high school. I think that despite my good experiences out of school it’s been a detriment to me overall.

5. Name of your first grade teacher?
Mrs. Szabo and I loved her completely, the way that little kids can do. I thought she was beautiful and I wanted to be her when I grew up.

6. What do you really want to be doing right now?
I would love to be on Saltspring Island, sitting on the rocks looking over the ocean, just absorbing the air and the smells of salt. Perhaps I would write some or take photos, but the peace would be the main thing.

7. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. I loved the idea of being surrounded by books. That or to be transported into the world of Battlestar Galactica and save Apollo from a fate worse than death.

8. How many colleges did you attend?
I have attended one and not finished my degree, although I intend to go back.

9. Why did you choose the shirt that you have on right now?
I didn’t choose it per se. It was from yesterday and soft and comfy. I will change to go out and then I suspect I will wear my new favourite red sweater.

10. What are your thoughts on gas prices?
It’s always too much, but hey we drive so what can you do?

11. If you could move anywhere and take someone with you where would it be?
Well I have lots of places in mind, but my top one is Iceland. It’s a country of wonderful, smart people that love their isolation and rugged geography and they have a very high rate of literacy and technology know-how as well.

12. First thought when the alarm went off this morning?
Slight disappointment that there was no sun shining in the window, but also looking forward to getting up and doing things.

13. Last thought before going to sleep last night?
A whole plotline for a new story that I might never write. This happens every night. I turn the light out and lie there and my mind starts telling stories.

14. Do you miss being a child?
Nope, I’m relatively happy now and childhood was ok, but filled with pitfalls and family icky stuff that I’m glad is mostly behind me.

15. What errand/chore do you despise?
I loathe changing the cat litter. The smell, the mess, the whole package is repellant.

16. Have you ever had a crush that embarrassed you?
Yes, but I’m not sure this is place to elaborate on it :)

17. If you didn’t have to work, would you volunteer?

18. Get up early or sleep in?
I love the idea of getting up with the dawn and enjoying the sun and quiet before the city gets noisy, but the reality is that I am also a night owl and stay up too late.

19. What is your favorite cartoon character?
Daffy Duck is pretty awesome all around, and although not a cartoon character per se, I love Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.

20. Favorite thing to do at night with a girl/guy?
Playing computer games with my husband and our online gang makes me very happy. We talk lots and it’s much more fun than sitting and watching tv.

21. Have you found real love yet?
Oh yes.

22. When did you first start feeling old?
Hmm, I think on the lead up to 40, but I don’t really always feel old, I just notice that I no longer feel young and energetic. This may change with some significant weight loss and exercise.

23. What makes you admire someone?
I admire honesty, a sense of humour, strength of character, discipline, intelligence, and probably other things, but those are the ones that stand out.

24. Your favorite lunch meat?
I am very fond of turkey at the moment but that may change. Also good ham too.

25. What do you get every time you go into Wal-Mart?
I don’t shop in Wal-Mart.

26. Beach or lake?
Lakes remind me of childhood trips to the cottage, so if I’m wanting a place to swim and relax, it would be a lake. Oceans are a bit scary to me, so I love being around them for the sense of power, but it’s an on-land experience for sure. Also, lakes have beaches just like oceans. ( I know, I know, picky, picky, picky)

27. Do you think marriage is an outdated ritual?
Marriage is a commitment that just happens to be a legal and/or religious agreement as well and I think it is still completely valid, we might just need to redefine who can play.

28. Do you own property?
I do yes, oddly enough for me, who thought she never would.

29. Favorite Guilty pleasure?
I have no “guilty” pleasures. It’s a stupid term designed to make me feel worse for that chocolate ice cream, or cookies I chose to eat.

30. Favorite movie you wouldn’t want anyone to find out about?
It doesn’t exist. I am not ashamed of my movie choices. Having said that, there are movies that perhaps would qualify as either silly, tasteless or bad depending on your standards. Bugsy Malone is one, and possibly a whole category for the other: disaster movies. I am a sucker for movies about the end of the world, volcanoes, ice ages, fires, sinking cruise liners, you name it.

31. What’s your drink?
good red wine and for daily drinking, club soda and loose tea.

32. Cowboys or Indians?

33. Cops or Robbers?
Cops, but a dashing villain is never out of place :)

34. Who from high school would you like to run in to?
Not anyone specifically, but I would like to see what some of them look like now.

35. What radio station is your car radio tuned to right now?
CBC ( Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a bit like NPR in the U.S.)

36. Norm or Cliff?
Neither, I never really liked the show or watched it much.

37. Grey’s Anatomy or The Office?
Neither, I don’t watch em.

38. Worst relationship mistake that you wish you could take back?
I wish I’d been kinder and less snappy over the years.

39. Do you like the person that sits directly across from you at work?
Absolutely, it’s my husband right now, and I adore him :)

40. What famous person would you like to have dinner with?
Neil Gaiman. He seems to have a fabulous sense of humour and I would love to talk writing with him.

41. Indoors or Outdoors?
It all depends on the mood and inclination. I do tend to like curling up on the couch with my favourite blanket and a book, but I also can be moved to walk down the street to go look at the ocean.

42. Have you ever crashed your vehicle?
I’ve been in one bad crash as a teenager, but never crashed my own.

43. Have you ever had to use a fire extinguisher for its intended purpose?
Never, thank goodness.

44. Last book you read?
The Watchmen, by Alan Moore

45. Do you have a teddy bear?
No, I have two octopuses and a raven.

46. Strangest place you have ever brushed your teeth?
At the Peace Camp on Parliament Hil underneath of mock-up of the cruise missile

47. Somewhere in California you’ve never been and would like to go?
Alameda, I have some online friends there and this area and San Francisco look fascinating as well

48. Do you go to church?
Never have and never will I would imagine.

49. At this point in your life would you rather start a new career or a new relationship?
Probably a new career, I’ve been married for a long time and the idea of starting all that over again is not as appealing as it once was.

50. How old are you?
Same age as the 100 year anniversary of my country.

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to chase away the winter gloom

February 11th, 2010 No comments

It has been another grey day here in Victoria and spring can arrive any time now. To combat the blahs I am making a lovely sweet potato, black bean and sausage soup with crusty bread and a green salad, thanks to Dinner with Julie for the recipe. This will be followed by contemplating yarns to decide what to knit for the knitting Olympics, which is of course on the same schedule as the regular Olympics.

noro yarn

That just cheers me right up and I’m looking forward to deciding on a project. It has to be something that can be done in ten days and for me that might just be socks or gloves since I am new to both those types of knitting.  Today’s writing was slow and strained. I attribute it to the bad weather. I am not my best when the sun disappears.

I’ve been neglecting this blog for quite a while now, but I want to make it a more active place and plan on making daily updates to it and putting better effort into it.

Categories: cooking, knitting, personal Tags:

writing test

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Cat Herding -

I went on a bit of a writing spree tonight and thought I should post a sample. This is from a writing exercise and I think it came out quite well.

Anna’s Tale version one:

Time flows so strangely now. I sit on the porch watching the ocean and I’m really in the moment. I’m relaxed and at peace, with no aches and pains at all. From inside the house the sound of Mozart comes floating out to me and this is a lovely counterpoint to the seagulls and the waves. In a short time my daughter and her husband will be coming to take me to their home to live and I feel sad about leaving the house I built with husband, but the reality is I can’t look after things anymore and at 87; I want the peace of security. A heron splashes down near the railing of the porch and stares out at the water, hoping for a fish lunch. I like herons they always make me think of scholars pondering the universe. A sudden breeze has come in off the water making me shiver, but I want to stay out here until Caitlin and Mark get here.

The smell of salt mixes with the garden and I’m suddenly in my family’s garden when I was eighteen. My mother and father were sitting at the patio table having coffee and I had come out to talk with them about school. Having just graduated from private school with top marks I was full of my success and wanted to continue, but my mother thought that a university education was unnecessary for a young woman. I was in tears, passionately defending my desire to go and study astronomy. The day was beautiful and clear with the sun high in the sky and I was dressed casually, both because of the oncoming summer and because no callers were scheduled to come to the house that day. I remember my hands twisting the ties of my dress around and around my fingers until I was afraid they might break. My hair was short then and very curly and I can clearly picture my mother grumbling while trying to style it into something fashionable. It never was easy to make me look good. I was always awkward, shoes untied, a smudge on my face, hair blowing in the wind, and I would constantly forget my hat on buses and at school. Back then, my father was working for the Black Ball Ferry company as their overall manager, so our life was comfortable and we were happy, with some small luxuries, like a good radio, many books, theatre tickets and dinners out on occasion. My father had always valued reading and education and he had stayed very quiet during this argument in the garden, but then out of nowhere, he stood and told my mother that I would be going to university that fall.

That was a very long time ago and I realize sitting here outside the house that I built with my husband Harold, that I am very lucky. Life has been good and it is still good. Caitlin is honking from the drive and I’m taking one last long look at this place before I go. The telescope is gone from the porch now, but it will be with me in the rooms I’ll have at Caitlin’s. Astronomy is part of my soul now. I love that I got the chance to be an astronomer when the field was exploding in all directions and now as I look at the field years later, I’m fascinated by how far we’ve come. Dad, I owe it all to you for allowing me the chance to discover myself back then.

Version Two:

Time flows so strangely now, thought Anna Louewens as she leaned back in the swing, on her porch facing the ocean. The view was as fabulous as ever, with the sounds of Mozart drifting in from the house, providing a counterpoint to the seagulls and waves. She felt completely in the moment, with no aches and pains to bother her, everything was peace and contentment. Pretty soon, her daughter and her daughter’s husband would be arriving to take her to live with them and she was spending these last few hours just soaking up the atmosphere of the house that she and her husband had built so many years ago. The grief at having to leave her home was tempered with her awareness that at 87 she wasn’t able to cope with everything alone anymore and part of her yearned for the peace of security. Caitlin’s house was big enough that she would have some privacy, so it wasn’t a terrible compromise, but it still rankled, this loss of independence. A heron splashed down near the porch railing, scanning the sea for a fish lunch. She watched the heron with pleasure, thinking that they looked like scholars pondering the universe. A sudden breeze came off the water, making her shiver, but she resisted going inside, wanting to stay with the ocean until Caitlin and Mark arrived.

The smell of the salt mixed with the smell of the garden, and Anna was thrust back in her mind, to her family’s garden when she was eighteen and freshly graduated from private school with top honours. Her parent’s were at the patio table with coffee, and she had come out to talk with them about her plans. She desperately wanted to continue on to university and study astronomy, having had a class in it at school the year before, but her mother thought that a young woman had no need of further education. The tears came even though she tried to stop them, rolling down her summer frock. The weather seemed so blue and clear for such a terrible fight, and she wished that it would thunder, just to get her point across. The ties of her dress were wrapped in her fingers so tightly that she had to force herself to stop or risk breaking them. Her hair was short then and very curly, so much so, that her mother used to despair of it ever being tidy; but that just went along with the rest of her; awkward, shoes untied, a smudge on her face, hair blowing in the wind, and she would constantly forget her hat on buses and at school. It was a constant fight to keep her self together; her mind was always somewhere else. Back then, her father worked for Black Ball Ferries as their manager, so home life was comfortable with some small luxuries, like a good radio, many books, theatre tickets and dinners out on occasion. Her father had always valued reading and education and he had stayed very quiet during this argument, having heard it many times since this last year of private school had started. This time, however; as the argument came to a head, he stood up and demanded silence, stating that Anna would be going to university that fall, nothing would change his mind.

Coming back to herself, Anna remembered how happy she’d been at university and how lucky she’d been over the years. The house she had built with Harold so many years ago, her children and grandchildren, the career in astronomy she had developed over 57 wonderful years. A car honked in the drive and she realized that Caitlin had arrived. She stood to have one last look at the house. The telescope was gone from the porch, but it would be joining her at Caitlin’s. Astronomy was a part of her soul now, and she would stop when she died. She was so proud of having been an astronomer when the field was exploding in all sorts of new directions and she was still fascinated with where it was going. She thanked her father for that long-ago chance and walked down to the car.

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September 30th, 2009 No comments

Saturday night seems the contemplative night for me. Warren is off playing Star Wars Galaxies and I’m sitting in front of the laptop feeling like doing something creative. I started writing stories at around the age of 14 and I made up stories in other forms for years before that. My best friend and I in grade school made essentially a radio play, with a murder and suspenseful chases, all with sound effects and dialogue. It was great fun, even if it probably sounded terrible on my hand held tape deck. I used to make up stories for my sister as a bedtime thing and that was fun too. There was also a terrible lying streak when I was teenager, where I would make up all sorts of wild stories about myself, to seem more glamorous, but I’ve grown out of that now. I’ve been able to see that I’ve had plenty of real adventures, without editing my life.

So, writing.

I’ve always written stories, from scripts for Battlestar Galactica, as a pre-teen, to fan fiction for Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. I have several serious fiction projects sitting on my hard drive, but there is a big block stopping me from continuing. It’s hard to explain, but if I sit down to write, I often feel as if it’s a waste of time, when I could be doing housework, laundry, bills, etc and I find it hard to value it enough to be serious about it, even when Warren reinforces the idea that he thinks I’m good enough to get published if only I would finish works and send them out. I need to get past this idea that I don’t deserve to succeed at this and that time spent writing is time not working at home or getting paid out in work force, rather than time spent perfecting my craft.

I wonder where that came from? The guilt of writing when “work” could be happening, because no one ever said that out loud to me, that’s for sure.

Categories: stories Tags:

wrangling with television

September 12th, 2009 No comments

It’s been a strange few weeks, post-cutting-of-cable. I’ve always lived with television, pretty much my whole life and I can count on one hand the number of times I didn’t have it. At 17-18, living in Toronto on my own for the first time there was no tv. On Saltspring Island in my cabin and then in a cabin on Denman Island, two places I lived where I was so intensely peaceful that there is an almost palpable ache when I think of them. The first few months of marriage, living in a cheap apartment on the military base at Petawawa. The main difference with all those times as compared to now, is that back then, there was physically no television set at all. This current time, we have a tv set with a dvd player and surround sound speakers, so movies are a great time. The decision to cut the cable arose when we realized just how expensive that particular luxury was getting. To have internet access and full cable through Shaw it works out to almost $90 a month. This struck me as absurd when I realized how little we were watching tv for that money. Mostly we were both on the computer all the time anyway, playing games online. It wasn’t a question of denying ourselves a vital service, but more a question of what’s more important, two monthly game fees or cable?

The upshot of all this is that I cut the cable and we’ve been going to the library to get BBC tv series on dvd and it’s been splendid, however there are times where I’m finding myself confronted by boredom and I’ve had to adjust my idea of what I’d like to do, when I don’t feel like doing anything. There’s such a lovely, lazy, mindless pleasure in lying on the couch and staring at the tv. Nothing is as disengaged as that. So I had to substitute other things for mindless lazing on the couch and I have come up with a new list of things that are great for clearing the brain after a long day:

1. I have discovered that in fact we own a balcony with our apartment and that even in late September it is nicely warm out there and quiet. A perfect place to just sit and think.

2. Knitting with an audio book on the stereo is a very pleasant occupation and I’m becoming hooked on the library’s selection of recordings.

3. A cup of tea and paper and pen can be a joyful experience even when I’m tired and sure that I have nothing to write about. Often this is a great way to come up with new ideas.

4. A bath with a good magazine is a pleasure that I have always enjoyed and now it’s become even more fun. I make an event of it. I bring the radio in from the kitchen and settle in for a long soak.

5. A walk with the headphones on and the newest favourite music playing is always fun and once again the library comes through with the ability to borrow music cd’s that i might never purchase or simply a chance to try out something I’ve never heard of.

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May 2nd, 2009 No comments

Working on a new story is such an odd experience. I know the story in wide sweeps. I know what I want to happen, but the blank screen stares at me and my gut clenches in terror. What if it’s crap? What if I’ve lost it? What if I choke mid way through? So for the first while, possibly hours, I sit frozen, staring into space trying to marshal my thoughts, or I play Solitaire, or desperately surf the web trying not to deal with the impending work. It’s a ridiculous waste of time, but it’s the same every time. I put off doing any writing until there is really nothing left to do but dive in and hope for the best.

I’m not saying that the story writes itself, but a certain amount of what happens is beyond my control. I write it down and watch it unfold Of course, I can change whatever I like in the rewrite phase, but during the first draft I like to try and write fast enough that I don’t actually think about what I’m putting down on screen or paper. That way I won’t have time to doubt the words. It’s a strange race to outpace my brain with my fingers, that usually works, but occasionally I actually see the words and a little niggling doubt will creep in and I’ll have to distract myself from looking any further.

Categories: stories Tags: