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Showing posts from 2017

Smart phone drives home message

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Yesterday I upgraded my iPhone to version 11.0.3, and today it is suggesting I might be a liar. I kinda like this. 📱

The new version gives me the ability to delay all notifications to the phone while driving, say, to Jasper, say, today. Before driving off this morning, I wondered for a second if I should enable the feature. My instinct when given an option by a phone (tell us where you are? tell us where you're going? and so on) is to say no. Privacy and all. But, invariably, I then remember Dave Mowat's take in this regard on Molly Bloom's final words by saying yes yes yes yes when his phone ask permission of him. I've started saying yes all the time, Dave says, to see what I can learn.

What I learned from this simple little feature is an effective little way to keep me from using my phone while driving. Effective in a different way than the law tries to be effective (threatening punishment), and effective in a different way than advertising tries to be effective (d…

Late night thoughts on what I don't like

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This afternoon, as I sat in a darkened theatre watching a movie I never would have chosen to watch had I known how sad this scene I was watching Amy Madigan in was, I remembered something Alexander Prior said.

Prior is the Chief Conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. He is young, like 24, I think, which means I have two neckties and one suit older than he is. Anyways, there he was above us on stage a couple of weeks ago during an ESO Late Night gig at the Winspear. He was introducing Jalons, a work by Iannis Xenakis. Right. I'd never heard of him either.

Before he poked his players to life with his baton, Prior said something remarkable to the audience. He said we probably wouldn't like the music. He said we didn't have to like it. Just listen to it and we could talk about it later, he said. And then they played it. The work was unfamiliar, grating in parts, coming apart in other parts, and soaring. I liked parts, but, overall, he was right. I didn't particular…

Vegas

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I sometimes but not often enough and not deeply enough think about what to do next when bad and strange and heartbreaking things happen. This is the residue of a work life spent in newsrooms monetized in part by bad and strange and heartbreaking things happening.

In a newsroom, you have to know what to do, and quickly, when disaster reveals its face. I am thinking now about the recent massacre in Las Vegas where a sniper transformed a tower from an illuminated landmark into a bristling gun nest. He killed 59 people on the Strip below. They had been listening to music.

In a TV newsroom there is no time to stare and wonder. Facts have to be chased, rumours abandoned, tweets tweeted, video reviewed for suitability, anchors called in, production lineups built, stories debated, angles checked off. Find a way to localize the story, bring it home. Were there any Canadians there? Albertans? Edmontonians? Among the dead, the same questions. Think about breaking into regular programming with u…

Len Thuesen #7

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Unreal red light inked itself onto a light standard on 142 St last night as I waited to cross the road. The temporary red on the pole was cast from the overhead traffic signal. I was on my bicycle, headed downtown for a newspaper.

Memory tugged.

We had a radio when I was a boy. It sat in a small, black cabinet about a foot and half high and as much wide and it had a black handle on the top. The dial glided across the numbers under the illuminated glass display as I wheeled the knob back and forth. That tiny stick of light glowed like a match. Or a lure in the water. For hours, I sat transfixed in the dark in my basement room listening to voices from afar. At night, stations from Seattle and even California pulsed in. It was eerie, that crackle, those voices that came from out there. Augusta La Paix brought Billy Bragg in. Len Thuesen brought Mark Knopfler in. I loved it.

These memories swirled up last night as I rode the multi-use path in Glenora. It was black, chilly, windy. I was a…

What I learned from Lana Stewart

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I recorded on Strava my bicycle ride to the post office at Shopper's Drug Mart this afternoon, and sent a quiet thank you out to Lana Stewart for the prescription. 
This is Lana in de pecha (kucha) mode earlier this year in Montréal: 

She was making a point that has stuck. Here goes: riding a bicycle to work is a lot of work. For the newcomer, there's a lot of obstacles. Safety in traffic, changes of clothes, storage, sweating, matted hair, risk of bike theft, mild ridicule, change of weather, and so on. Why the fascination with getting people interested in riding a bicycle to go from zero to workplace? Why not instead encourage people to make the simple rides, the neighbourhood trips to the grocery store, the bakery, the liquor store, or the post office? Better to build local and solid by encouraging wanna-be-again bicycle riders to make trips to the locations that, if they're fortunate, sit within one or two kilometres from home. 


That's how I started. For childhood…

A fish in Facebrook

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I am reading Ted Bishop's Ink: Culture, Wonder, And Our Relationship with the Written Word. I am trying not to read it too quickly. I don't think there's a sequel to dive into next. So, I use my computer as a kind of teacher's internet assistant. When Hongwu is mentioned, I check out the emperor's Wikipedia page. When a willow tree in the wind is likened to a writing brush, I head for Google Images to look at a willow tree.

But I don't always get where I am going. I get lured this way and that. On the way to the willow I fell into Facebrook. In rough order of encounter, I:

saw that my friend Rosa gave a clown face to my Facebook post last night on the changing colours of traffic lights, looked at Keith's nature photography from the Upper Peninsula, monitored a debate about the mixture of musicians at Folk Fest workshops, learned that my friend Michelle went to Ikea on Thursday, a trip immortalized by a Facebook-generated video, learned my friend John needs …

I packed my pannier, and in it I put...

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When I pedal my bike through the city, I carry some things with me. Some other things I pick up along the way. Here are the contents of my red Arkel bike bags (Red Bike, Cliff), in no particular order of weight, after this morning's ride.

Ziploc large freezer bag, transparent, containing orange bandana from murder mystery dinner night in Chelem, México, where Shelagh was a reporter and Sheryl was the sheriff, eyeglasses (right lens chipped, prescription: -1.00, -1.25, not bad), 3x pencils (2 Blackwing 530 special edition California Gold Rush series from Stylus, closed on Saturdays in the summer, 1 with Chinese charactering, gift), eye drops, pencil sharpener containing shavings that remind me of a dancing woman's hemmed dress, City of Edmonton red reflector and blue reflective bracelet courtesy bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a bike grid street team because Edmonton now has a downtown bike grid, iPhone 6ring of keys: Honda Accord, not driven in a month, unknown …

What could go wrong? :)

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If I remember right, Chris Hadfield made the suggestion that, instead of envisioning success, we should all picture failure. Imagine the countless ways that things can go wrong. Engineers like Hadfield build bridges and launch rockets and keep the Talus balls from rolling into the North Saskatchewan River*, but what they're really acquainted with is collapse and the rest of the long, sad list of how things fade, snap, break, shatter, splinter, fragment, turn to ash, and, essentially, are torn asunder.

This is the honest way of making sure the centre holds for as long as the centre can hold.

Taken to its extreme, it means living life by remembering that I will die. Not that everyone will die, not we all must die, but, me, the tapper of these keystrokes, I will die. Morose? Maybe. Pessimistic? Perhaps. True? Yes. A flight plan for happiness if interpreted in a healthy way? I am beginning to believe so.

Yesterday I pedalled through the city and considered these things from my side o…

Renée

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If you happened to be driving west on Stony Plain Road between 170 St and 178 St this morning around 10:30am, and if you glanced over to the sidewalk on the south side of the road, you would have seen two people speaking. A gangly, helmeted man standing over his bicycle was talking to a stylish older woman wearing a floral print skirt, a pink turtleneck, teal-framed sunglasses, her head covered by a summer scarf from which grey pigtails poked out on either side. She moved with the help of a wheeled walker.

You wouldn't have been able to hear why, as they parted, the bicycle rider was laughing, but here is why.

"Tell your wife she has nothing to worry about with you talking to an older woman from Europe!" the woman said.

The laughing, goofy-looking guy was me. She told me her name was Renée. She was walking to McDonald's and was taking a detour from her route because the direct-line sidewalk was under construction. She wondered if she could cut across the box store p…

Tombstones of the days: July 22, 2017

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For a reason that I trust will reveal itself as time rolls along, and despite that article of faith proving how poor a researcher I am (I mean, when has data collection by itself magically suggested a theory, instead of the other way around?), I am almost nine months into a writing project that took an interesting turn yesterday.

Starting back on Halloween last year, I have witnessed in word and photograph the sights and thoughts that strike me every day I ride my bike. I am into my fourth booklet of souvenirs. I have been uncharacteristically disciplined about taking pics and reviewing video and pencilling my observations from the saddle. The entries are little tombstones of the days.

From 11.29: A joy of riding a bicycle in the city is actually touching the city as I ride. I reach out to touch the overhanging spruce boughs. I let them scrape my helmet hello. I like to run my gloved hand along the bridge railing, especially when there is a film of snow to wake up. I like to read the…

Of pennies and senses and palate revolts

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The penny dropped. I love that idiom. I am old enough to remember pennies. I was around when the government dropped the penny from circulation. I love short sentences. I love the stubbornness of solid idioms from analog times. What's better than that click sound I hear in my mind when someone voices the idiom? (The absolute best is when banker Dave Mowat employs it.) The penny dropped is the sound of realization, the testimony that insight, like starlight, takes time to arrive, and, when it does, it resonates. Just like a coin-in-slot machine come to life when the stuck penny drops.

Peas, too.

Shelagh was talking the other day about children and their young taste buds. I don't know how the subject came up. For the most part I stay in touch with the subject matter of current podcasts when Shelagh summarizes key points from the 100 or so she stays current with. So, maybe the observation about taste buds was from a pea podcast she had heard, I don't know.

The taste buds of yo…

Free speech and that naked dude at the Tour de France

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Bauke Mollema streaked to victory today in Tour de France stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay. He made his move with about 30 km to go, after much of the field had cracked. He was only 100 m or so from the peak. Still, a group of pursuers were only a few hundred metres behind. "Mollema needs a buffer!" said the announcer. I tweeted my thanks immediately.


Both announcers, Matthew Keenan and Robby McEwen, liked the tweet. That was fun. I could have a drink or three with those guys, I think.

I have been told that the Greek word for clever, deinos, also connotes a sense of terrible. Perhaps that is why those who make puns are routinely greeted with the judgment "that was terrible!" To say that Mollema needed a buffer was accurate if, by it, the speaker simply meant a little extra time and distance from his chasers. But it's clever to choose the word buffer, which carries the extra meaning of being naked. It's doubly clever, even cheek…

Archeology

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As I stopped to take this pic this morning, the workers standing on the boulevard might have briefly wondered what I was doing. What did I see? What was I looking at?

I stopped because I was once seven years old. And because I was once young enough to play with all that heavy equipment.

Our house at 6704 in the northeast end had a sandbox between the side of the garage and the fence next to the Ramseys. In the sandbox, there was one rule: no throwing sand. And, basically, two scenes or games we'd re-enact again and again. The first was digging for treasure. We'd bury beer and Happy Pop tops in the sand and try to dig out as many as possible with one scoop of a plastic shovel. That got boring after three or four straight hours.

What we never tired of was doing construction work.

With our Tonka toy graders and front end loaders and dump trucks (David across the lane supplied a Johnny West tractor trailer unit we imagined always full of explosive TNT) we dug sand, rearranged it …

The humorous descent of Alexis Vuillermoz

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Alexis Vuillermoz is streaming down the side of the Col de la Biche this morning. He is at the head of the race. It is stage 9 of the Tour de France. His front wheel slips slightly in the rain on the road. He keeps his balance. Commentator Robbie McEwen explains the French rider's mountain bike resume has prepared him for the sliding and drifting that happen when courage mixes with a wet descent.

"It's a huge advantage for him," McEwen says.

"When you're used to things getting a little bit loose on you, and staying in control, because it's about staying calm, when it gets loose and you tense up or touch the brakes, that's when you go down. You gotta be able to flow [emphasis not added] with it."

The trickster Vuillermoz is riding a corridor of humor.

The term is from French painter and sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp.

"While Dada was a movement of negation and, by the very fact of its negation, turned itself into an appendage of t…

Early morning thoughts while pictures beam in from France

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This morning I am in a happy place. It is an intersection. A listening post.

The Tour de France is on TV, and that is a thrill itself. Getting up early on a long weekend Monday to watch the colours of the peloton's men and machines stream and curve through the countryside is time in front of the monitor well spent. I enjoy parades, and bicycles, and TV in the sun.

With a mug of coffee, and a book and a sharpened pencil as the broadcast flows in.


This morning, the book is Trickster Makes The World by Lewis Hyde. The open pages resemble a gravesite I saw embedded into the earth at the Hillcrest cemetery. The shaft of sunlight stares across the printed words. They are worth standing in front of and staring at.
Structures always arise from exclusion. Think, for example, of how one might go about designing a flag. This world has endless color; the palette of greens in field and forest is boundless, as is that of water under changing skies. To make a flag, we select only two or three o…

Black Diamond

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A little book found me a few weeks ago in a store in Black Diamond where we had wandered on a trip to Waterton. Somehow, I'd never seen unmediated Waterton. That baffled me.

The book is by Lewis Hyde and it's about the tricksters among us. Like all my favourite books, Trickster Makes The World has delivered the thrill of approaching something new, while also leaving a residue of regret that it has taken me this long to get there. And the sad certainty that I am skimming the surface of this book, and life.

It is by our likes and dislikes Hyde says John Cage says that we isolate ourselves from the wider mind and the big old world. Hyde:
Likes and dislikes are the lapdogs and guard dogs of the ego, busy all the time, panting and barking at the gates of attachment and aversion and thereby narrowing perception and experience.  My thoughts fire this way and that. Likes and dislikes—these are the words of engagement in social media. Lapdogs and guard dogs—Plato's Socrates says s…

On the streets where we live

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I saw some things on the streets today. I heard some things, too.

That's Olga signalling a left turn above.  In her impromptu bike network master class, I learned about big green bike boxes and how to safely get across lanes of traffic on the 100 Ave portion of the downtown grid. What I heard: there is a safe place in the city's allocation of space for bicycle commuters.


I saw this dude's shoulder bag and heard him say he thought the new bike lane on 100 Ave was pretty good.



I saw no helmet on this bicycle rider. I saw her smile and heard her say hello as we passed.



"Whoa!" this pedestrian said as he walked on green and watched the car driver turn across his path.


A few blocks later, approaching the traffic signal on the Glenora multi-use path, I saw the green traffic light turn yellow and the yellow turn red, and, as I hummed some old April Wine as I always do when red and yellow seasons change in gear, oh yeah, I  heard the rev of a car engine behind me revea…

We are gathered here

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A solemn scene surprised me this afternoon as I took the turn on Ravine Dr. and pointed for the 142 St. bridge. It shook me. It spoke the visual grammar of the ceremony at a graveside.

What I witnessed was the protocol of the aftermath of an automobile collision.

The sky was smeared with mascara grey clouds.

At the head of the procession sat a flatbed truck. It would soon be loaded with the damaged body.



Three people stood on the lawn. They looked up and down, this way and that. They swayed back and forth like metronomes. One held his arms crossed over his chest. Vehicles streamed by on 142 St. The sky sagged. This sudden congress was in no one's plans. 



On the sidewalk, apart from the standing congregation, clad in black jeans and hoodie, holding his hands over his eyes, lay, outstretched, a man consumed by an event that cannot be undone. 
I held my breath and pedalled through. 



Jasper bruin company

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"There's your bear," Shelagh said this morning.

We were driving up to Miette, it was raining a little, and, there, right there, in the ditch off to the right, was a trundling bear. We stopped just ahead and looked back as the bear ambled out of the ditch and across the yellow line and into the woods on the other side.

We drove on a few hundred metres until we could safely turn around and then drove back looking, hoping to see it again.

We did.


It's usually good enough for me not to stop for wildlife beyond slowing down to pass safely. That's what we had done the evening before, coming back from Jasper, as a shaggy mountain goat stepped down a rock face.

But we had to stop for a bear. The poet says it just don't get no better than a bear.