28 February 2009

Mobile me...

Through some Lifehacker comment surfing, I found a way to build a page for iPhone/iPod/mobile users: Flotsam & Jetsam Lite. Bookmark it if you want to... I have yet to try it out so if you do, please let me know how it works. I made it using TheSMESpace.

27 February 2009

Music that Shaped my World...

This list started life as one of those memes on Facebook,

Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of, they musically shaped your world. They stood up, they lasted, they mattered. They still matter, in some way (even if only in memory).

Except that it really made me think and it took me three days to write it so I figured I would post it here, too. I'm adding "buy me" links to Amazon.ca where possible for your convenience and/or reference.

1. Shaun Cassidy - Da Doo Ron Ron (vinyl) - first album I ever asked for. I played this on our console stereo with my giant headphones on until you could see through the vinyl. It was pure, sugary pop right off the pages of Teen Beat/Tiger Beat (back when those magazines existed, damn I feel old). [out of print; closest available is Shaun Cassidy's Greatest Hits]

2. Beach Boys - Concert (1964) (vinyl) - one my Dad got for me in hopes that I would stop listening to Shaun Cassidy. It actually worked for a while and these live recordings are some of my favourite versions of their songs. It also has the clean-cut image of them on the front in their matching wide-striped shirts which is quite the contrast to the shaggy 70s beach-bums version illustrated on the Endless Summer compilation I later received. [Concert/Live In London; Endless Summer]

3. The Who - Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy (vinyl) - first album I ever decided I had to get because I liked a guy who liked the band (sadly, this stalkerish habit was repeated frequently through school and into university) - It's a compilation album which made a great introduction to the band (everything from My Generation to Pinball Wizard to Boris the Spider). In the end, my attachment to the album far outlasted any attachment I had to the guy. [Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy]

4. Styx - Paradise Theatre (vinyl) - Though I have since replaced this on CD, the vinyl was magical. The album art showed the fictional theatre in its prime on the front and in decay on the back, the gatefold inside showed the band members in all their late-70s glory as if it were the playbill of the theatre lobby. The vinyl featured a rainbowy laser-etched print of the theatre logo (the two mermaid like women) that was visible when you held it up to the light just so. Like coloured vinyl, this was a bit of a gimmick but to the 11 year old me, this was pure awesome. [Paradise Theatre]

5. Beatles - 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 (vinyl). These two double albums were my introduction to the Beatles and, while they are no substitution for the actual catalog of Beatles albums, they truly showcase the Beatles' range of musical styles. If you made me pick my favourite Beatles album right now it would be the White Album, but you could do worse than to start your collection with this pair of albums.[1962-1966; 1967-1970]

6. Michael Jackson - Thriller (cassette) - yes, yes. But at the time, it was awesome. I think this was the first album I bought with my own cash. It featured Vincent Price and Paul McCartney plus it was ridiculously danceable. I still love the title track but the rest of it... well, it hasn't exactly held up for me.[Thriller]

7. Pet Shop Boys - Please (cassette) - my initiation into British synth-pop and the beginning of a decade long obsession with the genre and with the PSB in particular. The Brits infuse their pop with bitterness, sarcasm, wit, and anger and the Pet Shop Boys mastered this. Opportunities? Suburbia? Brillianlty angry at Thatcher's England. I've thinned out my collection over the years but for a long time I collected every album, single and remix I could lay hands on.[Please]

8. Gowan - Strange Animal (cassette) - When I first saw Gowan's video for A Criminal Mind, I was blown away by not only the combo of live action and animation, but also by the music and Gowan's voice. I would rewind and listen to Criminal Mind over and over and over (or rather I would flip over the cassette and fast-forward to the right spot, then flip it back and listen again since my first "personal stereo" was some knock-off brand by K-Mart that only had three buttons.... but I digress). The rest of the album ranged from precocious to goofy, but that song.... it resonated so strongly for me. At some point, I managed to see him in concert at the Royal Theatre and I was even more in awe. Lawrence "you can call me Larry" Gowan is a classically trained pianist who is absolutely amazing to watch on stage (yes, I would like to see him perform with Styx, actually). He is one of my favourite Canadians and remains a staple in the CanCon portion of my collection. [Out of print, as is his best of, but there is a dvd compilation which I've also added to my wishlist! Gowan: Live in Concert]

9. Weird Al Yankovic - Dare to be Stupid (cassette) - this wasn't the first novelty album I owned, or the first Weird Al album I'd listened to, but it was the first of his that I listened to front to back to the point of knowing every word to every track. My favourite track was "One More Minute," with lines like "I'd rather jump into a swimming pool filled with double edged razor blades, than spend one more minute with you" it was the perfect screw you song whenever I was feeling jilted. [Dare To Be Stupid]

10. Kate Bush - The Whole Story (cassette) - I never realized who Kate Bush was until I saw the haunting video for Experiment IV (a favourite on Much Music even as it was banned in her own country on Top of the Pops) that prompted me to rush out and buy this album. Even though it is a best of compilation, I actually prefer it to most of her other albums which I find to be uneven. It was one of the few cassettes I took with me to England in 1987 so it is also tied up with many memories of my time there. [Whole Story]

11. Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (cd) - I bought this from an overstock bin and loved it immediately. The type of rap on this album, heavy with samples, was still too fresh to be mainstream. Now it's seen as groundbreaking and it has recently been remastered and re-released. It's one of those albums that needs to be listened to in order to get the most out of it, but that didn't stop me from putting Hey Ladies on nearly every mix tape I made for a year. [Pauls Boutique]

12. Madonna - Erotica (cd) while I can barely look at her or listen to her music now, I used to be a huge fan. Erotica came out the same time as her book Sex (which I also owned for some time) and the two are intertwined in my mind at the peak of my fandom for her. The other huge thing? The video for Bad Girl (directed by David Fincher and featuring Christopher Walken as an angel of death) was my favourite thing ever for months. [Erotica]

13. Beautiful South - Welcome to the Beautiful South (cd) - Song for Whoever and Woman in the Wall are both so wickedly sarcastic and yet sound like twinkly europop that I couldn't not like them. I feel like the Beautiful South are some bastard stepchild of The Smiths and Tracey Ullman, a combination that really works for me. I stupidly lent this album to a "friend" who moved away with it; I really should replace it. [Welcome To The Beautiful South]

14. Depeche Mode - Violator (cd) - Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence were anthems for an entire summer that peaked with my getting a spare ticket to see them perform in Vancouver. I still think Clean is one of the most hauntingly erotic songs ever written even though it's not really about sex. I have quite a bit of Depeche Mode in my collection, but this album is probably still my favourite as an album. During one memorable house party, I reworked the lyrics to Personal Jesus, coming up with "My own personal freezer, somewhere to keep my beer, somewhere that's near..." [Violator]

15. Garth Brooks - Ropin the Wind (cd) - while not my first country album (uh, that would be Dolly Parton 9 to 5) this was the one that got me into my Country Music Phase, complete with line dancing. Sigh. Still, Brooks weaves some wonderful tales on this album and I still quote from "We Bury the Hatchet." [Ropin The Wind]

16. Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks (cassette) - All I knew about Dylan for most of my life was the "Everybody must get stoned" song (Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35). That changed in 3rd year university when I took a course with the remarkable Dr. Stephen Scobie. One of the assignments was to examine and dissect the lyrics of a Dylan song so I found myself in the Music section of the library listening to as many of Dylan's albums as I could find. While I chose to examine a track from another album, I fell in love with Blood on the Tracks. Tangled up in Blue, Simple Twist of Fate, and Shelter from the Storm are truly poetic. [Blood On The Tracks]

17. 2 Unlimited - Get Ready For This (cd) - Oh, early nineties dance. Energetic, repetitive, ridiculous. This whole album is now relegated to hockey arenas, cheer leading movies, and comedies that mock others, but for at least one summer, this was my soundtrack. And you know what? I still can't resist it. It's worth noting that we also used it for comedic effect in our fringe play as we promoted the faux tourist attraction, Lawnland (that deserves its own post, I think). [Get Ready for This]

18. kd lang - ingenue (cd) - this album absolutely captivated me on several levels at a time in my life where everything was up for discussion. It was the summer following my graduation from University, I was living in a house on Fernwood and spending what money I had going out drinking and dancing but these were songs I could just wrap myself up in during the daylight hours, forgetting that I was broke and needed a regular job. [Ingenue]

19. Barenaked Ladies - Stunt (cd) - I've been a fan of BNL from the beginning; they are Canadian dorks who made it big and Stunt was their biggest stab at global domination. One Week is an impossible to sing-along-to bounce fest and from there the album rolls through songs that show the band's full range. I think a big part of why this one mattered to me is that it made me go back and buy their other albums (only one of which I'd previously owned on cassette).[Stunt]

20. Crystal Method - Vegas (cd) - maybe it was the opening monologue from the Dark Crystal that drew me in but it was ultimately the bass-laden club-friendly beat that made me wanna crank this album and hit the accellerator (not the best combo, but whatcha gonna do?). This stayed in our van until the CD-changer kicked the bucketand then I moved most of it to my mp3 player. [Vegas]

21. Rilo Kiley - More Adventurous (cd) - I would never have heard about Rilo Kiley were it not for the Livejournal music-sharing group Audacity of which I was, for some time, an active member. Having heard "It's a Hit" I was willing to give the album a shot and it turned out to be one of my favourite purchases. Like many of my other faves, the songs here are lyrically playful and full of things that are a bit twisted (Accidental Deth is gloriously gloomy) folded into slightly twee alt-folk arrangements. [More Adventurous]

22. Gwen Stefani - Love Angel Music Baby (cd) - despite the ridiculousness of the Hirajuku girls clinging to Gwen in every video, I loved everything about this album and it was one that the whole family listened to (I'm sure it's how my daughter learned how to spell bananas, right along side hearing "the bad s word"). We also had all of No Doubt's albums and this seemed a fair progression for lead singer Stefani and the songs had that lush layered sound that I crave. [Love, Angel, Music, Baby]

23.William Shatner - Has Been - (cd) stop laughing, this is the album that made me a Shatner fan. If you've never listened to it, just find a copy of "That's Me Trying" which is basically a letter to his daughter whom he hasn't seen in years. It breaks my heart. It might help that the album is a collaboration with Ben Folds (I should own more of his music...) and features guest vocals by Aimee Mann and Joe Jackson but Shatner is a performer and this is an album of performance art. [Has Been]

24.Killers - Hot Fuss (cd) - in the midst of a folk-rock renaissance doing battle with bootylicious hip-hop, The Killers reached out through the top 40 radio and shook me. They were (are) songs I can sing along with; songs with melody, harmony, crashing chords and so much body. It took me a while to buy this album, which is why it appears later in the list, but it stands up and I am very much looking forward to seeing them in concert in April. [Hot Fuss]

25. Kanye West - College Dropout/Late Registration (cds) - I really can't separate these two albums since I bought them back to back. It started when we heard the song Jesus Walks on the trailer for Jarhead; I knew I needed that song. Not long after that, Kanye West stood up at the Grammy's and said, in response to the mishandling of the floods in New Orleans, "George Bush does not care about black people!" -- we literally went out the next weekend and bought both albums because we wanted to make sure we contributed to his staying in the public eye. [College Dropout; Late Registration]

25 February 2009

Sad song, decent video

The one problem with William Shatner's album Has Been is the lack of music videos. Thankfully, people have taken the situation into their own hands... here's a nice machinima* video for my favourite track off the album, "That's Me Trying"

Like it? Buy the album -- it's pretty much all that good.

*machinima is apparently the term for this Sims-like animation. Now you know, too.

23 February 2009

Looking ahead.

As I hinted last week, I am one of the shortlisted entrants for the CBC Canada Writes 2009 contest. Following my cryptic post, I was given an audition challenge on Tuesday (I had to write fewer than 200 words on a specific topic and do so in under 1 hour, via email). On Wednesday, I had an audition interview by phone. On Thursday I wrote my bio and selected a photo of myself which I sent in about an hour before I left for Vegas.

Now it is in the hands of the judges and it'll be a week before I know whether I make it to the semi-finals....

Looking back

Vegas is squarely in the rear-view mirror with all it's bling and high concentration of international douchebaggery.

I knew it was full of bling going in -- that's the point of Vegas; everything is bigger, brighter and bolder than everywhere else -- but the douchebaggery? that was, well, more pronounced than I was expecting. For example, I didn't expect to walk out of the Miracle Mile stores at 6 pm and have to dodge vomiting partiers on The Strip.

But that wasn't the most surprising thing. What surprised me the most, was the pervasive cigarette smoke. I always thought the clean-air bylaws here in BC were a bit over-protective but going to Vegas was like stepping back in time. I do remember walking behind people smoking in the mall or sitting in a restaurant next to a smoker -- my Dad smokes, so I was raised around it but clearly my nose and lungs had completely forgotten the experiences. For Kiddo, it was a completely new and unpleasant experience.

With all that aside, there were some highlights: the monorail announcements are actually quite funny; the food in the MGM Grand restaurants was good -- even the ridiculous room service ($8 for two scrambled eggs and $6 for one slice of french toast) tasted good; and seeing the reality of what, for me, was basically a film set was worth doing.*

The above photo was, I think, one of Kiddo's highlights -- the Volcano dessert at the Rainforest Cafe. It was the same price as our entree, I think, and I would suspect about three thousand calories. Split three ways we still couldn't finish it, but she was very happy to dig into it.

So basically, we have crossed Vegas off our list of places to go and likely won't revisit unless we are drawn there by a convention -- and then we would go child-free.

*Funny thing. Having watched hundreds of hours of CSI, I kept looking at every corner of of the city as a potential crime scene. Being the pessimist I am I do that regardless of my location but in Vegas it was that much more conscious.

18 February 2009

Planning for the unknown

Originally uploaded by triviaqueen
This week is Reading Break on campus so there's few people milling about, even with the bright sunny days we've been having this week. It's going to be a real shock to go from this -- the photo is of the outdoor seating for the Bibliocafe, the coffee shop in the front part of the Library where I work -- to Vegas tomorrow.

We've been getting ready all week but I still have a list of stuff I need to gather and pack plus things to double check, plus a list of things to do before we go (e.g. leave instructions for those looking after the cat, set the pvr to record our shows, etc.... ).

I'm nervous, too, because this will be Kiddo's first flight, and my first time through an American airport since the late 1990s. Oh, and I remembered this morning that I have steel plates in my ankle.

I'm also not sure exactly what to expect out of this trip but I do hope to have fun. I am trying not to over-plan, but to have an idea of what we want to see and do, knowing that likely we won't get to everything. (This is a contrast to arriving in Florence, Italy without any idea of what to do or see. Truly ridiculous in hindsight but I was not even 20 so I didn't know any better.) Now that I think of it, that's the real difference. This is the first "new city" to which I've traveled in a long time (the trip up Island last summer, while lovely, was in familiar territory) -- perhaps this can start a trend.

17 February 2009

This is what sleep deprivation is made of....

... I have been shortlisted in a National contest as one of ten potential semi-finalists for my region. I don't know if I can give too much detail yet but I will share as soon as I can. In the meantime, I have some challenges over the next two days and then it will be up to the judges.

I wonder if the judges like cookies?

15 February 2009

Today I learned about bad crotches.

[insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here

This morning, I headed to Fernwood to take part in a workshop on fruit tree pruning. The timing was right and the cost was attractive ($10 to cover the cost of the facilitator) so I had signed up as soon as I heard about it. 

The workshop was put together by the Lifecycles Fruit Tree project with the idea of building a group of people with the skills needed to prune and care for the trees harvested by the project volunteers. I have always wanted to volunteer with the project but haven't been able to squeeze time out of my schedule to do so. I'm on their email list now, though... so we'll see what comes of it.

In the meantime I learned a lot today -- including the titular information about crotches (where two branches meet; a bad crotch is less than a 45° angle as it encourages bark overgrowth as well as rot from leaves and water and other gunk that may gather there.) I also realized why the tree at the townhouse was such a mess -- I never paid attention to when I was pruning or where, exactly. Oh well, it's not my tree anymore. 

So, armed with this new knowledge, I had a look at the trees in our yard this afternoon. The mature apple tree looks to be well pruned and shaped; it'll need a little maintenance, but not much. The plum tree looks like someone pruned it with good intentions but no follow-up. It's going to take a lot of work. The two mid-size apple trees are a mess. I don't think anyone ever laid a hand on them. Ditto with the dwarf trees but they'll be easier to deal with. The coming weeks will be busy, that's for sure.

First though, we are off to Las Vegas -- in just four days! I can't believe it! I booked our seats on Friday (after almost an hour on hold with the uber-friendly WestJet owners/staff) and managed to find all of our passports. We bought three matching red carry-on bags today and now I am making mental lists of what exactly to pack. In fact, there's lots of lists. Lists of things we want to see and do, lists of things we might want to buy, lists of things we have to do before we leave, and a little list for those who will be checking in on our cat. 

Basically, there's still a lot to be decided but we did decide not to take any of our computers and our silly Virgin Mobile phones won't work in the U.S. -- there's no roaming contracts -- so we'll be digitally out of touch for four days.

13 February 2009

Lucky 13

Aside from a few potholes in my way today, it's been a good day, overall. I burnt my breakfast, but my morning transit was smooth. I had to deal with some minor software hiccups but managed to beat Contribute into submission and get done the project I'd been assigned. (I am quite happy with the result but it still has to get the go-ahead from a number of stakeholders.)

This evening we had a sushi dinner then took Kiddo to a "Valentine Social" -- I was expecting an update on the "sock-hops" we had at her age  but instead we got to watch a gym full of kids raid the equipment closet and reenact the first chapters of Lord Of The Flies. It was cut short by a basketball to Kiddo's shin which prompted a tantrum. We ferried her over to her Nana's for the night and went out for a late snack at The Mint followed by a walk around town.

Back home, we exchanged Valentine's gifts early and settled in for the night.

10 February 2009

Gory Giggle

Today's xkcd amused me....

... but then, I am often amused by the very dark. Some of my favourite films -- War of the Roses, Shallow Grave, Heathers -- are very dark comedies. It seems that my sense of humour has rubbed off on Kiddo, she has laughed out loud at some very inappropriate scenes (in Gremlins, for example); she's got a bit of a Wednesday Aadams mini-goth-girl vibe going (actually, she loves all things Ruby Gloom). It's one of the many things I love about her.

[Go ahead, put a little dark in your life. Add these movies to your collection!]

09 February 2009

This photo is important...

There are many reasons this photo, from the Library of Congress is so important.

1. As many of the commenters point out, not much has ever been said about black women working as "Rosie the Riveter" during the war (and, hey, it's Black History Month, so that's important reason number one).

2. As part of the LOC's commons photoset, this photo is open to tagging from the general public. Turns out, this one has over 70 tags, making it one of 15 that have approached or exceeded Flickr's 75 tag limit.

3. Perhaps because of the subject matter, this is a popular photo. At the time of this entry, it had been made a favourite by 444 Flickr users and had been viewed 64,472 times -- that's several thousand more than the total views on all 7900 items in my photostream.

There's a lot to love about this photo. It's composition is artistic -- it is as beautiful as any Renaissance portrait -- and it's subject matter fascinating -- a brief moment in American History when true equality seemed attainable.

08 February 2009

WWE action in Victoria....

OK, this is too odd not to post. Reading our local newspaper (online), I discover that pro wrestler Chris Jericho got into an altercation after a show here on Saturday that ended with assault charges. The incident was captured and posted on YouTube.

The article makes it sound like Jericho went after a bystander but from the way I see it, a bunch of morons rushed his vehicle, taunting him, even pushing him until finally, he pushes back. This makes me very happy that we were up-Island yesterday afternoon.

Here's the video:

07 February 2009

Movie and Maple Syrup

Friday night, the three of us went out to see Coraline (in 3D) -- my only beef was the extra $4 each we had to pay for the 3D glasses; the movie was fine. If you're curious, I posted a full review at the MediaNook.


Today, we decided to actually take in one of the events I regularly post on FrugalVictoria -- the Bigleaf Maple Syrup Festival at the BC Forest Discovery Centre north of Duncan. I actually had no idea you could tap Big Leaf Maples which are native to the region -- I thought all maple syrup came from Sugar Maples. Nifty.*

We watched a tapping demonstration -- someone actually drilled a hole in a tree, hammered in a plastic spout and attached a 15L wine bag with some tubing (unlike the traditional bucket-under-the-spout method which offers a healthy dose of bugs along with the sap). We checked on the bag about an hour later and there was a good amount of sap already collected, maybe a litre or two. Of course it takes about 45L of sap to get 1L of syrup -- which explains why those litres were selling for $20 each.


However, after tasting several varieties, we happily bought three bottles from local farms and families, and continued with our visit. We rode the train, explored the grounds, and let kiddo run off some steam at the playground. Then we headed into Duncan for lunch (at a great little hole-in-the-wall diner) before heading home.

* Turns out Bigleaf Maple tapping is pretty new to the Island and the subject of recent research at UVic, too. What I find most interesting is that the industry could actually increase biodiversity in the region because the trees are often seen as a "pest species" and are specifically removed. By proving their value, these trees may be saved.Align Center

05 February 2009


I've been playing word games again (Lexulous on Facebook) and thinking about language and words again. I recently put in my first order from Threadless and will soon be the owner of this tshirt:

I've always been drawn to word art, especially when people use words in an unexpected way, like these dream tickets (that just sold out!!) from MoonFaces on Etsy:

(She has other tickets available... I really like the idea.)

Of course, you can also get my words on a t-shirt, mug, messenger bag or in a frame; buy my zombie haiku stuff at Cafe Press:

And, just to be silly, my del.icio.us tags in word-art form using Wordle....

Wordle: Bookmarked

04 February 2009

Things I've Learned This Week

I learned that...

... someone listened: the roll-out of the wrong-headed CPSIA legislation is being postponed for a year so that some of the many questions raised regarding handcrafted and other goods can be examined and hopefully answered

... if you are "required to register as a sex offender in any jurisdiction, you may not use the Facebook Service."

... Wil Wheaton's twitter feed (@wilw) is followed by a ridiculous number of people -- enough that he felt the need to explain himself.

... I will soon be reviewing films again; this time for Game-Boyz.com -- I will let you know when reviews are up and active.

... trying to use Contribute in a networked environment SUCKS, plain and simple.

... there was a strike on Second Life (workers at IBM Italy) back in 2007. I think that pre-dates my knowledge of the existence of Second Life.