city

round and round

Bike log: my odometer just rolled over another 1,000 km. [1]

melted_snowball came home from Slovenia on Friday just in time for the condo to open the roof-top common area, so we had an impromptu party with a few neighbours. [2]

Saturday included a "Doors Open" visit to a local Mennonite church for a talk on the history of pacifists in the traditional peace churches in Ontario during the War of 1812.

I considered and skipped a number of other interesting Doors Open venues, leading to one major theme for the weekend: being choosy with my time, versus too many exciting possibilities for one weekend.

We went to a house-warming across the hallway, at which we heard some nearly unbelievable stories from another neighbour, which I expect I'll write about sooner or later.

I skipped a Local Foods tasting-event in the afternoon, and a "Raspberry Jam" demo event for Linux computers the size of credit-cards. I also skipped an arts gallery opening related to Nicola Tesla sculpture, and the DJ Darude at a local club. Instead, d. and I went out for sushi dinner. :)

Today: Quaker Meeting, and afterward I skipped a street-fair in favour of a nap and housework. Dinner with friends, which we cut short because d. is still quite jetlagged. I, on the other hand, am a few time-zones off; I should be sleepy now but I'm not.

[1] I've only gone 600km so far this year, but this included 3 weeks commuting from Elora by car, plus a 3 week chunk last month when my back was too sore to ride. This is likely to be a low year for cycling- possibly the first since I started paying attention that I will go fewer than 1,000km.

[2] The roof amenities are really not bad: an indoor party space, gym, sauna, and patio, which until this weekend was locked. The patio is better than I expected- it looks more like the glossy renderings in the advertising than it has any reason to. There are a couple of gas grills, and tables and seating for about 30 people outside. Also, nifty planters with many of the house-plants we have (I hope the Juniper shrubs are winter-tolerant) and city views of lots of greenery. Yes, we ought to have a house-warming, which will probably happen in October!...

Hey! I don't own a home now!

It's true- the condo is technically a rental from the builders until around December; and the house sale became final as of today.

We've been ready for the house to sell for 4 months- and since it got repainted in beiges last month, it hasn't even felt to me like the home we had lived in for eleven years. It's a good time to move on.

The sale was supposed to become final next Wednesdy, except last Thursday our realtor emailed to say the buyers have requested closing a week early.

...Um, OK maybe, because this was 4:30pm, and melted_snowball was to leave in 90 minutes for Slovenia.

Our lawyer indicated the change was likely possible, so we prepped a few things in lieu of d. being present at the paperwork-signing before we popped off to the airport. On Friday I spent a few hours finding documents the lawyer needed such as the survey, deed from our purchase and so on; and signing the revised papers with our agent. (And I will note that I'm quite pleased that our city has a single-phonecall service to handle starting/closing accounts with all of the municipally owned water and gas utilities, tax rolls, and rental hot-water heater. That call plus one to the power company was sum total of required calls to change the closing date).

In the evening I went to clean out the shed and attic, which the buyers had realized still had junk in them. Junk that mostly belonged to the prior owners. Ugh.

Part of this story is that a few weeks ago I had decided I was going to treat this weekend as a personal retreat- centered around a massage on Saturday. So I had a fair bit of grumpiness about upending the retreat in favour of mortgage paperwork and cleaning out junk I didn't realize we had to deal with. Friday after work, I went to the house and began hauling junk- meditatively. Believe it or not, it worked- I wasn't grumpy at the buyers, or us for not cleaning it previously, or the previous owners; the retreat now just had a physical labour component.

Would you believe that worked? I scarcely did. It kept me going till 9pm, at least, which is when I finished the worst of it, leaving the rest to handle on trash night.

And lest you think melted_snowball was merely lounging around in Slovenian castles, by 4pm he had electronically signed and emailed back the legal documents fulfilling his part of the paperwork, which meant I just had to go into the lawyer's office Monday morning with some paperwork, and everything would be finished, save accepting a scary big sum into our bank account, which is now shifted over to a 1.8% savings account.

I'm still a bit impressed that it all came together.

And now my keychain is one key lighter, and we no longer own a lawn-mower.

rain

There was quite a downpour this morning. I was hanging out with my parents at their hotel just as they were on their way back home; I stuck around a bit longer so I wouldn't be caught in the worst of it getting back to the car. It turned out to be a very warm rain, but also a lot of water.

Things I then saw on my way to work:

- ducks swimming on the shoulder of the road
- a toddler joyfully stomping in puddles in a front yard
- a pair of middle-aged women driving a scooter in the bike-lane with raincoats billowing. The one in the front looked like she was soaked to the bone and had an ear-to-ear grin.

Controlled chaos

My world seems to ebb and flow with varying amounts of chaos. Sometimes, it's a bit much.

I wish I'd taken a photo; my study was a disaster area. Last night I was due to be on a conference-call on queer Quaker outreach. So I started prepping 10 minutes before the call was to start- lots of time to re-read the agenda, call up my notes, find my headphones... We'd used the same conference calling number a bunch of times, but somehow I mis-remembered it was a toll-free number. Nope, it's a regular US number. Oh right, I had bought a calling card to deal with that, last fall when I was last on these conference calls. ...Oops, this was going to be a problem.

1) My cellphone's long distance to the US is something like $0.45/min, so that was a non-starter. 2) I tried both of my cheap calling cards, and they had expired or ran out of money, probably in May. 3) I tried skype; but my account had JUST been marked 'inactive' due to no calls in 180 days. It took me a few minutes to figure that out, but they sent me an email last week telling me to log in before yesterday. Oops. Now it was time for the conference call to start. 4) Could I find the parts for my VoIP system, which is only 1 cent a minute? Yes, I can! I plugged in my VoIP box, stringing wires in a mess, dragged out the speaker phone from the closet (which was nicely put away under a pile of other stuff, a pile which became strewn all over the floor), found a phone cord (another mess in the closet), got everything hooked up, and dialed in, only a couple minutes late. ...The call was useful and good, but I was sort of distracted by the bomb that had gone off in my study! So I'm not sure what I learned from this experience. I really like the look of my desk without a phone on it, and I'm glad we got rid of the land-line. I did reactivate my skype account, which would have worked without any wires. And I'm glad I have a backup backup backup plan.

--

We have met all of the conditions for the house sale! The inspection found a leak in the main-floor bathroom, so we knocked $500 off the price rather than needing to deal with plumber / re-inspection / etc. possibilities. They are doing a title search and the house is to close September 19th! (Or earlier, if they decide they want to). I'm still sort of numb that it's finally wrapping up. Yay! But now our line of credit (on the house) goes away, and we immediately had to figure out where we were going to stash the large pile of money until the condo registers in December. (The answer? Canadian Tire Bank. Yes really. 1.8% interest savings account, and the interest is not paid in Canadian Tire Money.)

--

My parents are coming in 4 days. We discussed this option last weekend, decided it wasn't practical for them to rush to get here on the September long weekend, that we'd find another time we're all free... and then yesterday they decided hey, why not do it while they know we're all free, especially if they offset their visit a day to give us a bit of breathing room after our stressful weeks. So they're arriving Sunday and leaving Tuesday! I'm excited to show them the new place, and I'm glad this is working out, since I think we all had a premonition they wouldn't otherwise make it here until 2013.

--

We are starting to have neighbours on our floor. Last night dan brought by a couple, half of whom is living down the hall. They felt a bit like they were out of a soap-opera, and not in a bad way really, just a bit much. Don't get me wrong; I am very happy at the mix of people we've met in the building- young, old, gay couples, straight couples, singles, dog-owners... I agree with dan. This was the right choice.

Just so long as we don't end up as extras in someone else's soap opera.

"Iles Flottantes", or, "Floating Eels"...

Last night Dan was going to make Iles Flottantes, which sounded tasty and decadent, but the eggs wouldn't separate, which meant he was either going to waste a bunch of eggs, or change plans. So he made pound cake, which is indeed quite tasty.

I woke up this morning hearing Monty Python-esque voices saying "Iles Flottantes", or in English, "Floating Eels..." Sadly, that's all of the skit that came to my waking mind. But someone else should run with it, shouldn't they?

--

This weekend has been a bit of a crapshoot. I have had a terrible backache, which has gotten better and worse in turns, but today I didn't need Tylenol with codeine, just regular Tylenol and Advil, which is an improvement.

This weekend I've gotten lots of walking in, just around downtown. I saw a twitter post yesterday that amused and amazed me: there are still apparently a bunch of people in town who are terrified of Downtown as being scary and crime-ridden. Perhaps 15 years ago it was? But I'm certain it's much less worrying than, say, Ball Square or other Boston-area neighbo(u)rhoods. A friend made a comment to the effect that such people form a distinct set of folks she is displeased to run into, in the OTHER (ritzier) end of town. And there is some truth to that for me too.

...I'd say eat the rich, but I'm not really into capitalism cannibalism.

--

We have an offer on our house! The inspection is tomorrow morning, after which we'll hear if they have any problems. The realtors had a showing today "just in case" and there was a lot of interest, if Party the First falls through. Getting this close-to-finished is such a load off my mind. And for Dan, too. There's a difference between knowing in theory that it will sell, and actually having it finally happen.

--

I've been trying to not think about work at home, but failed yesterday, when I decided I would just email the author of some code I'm using. His reply was both immediate and very useful, and at the same time I realized I: 1) had a bug in my alteration to his code and 2) knew the fix could be tested in about ten minutes. ...So I did that. And it worked!

So then I had to tell him I fixed the deficiency he had told me he'd never gotten around to fixing (but wanted to fix). And since he had a github account to share his code, and *I* have a github account I've never used, it made the most sense to figure out how to share it with him publicly, with all the public open-source accountability.

I expect you can see where this went (and so could I, even while I was doing it).

It took me about an hour to figure out the next part, since I've never actually used git before. But the end product looks pretty awesome to me, because something like 3 lines of code (and 1 line of documentation) means I don't have to spend at least a day writing a workaround for the (nonexistent) deficiency in the underlying system API.

Or, said another way, I made it so I can programmatically rename hosts in the campus DNS system, instead of having to delete the old host and re-creating all of its information in a new record.

--

So yah. Life is pretty good, and will be even better next week when the provisional house sale becomes final!

How's by you?

Meant to be- for some purpose.

I just learned the Yiddish word beschert- "meant to be for some purpose."

It's used for happy occasions like finding the love of one's life, or chance encounters that change your life; and also for twists of fate.

It seems a useful concept in the way the article spelled it out. I was describing it to somebody recently but I got the definition incomplete in way that seems instructive to me. I said it was "meant to be," which the author somehow gave different nuance than "preordained or destined" but I couldn't remember how he made that argument.

The closing paragraph from the article by Rabbi Staub (in Friends Journal) made it clear for me again: "Meant to be for some purpose"— "the meaning isn't in the event itself, but in what we do when the event occurs. There are always opportunities— invitations— to react one way or another.

The meaning that I attribute to any circumstance, when I am able to do so at all, is not in the event itself, but how I respond when it ricochets out of my control."


I like that.

The shorter form "Meant to be" sounds like the heights of hubris; close to claiming to understand a Divine plan for the universe. It also sounds like predestination, which I find fatalistic and not useful.

In contrast, if I say it was "meant to be for some purpose" I am first not claiming to know what that purpose is; though I may spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. I am opening myself to additional clarification, changing it from something the Divine has done, into something the Divine might be asking me to do in response.

Online dictionaries say "beschert is beschert" is the analog to que sera sera— especially the connotations of finding one's soulmate. One's beschert is the one God intended for you to fall in love with.

Thing is, you also have some say in the matter; you can NOT fall in love and not spend your life with them, or maybe it takes some time for things to fall into place.

...Yiddish being Yiddish, there's a fair bit of contradiction built into the word, and perhaps most people just use it to mean "predestined" without the personal implications of responsibility. And maybe that argument is beschert!

Hi!

*tap* *tap* Izzis thing on? *blows cobwebs*

I've missed writing here, but I haven't felt like I had time, and then when I had time, I didn't have energy. And when I had energy, I was more concerned with the living of the life, than the recording.

But I feel like the me-of-years-from-now would prefer I come back to writing, at least occasionally. ...And if there are any other readers left out there, I'm very happy to have you here too.

I don't know if this happens to anybody else, but I still write journal posts in my head; I just never record them. Which feels silly. Especially since sometimes I come up with really awesome titles.
  • Current Music
    Neuroticfish in my head

Theatre Review: "Caroline, Or Change"

Acting Up Stage Toronto had a recent run of "Caroline, or Change," written by Tony Kushner. The Globe and Mail gave it 4 stars and a number of blurbs said it's the best theater of the last year. Last year New York Magazine called it one of the "greatest musicals of all time", the only so chosen of the 21st century to appear on every panelists' short list.

So, hm. I wish I thought it was that good.

The story follows a young boy (modeled on Kushner) who lives in Lousiana in 1963. His Jewish family employs an African-American maid, Caroline. The title refers to all sorts of change: the coins in the boy's pocket (which cause drama as his step-mother decides Caroline should keep them rather than give them back to the boy), the political seismic shifts washing across the United States (including the Southern Freedom marches, the assassination of JFK, and the Vietnam War), the changes in social status of Caroline's high-school friend Rose, and against all of these, how Caroline feels the same as ever.

It is a powerful show; and there are notes of genius- the music is beautiful; the players are spot-on (except for one thing I'll note below); the magic of playing the Washing Machine, Radio, and Dryer as soul-singers is wonderful; and the Moon, played by a woman in a diva-like hat, occasionally gave me shivers.

In the end, the biggest problem I had was that it feels exactly like there's only one three-dimensional character, the boy Noah (who grows up to be the playwright). I think with a bit of tweaking to the book, this could be the amazing show for me that other people seemed to find it.

I think the ONLY fault in the production was sort of funny: a song about the moon talks about how her light shone, and the song rhymes shone with alone; but the Canadian pronunciation of "shone" is the same as the name "Shawn", and sure enough that's how it was sung. Um, yeah.

But anyway, it reminds me how difficult it is to change, especially when not changing has lots of comfortable attractions.

Concert Review: Laurie Anderson

Last night, Laurie Anderson gave a concert at the Perimeter Institute. Much to my surprise, I was able to go [1] and so I offer this brief review.

I guess the atrium of the Perimeter Institute has improved a bit since the first concert I saw there, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, which featured very uncomfortable lawn chairs. This, this concert had real hard-back chairs. Not that I got to sit on one- I had a standing-room ticket, upstairs. Mezzanine. The whole 2nd floor was open, and there were only 40 standing-room tickets, so we each got a fair bit of space to ourselves.

Pluses: Unobstructed view: at the beginning I was standing less than 10 feet from Laurie Anderson. Straight up.
Minuses: We weren't allowed to lean on the glass railing, which I kept forgetting. And the top of a performer's head turns out to not be as exciting as seeing the front of her face. Also, I saw her glance upward once and realized it might actually be disconcerting to have audience perched just over-top of oneself.

So I moved back to 20 feet away, where I stayed for the rest of the show. It wasn't bad, even standing, and there was lots of room for me to sit on the floor, which I did for a while.

The acoustics were fine; possibly slightly less amplified, but that wasn't a problem. Fortunately, I also didn't find there were any annoying echoes in the big space.

The concert was 90 minutes. She started with her signature pitch-bended electric violin (which in the late 70's was a "tape bow violin"- with recorded magnetic tape as the bow, and a magnetic tape head as the bridge; though I don't expect that's still how it works). She alternated between instrumental-only pieces, some which I liked quite a lot, and spoken-word over instrumental and keyboard loops. Some of her spoken-word was pitch-bended into her trademark growling bass voice, which she has called audio drag or "the Voice of Authority." That voice matched her appearance- she was dressed up way butch, with spiky hair, a thin tie and dark suit, though the Voice didn't really say things of much authority- and she had a perfectly commanding presence with her own voice.

Lighting was quite dark: there were mood lights of various primary colours, and candles on the stage. She told stories. Very modern stories, simply told, many of them compelling, though I didn't feel like they hung together as a whole (more on that at the end). This is apparently the start of a new tour, "Another Day in America," which started last week in Calgary, and we were lucky enough to be the second city on the tour. I imagine it will evolve as it goes.

She spoke about the National Defense Authorization Act which Obama just signed on New Years Eve, which allows indefinite detention without trial of American citizens in military prisons. She noted that this piece of law centers on a redefinition of "battleground" to include all of the United States. And what does it mean to choose to bring the battleground to one's home? "We've been waiting a couple hundred years for the enemy to show up, and since they never did, we decided maybe it’s us."

She spoke about how annoyed Darwin had been with peacocks- "what could possibly be fittest about a giant bright blue tail?" and jumps to how the Catholic church has been afraid of science- and what if the Church was most afraid that we'd find many worlds, with other popes? Which pope would be the real pope? Perhaps one with the brightest, bluest tail?

She told about visiting one of the many tent-cities in the US which started during the housing crisis, which collectively have housed thousands of Americans over the last years. I have to say I thought she'd veered to the fictional, but google and wikipedia tell me the camp she visited is exactly as described.

Her beloved rat-terrier Lolabelle died this spring, on Palm Sunday; she told how the Tibetian Book of the Dead says when a living being dies, it will spend 49 days in a place called the Bardo, before it is reincarnated. And Lolabelle died 49 days before Anderson's birthday. She goes on to say that when Lolabelle went blind a few years ago, Anderson began teaching her to play the piano, and to paint; and then she shared a dozen of Lolabelle's paintings, and a video of her playing the keyboard (wagging, and barking in joy as she did so).

The last time I saw her, in Ithaca in 2006, she had just spent time as NASA's first (and last) Artist in Residence. She also had stories about Lolabelle, one which has stuck with me, about a walk in the woods when a hawk dive-bombs them and the dog realizes there's 180 degrees of the world she had never imagined could be dangerous- which turns into a parallel story about the US post-9/11. Really sharp stuff.

So, on the whole. I wish this concert had tied together more. I could feel the authority with which she was speaking, and maybe it's up to the listener to pull things together, but the way it was structured, I didn't find myself able to do so during the concert. Perhaps some of that pulling together can happen when I'm in Quaker Meeting this weekend.

I'm quite glad the PI was able to get her here- they have been trying for years. Perhaps she will be back! I would not mind that, no.

[1] So, how I got a ticket. If you are allergic to twitter, you won't want to read this. Just sayin'.

I found out about the concert from someone tweeting about it on Monday. I tweeted an "Aw, how come I just found out about this sold-out show?" After a bit of whinging to friends, I forgot about it. I had a faint hope to show up at the venue and see if there were unclaimed tickets.

But on Wednesday evening, I checked twitter and noticed somebody I didn't know had specifically sent me a message asking if I needed a ticket. I replied, but it had been 6 hours after he had asked, and he had also gotten re-tweeted by the Perimeter when he previously if anybody needed a ticket. ... and yet, somehow, nobody had; all of his friends who would have jumped at the chance lived in Toronto or New York or elsewhere. So Thursday morning, he came to my office and sold me his ticket at-cost! How cool is that?