Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tuesday night CanCon

Al Mader
The Minimalist Jug Band
[If only you could hear it--ed.]

I hear you're chasin' the golden egg
Relocatin' to Winnipeg
For a Ph.D. and a career

Well don't expect me to beg
Go ahead and break a leg
But there always a place for you here

And You can always just be a writer
If nothin' else goes right
Scribble your thoughts on a napkin in the morning
And perform them up onstage at night.

And you can always just be a writer
If everything else goes wrong
Take your heart break and misfortune
Transform the into a song

Well I know that poets are annoying
Even the ones who are good
At least they have
an understanding of
What it's like to be misunderstood

And You can always just be a writer
I put your name on the list
Well you're after the girl
with the bleach blonde curls
And the bandages on her wrist

And you can always just be a writer
There's no real shame in that
Well it's a gift that you got
And like it or not
It's not a gift that you can take back

Well Henry and William were brothers
You could hardly tell them apart
But Willy James chose the machinations of the mind
While Hank chose the beating of the heart

And I didn't bother to do any research
But I'd be more than willing to bet
Henry James had the better life
And died without regrets

And they told Henry
You can always just be a writer
If nothing else goes right
Scribble your thoughts on napkin in the morning
And perform them up onstage at night

And you can always just be writer
I'll put your name on the list
Well you're after the girl with the bleach blond curls
And the bandages on her wrist

And you can always just be a writer.


Brought to me in audio form courtesy of Steve Fruitman on his CIUT radio show Back to the Sugar Camp.

I bothered to transcribe this quite some time ago in response to an email, the contents of which are also amusing, and appear below.
(I'll link to who sent it,
if he will consent to it.)

RJN, at First Things:

Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words, which
he did. (I'll get to what he wrote.) Black Book magazine issued the same
challenge to a slew of well-known contemporary authors. Norman Mailer
wrote this: "Satan -- Jehovah -- fifteen rounds. A draw."

John Updike: "'Forgive me!' 'What for?' 'Never mind.'"

None of them come close to what Hemingway wrote: "For sale: baby shoes,
never used."

It's lines like that that make me realize I'm never going to be a writer..

Monday, November 27, 2006

Premature Expiration

In all the years that I've had a credit card, I don't think any one of them has lasted to the expiration date. I don't feel like I'm being especially rough with it. I don't make that many credit card purchases, so I doubt that I'm wearing it out on the swipe machines. I'm mystified.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Islands of Confusion

Despite the name, Île-de-France is not an island.

Cognitive Dissonance

"Randy!" she said enthusiastically upon his entering the coffee shop.

Genocide and the noation of Quebec

The recent announcement of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the vote to recognize the Quebecois as a nation, while declaring that the Province of Quebec will never be a nation, reminded me of a vote in the House of Commons in 2003 to recognize the Armenian genocide.

It struck me as odd that the House of Commons would be voting on such a thing. I felt that whether something was a genocide was something that should be discussed and debated by historians, and perhaps legal scholars, and not decided by parliamentarians. What practical implications does it have, other than to put Canada on the record as having voiced its own thoughts on the matter? Offhand, I can't think of anything, but this is well outside the realm of my expertise.

Recognizing Quebec as as nation, in the sense that Prime Minister Harper is using it, strikes me as odd as well, and for the same reasons. The sense he is using it is in an ethnocultural sense. I feel that the national status of the Quebecois in this sense is something that should be discussed and debated by somebody--I'm not sure who--but again not decided by parliamentarians.

Much else has been written on the matter. See Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells.

It is important, as another Andrew points out in the comment section of his blog, to take careful note of the wording. The motion is recognizing the Quebecois, not the people of the Province of Quebec.

Tabuly [1]

In addition to having leftover cilantro, tomatoes, and chickpeas from the soup, I also had some leftover flatleaf parsley. Once again the blogless Erica came to the rescue and recommended a recipe for tabouleh. I followed the recipe pretty closely this time, except that I used a dash of salt instead of a pinch. I just squeezed some ReaLemon instead of fresh squeezed lemon juice until it felt like I had the right amount rather than measuring it out (I guessed right). I used three vine ripened tomatoes instead of one large tomato.

It turns out that bulgur wheat is a specialty item. I couldn't find it among the rice and pasta as I would have expected. So if you can't find it there, try looking for the specialty section, which may be small and hard to find. At the A&P that I went to, the specialty section was only about two metres wide. I would not have found it if I didn't ask someone at the store where to find bulgar wheat.

I used the tabouleh to stuff pita to eat with lunch. It was a great alternative to the usual peanut butter and jam or cheese sandwiches that I usually eat. Note that the recipe (as I made it) was rather soggy, so it is not recommended to stuff the pita in advance to eat later.

As usual, I ended up with leftover ingredients. This time it's green onion. I'm sure there's something simple that I can make with it, but I don't usually use green onion, so nothing comes to mind. I've also got a large package of bulgur wheat. I guess I could make tabouleh again. Any other suggestions?

[1] There are many accepted spellings of tabouleh. This is not one of them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Redeemer Connection

The man who designed the crest of my alma mater has been awarded the title of Herald Extraordinary.

Hat tip to the blog possessing David Koyzis.

The number of functions from the empty set to the empty set

I cannot read this post without posting something in response. First, I wasn't aware that I act like a mathematician, even when I am not doing mathematics. Second, the only math joke I know[1].

A biologist, a physicist, and a mathematician walk past a house. As they are walking past, they notice that two people walk in, but later those two people walk out with one additional person. The biologist says, "They must be multiplying." The physicist says, "It's an anomoly." At this point, another person walks into the house. The mathemitians sees this and says, "Now there is nobody in the house."

[1] Really, it's better that we don't know that many math jokes. It saves us from embarrassment.

Of all the !@#$ing coincidences

As I mentioned in Monday's post, my parents were in Kingston one week before my dad passed away. Among the things that I talked about with my dad was a country song called "Waiting around to die" [1] I never quite understood his enthusiasm for listening to country music on the radio until sometime in the last four or five years, when he told me that he mostly listened to country music stations hoping to hear something resembling the country music of earlier decades, though he never heard what he wanted. The composer of the song was Townes Van Zandt. The name was familiar, but it didn't sound like something that was recent. I thought that he might be a performer from earlier days of country music that my dad would recognize. Turns out that he didn't. The recording of the song that I had was from the Be Good Tanyas, which happened to among the topics of DSM's post that I read on the day of that sad anniversary.

[Warning: plot spoiler ahead]

Later that day, I watched Prison Break.

If the main characters were real, we'd have something to relate to. At least it wasn't raining in Prison Break.

[1] If the topic weren't so morbid, I might be amused by title of the song, when I asked him about it, and what happened one week later. I should say, however, that the main character of the song has basically given up on life, and his only solace is found in substance abuse. This was not my dad in any way.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Easy Chick Pea Curry

I made the recipe below last week Monday night in order to use up the unused portions of the cilantro, chickpeas, and tomatoes that I bought for the Tunisian chickpea and vegetable soup that I made a couple weeks ago. It was also a chance to use "my" "new" blender.

Rather than the quantities listed below, I used about 14oz (or one half of a can) of canned diced tomatoes, one and a half cans of chickpeas, about two thirds of a bunch of cilantro, and a whole white onion. I don't know what is meant by hot green chilies. I bought three hot yellow peppers (that is what the grocery store called them) but decided to use only one. I think I made the right decision. I also forgot to buy cinnamon and didn't have any on hand. Since I was using larger amounts of ingredients than the recipe called for and had forgotten cinnamon, I was fairly liberal with most of the spices. I was cautious with the salt, and only used the amount given.

It took me quite a while, maybe an hour, to get all of the vegetables ready, in part because I got a phone call in the middle of doing so, but also because I was reading the recipe off of my computer screen which is not convenient, because I didn't want it to be too close to the vegetables that I was chopping and also because it kept going into screen saver mode. Next time it should go much quicker.

The rest went smoothly, though I didn't cook the potatoes long enough, and it turned out that I was overly cautious with the salt. Neither of these things were a big deal, however. Once the potatoes were fully cooked and enough salt was added, I was pleased with the result. The recipe doesn't say so, but I ate it with rice, in roughly equal proportion to the curry.

The recipe comes from "From Curries to Kebabs" by Madhur Jaffrey, via the blogless Erica.

2 cups (1 can) chickpeas
2 smallish tomatoes (about 8 ounces), chopped
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3-6 fresh hot green chilies, chopped
1 cup cilantro tops, chopped
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons corn, peanut, or olive oil
1 medium stick of cinnamon
5 whole cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 medium potatoes (about 9 ounces), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice

Leave the chickpeas to drain in the colander.

Put the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chilies, cilantro, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 5 to 6 tablespoons of water in a blender and blend until smooth, pushing down with a rubber spatula when necessary.

Pour the oil in to a wide, lidded, medium pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the cinnamon, cardamom, and bay leaves. Ten seconds later, add the onion and potatoes. Stir and fry for six minutes, or until the onion is lightly browned. Add the paste from the blender. Stir for a minute. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 6 to 7 minutes, lifting the lid now and then to stir. Add the chickpeas, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of water. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cover, and cook gently on a low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Dad

Almost two years ago today, I received a phone call from my brother. Something bad happened, he said. It's Dad. I more or less knew what he was going to say. It was the first time my brother had called me in Kingston, in fact the only time, and the call was at 1:00 in the morning. There was some hope that I was wrong in my guess. That perhaps something happened that merely required a hospital visit. He shortly informed that my guess was right. My dad had passed away. I frantically packed my bags in preperation to go home. There was no point in staying in Kingston for the night. I wouldn't sleep. I called a friend in hopes of having some company for the trip back. He wasn't home, so I left on my own. The trip was uneventful. I had no problem staying awake, due to a couple coffee stops. In my determination to get home safely, I barely had time to feel anything. It wasn't real yet anyway.

By the time I got home, it must have been at least 5:30 in the morning. I had hoped that everyone would still be there when I got there. All but my brother and mother had left, however. My brother had gone to bed, and my mom was still up, flipping through photo albums looking for pictures of my dad, I think. I stayed up for about an hour, and decided to try to sleep with little success. I woke up and walked to the kitchen. When I didn't see my dad, I looked out into the back yard to see if he was there, partly having forgotten, but partly hoping that somebody had made a huge mistake. That's kind of what it felt like for the next few days. Like my dad was still alive. Like he had stepped out for a few minutes, but he'd be back in a little while.

The next few days were crazy. There were tons of people coming to my house. Extended family and people from my church especially. There was a lot of running around too, arranging all sorts of things for the funeral. Visitation took place for two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening. There was an impressive amount of people at the evening visitation. People were lined up outside the door of the church according to some sources. Some were there to give support to me or my brothers and sisters, but most were there to remember my dad.

The funeral itself was rather lighthearted. More fun than funeral. My uncle spoke on behalf of my dad's brothers and sisters. My sister spoke on behalf of my mother and brothers and sisters. There was more laughter than tears in both cases. It might seem inappropriate for a funeral, but my dad was inappropriate at other funerals. While everyone else was quiet and sombre, my dad would act as if nothing had happened. So it seemed fitting.

It was cold and rainy that day. Despite that, it was hard for me to leave the grave site.

After that, the long slow process of grieving happens. All I can really say about it is that it wasn't what I expected. I felt exhausted physically, but I didn't feel a great deal of sadness until recently.

I miss him a lot. He had a reputation for being slow and easily confused, though I think the reputation was somewhat unfair. He would chronically forget the names of his children. Well, he'd remember them, but not the right ones. If I heard my brother's name, I was almost certain my dad was talking to me. Occasionally he'd get it right the first time, but change his mind and call out one of my brothers' names (he would always get the gender right. I was never called by my sisters' names). It was cause for concern when my dad would get our names right on the first go, without changing his mind. He could rarely understand my mom's directions for things like when the next doctor's appointment was. These things got worse as he got older. Despite all of this, even at the last time I saw him, he still had a sharp wit, and he was full of random useless facts (now you know where I get it from). He was always looking for ways to help people out, wether they specifically asked for it or not. He could often be heard scheming behind someone's back trying to arrange favours for them. He had a lot to complain about, but rarely ever did, and he was usually cheerful despite all of this. Many were unaware of the problems that he had. He would always encourage people to look at the positive in everything, and he lived by that himself. I have many good memories of times with my dad. Going for walks when we were camping. Going for bike rides when I was a kid. Spending Sunday afternoons sleeping on his lap. Making coffee. Yes. Even something as mundane as making coffee.

In some ways it was a relief for him. He had suffered from lupus for most of my life, though he wasn't diagnosed until I was around 10. It made him tired and achey. He had asthma. He had had a gall bladder operation which nearly killed him and from which he never truly recovered. Later on he was diagnosed with diabetes. It wasn't easy to deal with all of this.

Regrets. I have a few, though they are small in comparison to some others' in the same situation. He and my mom came to visit one week before he died. I wasn't in a very good mood that weekend, and I took it out on him a little bit. I wish that I didn't. I should have helped him out at home more than I did when I visited home. I would hog the tv too, even in the rare moment when something he really wanted to watch was on.

There is probably more that I could say about my dad, but I've said all that I have to say for the time being.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

No Good Deed

At 11:51 this morning, housemate number 2 asks can you drive me to class, in a quiet, crackly, just got woken up voice. It's only a 10 minute walk, but it's pouring buckets out, and she's already late by 20 minutes. Okay. I'll drive you. I quickly grab my car keys and put on my coat. I do the usual check for my housekeys. Yep. They're in there. Off we go. It's a math class she says on the way there. I'm already late, but I don't want to miss anymore than I have already. I drop her off, turn around, and head back home. I hop out of my car, head into my building, and reach into my pocket for my housekeys. Only, they're not there. What I had confirmed to be my housekeys earlier was a small handfull of coins and my other set of car keys. I can't call anyone, since I left my cell in my room thinking I wouldn't need it. I walk back to the campus I have just driven to so that I can send an email to the housemates from the library telling them to meet me somewhere to lend me their keys. I find an open computer, and log in to gmail. I look up to see a familiar face. It takes a second, but I recognize her as housemate number 1 (you would think that I would recognize my housemate more easily than that, but it's at least the third time I've seen her somewhere and not recognized it was her right away). How fortuitous. I get her attention and explain to her my predicament. I have to hand in an assigment in Jeffery Hall, she says, and then I'm going home. Excellent. I walk with her to Jeffery Hall and wait for her to hand in her assignment. I run into friend of unspecified number. Oh dear. The circles are mixing. I just wanted to help out housemate number 2. I didn't mean for this to happen. How awkward. What do I do? What do I do? Housemate number 1 meet friend of unspecified number, I say. Friend of unspecified number meet housemate number 1. She's in political science, I say to friend of unspecified number who also happens to be in political science. Sorry. Political studies. The awkwardness is averted by them having something to talk about. The assignment is handed in, and we begin the long trek home (it's longer when you have short legs, as she does, or you're walking with someone who does). I am reminded once again that a waterproof coat is of no use to me if it's raining a lot and the water pours off onto my pants. We arrive home, and my pants are soaked. Not to mention that I have lost what must be an hour of work.

No good deed...

Staking a claim

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


An anagram that is cool to a mather such as myself:

Eleven plus two <-> Twelve plus one

Tuesday, November 14, 2006



Update: The link above refers to the entry titled "Things that make you go hmm."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Night Poetry

I wrote the following poem in response to having my grammar corrected.

I agree that my verbs did not agree.
But did you have to go ALL-CAPS on me?
Was that really the way to be?
You've made me shed an apostrophe :'(

I don't think that you can comprehend the pain that I'm right now.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

On Sale

If you've always wanted one, but didn't think you could afford it, now is your chance to get one cheap. That's right folks, the Oxford English Dictionary is on sale! That's right folks! At more than 40% off the regular price, you can get your own copy for a mere $895.00! So... what are you waiting for?

Monday, November 06, 2006

I know what you ate last night.

I made this for dinner tonight. It's tasty. Go make it for yourself.

Hat tip to the blogless Erica.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Yesterday I went to see the movie Borat.

There were many moments of the movie that made me laugh, which is rare for a comedy. Some of the funny moments were of the fish-out-of-water type, while others were of the I-can't-believe-he-said-that type.

I wouldn't go so far as to endorse the movie, however.

Much of the dialogue was crude. There was a scene which must have lasted for at least five minutes involving the two main characters, both male, wrestling naked with each other [1]. There wasn't much of a plot (how many comedies do have good plots, though?)

I left the movie theatre feeling dirtier than when I came in.

[1] The main characters are supposedly from Kazakhstan, a central Asian country. I recall from travel shows that central Asians have some rituals that involve men getting way too close for comfort by my standards. So perhaps a native Kazakh would not have been so inclined to avert his gaze.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Blast from the Past

Found this old post on gasoline stupidity in the wake of Katrina last year. I'm sure if I read the whole thing, it would echo some of my thoughts on the matter.

Hat tip to Jerry Aldini

La Musique du Quebec

In the summer before I came to Queen's I spent a month in Chicoutimi, Quebec to learn French through the Summer Language Bursary Program. While there, I learned that Quebec had traditional music of its own, comparable to that of Cape Breton. The songs are usually of the call-and-response variety, though not always. The instrumental repertoire contains a lot of tunes that are similar in form to Scottish and Irish traditional music (which generally falls under the ambiguous term "Celtic"), namely reels and jigs (or gigues).

There was at least one wave of Irish immigrants to Quebec and they brought with them the musical traditions that the Irish themselves are now popular for. Some of that stuck and became part of what I assume was a pre-existing musical tradition in Quebec. There are other types of tunes in Quebec such as the quadrille, which probably would translate into something like "square dance", but may not resemble what we know as square dancing (the instrumental component of traditional music, from Cape Breton, Scotland, Ireland, Quebec, or the Appalachian mountains was dance music before it was "listening" music, so a quadrille is a type of dance. Calling a tune a "quadrille" means it was meant to accompany the dance by the same name).

The songs, in my opinion, don't resemble songs in any of the traditions mentioned above in their feel. In modern recordings of the tunes, it is sometimes easy to hear the resemblence to the other traditions, and sometimes it would be impossible to mistake the Quebecois tradition for anything else. In older recordings of tunes, it would be hard for me to pick out what's Quebecois and what's Irish, Scottish, or any other tradition (though I've heard only a few old recordings in any of these styles). The experts say that in the Quebecois tradition the tunes are played with more syncopation (though there are other traditions in Canada with more, and more obvious, syncopation).

The fiddle by far is the most important instrument, followed closely by the accordion. Musical spoons and Jew's harp are frequently heard as well. One characteristic that sets the music apart, by and large, is the foot-stomping that accompanies most of their tunes (again, there are other traditions within Canada where foot-stomping is the primary rythmic accompaniment).

There is much more to the music than I know, or want to bother to explain in a simple blog post. Not only that, it's better to hear the music than to read about. So I will leave you with a few names so you can get a feel for it.

Probably the most popular group within Quebec is La Bottine Souriante, which I found out about through the CBC (hey, they're good for something!). They have been around for nearly 30 years now. Their early music is mostly traditional, though polished up, no doubt, for recording purposes (field recordings of the unpolished music might make you wonder why anyone even showed up to dance). In later years they added a horn section which definitely changes the feel of the music, but nevertheless the traditional character shines through. It would be worthwhile to catch a live show, not just for the thrill of live music, but also to see the dancing that usually accompanies the music. More than once, I've seen live concerts on TV, though only when I'm not looking for them. You can listen to three of their tracks on either of the French or English home pages. Hit the play button at the bottom right of the home page. You can also hear samples of tracks (no complete tracks though) from each of their albums by clicking on the album covers under the discography section.

Another group is Les Chauffeurs a Pieds. This name is intended as double entendre that, not being competent in French (the Summer Language Bursary Program was only of short term success), is lost on me. The name refers in part to the foot-stomping mentioned earlier. I can't remember the other half of the double entendre, nor do I remember from where I learned of this, so I can't look it up. You can download about 20 complete tracks, a few short samples, and one corrupted file (La Lombardie. I don't reccommend downloading this one for one obvious reason. For those who don't like classic Irish folk song Raitlin Bog, I don't reccommend listening to "Dans ce joli bois". After many listens, I have concluded that it is the French language equivalent of the Irish song (the tune and words are very different), though I still haven't fully understood the lyrics. ). I'm listening to them as I write. (Thanks to Steve Fruitman, host of the CIUT radio show Back to the Sugar Camp, for informing me of this group.)

Yet another group worth mentioning is Le Vent du Nord. I think the CBC can take credit for pointing me to this one too (though annoyingly, they can also take credit for talking to the group more than playing their music, confirming a well known and well worn right wing stereotype of CBC personalities). The band features a hurdy gurdy player, which, to the best of my knowledge, is not usually a component of traditional Quebecois music (it is in French music, so it's not unreasonable that it would be used here). Sadly you cannot hear any complete tracks at their site, only partial. The hurdy gurdy is instrument you hear at the beginning of the track "Les Amant do Saint-Laurent" under the Albums tab. Much to my dismay, I missed a performance of Le Vent du Nord when they appeared in Kingston a year or two ago. It doesn't look like they're going to appear here any time soon, if the calendar on their webpage is any indication.

I'm sure that these groups are only the tip of the iceberg of traditional Quebecois music, but it's a good start. I should also mention that this is probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of traditional music in Canada. Wanting to learn more about the Quebecois music has prompted me to find out what goes on outside of Quebec. I have discovered that there are lots of musical traditions in Canada, some associated with provinces, some associated with regions, and some with particular cultures within Canada. Most of it is rooted in the European cultures associated with the two major colonizers of Canada, the British and the French. But it is not limited to those. This is a subject for another day, however.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Potted Cactus

The blog address "anonymous.blogspot.com" is still available. This I find surprising. People post anonymously on blogs all the time. I would think by now someone would have wanted to name their blog after their preferred posting identity. Even aside from that, I think it's kind of a cool name. I would take it myself, but how many blogs do I need? (Even one feels like too much... readers may agree). Plus, I just told everyone about it here, and that wouldn't be very anonymous now would it. So, thinking about starting a blog, but wanting to remain anonymous and to reflect that in your blog address? Have at it. I give you permission.

Almost out of nowhere.

"Are you planning on going home the weekend of the 17th?" he asked.
"Yup!" she replied.
"Okay. I think I should go home that weekend." He didn't say why. But when he thought about it he felt a sudden, unexpected twinge of sadness. Seconds later it was gone.
"Awesome. A ride would be splendid."
"Okay. I'll keep that in mind if I decide to go."
"Okay awesome."
The conversation was over, and he began to talk to another friend. That conversation ended too, not long after. That feeling of sadness came back, only this time it was more than a twinge. Tears began to flow. He put his head down on his desk, cradled in his arms to muffle the sound of his whimpering. He was holding back. It didn't last for long though. It was becoming too much. He wouldn't be able to hold back much longer. He got up, left his apartment, sat in his car, and let go.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Academic Milestones

I noticed today that one of my publications has been cited in two papers (by the same author). The papers were written in 2003, and the author gets the journal wrong in both cases (or I've got it wrong, but I don't think so).

I was aware of one of these papers, or a paper on the same topic, a while ago, so perhaps I already knew this. But today it came as news to me.

It's a milestone to me regardless.

Thought for the day

"In our time, after a man speaks the truth, he is then compelled to apologize. And the more obvious the truth, the more fulsome the apologies." - Kevin Michael Grace.