Saturday, October 30, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010


So, about 10 years ago I started having this reoccurring dream that went on for about 7 years (up until about 3 years ago.. give or take). Yeah, a long time. There was a bridge, and I was driving... this was in Toronto. It reminded my of the Lakeshore bridge at the base of South Kingsway where it goes over the Queensway and meets the Gardiner. Anyway, the bridge was out. Like, there was a giant hole where the bridge used to be. Like the middle part was missing. The beginning and the end were there, but no middle.

But the cars in front of me were all jumping it and getting on the highway like it was standard practice! Flows of cars, not just one or two, but all the cars were doing this. I pulled over to the side of the road before the bridge, feeling and knowing I couldn't jump it. I just couldn't jump it, and I sat on the side of the road for a bit and watched other cars pass and jump the bridge, continuing on their way.

It finally came up in conversation with my dad one night, and he interpreted it for me. He said that it was pretty clear to him that I was approaching a major challenge in life, and that I saw all the others around me succeeding with that challenge, moving forward within their desired direction, crossing that bridge. There are no instructions, no road or path on how to cross that bridge. You obviously feel you need to cross it, you just don't know how, and you see all the others around you doing it. I was stuck at the side of the road, unsure of how to go about jumping that bridge.

So, I haven't had this dream in a while, until last night when I had another similar dream, but about a very different bridge.

I was out with my family, we went to some restaurant downtown in some unknown, relatively large city. After dinner we had tickets for a play across town and decided to walk there. When we got there I realized that I had forgotten something very important at the restaurant... my camera, I think. I had to go back for it. Trying to make it back before the play started I blitzed out the door and started running back toward the restaurant. I remember trying to figure out a few shortcuts, but there really were none. I started running in straight lines directly toward the city bridge. This bridge was a bit different than the bridge that was out in the first cycle of dreams. This one was a honest to goodness drawbridge. It had before it a few red and green flashing lights, and a countdown, the kind of countdown you see at pedestrian crossing signals.

So yeah, it was starting to countdown. All the red lights around started flashing to stop. If I was going to get my camera in time to get back to the play on time, I had to make it.

I started sprinting faster, and started crossing the bridge. I made it to the middle just as the countdown hit zero. At the middle of the drawbridge there was a room, not unlike a control room, but for passengers. It reminded me sort of like a ferry, with vinyl bench seating organized row by row on either side like in a church, and with a separate room up front for the control captain. The door was open and he turned and said, "You barely made it!".

I said, "Yeah, but I wanted to get across the bridge before the countdown, to get to the other side!"

He said, "Well, that's not where you're going."


So, I'm in this ferry like room on the middle of the bridge, perhaps a handful of strangers around me all sitting comfortably in the seats around me. I'm still standing in the aisle, a bit out of breath, but strangely comfortable and feeling secure despite knowing what came next; obviously the drawbridge had to go up.

The benches were like this, except arranged row by row with no table and not facing eachother. Big windows were there.

So, as I was standing the entire room obviously starts elevating. First, as you'd expect, the front of the room started going up. I didn't really stat to feel off balance or anything; counter-intuitively. Then something weird started happening. The room started to tilt and rotate to the left, while still front elevating, up to a 90 degree angle*.

*Take your left forearm and put it flat on the table infront of you. Slowly start elevating from the elbow, and as you're elevating slowly rotate your wrist so that your pinky finger moves downward toward the table.

Still feeling fairly comfortable on my feet (the others in the benches showed no sign of distress) but sort of like, wtf is happening? It was like I was slowly being transported. through the large cabin windows I saw our elevation above the water. In the distance there was a green park. It was not unlike the movie ending of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, where Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe go up the elevator that starts floating in the ski. No doubt i was feeling some apprehension, but also with the feeling that nothing was going wrong; i.e. everything going as planned/as it should.

The captain, seeming noticing my stumped face said with a smile, "Don't worry. Trust in the process."


So, what does this all mean? Clearly this was a miracle. Sounds pretty hokey eh? Yeah, I hate listening to other people's dreams too, unless they involve me. Ok, that's not totally true. Anyway...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rock on Jack White

Ok, that's enough public reading for tonight.. afterall it is Friday!

Here's the official video (embedded disabled) from the possibly unrated Icky Thump:

My first Toronto visitor!


The man, the myth... up in Kingston for a Rugby Hall of Fame induction -- his eligibility hasn't come in yet -- he came by for a good old fashioned chat tonight. Pretty sweet.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Mama!

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish my mom a happy birthday!

Although I couldn't be there, this was the next best thing. Great to see everyone, and I hope to be down soon to celebrate with some left-over cake, Seinfeld style.

Happy Birthday and I Love You lots! :)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I want to ride my bicycle...

Well, they're on Macdonell St, so that's a plus! West end definitely needs bike infrastructure..

However, again with the sharrows?.. Is this now the standard go-to?

First of all, bike lanes with clear demarcation, legislative backing and police enforcement work. The focus, I feel, should be to expand, enhance, and champion this avenue. Stick with those and stop confusing the cycling situation with sharrows which I feel are a problem in that they negatively meddle/influence the mind of a (especially suburban) driver. When a driver is allowed to legally drive and legally park over an image of a cyclist I feel that's generally not a good precedent to set. It will, I feel pretty obviously, creep into and confuse the official bike lane rules of no motor vehicle entry and stopping. Furthermore, sharrows are really  just a city cop-out. What the hell are sharrows anyway? What purpose do they serve if there is no legislative power behind them? To make drivers aware that they are supposed to share the road with cyclists? Really?? So yeah, ok, we're supposed to have sharrows on all city roads then?..

And now this; two-way sharrows? I can't speak for what the "Urban Repair Squad folks" have in mind with this, but I think it additionally compounds the above issues for all involved. First of all, on the technical side, I'm not even sure what that symbol means. Personally, it looks like the cyclist is << vibrating >>, and no directional indicator is implied. Why not just write "TWO WAY"? Or maybe something more like these symbols?:

(by the by, looking up "two-way" images isn't as great as you'd think)

 Now, to be clear, of course I would love the double two-way official bike lane, but realistically that is not an option on every street. Moreover, I think people/cycling advocates should start picking their battles and not expect something even remotely like this on every street, especially very major and/or very minor ones... but anyway, I don't want to wade into those waters at the moment...

If there is going to be a push for legal two-way traffic for cyclists on one-way vehicular streets (which I feel there should be in some cases), this is, in my opinion, not the way to go about achieving that. This is an arrogant, self-defeating, passive aggressive, and an almost to the point of childish prank. I'm just not sure what positive effect this has for cyclists and their safety in general. The idea is to try to get new people to feel safe on bikes and not to have them feel intimidated like they're joining some cult while doing that ("Ha! You're one of us now!.. another convert!" type thing that I've heard said way too many times... ), while also allowing them to feel safe and secure within the infrastructural support system provided.

We don't need more cyclists -- we need more people to feel comfortable riding bikes in the city. A guerrilla style attack is not going to achieve that goal. Nor will official city sharrows for that matter. (Further on that note, have the survey results of the College Street come in?)

I feel the cycling community has had the opportunity to attract (and has attracted) a lot of attention in the press this summer with the opportunity to reach new ears and break new ground, and I feel that because of rogue campaigns and public image problems they seem to have damaged their chances to capitalize on that. Again, that may neither be here nor there...

To conclude this diatribe, I'm still not sure what the problem is with official bike lanes, and why adopting and accepting sharrows is everyone's m.o. these days. There should be no compromise here, especially when there is a good reason for there to be one.

It's about time

Just a short post about two different types of clocks, inspired by a RadioLab podcast:

Flower Clock

Many plants have a biological clock, which regulates the time of day that their flowers open and close. For example, the flowers of catmint (Nepeta cataria) - also known as catnip - open between 6am and 7am; orange hawkweed follows between 7am and 8am; field marigolds open at 9am and varieties of Helichrysum1 wake up for 10am. Other varieties follow, with Convolvulus opening at noon.

By making observations of the times when flowers open and close during the day, Carolus Linnaeus (the 18th-Century Swedish botanist, recognised as the father of taxonomy), conceived the idea of arranging certain plants in an order of flowering, so that they constituted a kind of floral clock. This was described in Linnaeus's Philosophia Botanica (1751) in which he referred to it as an horologium florae (floral clock). Apparently, Linnaeus was able to use his clock to determine the time accurately to within half an hour.

In Philosophia Botanica Linnaeus described three groups of flowers:

  * Meteorici - flowers which change their opening and closing times according to the weather conditions.
  * Tropici - flowers which change their times for opening and closing according to the length of the day.
  * Aequinoctales - flowers which have fixed times for opening and closing. (Note that these are unaffected by the weather conditions.)

Only Aequinoctales are suitable for use in a flower clock.

Approx time Flower
0200 Night blooming cereus closes
0500 Morning glories, wild roses
0600 Spotted cat's ear, catmint
0700 African marigold, orange hawkweed, dandelions
0800 Mouse-ear hawkweed, African daisies
0900 Field marigold, gentians, prickly sowthistle closes
1000 Helichrysum, Californium poppy, common nipplewort closes
1100 Star of Bethlehem
1200 Passion flower, goatsbeard, morning glory closes
1300 Chiding pink closes
1400 Scarlet pimpernel closes
1500 Hawkbit closes
1600 'Four o'clock' plant2 opens, small bindweed closes, Californian poppy closes
1700 White waterlily closes
1800 Evening primrose, moonflower
2000 Daylilies and dandelions close
2100 Flowering tobacco
2200 Night blooming cereus

...and another thing

A floral clock features in the fictional city of Quirm, in Soul Music, one of the books in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

To read more about Linnaeus' observations see this PDF.

Spice Clock

The spice clock, invented in the late seventeenth century by M. de Villayer. Intended to allow the user to tell the time in the absence of light, it guides the user to a different spice for each hour so that time may be told by taste (Boorstin, 1985). A quite interesting way to deal with this problem, the spice clock was made obsolete by illuminated clocks (source).

This kind of thing would actually be pretty easy to build actually... with a little electricity. Cinnamon for 1, coffee for 2..

Also, just ordered this book from Amazon as it seems pretty recommended. Time is obviously a really, really cool concept. Sometimes it goes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes subjectively, sometimes objectively. Since it's a dimension, of course you compare it to the other ones, and yeah, even our two and three dimensional worlds can be subjectively influenced over distance and balance, at the very least... Nevermind how a ruler changes shape over time and large distances!

... but, more on optical illusions later.. I swear I''ve been working on that post for half a year now.

Oh yeah, and more about time later too... just a sniff!

 Sources if not mentioned directly:
Flower clock

Monday, October 11, 2010

CBC Radio, le Carré, Faust and Mephistopheles

Faust: As soon as I stagnate, a slave am I,
   And whether yours or whose, why should I ask?

So, over the lovely Thanksgiving weekend back at home, as I was driving around and running some errands I was able to listen to the greater part of an excellent Eleanor Wachtel interview (on Writer's and Company) with John le Carré (The Spy Who Came in From the Cold), primarily discussed his new book, My Kind of Traitor, but in very general character sketch terms. Often the interview was brought back to Carré's (Cornwell's) personal experience in the spy trade, writing books, and growing up, and particularly his memories told in stories of his con-man father who significantly influenced John's life and writings, even to the point of being a character in the later.

At one point, near the end, the interview goes.. 

John: ... the ambiguity of love, and taking a moral stand, against a person who is visibly seducing others, taking money off them and that kind of stuff, and I couldn't handle that really. I mean, I had a terrible rouse with him (his father); I felt like a prig, so it was very difficult. And so these things go on working in one's mind, they don't go away. With age actually you think much more about what you did when you were young, and...  the yeast goes on rising and turning*, .. it's great..

Eleanor: .. I mean, when you go back and reliving it some more, you relive the pain too, though...

John: It's a bit like when Mephistopheles comes to Faust, he offers him all these pleasures, and Faust says, "I'm not talking about pleasure."

* Relistening to this passage I'm reminded that I'm in the market for a bread maker. I've basically narrowed it down to one of these two, but if anyone has some suggestions, please feel encouraged to let me know!

Great Faust throw in there buddy!... (really a fantastic interview all-round). I couldn't really find a direct quote in the poem**, but I'm really just looking at/for the general idea, which of course is fantastic. The journey not the goal, sort of thing. The good with the bad, the easy with the hard, and the right with the wrong. That's where the pleasure in life is really. The moral judgements you have to make, the difficult decisions eventually influencing every aspect of your life, consistent with the forks in the road. Fantastic. One of my father's favourite "jokes" to his patients when they come to him with pain is, "Well at least you know you're still alive."

** maybe this.. :
'Tis from this earth my pleasure springs,
    And this sun shines upon my sufferings;
Anyway, for those unfamiliar with Johann W. Goethe text, Faust, as I was for the most part, here's a great free translation of the poem here. It is a pretty witty read.

Spottily, from Wiki:

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend. Though a highly successful scholar, he is unsatisfied, and makes a deal with the devil, exchanging his soul for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. Faust's tale is the basis for many literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works. Faust, and the adjective Faustian, are often used to describe an arrangement in which an ambitious person surrenders moral integrity in order to achieve power and success: the proverbial "deal with the devil." The terms can also refer to an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Interestingly: The character in Polish folklore named Pan Twardowski presents similarities with Faust, and this legend seems to have originated at roughly the same time. It is unclear whether the two tales have a common origin or influenced each other. Pan Twardowski may be based on a 16th-century German emigrant to the then-capital of Poland, Kraków, or possibly John Dee or Edward Kelley. According to the theologian Philip Melanchthon, the historic Johann Faust had studied in Kraków, as well.


Also, from the Mephistopheles wiki: 

is a demon featured in German folklore. He originally appeared in literature as the demon in the Faust legend, and he has since appeared in other works as a stock character version of the Devil himself.

Greek elements may have played a part in the coining of the name, including Greek "not", phōs "light" and philos "lover", suggesting "not a lover of light" in parody of Lucifer ("light-bearer", a common epithet of Satan); in that case, the change from the presumed original mephoto- to mephist- may be due to a suggestion of the Latin mephitis ("a noxious exhalation from the ground; malaria").

Another possibility is a combination of the Hebrew words mephiz ("liar") and tophel ("destroyer").

Shakespeare mentions "Mephistophilus" in the Merry Wives of Windsor (Act1, Sc1, line 128), and by the 17th century, the name had begun to lead an existence independent of the Faust legend. Burton Russell finds, "That the name is a purely modern invention of uncertain origins makes it an elegant symbol of the modern Devil with his many novel and diverse forms."

Mephistopheles is also mentioned in two songs written and produced by Tran-Siberian Orchestra, while Power Metal band Kamelot have a song called "The March of Mephisto" and have based two of their albums on the Faustian legend.

Mephistopheles. Pray
    Don't let yourself be vexed beyond due measure.
    What good is it to reap immediate pleasure?
    The joy's not near so great, I say,
    As if you first prepare the ground
    With every sort of idle folly,
    Knead and make ready your pretty dolly,
    As many Romance tales expound.
Faust. I've appetite without that too.
Mephistopheles. Now jests aside, no more ado.
    With that good, lovely child, indeed,
    I tell you once for all, we can't use speed.
    There's nothing here to take by storm;
    To strategy we must conform.
Anyway, great read, listen, and weekend!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Lamport Stadium - Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women

The Andrew Mercer Reformatory for Women was the first women's (16 years of age or older) prison in Canada, opened in 1872.

The original Mercer Reformatory superintendent's house survives at Fraser and King. The site of the old reformatory is Lamport Stadium, and all that remains is the original superintendent's house at the corner of King Street and Fraser Avenue.

Ha! I knew I saw this somewhere recently!... Here's the post about it!: 

Yeah, these posts are starting to get lazy!... I just have no time!.. I hope to catch up a bit in a week or two..