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29 September 2007

 

Downtown Victoria is changing

My family and I are in Victoria, B.C., where we often go on mini-vacations. There has been a remarkable sprouting of condominium towers downtown in the past year—the place has changed quite a bit in a way it hasn't done for a few decades, at least since the first high-rise office and apartment towers appeared here in the '60s and '70s.

We actually got lost on the way to our hotel because we didn't recognize some of the streets we'd been down dozens of times before, and part of the southward view of the Olympic Mountains in Washington from our eighth-floor suite has been blocked by a new tower built next door.

I'm not complaining—it's just surprising. Until recently, Victoria seemed to have eschewed (or avoided) the condo-tower mania of Vancouver, which has completely transformed that city's downtown (and my own neighbourhood in Burnaby) over the past 20 years.

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27 September 2007

 

Leo and Amber debate HDTV

Earlier today, Leo Laporte, Amber MacArthur, and Tod Maffin held a discussion about the future of high-definition television () at the big Future Shop on Broadway in Vancouver. I took some photos.

UPDATE: Dave has a good summary of the event.

Leo, Amber & Tod 01 Leo, Amber & Tod 02 Leo, Amber & Tod 03 Leo, Amber & Tod 04 Leo, Amber & Tod 05 Leo, Amber & Tod 06 Leo, Amber & Tod 07 Leo, Amber & Tod 08 Leo, Amber & Tod 09 Leo, Amber & Tod 10 Leo, Amber & Tod 11 Leo, Amber & Tod 12 Leo, Amber & Tod 13 Leo, Amber & Tod 14 Leo, Amber & Tod 15 Leo, Amber & Tod 16 Leo, Amber & Tod 17 Leo, Amber & Tod 18 Leo, Amber & Tod 19 Leo, Amber & Tod 20 Leo, Amber & Tod 21 Leo, Amber & Tod 22 Leo, Amber & Tod 23 Leo, Amber & Tod 24 Leo, Amber & Tod 25 Leo, Amber & Tod 26 Leo, Amber & Tod 27 Leo, Amber & Tod 28 Leo, Amber & Tod 29 Leo, Amber & Tod 30 Leo, Amber & Tod 31 Leo, Amber & Tod 32 Leo, Amber & Tod 33 Leo, Amber & Tod 34 Leo, Amber & Tod 35 Leo, Amber & Tod 36 Leo, Amber & Tod 37 Leo, Amber & Tod 38 Leo, Amber & Tod 39 Leo, Amber & Tod 40 Leo, Amber & Tod 41 Leo, Amber & Tod 42 Leo, Amber & Tod 43 Leo, Amber & Tod 44 Leo, Amber & Tod 45 Leo, Amber & Tod 46 Leo, Amber & Tod 47 Leo, Amber & Tod 48 Leo, Amber & Tod 49 Leo, Amber & Tod 50 Leo, Amber & Tod 51 Leo, Amber & Tod 52 Leo, Amber & Tod 53 Leo, Amber & Tod 54 Leo, Amber & Tod 55 Leo, Amber & Tod 56 Leo, Amber & Tod 57 Leo, Amber & Tod 58 Leo, Amber & Tod 59 Leo, Amber & Tod 60 Leo, Amber & Tod 61 Leo, Amber & Tod 62 Leo, Amber & Tod 63 Leo, Amber & Tod 64

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26 September 2007

 

It's back, baby!

The New Sound at Flickr.comWhen I was learning to play in a band, back in the mid- to late '80s, there was a 1960s revival going on. We even had an AM radio station in Vancouver that played almost nothing but sixties music, from the British Invasion to the weird one-hit wonders like the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird." So it's no surprise that I ended up even today playing in a faux-sixties cover act.

But despite Austin Powers, that revival did fade in favour of seventies and eighties revivals. And while there is no grunge revival yet that I can see, there does seem to be another small sixties revival underway. It's most obvious in TV commercials.

The new "Joe" clothing line has a full-on go-go dancing crowd shimmying to the Kinks' "Everybody's Going to Be Happy" (not a particularly well-known number of theirs). Similarly, Canadian retailer The Bay has a new "Boom" line of women's clothes and accessories, and the TV ad includes a Yardbirds-esque version of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom." Even Mini Wheats cereal has gotten into the act, with moppy-haired psychedelic retro animations behind its catchy singing wheat square belting out groovy Scooby-era pop.

I don't know if it will become more widespread, but commercials often plant the seed for new musical discoveries by kids who buy music. My nine-year-old daughter (who admittedly already calls the Beatles her favourite band, and wants to meet Paul McCartney someday) discovered the Kinks through that Joe commercial. And of course there's the success of Amy Winehouse singing tunes that sound like Dusty Springfield.

If Apple adds an old track from "Nuggets" to an iPod commercial, you'll know the sixties are going mainstream again, baby!

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25 September 2007

 

Toolbox

Manly toolbox at Flickr.comIn all the years of our marriage, my wife and I have stowed tools in haphazard places, in boxes and closets and drawers and on random shelves and hooks. Recently it became too frustrating: on several occasions we needed a particular tool, and we couldn't find it.

So this afternoon I stopped off at Home Depot and picked up a nice big toolbox, and spent about an hour rousting tools from their various hiding places to put in it. I didn't find everything, but most of the stuff is now in there and we know where to find it.

Yes, I'm 38 years old and I bought my first toolbox. Today I am a man.

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24 September 2007

 

Meetup with Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research and Tod Maffin of CBC

Some of us had a blogger meetup in Yaletown tonight. Here are a few photos:

Waiting for the Meetup Opus Hotel Lobby Mark Blevis and Derek Miller The Meetup Crew Geeks Like Cool Phones

Those who joined in were Rachel Newton, Chuck LeDuc, Mark Blevis, Tatsuya Nakagawa, Andrei Iancu, Vern Baker, Tod Maffin, Jeremiah Owyang, and me.

UPDATE: Here are some more photos from Mark and Jeremiah, who has also posted some video from our table at Milestones:

Tod Maffin Andrei's cell phone and business card scanner Me and Tod Maffin Vern Baker
Jeremiah, Rachel, Chuck and Vern Jeremiah Owyang taking videos Chuck LeDuc Me and Derek Miller
Rachel Newton Me and Andrei Iancu Derek Miller and Tatsuya Nakagawa Picture 1539
Picture 1541 Picture 1542 Picture 1544 Picture 1545

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23 September 2007

 

A scene from our family musical

Disco Girls - 5

Taken outside Me 'n' Ed's pizza parlor in Burnaby, B.C.

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21 September 2007

 

Spidermen

I love this recently discovered photograph (via Kottke) of painters on the Brooklyn Bridge by Eugene de Salignac. It's almost like a Dali painting.

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20 September 2007

 

Sprinkles

I think if you ask a kid what kind of donut (doughnut, do-nut, whatever) he or she wants, a large percentage would pick one with coloured sprinkles. It's not so much because of the taste as the appearance, which is the perfect crazy-quilt kid snack look. My younger daughter rarely chooses anything else.

I was the same when I was a child. At our nearby malls (or "shopping centres," as they were then known), Brentwood and Lougheed, were two branches of the small Hole-In-One Donuts chain, and in the windows were always racks of cake donuts with elongated sprinkles. They were my favourite choice.

These days cake donuts are hard to find, especially with sprinkles. Most are of the glazed-donut variety, with icing and often little spherical sprinkles instead of the stick-style I preferred. But the kids still love 'em.

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19 September 2007

 

Leica's SLR lets you swap film and digital backs

Leica R9 Modul R film-digital hybrid SLRThe Leica camera company (there's a loving profile here) takes an interesting approach with their R9 SLR camera: you can choose either an analog film or a digital "Modul R" back for the same camera.

No other manufacturer offers anything like that for a 35 mm SLR. Of course, the R9 by itself costs about $3200 USD (no lens—those cost thousands too, and I don't think any are autofocus), with the 10-megapixel Modul R back running another $6000 (!) or so. That's even crazier than the latest Nikon and Canon DSLR beasts.

But you know, it is Leica. If I had $9000+—USD—okay, with lenses, probably $12,000 just to get started—to spend on a DSLR (and I sure don't), I might consider the R9 Modul R over the Canon 1-Ds Mark III, just for the pure snob factor—and the much cooler name.

UPDATE: Here is the Leica M8, a more traditional rangefinder-style Leica, now in digital form, which I would very much like to try, though probably not own, someday:

The controversial Leica M8 rangefinder digital camera

It's quite controversial and very pricey ($5000 USD, no lens), but has great value for some people. For some it might even keep them alive (or at least get better candid photos) because it is much less obtrusive than an SLR.

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18 September 2007

 

New fish

The new fish at Flickr.comLast year we had a sad attempt at raising a single fish in an aquarium. He didn't last long.

This week, my wife and kids took it much more seriously and prepped a nice tank that now has five tetras in it. They seem quite happy, with live plants and colourful gravel, as well as a quiet high-tech filter that is keeping the water beautifully clear.

I'm quite enjoying the burbling sound and spending time watching the little tropical lake fish swimming around. The girls check on them regularly and feed them morning and night. I think we'll get some more fish soon. It's certainly a lot easier than a dog.

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17 September 2007

 

Litter beyond Earth

The title of this Wikipedia entry is "List of artificial objects on extra-terrestrial surfaces," but it really could be "Litter Beyond Earth." At least these objects, unlike the ones we've left in space itself, aren't likely to whack into anything or anyone and do major damage, but it does demonstrate that our human tendency to leave crap behind wherever we go doesn't stop inside our atmosphere.

Incidentally, Wikipedia also notes that the only person ever hit by artificial space debris was a woman walking in a field in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1997. She was hit in the shoulder by a chunk of blackened metal from a Delta rocket that had fallen from space. It had been slowed down enough by atmospheric re-entry that it didn't hurt her significantly. There's a good story!

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16 September 2007

 

Family and friends

I received an email today from someone who has both had cancer and been a close relative of someone who died from it. She reinforced, like others did, that being the relative was much more difficult.

Almost every day, my mom tells me of emails or letters or phone calls from people—some of whom I know, some of whom I've never met or hardly even know about—wishing me well and offering sympathy and support and whatever help they can. My parents and my in-laws, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, parents of my children's friends, and most of all my kids and my wife—all have done that and more.

My relatives and friends probably need as much support as, or more than, I do, because much of the time they feel there is little they can do. They send me suggestions, and help me when I feel bad, and pick up the huge amount of slack I'm leaving when I'm sleepy or sick. But they can't cure the cancer, can't even fight it the way I have to. They are spectators, and that must be hard.

So cheers to all of you. I don't often thank you the way I should, but I think you might understand why I'm a little distracted most of the time.

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15 September 2007

 

Video of my appearance at Gnomedex

Chris Pirillo has posted video of my piped-in appearance (from my bed) at Gnomedex last month:

A few people asked about it, and now there it is. Thanks, Chris.

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14 September 2007

 

That wasn't all that bad

Compared to everything else that has happened recently, that surgery was a walk in the park. I'm home now, and going to have a nap. Or watch some more MythBusters.

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13 September 2007

 

More sedation tomorrow

Back in July when I had my big cancer surgery, Dr. Gourlay at St. Paul's inserted a small plastic stent into my left ureter, which needs to be removed. I've been waiting to hear from his office about when that might happen.

This morning they called to remind me that it's happening tomorrow. Except I never heard about it in the first place—the "reminder" was my first notice. That's fine. They will be sedating me, so I need to be at the hospital at 7:30 a.m., and the procedure is pretty short, so I should be back by lunch. (Much shorter than my last stay in hospital, I'm glad to say.)

My wife and parents and kids have been tremendously understanding as we shuffle the logistics around to make this work on short notice. I'm tremendously lucky to have them all here supporting me. Plans change fast around here sometimes.

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12 September 2007

 

The brightness

I was a bit disturbed this morning when I sat down on the porch with my MacBook and saw a strange bright blob in the middle of the LCD screen. I thought the display might be damaged, but when I moved the laptop the spot went away.

Then I realized that the spot was actually the light of the sun, which is so bright that it is shining through the translucent Apple logo on the back of the lid, and illuminating the centre of the screen from behind. (Normally the logo is lit up the opposite way, by the lamp from the LCD panel.) I guess you could call it a design flaw.

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10 September 2007

 

Buses and risks

I've mentioned here before that having cancer is something like knowing you could get hit by a bus, and having to dodge buses rather than not knowing at all.

Sadly, sometimes people really do get hit and killed by a bus, without any warning. I'm sad to say that blogger and TV Squad reviewer Adam Findley had that happen last week. He was only 30.

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09 September 2007

 

My wife's birthday

Today was my wife's birthday. Unlike her, who put together a huge blowout party for me a couple of months ago, all I managed to scrape up was some presents, some coffee in the morning, and a dinner out with the family at our favourite Chinese restaurant. We were all going to see a movie, but I ran out of energy and had to come home first while the three of them went to see Mr. Bean's Holiday.

That's another example of the tough time we've had all had this year. I'm hoping it will improve. There are a lot of marriages that don't work very well out there in the world. Ours is not one of them: since my wife and I got married in 1995, I've always thought it was the best thing I ever did, and she has always been the one for me. It would be a shame if something that works as well as our marriage gets cut short by this stupid disease of mine.

I think back to my father's mom, my Oma, who lost her first husband in a Berlin hospital in 1947, later remarried, and moved to Canada. She and her kids didn't end up having known him very well—as a soldier in the German army, he was gone for much of their marriage. Fortunately that is not true here. But if I fail in my fight with cancer and die, my wife and my children will be in the same position: they'll have their whole lives, maybe another 40 years or more at least (more years than I've been alive), to live without me.

The idea of that sucks, and makes me sad. Certainly I hope it doesn't happen. If it does, I want to leave some happy memories. I hope that today, while low key, will include some of them. The big mylar dragonfly balloon my daughters chose, perhaps.

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The New Odds

For an old-time fan of the Odds like me, this is really interesting.

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07 September 2007

 

Duane Storey's sexy photo blog

Duane Storey takes lovely photos, and now has a blog that showcases many of them. He's also offered free prints to people like me who blog about it, so that's what I'm doing. Go check him out!

UPDATE: Yay! I was early enough. Here's the photo I picked. Beautiful. Thanks Duane.

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I slept all day today

I did too much yesterday: I walked the kids to school and came back, then went (ironically) to a relaxation session at the Cancer Agency, followed by lunch, a bit of shopping, picking up the kids, and home for dinner, then off to the Lab With Leo 100th episode party in the evening.

And then, today, I paid for it. I took the kids to school again, then came home and went to sleep. For two hours. Then I woke and had lunch, and watched a bit of TV to try to wake up, which didn't work. I fell asleep again for another two hours until my wife brought the kids home—along with an awesome sugar-free slush drink for me. I feel a lot better now, but I still need to pace myself. Maybe one or two activities a day is still a good benchmark.

Time to get dressed.

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06 September 2007

 

Vote for this photo

Looking to North Vancouver at Flickr.comIt's green. If it wins, the digital camera goes to a deserving little girl (my daughter), who will take more nice photos with it.

So vote for the photo by signing up for Flickr (free, or you may already be a member), then going to the picture and making it one of your favourites.

Here's the background for the contest.

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05 September 2007

 

So I will ask you once again

Masterblaster at Flickr.comI've been listening over and over to Stevie Wonder's 1970 version of "We Can Work It Out" since I grabbed it on iTunes earlier today.

I think it could be the greatest Beatles cover anyone's recorded so far. Fantastic gritty keyboards, then, boom, straight into a superfunky, harmony-laden version so very different from the original, yet at least as good. I love the "hey!" background vocals, the frantic Motown tambourine, all that.

For everyone who's grown up after Wonder's peak in the early '70s and is puzzled at what the hype is about, "We Can Work It Out," like "Superstition" and many other tracks from that time, is the evidence you need.

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That's some serious iPodage

Nuevos iPods: Shuffle, Nano, Classic, Touch e iPhone at Flickr.comIt's remarkable how Apple simply announces new products and instantly makes its previous generation seem obsolete. Check out today's new iPods, for instance.

The iPod touch is the obvious standout, essentially a marginally shorter iPhone, without the phone or camera. But the newly christened "iPod classic," which succeeds the fifth generation video iPod I own, which has been around for almost two years, now has an all-metal case and comes in 80 GB (large) and 160 GB (insanely large) capacities.

The iPod nano (disbelievingly nicknamed the "iPod fatty" by those who saw mockups before today) is like its predecessor chopped in half, with a new interface and colours. Only the iPod shuffle hasn't changed too much, with new colours including the AIDS-benefit red.

The iPod classic is the sweet spot if you have a lot of music and don't want the huge touchscreen and Wi-Fi of the iPod touch. I'll be interested to see how they sell—the iPod touch is way cooler, of course, but only stores 10% of the stuff.

For lots of people it will be an expensive Christmas, from the looks of it.

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03 September 2007

 

More chemo in October

Cancer Treatment: Day 57 - Bevacizumab (Photo by Air) at Flickr.comNow that Labour Day is here, it's time to refine the plans:

  1. Sometime this month, I'll have a portacath inserted in my upper chest to prepare for more chemotherapy in October.
  2. I have numerous appointments with oncologists, socials workers, pain management folks, and so on, to prepare for the next phase of treatment.
  3. I'll also try to gain more weight. I'm up above 160 pounds (72 kg), which was easy, but going further seems to be a bit of an effort—I need to eat more than I might want to put on weight consistently.
  4. Once I've regained some more strength around the end of the month, we'll start more chemotherapy.
  5. I'll be getting three different drugs through the portacath, in a sequence that has me one day at the Cancer Agency, two more days of treatment at home, then two weeks off—for six months or so.

We've dealt with the cancer in my bowels. As far as we know, it's gone. The chemo is to address the metastases in my lungs. I hope we can get rid of those as well.

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02 September 2007

 

Adding to the collection

When my wife and I were married in 1995, rather than a traditional bone china pattern, we chose an elaborate pattern from Portmeirion, from a factory in the U.K. The dishes and vases and bowls and vases we have accumulated over the years are safe to use in our dishwasher and oven, and since the kids have gotten old enough (i.e. no more likely to break the dishes than we are), we use them again as for our daily meals.

My wife even has one of the Portmeirion bees as a tattoo. She browses Craigslist in her spare time, and this week spotted a good deal on some more Portmeirion tableware. We bought it, and these are the latest additions to our collection:

New PM

After all these years I find the pattern—called Botanic Garden—very comforting, something that makes our home what it is. It makes morning coffee or evening sushi or spaghetti taste better.

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01 September 2007

 

Unusual instructions

Do Not Refrigerate at Flickr.comIn our modern age, most things you buy at the store should go in the refrigerator once you open them. Fresh peanut butter is one example.

For some reason, however, Nutella is not one of them:

Despite being advertised as a healthy breakfast choice for children, Nutella is approximately 50% fat and 50% sugar. [...] Nutella should not be refrigerated, since it causes the spread to harden.

Lovely. I like it on crêpes anyway.

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