03 February 2009


The 25 random narcissistic things meme

Here are 25 random things about me. I was tagged twice for this meme on Facebook, once by an acquaintance currently stationed in Iraq, so I felt obligated. I have to say it was more fun to compile the list than I expected. Now I'm supposed to tag 25 more people (!). Not sure if I'll get to that many. If you're on Facebook and I tag you with this, and you haven't done it already, and if you want to participate—unlike a typical chain letter or meme, I impose no such obligation on you—then read the rules at the bottom of my list here.

  1. I was born three weeks before the first moon landing, and apparently cried through most of the event.
  2. My two daughters and I were born at the same hospital, St. Paul's in downtown Vancouver. My wife was born at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. My mother was born at Vancouver General Hospital. My dad was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1939 (good timing!).
  3. Finnish (which my grandparents spoke) was my first language, but I've totally forgotten it. I never really learned German (my father's first language) either. I picked up French pretty well in school, and was nearly bilingual for awhile, but that has become awfully rusty. Even so, I can still read out words in all those languages with excellent pronunciation, without being able to understand them very well if at all. I also took Latin for two years, briefly studying Russian too. All have been helpful in my day job of being a writer and editor in English, and were also useful during my science degree, with all the Latin and Greek terminology.
  4. The house I now share with my wife and daughters is one half of a duplex; my parents live in the other half. I have lived in this structure, which was built in 1967, for all but four years of my life. A poplar tree I planted in our yard in kindergarten now towers over the house.
  5. My hair was quite blond, with big waves, until I was five or six years old, when it began turning to the straight dark brown it is now. My eyes have always been able to appear either blue or green, depending on the light. If you look closely, you can see that's because I have a dark blue ring around the irises, then mottled green further in, and light brown speckles near the pupils.
  6. When I was a kid, my favourite colour was red. Now I prefer purple, but I don't own many clothes of either colour.
  7. I don't think that I ever believed in a god or gods, even when I was a little boy who did believe in Santa Claus.
  8. We first got a colour television in the early '70s, but I didn't notice a difference, because I had been imagining the colours on the black-and-white set anyway.
  9. Having grown up during Canada's conversion to metric, I instinctively think of speeds in kilometres per hour but fuel economy in miles per gallon, dimensions in inches and feet but volume in millilitres and litres, and temperature in Celsius but weight in pounds.
  10. In grade 5, when I was the same age my older daughter is now, my best friend and I, with our parents' full permission, took several day-long bike trips by ourselves across Greater Vancouver, such as to the airport and back, or to the North Shore. Hard to imagine kids that age doing it now.
  11. I was enough of a nerd in my pre-teens to learn pi to ten decimal places (3.1415926535) and the speed of light to similar precision, in both metric (299,792.458 km/s) and imperial (186,282.397 mi/s) units. I was still able to type those out just now without thinking about them.
  12. I'm pretty sure I've never experienced an outdoor temperature lower than about –20°C. I've visited plenty of places that get cold enough, just not at the times of year I've been there.
  13. I saw Pluto the (former) planet once, at Manning Park in southern central B.C., where I had to look through my dad's telescope, see a star, look for a dimmer star next to it, and then avert my eyes slightly to catch the dim spot of Pluto out of the corner of my eye. I was very, very cold.
  14. When my roommates and I first moved in together in 1987, we had more than one computer per person, but none of us owned an iron.
  15. While I've been a professional musician for close to 20 years, and made my full-time living at it for a while, I never took band class in school. I had four years of private guitar lessons before high school, but I taught myself drums, now my main instrument, when I was 18 and in second-year university.
  16. The big toe on my right foot has lacked a toenail since 1988.
  17. Although I've lived in Canada my whole life, and I've been to many cities around the world, including Melbourne, Las Vegas, Moscow, London, Honolulu, Rome, Los Angeles, Denver, and New York City, I have never visited Winnipeg, Montreal, Quebec City, the Maritime provinces, or any of Canada's three northern territories. I have also never set foot in Asia, South America, Africa, or Antarctica.
  18. Most of the guitar solos I ever play on my recordings or when jamming around are based on the generic blues-box scale positions I learned from the September 1990 copy of Guitar World, with Jeff Healey on the cover.
  19. Amusement park rides that spin sideways in any way make me want to throw up, usually within 20 or 30 seconds. Roller coasters, Ferris wheels, and the like are no problem, but even something as innocuous as the Tilt-A-Whirl turns me green.
  20. My wife helped me learn to enjoy extra-hot showers and baths, and I helped her learn to enjoy sleeping in.
  21. I keep an old pair of glasses to wear when I go swimming, so the plastic on my newer frames doesn't get dicoloured by the chlorine. No glasses is not an option—my vision is too poor.
  22. One reason I still try to play gigs with my band, despite my current health problems, is that at least once during every gig, often in the green room between sets, something will happen that sets me laughing uncontrollably. For example, on a chilly April morning last year, it was seeing bassist Doug layered up so much in his warm clothes and costume that he looked like this.
  23. I have quite a few scars, almost all of which are, for some reason, on the right side of my body. The vast majority have come from cancer-related surgeries in the past two years. One required more than 25 staples; another looks like a bull's-eye target on my abdomen and is about the diameter of a DVD.
  24. It's not unusual for our house to get an international courier delivery every weekday, usually cosmetic samples from New York for my wife to review on her podcast.
  25. My current sideburns were inspired by Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords, even though he has huge mutton-chops and mine are polite little strips of fuzz like my dad had 35 years ago. Jemaine named his first child Sophocles, but that didn't inspire me at all. Besides, my kids are a decade older.

The rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag back the person who tagged you so they know you've done it. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you, or just because I'm annoying.

To do the tagging, go to Notes (in the Tabs section of your Profile page on Facebook), paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the upper right corner of the Notes app), then click Publish. Or if you import your notes from your blog into Facebook, tag the note once it appears. Have fun.

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Regarding #13, Pluto is NOT a former planet. The demotion of Pluto was done was adopted by only four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists.
No absentee voting was allowed. It was done so in a highly controversial process that
violated the IAU’s own bylaws, and it was immediately opposed by a petition of 300 professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of New Horizons, saying they will not use the new definition, which they described accurately as “sloppy.” You can find a copy of that petition here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest/

Also significant is the fact that many planetary scientists are not IAU members and therefore had no say in this matter at all. Many believe we should keep the term planet broad to encompass any non-self-luminous spheroidal object orbiting a star. Even now, there are scientists and lay people working actively to overturn the wrongful demotion.
I'm not someone with a strong opinion on the subject. And I'm sure Pluto itself isn't either.

Hence my "(former)" in brackets, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I could have just said that I saw Pluto, but then some people might have thought of the Disney dog.
Hi Derek. I've been a lurker the past few weeks. I was turned onto your blog via the Lipgloss and Laptops podcast, and I LOVE it. I love the genuineness of your writing and your beautiful pics as well, (my faves were the pics of the snow!). You have a great combination of wit, intelligence, and charm. I must admit, I have a bit of a crush on you,(it's ok. I told your wife) :) Stay strong and feel better.
Best Regards ~ Theresa in Seattle
Thanks Theresa. Nice to have someone new pop up in the comments, especially with some flattery!
not sure why my blog name came up as 'amyrist'. that is not me. i don't blog, (yet), but this should be me.
Okay, I want to know the story behind the missing toenail...

Okay, you asked. I had a persistent ingrown toenail that would not resolve itself. It was unpleasant -- if I stubbed my toe, I'd get tunnel vision from the pain. So after trying a bunch of things over many months, my doctor referred me to a surgeon's office. That surgeon injected my toe with anaesthetic, removed the toenail with a pair of pliers (crack!), and then killed the nail bed with sodium hydroxide so it wouldn't grow back. It never has, and my ingrown toenail problem was solved. But my feet got even uglier, of course.
Very cool (sort of, lol).

It's amazing how much pain a little toe can cause, isn't it?

Good stuff! I did NOT know that you spoke Finnish as a first language. Nor that your Dad is German!

I promise I'll do the tag. Let me get the hang of Facebook :) I'm a newbie!
Re: #9 (metric vs imperial) - *Exactly* the same mixture that I use. I guess that's not much of a coincidence though, given that we were in grade school around the same time.

BTW, my first colour TV came in 1982. I was 14 and I found it in an alley. Wheeled it home in a shopping cart (2km from home). It used tubes and didn't work. I used a tube checker at Radio Shack to identify and replace the bad tubes and had a working colour TV for about $20 (new they were still $500+)
Yeah, we're pretty screwed up. I can think of speed in either km/h or mph, but I have no instinct for fuel economy in litres per 100 km, height in cm, volumes of pints or cups or gallons, Fahrenheit temperatures (except for cooking, because that's how all ovens are calibrated), or weight in kg. I'm always converting in my head if I can.

And that TV story is totally Steve Hillman in a nutshell.