Monday, January 30, 2006

Capturing the moment

I bought myself a little digital camera this weekend. One of things that is a necessary part of owning a digital cameras is to do those self group portraits. You know, the ones where you bunch together as tightly as possible, hold the camera out at arms length, point the lens in your general direction and hope for the best. Here's my first attempt.

Group picture featuring a large snow flake
Attack of the giant snowflake

Having a new camera, will hopefully mean some new pictures coming to the blog in the near future. I'm taking advantage of Winnipeg's fixed price menu event this Wednesday to go to In Ferno's Bistro. Being a self-confessed foodie, I'll try and document some of that. Also, Saturday I'm off to Tampa for a business conference, so between working on my tan and swimming in the hotel pool... I mean doing business stuff, I'll try and take a few snapshots. The flipside is that while having lots to do will leave me lots to document, it won't leave me much time to do it in (Ed: My pre-emptive excuse for not posting in the near future).

Friday, January 27, 2006

On the witness stand

This should be interesting.

An Italian court has begun the task of deciding whether a priest should be called to face questioning over whether or not Jesus Christ actually existed.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Italy judge considers Jesus case

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Trespassing, suspicious activity, car wrecks, lawn jobs and reports of teens running naked through yards shooting each other

The title is an excerpt from an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer detailing the escalation of Nerf Gun battles around Blue Ash. Besides having no idea what "lawn jobs" are or what they entail (feel free to provide plausible theories), I found this article to be quite an entertaining read.

While my brother and I have yet to draw the ire of the local police department (I make no claims about our parents), we have enjoyed a recent revival of Nerf Gun battles within our own house. Below is a beautiful photo taken by yours truly, wherein I fire a dart at my unsuspecting brother. While the composition and lighting in this photo may leave something to be desired, I think the poetry captured by the dart in mid-air and my brother's unawareness, have a certain quality of their own. That and the dart ended up being dead on, hitting my brother square between the eyes.

Bullet time
Poetry in motion

It should be noted that Stephen and I disagree with the popular gaming comic Penny-Aracade on their first rule of engagement. Stephen has created a set of darts which offer greater speed and range and thus are harder hitting, not that we take this thing seriously.

Re-post: Tilburg Update

Original posted on: June 9th, 2004

We only spent one day in Tilburg, but it was a great time. Upon arriving in the city, Karl and I tried calling Peter (our friend from Winnipeg who was staying in the city for an international program at the university). Unfortunately only the answering machine picked up. Are pre-arranged plan was for to Peter to pick us up, since we had no idea where he was staying. Not seeing a University on the map outside the station, we head towards what Karl and I believed translated to "art school" from Dutch.

After we walked a few blocks with our heavy packs we realized we had no clue what we were doing. With our packs, walking all the way back to the train station didn't seem to be to appealing, so we stopped at a little shop to regroup and think of what to do. Using our rough ability to understand Dutch for a second time (and to better effect) the little restaurant was named, "The Angel."

D R Engel
The restaurant we found

Fittingly the stores proprietor ended up being an angel to us in the situation. Upon entering the store, we immediatly excercised our incompetence with foreign pay phones. We called Peter's number again, someone answered who sounded like Peter on the other end, but for some reason he could never hear anything we were saying. Later, the store owner informed us that the payphones don't take your money until you confirm you made the right call by pressing "*", allowing the other party to hear you. He was kind enough to give us more money to call again. The food there was also extraordinary. If you ever find yourselves lost in Tilburg, drop by this place it's amazing.

Eating a chicken sandwich
Brodhoodjin mit hete chicken?

Peter showed up and we then met up with Alexi and Michal (roommates) as well as Kyla (who had arrived a day earlier) at the train station. The next plan of action was get from the train station to the dorms using the traditional method of transporation in the Netherlands (i.e. use the three bikes we had). Various combinations of strapping and distributing two heavy packs and six people across three bikes was tried. We'd create a plan of action, move approximately a meter before something or someone fell off and then try again. Eventually we sucked up our defeated and two of us took the bags on a bus while the rest cycled home.

Riding our bikes
Cruising the streets

It was one of Peter's roomate's birthday, so for supper we had an amazing feast laid out for us. Remarkable to start with, but made even more so by the fact that the feast, consisting of Lasagna and Russian salad, were all made in a tiny kitchen with only a toaster oven from scratch. It tasted fantastic.

For the occasion Alexi (from Russia) brought out a bottle of his country's finest vodka. Vodka in Canada is usually slugged back in shots, maybe it's because we drank it straight out of glasses, but this particular vodka tasted exceptionally good. Here Marga (from Poland) appears to be fantasizing about the bottle, however the bottle is quite empty at this point.

Marga attempts to read Russian
Mmmmmm, vodka

We were also introduced to a crazy French game called "Jungle Fever", here Henri poses with the game from his homeland.

Henri poses with the game
Jungle Speed!

After most of the party people left we took of in the night on bikes in true Netherlander fashion. We headed into the city centre and enjoyed a game of pool at one the pubs.

After returning to the dorm and hitting the sack, morning arrived quickyly and Karl and I rushed off on our bus to begin a full day of travel to Sweden, but not before being offered an absolutely amazing breakfast of toasted bread with assorted cheeses, mushrooms and tomatoes.... Genius!!! (Ed: I stand by that statement, it was one of the best breakfasts I've had)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Dancing with the stars

The dance studio Geoff and I attend has what could be referred to as a "wall of fame". A series of framed black white pictures line the wall by the entrance with snapshots of famous celebrities who have come to the studio and dancers from the studio competing in competitions. On this wall, there just so happened to be a few frames which had yet to receive pictures. This presented somewhat of an opportunity. Now, if Geoff and I were brutaly honest with ourselves we would have had to reluctantly admit that we are currently neither celebrities nor competition level dancers and therefore our chances of appearing on this wall (through what one might call the "traditional means"), would be somewhat slim. Geoff and I, however, are endearing optimists. Something as simple as facts and proper procedure do not keep us down.

A little help from Google Image Search and a program called Photoshop and we had two excellant candidate photos for the wall:

Disclaimer: My heart felt apologies to the original owners of both photos

Faked picture of Geoff
Geoff's picture

Faked picture of me
My picture

And because we are such trusting people, our Saturday dance class was allowed to lock up on Saturday, providing us with an opportunity to stake our claim to fame. For those of you who frequent our studio, you can now find our photo beside some guy named Richard Gere, who appeared in some movie they filmed at the studio.

As a bit of an aside, related to movies being quite frequently filmed here in Winnipeg. The same night we put up the photos, we exited the studio to find ourselves in the middle of an actual movie set. The door we use for the studio exits into a backlane, so the movie crew probably wasn't expecting anybody to come out. Also you can't really see what's unfolding outside the door until you've actually opened it, so stepping out into a fully lit set with cameras and everything was a bit surreal. They hadn't started filming yet, so we didn't end up as Cut#000016: Random confused people appear on scene from doorway.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Eye of the beholder

I came across this article thanks to the good folks at Language Log. It's a good read, discussing the way truth seems to be shaped in our society. Here's an excerpt from the article that jumped out at me.

We live in a relativistic culture where television "reality shows" are staged or stage-managed, where spin sessions and spin doctors are an accepted part of politics, where academics argue that history depends on who is writing the history, where an aide to President Bush, dismissing reporters who live in the "reality-based community," can assert that "we're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."

Bending the Truth in a Million Little Ways - New York Times

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Memory is parallax

My good friend Kyla (who co-stars in my Europe posts) is teaching English in Indonesia currently. I've been following her adventures in her MSN Spaces blog. Just recently, I was trying to discover where in Indonesia she was staying so that I could try finding it with Google Earth. Doing a quick web search for Kyla and Indonesia unearthed two interesting results, that if you are a friend of Kyla's, you just might find interesting.

It turns out her two fellow housemates also keep blogs of some sort. Miriam uses the esteemable Blogger and Joey, seemingly the most verbose of the three, uses LiveJournal.

This is cool for a number of reasons. Firstly, because you are now getting three times the coverage. Secondly, because you gain a new perspective of what's going on.

The following is two parallel excerpts about the same situation I found amusing, having travelled with Kyla before. I had read Kyla's story before finding the other journals and here is what Kyla had to say about a day trip she took out into the rice paddies:

At one point this crazy guy comes running up the steep side of the hill carrying coconuts, and said that he saw us walking. He claimed to have been working in the terrace across the valley when he saw us and ran down into the valley to pick some coconuts for us. It was a great refreshing treat; and then he asked for money! It was worth it though.

Kyla's Space: November 5 Bali!

Here is Joey's version of the story:

Kyla and I kept walking with no one around, until suddenly a man with 3 large green coconuts pops out of the grass saying, saw you, and I climb tree, and I get for you! Before we know it, he takes out a large machete and starts chopping them open for us. We graciously took them and drank. Very refreshing after a long walk. I then gave him 10,000 Rupiah and we continued our journey.

joeystud: Trip to Bali

This story just struck me as a classic male-female moment. When I envsioned this story in my head, the man comes up and in what Kyla assumes to be an action a genuine goodwill, offers them some coconuts. He ruins that though by asking for money and turning it into just a cheap commercial money grab. The refreshment is worth the price, but the moment is lost through the dissapointment. On the other hand, to Joey, although seemingly being the one who ended up paying, the fact that he had to pay is somewhat auxillary to the entire event. He's just happy to get some refreshing coconut milk to drink.

Of course, either Joey or Kyla may end up reading this and telling me I'm way out to lunch. However, sometimes reading a story is more interesting than actually being there. Anyways, go check out the journals, for what life is like teaching English Second Language to people in Indonesia. An excellant distraction.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Re-Post: Amsterdam Update

Original posted on: June 9th, 2004

Here's the first in a series of quick summaries. I'm realizing I can't rely on having pictures with my post and should just do quick written logs to keep you up to date. However we've got good internet access for the next few days, so if I can find the time, I'll try to bring everybody up to speed while including pictures. By the way we're in Bielefeld now with Karl's relatives and having an absolutely amazing time here. yes, about Amsterdam.

Two in a shoe
Two in a shoe

This one is a random pic, but one that I like. Peter and Kyla in a shoe... I don't really have much to add. It's from our first day in Europe... not quite a full day, so I'll call it day zero.

Day 1:

Our first full day in Amsterdam, Kyla, Karl and myself took off to the Heineken brewery

Heineken Bar 1
Sampling the product line

Here we are in "Bar 1" having our first round of beers. The brewery tour is pure entertainment and marketing, but does it look like we're complaining?

Carriage Ride
The "virtual" carriage ride.

We hold on tight for one of the "rides". The video screen shows you trotting around Amsterdam from the perspective of a horse-drawn carriage and the carriage shakes and sways. There's another ride as well were you pretend you're a beer bottle (just to give you an overview of the type of educational material you receive on the tour).

Heineken Bar 2 Panorama
Bar 2 Panorama

This is picture of Bar 2, the final bar. Here you get "two" free drinks.

The Americans
America's Ambassadors

The US army guys we met there, however, proved the looseness of that rule. The guy with the camouflage backpack has a dromedary pack in it (one of those plastic sacks you use for having "water" handy to drink when hiking) which the bartender let him fill up with beer. This made him an obvious crowd favourite as he walked around filling up his buddies' glasses. The army guys were based out of Germany and had many funny stories to tell. My favourite is the series of stories from the guy pictured on the far left of how he was always getting kicked out of Spain. These stories compounded by his disbelief at not being able to sneak into the country, "Come on, it's like getting into Mexico!", provided much hilarity.

Karl at the Rijks museam
Karl not drinking

To prove we also indulge in more cultured activities, here is a picture of Karl in the Rjiks Museum.

The HI Hostel
Returning to our hostel

Our hostel was situated right in the middle of the city and right along a canal. Here Kyla and I hike up to the hostel after one of our outings. (The hostel is the building with the light blue flag that's not fully unfurled).

Drunk Dutch brothers
The brothers

We always seem to meet interesting people on our travels and here are two very drunk, but funny, Dutch brothers who came and began talking to us (for what ended up being very long time). We were chatting on the bench in front of our hostel that overlooks the canal, quite peacefully I might add, when they arrived. Highlights from their visit include, the singing of "Heidi from the hills" in German (upon discovering that Karl and I could speak German). Them mistaking us for French more than once during our conversation (even though Karl and I can't speak a full sentence of passable French). The brother, who ran away to find cigarettes, excitedly telling us how he had to barter with the store owner to sell him the pack because the store was just closing and then promptly losing the pack in the canal.

Day Two:

We dropped of Kyla at the train station in the morning and then wandered along the streets looking at shops.

Eating Maneken Pis Brand Fries

Here I enjoy some fries with a curry pineapple mayonnaise. The shop is called Manneken Pis. Clicking on image brings up a larger image, wherein you may take a closer look at the logo and try to suceed, where we failed, at understanding Dutch marketing strategy.

Upon returning to our hostel, we found that a true blue American had taken Kyla's bunk. We hung out for the rest of the day, and he entertained us by using interchangeably the words "chill", "sweet" and "sketch" in every single sentence.

A brief excerpt from our first meeting:

American to the Swiss travelers in our room, "So where are you guys from?"
The Swiss, "Switzerland"
The American in a stoned surfer voice, "Oh, sweeeet!"
The Swiss, thinking he said Swede instead of sweet, "No, Swiss."
"Yeah, that's sweeeeeeet."
A little more indignant now, "We are from Switzerland, so we are Swiss."
"I know I just think that's sweeeeet."
Reiterate a few more times, at which point I jumped in and attempted explain "Sweet" to the Swiss.

And there you have it, our quick tour of Amsterdam.

Ed: Despite its length, this was a fairly quick post and skims over much of the details we experienced in Amsterdam. Probably the neatest thing about Amsterdam was the atmosphere, people walking and biking everywhere. To give you an idea, the train station had a three story bike parking garage that was over full.

Also, as this still one of my earlier posts, it is still very much point form summary to match potential pictures. Once we realized we couldn't post pictures and we got more used to travelling, the posts started to have more of a story telling aspect.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

File under self promotion

A note to the reader: I've recently been inspired by a friend of mine, who tracks his art projects on MySpace, to do a bit of the same and document some of my own ongoing projects. Those that see me all the time probably already know all the things I'm up to, but then again those people probably hear enough from me and don't need to come to the web to get an extra dose. So to friends and family abroad or to those I just don't get to see all the time, this post's for you.

Two years ago, I helped a good friend of mine, Dave Allen, out with cooking for a Senior High Valentine's Day fundraising dinner. After a year's haitus, the powers that be wanted the dinner back. Dave's a busy guy, so this year I was recruited to play head chef and design a menu for the dinner.

Those that know me well, know that I both love to cook and am somewhat of a perfectionist. So the challenge was to put together the best menu given the constraints that are the kitchen I would be working in, time, money (it is a fundraiser), quality of available ingredients and of course my skill. (Somewhat analogous to an engineering project now that I think of it.) So here's what I've come up with.

Fundraising menu
Click to see full sized version

The menu had to fit into a church bulletin and it also had to be legible, printed off of a Xerox machine, so I tried to keep the layout simple and I didn't have a chance to play with the white space as much as I would have liked to. All in all, I was fairly pleased with the end results. Update: I've also made some changes since the version you see here. I took the unnecessary period of off the 7:00 at the bottom, fixed up the line spacing for the bottom two lines and created a simple back for the insert.

I've also come up with a few little touches for way the food will be presented, but I'll have to wait to reveal those until the actual night. Hopefully, I can grab some pictures from the night and share them with you here as well. I've got Ruth Maendal recruited for decorating the tables and the room, so I've got high expectations for the night.

It'll be hard to pull off, but I'm actually quite excited about the whole thing. Dave and I are already having a lot of fun with it. For a bit of a promo last Sunday, both of us dressed up in suits and sat behind a little booth. Along the front read, "Panel of Experts", and above us hung a sign saying, "Need dinner ideas, romantic advice?" Then of course for every question, our response would be something along the lines of, "Hmmmm, yes, actually I've got just the solution for you. You see, on February 19th we are putting on a romantic dinner..." Most of the married men seemed to find the idea of two single guys offering romantic advice quite amusing. Although, strangely enough, all the women seemed to love the idea and played right along. I'll let the reader draw their own conclusions. ;)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Fine timing

I just came across a Guardian article via Lindsey's blog, outlining how US troops confiscated tapes looking into American and British mispending of Iraqi funds. I believe Callum Macrae, the director of the investigative documentary, sums up the appropriate response

We need a convincing assurance from the American authorities that this terrifying experience was not harassment and a crude attempt to discourage Ali's investigation.

Quoted from
Guardian Unlimited | US troops seize award-winning Iraqi journalist

I doubt I'm really "spreading the word" with my current readership, but new linking puts the article higher in search engines and the public eye. I'll try and update this, if new information comes in.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Years 2006

This New Years I celebrated in the good company of some great people, the group of people I take dance class with on Saturday.

Saturday group
The "Saturday" group

Naturally, the party was held at the dance studio, which combined a classically elegant building with our group's love of dancing. Table 7 was ours for the evening, which we shared with a young couple who took class on Mondays.

Table 7
Table 7

Dancing was of course central to the evening and on the odd occasion where one of us wasn't dancing with someone, we managed to get some pictures of others dancing.

The dance floor
Geoff and Nicole dancing
Geoff and Nicole Cha Cha with style
Myself and Nicole
Attempting some Merengue improvisation

Highlights of the evening include the Champagne...

Opening the Champagne
Getting the bottle ready for the count down

...and the beautiful ladies who attended.

The ladies
Nicole, Jen and Galina

As well as a brief interlude before the new year, in which I was paraded around the room as Old Man 2005, and promptly kicked out into a snow bank.

Old Man 2005
Ted and Margaret lead Old Man 2005

Something, I quite distinctly remember being omitted from the job description, as it was explained to me beforehand. Never fear though, for in a feat worthy of Clark Kent's transformation to Superman, once out in the cold, I tore off the old garments of 2005 (just so you don't get any ideas, I had a suit on underneath) to emerge a younger and spryer man ready to count in the New Year.

The clock ticked 12 and the group erupted in cheers and toasts.

Then in all the gaiety of the newly brought in New Year, we formed a conga line and danced. An event in which I learnt the importance of wearing a belt with your suit. This lesson became clear, when the line accelerated in front of me and the elderly lady behind me, who was holding my "waist" (read pants), couldn't quite keep up.

However, my description of the evening wouldn't be complete without mentioning that it was also the dazzling Marlene's birthday.

Happy Birthday Marlene!
Happy New Year everyone!