Thursday, 28 May 2009

The Love Triangle is Broken?

I remember what I was going to write about!

Archie Andrews has proposed to Veronica Lodge. I know Jon won't care one way or the other, somehow having missed the cultural icon that is Archie Comics. But nonetheless, the news is in: Archie, after 60 years of indecision, has finally picked a girl. Now, it's the first of a 6-part series, so who know's what'll happen between now and then--knowing these comics, I'd say everything reverts to status quo, but I have a suspicion that they just might be finishing the comics for good, and, if they do, they might want to do it with a bang.

I have two things to note about that ending (if it is one). The first is that I'd have prefered that it ended with Archie still unable to pick. I do like endings which continue those essential traits of a character--Capt. Jack Sparrow sailing off on a new adventure, the cowboy moving on to the next town, etc etc. That's not say that I don't like development, but that I also appreciate seeing characters ending in situations that are still dynamic.

The second is that, as everyone on-line has said, he picked the wrong one. I mean, Ronnie! He can pick between the good-hearted, pretty girl next door, and the spoiled, self-absorbed (albiet better-funded) skank. And, frankly, they are exactly equally attractive; I say this because if you swapped their hair and clothes, they would look like the other. They are drawn the same. So in this case, it quite honestly is entirely personality. And Betty's just nicer. Poor, but nicer.

But the real reason I'm interested in this is that it's significantly altered a cultural icon. At least three generations grew up with Archie Andrews and his indecisiveness, and now they've gone and changed it. I've used this as a metaphor for a number of things by now, at least once on this blog. Now they've changed it and my analogy won't work. It's perfect for a number of things: times in which something is used out of turn; times in which someone can't pick between two appealing options; times in which friends remain friends in spite of potentially disruptive rivalries. It's a useful metaphor for many things. And now they've gone and buggered that up. Well, I still intend to use it anyway. I guess I'm just sore that they went and changed my childhood.

They spent too much time discussing it on the news, though. They brought in an expert, even. I suppose it makes sense that there is an Archie comics expert somewhere. It's a cultural force which people surely study. They also called on on-line discussion and reader comments (reader comments? why?).

Anyway, that's it for now. Weigh in if you've got anything to say.

Oh, and last night I rediscovered Lovecraft's love of the adjective.

[Edit 25 Feb 2011: On revisiting this post, I realized I never did indicate that it all turned out to be a literary-alternate-dimension thing. That is to say, we've been given a glimpse of two possible futures, one of which will happen; the trick is that we don't know which.]

Ruminations Aboard a Ship

or, I'm on a Boat

Actually, the first thing has nothing about shipboard ruminations. It has more to do with the ridiculously loud engine-roaring going on outside the apartment. Some guys compensate with the size of their vehicles, others with the noise.

Anyway, shipboard ruminations.

I have spent a lot of time thinking on these boats. Well, I'm all alone, right? I'm doing very repetitious tasks. So I get fairly contemplative and quite insignificant events become more memorable. For instance, one of the cool things I had to tell my Dad and brother after work is that a raven was punctuating the swallowsong with low croaks, and I told him it wasn't quite harmonic. Oh, and the clouds were very awesome looking today. There were all sorts of layers and colours and textures and such. Alberta skies do tend to be much more spectacular than Ontario cloudscapes. I'm not sure why--maybe the altitude? Anyway, these were noteworthy events...

Actually, yesterday I had a real event happen. I managed to lock the keys to most of the park in the Miskanaw's wheelhouse. Two hours of nonsense ensued, involving trying to hop a chain-link fence and run-arounds with the people down at Roger's AT&T, trying to get my cellphone to work. Bah.

OK, there was an actual rant or something I had in mind on these boats. What was it? I think I'm going nuts, here. Tomorrow I will get to work with people again. We'll see how I handle the change; though it can be awfully monotonous, there are real benefits to working at a sight all by yourself, such as not worrying about being in other people's ways.

Geez, it's not coming to me. I had really wanted it to. I thought a lot, as I always do, about the role religion has in society and what opponents of religious practices have to say about it, and what it is they don't understand that allows them to think these things. I thought about the open-mindedness thing Jon was talking about.

Oh, wait. That just triggered something. I was going to have a paragraph responding to what Jon would likely think about whatever I had in mind to write about. Huh. What was it? This is ridiculous.

Well, if it occurs to me, I'll get on writing it. Maybe I'll jot something down quick if I think of it away from a computer.

The McDonald's Coffee Lawsuit

If you don't read Indexed, and you don't read at least the first comment on Indexed posts, then you may not have seen this:

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

The Marine Park

I am now working at the Fort McMurray Marine Park.

If you're in Fort Mac, don't bother looking for it. It's not open to the public yet. Oh, you can see through the chain-link fence, but you can't go in. (It's behind the Rona if you really want to know.) I'm cleaning the boats up to prepare it for a few private tours.

The Marine Park is owned by the Fort McMurray Historical Society, which also owns Heritage Park, where I worked previously. Yet again I am an Assistant Curator, and yet again I've been given an utterly different job.

Right now I am try to clean up the decks. They've got drifts of grit on them from the sandblasting that took place last summer. I need to sweep the grit up into garbage bags and throw them in the dumpster. I can't vacuum because there's too much of it; the bags would fill too quickly and the motor would burn out, because the stuff is coarse. However, it's been raining, and the grit is now all water-logged. I can only clean out that which is dry, so it's been tough going. All this morning I've had to do indoor work, so I vacuumed a lot of the navigation booth and captain's quarters of the Miskanaw. It took me an hour to get set up for that, though, as I had to drag the vacuum cleaner up narrow staircases and had to carry it around scaffolding. By the latter I mean that there is a thin walkway between a set of scaffolding and the railing along the edge of the boat. To get through it normally you need to turn and walk sideways through it. I had to hold the vacuum cleaner up and over the railing and shuffle sideways across. About halfway the lid came off the vacuum and the bottom fell down the side of the boat. The hose is attached to the bottom of it and since I had the hose wrapped around my arm and held between my torso and the railing, the bottom of the cleaner was hanging against the side of the boat by the hose. I had to get the lid somewhere so it would fall (without letting go of the hose) and then haul the bottom back up without accidentally pulling the hose out of the vacuum itself. That was a monster. And then I had to run my numerous supplies back and forth between the galley of one boat (the 250 Dredge) to the navigation booth of the Miskanaw, which involves scaffolds and ladders on both ends. However, working in some of these rooms and on the decks are cool. It a little tiny bit like I'm working on real operational boats at sea, what with river next to the boats. Also, looking at the wheel and dials and stuff is fun.

It can get a bit lonely working there. Every so often I interact with someone, and I do alone pretty well, but the time can drag. On the one hand I enjoy it a lot when I do get to talk to somebody; on the other hand I usually freak out whenever I think I hear someone coming. I think it's because I'm so used to working there alone that the very idea of someone else being on the boat is terrifying. It's like when you think you're alone in a room and then suddenly someone comes out from behind the couch or something. It's not that they shouted "Boo!," but that no one should be there. It's uncanny.

There are lots of swallows there, and a dog named Max. Max is big, and he's not 100% comfortable with me being there yet. In time I hope he will be.

I think that should be all for now.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

The Second Day

I just came back from my second day of work.

I am working at Heritage Park again (see the Fort McMurray label and sift through for related posts), despite not having planned to. However, I will not be working at the Park itself for all of it; I will rather be working over at the Marine Park we're working on opening. I have a lot of cleaning there to do tomorrow. Maybe I'll take some pictures, but I suppose I oughtn't, as it's not open to the public. I've signed no waivers or anything, but, really, I don't want to put things into the public that aren't mine to use.

I suppose I shouldn't talk at all about my co-workers, eh? I can't think of many people who got to my blog through Facebook, but you could if you wanted to, and I'm not taking it down--I do want people some of my Facebook friends to have access to my blog. So no discussing my thoughts (negative or positive) about the new staff, I guess, in the case that any of them add me and read this blog. In general, though, I am wondering about how well I'll get to know the new staff. I won't be at Heritage Park as much this year, and so won't be working alongside them as much. I'll have to try harder to make friends or acquaintances with them. I have a long 8 months ahead of me if I don't give it a shot, eh? Though I'm pretty independent and can likely handle a quasi-hermitage for two thirds of a year.

Anyway, about the second day. I'm tired; I'm not used to working, so yesterday was tough, but today is doubly tough because I am still tired from yesterday. However, I wasn't very upset about the sort of work I had today, and I felt like I fit well into the dynamics I had left and am now returning to. I have a bit of a headache now and took a ten minute "nap" (really just dozed) when I got home. I should go to bed early.

That is all for now. Next weekend I'll finish up the Niagara Falls stuff, I think. One more post on it coming.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: The Fear Factory

When in Niagara Falls, Alan and I went to Nightmares: the Fear Factory. This haunted house is just down the street from the Hampton. It was pouring. Ted and Jon were not really interested in going to a museum or haunted house, so it was just Alan and I.

It was pretty dark when we got in there (ie. the lobby) and much of it was made of dark, rough wood. Afterward I learned that it was supposed to look like an old abandoned coffin factory. Anyway, we got tickets and waited for the green light, while the rules came down a screen. The rules include no kicking, stay close together, and, if you chicken out, yell the word 'Nightmares' and something will lead you out. They keep track of all of the people who chicken. Apparently it's quite a few. Anyway, the idea is that you follow the red lights. Got it.

We go in pretty casual--a bit nervous, I guess, but not bad--and we come to spot around a corner where there's something that looks like an exhibit in a zoo or museum. The lighting is fairly low. In the exhibit there's a table with a shrouded body on it. Where the signs would be beneath the 'glass' is a red button. We discuss it for a moment, and then Alan pushes it. A huge spike-ladden board slams down over the 'window,' and then the lights shot off. It's pitch black. So we follow around these little red LEDs in darkness. After losing each other and being growled at to keep together, Alan grabs my shoulder so we don't get seperated. Also, if I know Alan's behind me, then I also know that he's not whatever's moving ahead of me.

The passageways were pretty interesting. The ground sloped a lot, and sometimes the ceiling came down in strange ways. The most awkward was the passage you had to crawl through. That was unnerving.

I can't precisely remember the order everything happened in, so I'll have to give you anecdotes...

Well, first to explain: this didn't have animatronics or electric eyes that make glowing skeletons pop out at you with a pre-programmed chuckle. It was operated by what seemed to be two guys running through the walls (and sometimes the passageways we walked through). Now to particular events.

At one point a light shone down on a hatch in the wall as one of the guys popped up through it. The light went out before he retreated, though, which was creepy. To quell my fear, I said, "Hello," to the guy. He then started mimicking me in a high-pitched voice. From the darkness. Sometimes in the walls.

As we went through certain corridors, we could hear a teenage-sounding girl sobbing and begging for mercy.

Every so often they gave us a stairwell for respite. These stairwells were properly lit and 'safe.' On the other side of one that went down was another short stair in darkness. As we approached the red light, something closed behind us. I felt out and discovered that the light was mounted on a wall. A little tactile exploration determined that we were locked in this room. Shortly thereafter a door opened so that we could not see the door or the people standing in it, but could see the light from the other side of the door shining onto a wall above us, back where we came from. We could also hear two people discussing something, but couldn't make out what. Then the door closed, and someone was walking down the stairs we had just come down. Suddenly a now-lit cellar door slammed shut above us and a new passageway opened to our left.

Partway through the maze, one of the guys started giggling hysterically. As in, as though he were insane. From the darkness. Sometimes in the walls. Sometimes in the passage behind us.

In another part, when I knew for a fact that one of those guys was behind us, we came to a bridge. You know those rope bridges with wooden boards along the bottom? Like in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, only smaller? The ones that shake if you jump on them? There was a faint light beneath it so you could see what it was and get a sense of where the 'railing' rope was. The guy behind us waited for us to be about two-thirds to a quarter of the way across that bridge before he ran up and started shaking it, jumping up and down and jabbering like crazy. He sounded like a cross between a furious child and a territorial chimp. That and crazy.

At one point, of course, they grab you from behind. They got Alan, though, and not me.

Another memorable part is when a small car with bright headlights flies toward you. Of course it does not hit you, but it also stops somewhat later (and therefore sooner) than you expect. This is when they take your picture.

Eventually, we were out, and the lobby did not look as dark any more. I bought the picture, too, and sent the digital version to Alan.

Meditations on the experience:

It is funny how scary these things can be. Even though I know there is no possible way that I'll be bodily or psychologically harmed, I was throughout in a sense of high anxiety. The fact that that it isn't all animatronic or computer-operated but rather run by employees--real agents, in the psychological sense of the term--adds a definite amount to the fear factory. Knowing that they used passages in the walls, floors, ceiling, etc. didn't help any. It simply let you know that they could be anywhere and that you couldn't trust your ears. In pitch blackness, what sounds like it's in the walls could actually be around the next bend. Anyway, things in the walls is always a little creepy unless it's rodents. (At least, I don't find rodents in the walls creepy. I find it comforting to know that living things that mean me no harm are sharing my space. But I recognize others likely don't feel the same way.)

It is also funny how much we can enjoy 'safe' fear. I found the experience marvellous, and I know Alan did as well. Especially once I stopped trying not to be afraid. And yet I'm not a fan of movies that are actually scary. Correction: I am not a fan of being afraid after watching a scary movie, which can sometimes happen. The Haunting of Hill House did that for me (the movie, not the book, though that book was one of the creepiest I have ever read). I am certainly drawn to the horror genre, but I don't usually know what to do with it.

Alan said that it would have been better with girls along. If only Linda and Roz had come...both said that they wished they could have gone. Linda, at least, would have reacted more audibly to the strips of plastic (I think they were plastic) that hung from the ceiling to brush against your head. Alan says she doesn't like those because they make her think of bugs.

Anyway, that was the Fear Factory. I enjoyed the experience.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Landed in the Mac

I swear I'll write more about Niagara etc., but tonight I say only this...

I have landed in Fort McMurray. It seems very familiar, as though I never left. And yet little things have changed. We'll see how it feels later in the week.

The flight was a monster. The lay-overs were too short and there was a lot of turbulence between London and Toronto. Yech. Well, I'm here safely and quickly, so I oughtn't complain.

My birthday is up-coming, too.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

On the Moniker 'English Clergyman'

I used to live on Clergy Street in Kingston; of my housemates (the Clergy Men among ourselves, though most went with Clergy Boys), I was the only one studying English. Thus I was the English Clergy-Man, or English Clergyman. That my minor was Religious Studies contributed somewhat.

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: the Fallsview Casino

On Thursday we (Jon, Alan, Teddy, and I) went to the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. We went for two reasons: food at the buffet, and so Ted could gamble away his life savings. Also, it was rainy and damp and seemed a good way to get out of the wet.

We had pre-arranged for our memberships on-line, which meant we could eat at the buffet for less. It was still a tad expensive for the value of the food. The pizza, ravioli, pastas, fish, and desserts were good, but much of the meat was tough and fatty.

What I noticed most, though, was what you'd see at any buffet but appeared to be worse at the casino: quite a few people were markedly overweight. I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill overweight here; these weren't beer bellies or jiggly thighs but forays into obesity. That's the thing about buffets. We commented that the buffet is a better deal for some than it is for others, but in the end I'm not sure how good of a deal it is for the over-eaters, either. But then, I don't struggle with obesity, so I won't pass judgement. What I will say is that it contributed to the overall air of profanity (that is, the profane) that I felt permeated the casino.

After the meal, we went onto the floor, which was a sea of lights and noises. The machines didn't spit out coins but rather tickets, which you could redeem for money. It seems to me that this makes tabulating how much you've won harder. Ted did it in his head, but that took effort. (Well, maybe less effort than it seemed: the way he chose to explain his method was not terribly efficient and confused Jon. Had he explained it more simply, I don't think Jon would have been as unsure of what Ted was doing.) With coins, you can keep all the ones you got from the tellers in one pocket or cup and all the ones from the machine in the other. That would be an efficient way of controlling your input and output. By tracking your balance on a slip of paper, the casino may be making the calculations a bit more difficult and thereby helping people gamble their winnings away. Smart thinking, Fallsview.

We had some trouble selecting machines. Ted wanted 'classic' slot machines. We passed certain ones because they 'had too many sevens' or 'had flames on the seven' or 'didn't have cherries.' They were classic machines, but I suppose Teddy had a particular machine in mind, collected from the representations of these machines through movies and such. After losing some money to these we found some twopenny machines which were far more digital. On our second bank of twopennies (tupence?) Ted won a bit. In the end he was up. In about the same amount of time, Ted went through $20 (but won $28.50, with a net gain of $8.50), Alan went through $10, and I went through $5. Jon didn't play, but instead derived amusement from watching Ted.

Frankly, I had written the $5 off for loss at the beginning. I had thought of it as $5 admission to playing games. A summer or two back I managed to win (net, not gross) $25 at the Boomtown in Fort McMurray, and I usually am lucky at games of chance which involve winning money. I have won $45 before at rip-open tickets (net, not gross). That I left the casino under and not over was a bit disappointing, even though I suspected it would happen. I'm still not 100% comfortable with gambling, and likely never will be. I fear somewhat that it really is a sin.

The thing is, I apparently don't enjoy it very much after all. As we walked through the casino, I saw very few people actually smiling. Most looked bored or surly, punching those buttons. Only one guy seemed genuinely pleased to be there. He was a little old Asian man, sitting at a machine which looked too big for him. He reached out and up and stabbed away at the buttons, grinning like this was the best thing in the world.
I think I'm more average than that; the slots bore me, really. Unless I'm winning. In games of skill, I play to play, not to win. I do derive pleasure from winning, but less than others, I think. The only times I'm really happy that I've won are during games that I usually lose. Others seem to enjoy winning games they often win at; this seems ludicrous and maybe a bit mean-spirited to me. I don't think games should be zero-sum, as far as pleasure is concerned. However, slots really only interest me if I'm winning. In general, I don't think a person should play a game if they only enjoy it when they win. Ergo, I likely shouldn't play slots, and it seems to me that most of the people on the floor shouldn't be playing, either.

Security was tight there. There are cameras everywhere. Also, as we walked toward the buffet, one of those locked and escorted cases full of (presumably) money followed as a short piece. That was exciting; it was like Ocean's Eleven.

Then we went into the mall and wandered around, looking for Teddy's very specific maple sugar candies, which we never did find. I took some pictures of the lights and colours. We also spotted a man with terrible fashion sense. I'm not saying I'm a clothing guru or anything--far from it--but this guy was just ridiculous. Something about the business jacket and the backward baseball cap was incongruous, and that's just where the problems started.

Really, that's all I have to say about the Fallsview. In summary, while I enjoyed the company, and didn't really enjoy the activity itself. Well, I liked the buffet food I chose, even if the others didn't.

The Most Remarkable Noise

In the computer room in Sebringville we have a door that opens onto the deck in the backyard. At the moment this door is wide open (allowing the dog easier access in and out) through which I can hear birdsong. Moments ago I heard a beautiful sound like bells and birds and maybe alien spacecraft. Utterly unable to place it, I looked out to see that it was a plow tilling the field behind our property. Assorted metal joints must have been squealing against each other, but the result wasn't horrible, as you'd expect. It was lovely.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Niagara Falls and Toronto Trip: The Ontario Science Centre

Rather than engage in creative writing or play computer games, I suppose I will write the first post about my trip (in response to Kay's insistence on this).
On Wednesday, Jon, Teddy*, Roz*, and I (all floormates from first year of university) went to the Ontario Science Center. I had heard from Jon the day before that Teddy was exceptionally excited about everything that week--Ted had been staying at Jon's and being a tourist since the Saturday before--and we saw ample evidence of this at the Science Centre. As we went from one room to another, Ted would run ahead of us, and then come back and stare at us as though wondering why we took so long. He was like a kid. In fact, all week Jon got nervous whenever Ted left his sight. Roz was also silly in a controlled way some of the time.
Anyway, on to the details... I will get the order of the exhibits wrong, but I'm sure you can manage.
My experiences with a pseudo-tornado earlier in the week came flashing back when we saw the mist-tornado at the Centre. It was quite interesting; we got lots of pictures. Apparently waving your hand through it sometimes breaks it up, but I didn't experience that: when I put my hand through it, it stayed about the same. I wonder what the misty-substance was. Dry ice? Watery mist? Not sure.
One of the temporary exhibits when we visited was a spy exhibit. Some of it was sort of kiddie, but other parts were fun. At one point, there was a big wooden crate which had warnings and 'use gloves' and 'have flea powder ready' and pictures of big cats stenciled on the sides. It also had a whole in the side with a flap. The others wouldn't put their hands in. I did, though I can assure you that I pulled back a little at one point. Here's the funny thing: when I heard the purring/growling start, I thought for a second that if it were a live lion and it clawed my hand off, it would have been worth it just to pet one.
The spy exhibit also showed lots of spy gear and had assorted games you could play. There were facial recognition scans and all sorts of cool stuff. There was a large prosthetic leg which could be switched between a repelling hook and line, a shoe and leg, and a large metallic tentacle. If I ever lose a leg, I want one of those suckers. It would be awesome.
There were cases of bright poison dart frogs. I struggled to get a good picture of one. My efforts were thwarted somewhat by Jon insisting I come over to the waterfall for a picture right at that moment.
There was also a robo-fish that ran on solar power. More accurately, there were assorted types of solar-power run robo-fish, based on the movements of real fish. If you put your hands on the case so your shadow covered the solar panels, they'd stop swimming.
There was an exhibit about Middle Eastern science. I had known some of it already, but I was generally happy that they acknowledged that the Islamicate Empire made considerable scientific advancements as a part of their religious practices. Did you know that while Europe was suffering from malnutrition and thought that disease came from swamp air, a man in what is now Iraq was performing the first eye cararact surgery? For some reason, though, they included the boat of Zheng He, who was Chinese, not Middle Eastern. Still cool.

In another room, there were assorted optical illusions and sound or frequency tricks. One used angles and false optical cues, in conjuction with the two-dimensionality of a camera, to make people appear different sizes on a screen. Roz became far taller than she has been before, while Teddy became far smaller.
In the same room, Ted made weird loud noises like a heron or egret to vibrate strings. We all got videos, but Jon's has the best sound. Whenever Jon needed a laugh, he's play the video. He'd chuckle for ten minutes after that.
One of the more note-worthy exhibits (at least to my mind) was the face-fusion one. The exhibit uses semi-reflective but transparent glass. Like any other one-way glass, it depends largely on the comparative light levels on either side of the pane. On each side of the 'mirror' in this exhibit was a seat and lights arranged as in one of those mirrors for doing make-up. You could adjust the light levels on either side, changing the transparency. If the light was the same on either side, then what you saw on the glass was a 50/50 blend of transparency and reflection, or what was on your side or the other side. If you get a person sitting on each chair, and if the people line up their faces and adjust the lights, their faces 'fuse.'
Roz and I did this. (Roz is a girl.) We did it twice, actually, to see if the effect was different depending which side we sat on. Once I wore glasses and once I did not. The effect was bizarre. Actual, I might want to use the word 'uncanny,' because it was both familiar and unfamiliar. I could recognize myself in the reflection and I could recognize Roz. The strangest part was in the eyes and the brow, which blended most. Also, when Roz moved her mouth to speak, it seemed as though her teeth appeared and disappeared from my mouth. As we played with the levels, she said it looked at one point as though she was wearing glasses and had my ears poking out from her own (our heads are different sizes). I which we had a picture of it, but, alas, I didn't think to get one. Ted and Jon did it, and Ted said they looked like a monkey.

At the end we saw an IMAX movie about the Alps. Not much to say there. We also meandered through the gift shop, but bought nothing.
Oh! Nearly forgot! We saw raccoons which were surprisingly tame in a bird-watching area. They were cute big fellas (or ladies, possibly), notwithstanding what the kids thought.
That is all for now. Later, I will tell you about Niagara Falls--the Casino, the haunted house, the hotel, and the Falls themselves--and about the miscellaneous adventures we went on around Toronto.
*Names have not been changed due to general laziness.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

And return

I am back, and I have all sorts of material to write posts about. For a first, though, I will add a picture of mist...
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