Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Ever Westward

In an unusually auspicious set of intersecting circumstances, I'm traveling out to Vancouver and back, with some new stops in both directions. Theboy, given less than 24 hours' notice, decided to join.
More on that, later. For now, Father and Son hit the highway for Swift Current.
┬┐Swift Current on the way to Vancouver?, you say? It certainly wouldn't have been my first choice. Drumheller and Edmonton both hold a certain nostalgic allure but on this occasion, novelty: A kite festival! And the inconspicuously (incongruously?) concurrent Long Day's Night Music Festival. I might never have made the trip just for kites, or even for an unfamiliar music festival, but Joel Plaskett(!) was headlining (even the festival organizers were pinchmeImustbedreaming shocked - actually saying so while introducing him - that they'd landed such a phenomenally entertaining Canadian singer-songwriter as Mr. Plaskett (complete with his band, The Emergency).

As we neared Swift Current, we scanned the horizon in search of signs of the kite festival (kites, for one). None were visible, so we continued admiring the surprisingly captivating and beguiling clouds surrounding us. Dragons. Submarines. Huge Fire Nation icebreaker ships. And the remarkable "siege beaver" spotted by Theboy. If you'd seen it, you'd understand. Needless to say, if we ever form a band...
Passing through the tiniest bit of rain, we arrived at the Kite Field.

Kiting had already finished for the day, so we settled in for the musical performances.
Bombargo opened. A treat, as the band includes a talented bass player whom I taught (on saxophone) in beginner band.

Beginner band didn't exactly work for young Sam Folkersen. Nor did Sam work for beginner band. To whit:
Mr. Dietcoke: "Sam. Why is your saxophone so dented?"
Sam: "I threw it down the stairs."

And then... Joel Plaskett and The Emergency!
 I wish I'd had my camera ready shortly after this, when Joel, randomly pressing the fingers of one hand into the tent ceiling and circling chaotically about, proclaimed, "I'm a bumper car!"

I've seen Joel perform live thrice, now. He seems to get more playful and entertaining, every time.
He's witty, fun, unabashedly quirky, and extremely good at what he does. I don't know the story behind the habit he has of referring to the group as the "Joel Plastic Energy Band", but I, having had my own name mispronounced so many times, imagine it as a wry nod to venues and reviewers who have done the same.

The Next Morning
We awoke to the sunny brightness of a cloudless day. It was hot, already, by the time we'd converted the car back into driving mode, so I suggested a quick walk down the thoroughfare.
It was magical. There's definitely something emotionally buoyant about dozens of kites flying simultaneously in close proximity.

So awakened was Theboy's sense of childhood wonder he allowed himself to be photographed!

Favourite kite of the day.

Conversational highlights:
How do we access memory?
Is there a recurring place in your dreams where the same specific thing always happens in that place?
"Butter stick!"
"You just made me yell 'butter stick'."
"Siege Beaver"

Monday, February 20, 2017


Pass the buck an ear of corn.

The following represents approximately three hours of my life and is exemplary of the many, many reasons I find the human brain fascinating:

I am mildly frustrated (and not for the first time) that my phone has no pirate or pirate ship emoji. Something like 11 different kinds of train, 3 or 4 seafaring vessels, but no pirates, no ships, no skull-and-crossbones.

So, I decided to try to find some kind of rebus-like solution.

Maybe I could put a pie and a rat, you know, pie-rat. No pie Emoji. Really?There's a turd with eyes and whatever *this* ⚗ is, but no pie. Fine. There's a slice of pizza 🍕... pizza pie? Has anybody really called it that since the Flintstones? Anyway, a single slice of pizza does not a pie make. Maybe the symbol for pi? No pi emoji? Well, at least it's in Google Keyboard ("π-rat"). Of course - no rat emoji. I could put π <:(    )~ , but I'm not sure if that's really clear enough (although it's the frontrunner, at this point in the narrative).

How about thinking textually instead? "rate", like "exchange rate" or "interest rate" or the verb "to rate".
We've got 💱, 📉, 📈, ✔, 👍👎. All pretty vague.

Maybe we could go phonetically... The word actually sounds more like pie-rit/pie-writ...✍,✏📝✒...pie-rut... No deep tire tracks or amorous male deer...

Okay, forget "pirate". Let's try "buccaneer" - like the old corn joke: "buck an ear". There's corn, but it's shucked 🌽. I think that's just a "cob of corn". Do you still call it an ear if it doesn't have the husk? *Googles*

""Ear" comes from the ancient word "ahs," which meant “husk of corn.""

Looks like probably not. But there's a little husk on there. I could probably get away with it.

Okay, so: "buck"... male deer... no deer emoji... maybe *other* animals are also bucks...*Googles*... yes, but none of them are emoji. (Aside: I know we're used to them and everything, but antlers are weird. Just look at 'em.)

All right: buck/dollar... 💰💴💵💶💷💸...no single dollar. Really? The U.S. economy hangs over the planet like some sort of sharp-edged implement suspended by a hair and there's no "dollar" emoji?! 💲appears to be the closest.
What other definitions of "buck" are there? *thinks*
..."buck the trend", "bucking bronco", "pass the buck"... what does that one really mean? Maybe it has nothing to do with money...*Googles*

"pass the buck. Shift responsibility or blame ... This expression dates from the mid-1800s, when in a poker game a piece of buckshot or another object was passed around to remind a player that he was the next dealer."

Cool...and then there's:

"To avoid arguments about whose turn it was to deal, the person who was next due to deal would be given a marker. This marker moves clockwise around the table after each hand. A knife was a common object used as such a marker, and the marker became generally known as a buck as an abbreviated reference to the buck's horn that formed the handle of many knives at that time.
When the dealer had finished dealing the cards he "passed the buck"."

Hah! Cool. But there's neither "buckshot" nor a buck's-horn handled knife emoji.

It seems that I am, for the moment, defeated. But consider:

1. Language is fascinating.
2. Human brains connect things in thrilling and unexpected ways.
3. It would appear that most of us wield language like every other form of technology in our lives: we can use it, but we can't really explain its parts, how it all works together or how it was made.
4. Research is hungry work when you let it run through breakfast AND lunch.

But I think the real takeaway from this story is pretty clear: Nobody, including myself, has any clue, whatsoever, what I will do with six and a half more days of holiday.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Twenty Year Leap

Twenty years ago, to the day, one of my best gradeschool friends (Ben S.) and I made a video penpal 'letter' for a girl/friend we had both been writing to for a few years. It featured the two of us 'tooling around' our homes and neighbourhoods in our hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The penpal got a copy, Ben made a copy, and the original 8mm tape was 'put away' somewhere in Ben's house. It was always my intention to make myself a copy, but I never did. In the following years the video would occasionally bubble up from my subconscious and I would bug Ben about finding any of the copies for me to dub, to no avail. Earlier this year, my brothers and I made a nostalgia trip to P.A. (the first time that all three of us had returned together in our adult lives). The events of that trip deserve an entire post of their own, but here's a taste:
5th, 4th, and 3rd of 5
On a whim, I sent a text to Ben, now living in Calgary. He, in turn, called his mom. She, it just so happened, was packing boxes of Ben's old stuff AT THAT VERY MOMENT! The tape she had just seen was unidentified other than a date: "aug 31 1992". It seemed the most likely candidate. Within an hour I had it in my eager hand. My father offered to find out if he still had access (through work or otherwise) to equipment that would allow him to burn 8mm to DVD, or at least play the tape to determine if it was what I sought. As it happens, he had  everything he needed at home.
One of two times I recall seeing Vin in a tree!

Last Saturday I sat down at my parents house near Saskatoon for a rare chance to peer back into the home and bedroom of my teenage years - specifically the summer between grades ten and eleven. My own son, 14 years old as of five days ago, got to see his father's adolescent counterpart for about half an hour of teenage silliness. A rare treat for both of us. The geek in me found it a bit of sci-fi bliss!

Highlights include:
-Seeing the old basement AMIGA setup.
-My dog, Tina.
-A thoroughly postered room, complete with Bat-shrine.
-Appearances by my brother, Captain Orange, and friend Darren T.
-Hardware: You Can't Stop Progress!
-"Twenty-One" on the tarmac behind my old elementary school (now demolished).

While I intend to tease out each little bit of trivia I spot, frame by frame, and savour the whole process, tonight I'm going to simply enjoy sharing this out-of-time experience with all of you.
(annotations under construction)

Sunday, August 23, 2009


I need a bigger back yard

Last night was my first time (that I can recall) go-karting. Friends Breen and JT, as well as their respective wives, Camelot and Steve, and Breen's sister-in-law, Felicity, invited me along for two races at Velocity Raceway.

It was exhilarating.

The karts are low and wide, so once I got the hang of braking and drifting, it was full speed as often as possible. Leaning into turns, cutting inside to overtake other karts, and feeling the scuttling sideways of my own kart as friction fought momentum to keep me hugging the hairpin turns were some of the most enjoyable sensations in the ten minute races.

After the first race, won by Breen, I was eager to use what I'd learned. Starting off quite close together, Breen, JT, and I held top positions for most of the race, battling back and forth, but were eventually overtaken by the previously unknown challenger, Kevin (who ultimately took first).

This is Breen, taking time to wave as I, #3, struggle to close the few feet between us:

Here are the final standings (Breen is Drailex, I am Sentinel, and JT is JT):

Camelot reluctantly opted out this time (for physical reasons), but I owe her a huge thanks for the fabulous photos and video she was able to take as a result!

Sunday, August 09, 2009


Back from more than a year of non-blogging

...to enjoy these:


Have to say, I've always enjoyed the art concepts and writings about FF more than actually playing the games.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The Regina Bus

On my way to visit friends in Regina.
I love bus trips. Train trips, too. There's something about traveling with a group of people that feels friendly and familiar. I'm sure it's the years of band trips that have worn into my mind the rare mix of "home" and "adventure" that I get on a bus.
Three hours on a bus is like a gift. It's not that I don't take time at home to do the kinds of things one can do on a bus, the relaxation is just somehow more effective. When reading at home, one might find oneself constantly figuring how much free time is left, anticipating a commitment, or mentally preparing to do some chore or other task.
Disappointingly, reading or writing is often done at the expense of other "more important" things that "should" be getting done. The chores get done with a feeling of resentment and the relaxation is coloured by distraction or guilt.It's something I would like to eliminate from my life. I am closer to that goal than I think I have been since grade four (the last year before joining band). I can say with a reasonable level of confidence that that is when all activities began to exist in opposition to that one all-important task: practicing.
The other people on this bus would likely be surprised to know just how strong an urge I have to talk to them. It's bizarre. It may have a clinical name. My condition is such that I constantly want to interact with people. Especially when it is unexpected. I want us all to sing a song. We could play a game. Talk politics. The activity is irrelevant, so long as it's inter and active.
Perhaps I'll start chatting at the woman sleeping in the seat next to me. And when she grows tired of me, I'll switch to a new seat and a new conversation. Maybe I'll move toward the back of the bus where I see a five-o-so year old who could probably use some entertaining.
I picture myself politely inquiring of the driver:
"Would I be able to use your microphone to talk to the passengers for a bit?"
"What do you need?"
"Oh. I'd just like to see if they want to sing a song or something together. Or maybe play 'What Am I?'"
"What Am I?"
"Yeah. It's a guessing game. Kind of like twenty questions. Someone thinks of something - it could be anything - a thing, a concept, a famous person. Everyone else takes turns asking questions to narrow down the possible answers."
"I don't think so."
"Just out of curiosity, is there some sort of rule against it?"
"I think it would bother some people."
"What about the song thing?"
Instead, perhaps I would just start introducing myself at the front of the bus, shaking hands and working my way down the aisle.
"Hi! I'm James. Nice to meet you." Shakes hands.
"I'm a teacher from Saskatoon."
"Oh yeah? Are you running for politics or something?" Polite follow-up question.
"No, I just like meeting people."
The elderly woman beside me keeps nodding off and waking up. I suggest she might actually get some rest if she had a pillow. We chat briefly about trips and sleep. I mention having kids. It's bait. An open door. She doesn't care about my family and doesn't ask. Or maybe she's waiting for something. Or maybe she's just tired. Although 'just' is usually a lie. Or at least a mask. Perhaps she finds young men threatening. Maybe she doesn't want to be here at all and talking to someone only makes it more real.
Although I sit beside her, poised for conversation and revelation, I begin to mentally play the field. I start emotional word-affairs with the other passengers. I ask the behooded twentysomething in the seat ahead of me (whose garments are covered in skull-and-crossbones) what music he is listening to. We discuss rock. And metal. And Rock Band the video game. And, yes, it is so much more than a game. His headphones are the over the ear sort.
I move three seats back to the next lone passenger. I tell her I like meeting people and can I sit for awhile and chat? She looks suspicious but friendly and yes I can. We exchange Facebook I.D.s and pull out our laptops. Coincidentally we both still have our profiles cached. We trade laptops and get to know each other a little better. She browses my hobbies. I check out her wall. I wonder if the elderly woman three seats ahead is wishing she'd asked me about my kids when she had the chance.
There is an intermittent groan-creak that chatters out from the upper right edge of the window on my right. It's annoying.
I wonder how any people on this bus would like to sell me something. I wonder this because as my eyes scan randomly across a page of the magazine the woman across the aisle is reading I see the words "..world's most powerful antiseptic." Is she an independent saleswoman? If I struck up a conversation with her would she ask me about my children and then try to sell me "the world's most powerful antiseptic"?
"Children are dirty, you know?"
"The average child is carrying over 5 billion germs, three strains of contagious virus, and a powerful cocktail of earwax, mucous, and fecal mater on their hands alone."
What if I were the person sitting alone? What if some unusual young man encouraged me to surrender the excess real estate next door and engage in conversation? Would I take the bait? Would I do my own fishing? Would I consider it a threat to my solitude and personal space? After all I went to the trouble of standing up and fussing with my coat and other belongings longer than the other passengers for the express purpose of deflecting unwanted company, preserving this neutral zone of extra leg room. How long will he stay? Will I feel comfortable asking him to leave if I want him to?
I catch myself worrying about my hair. What if it looks weird? How can I introduce myself to random strangers with weird hair on my head? How is it that it's taken me so long to consider this? Perhaps this can be turned to my advantage. I'll go to the bathroom to check my hair and check out the other passengers on my way. Surely someone will look just bored enough, hopeful enough.
The back few seats watch my entire approach. Perhaps wondering what effect my visit will have on their near environment. I reach both the bathroom and an important realization at the same time: I have no desire to give the impression that I am actually _using_ the bathroom. I push open the narrow swinging door. Leaving my lower body outside the tiny room, I lean in just enough to spy the roll of tissue paper and pull off a few squares. I don't see the mirror. I return to my seat with the tissue politely but necessarily to my nose. I make no eye contact.
Now I'm back in my seat. Sleepy woman beside me. The metronomic "tch" of snare drum leaks out from Skull-and-Crossbones' hood. Slightly intrusive. Familiar. Maybe I'll just put on my headphones and listen to some music.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Speaking of supper

A few days ago Jaime had one of those delightfully inspired culinary moments that, if we are prudent, we document so we can do it again. Unlike the wonderful veggie omelette I made a few months ago and can't recall AT ALL what I did. Which would be fine if my wife didn't flirtily request that I make it again every few weeks. It's one thing to invest a significant portion of your masculinity in domestic pursuits like cooking. But then to fail to perform to expectations once you've established them. GRUMBLE. Back to Jaime. And red pepper relish.
Having prepared a stir-fry of assorted veggies to mix in with the rice pasta she had cooked, Jaime whimsically decided to mix in the pictured red pepper relish, along with two kinds of cheese, torn up BBQ chicken, and some salt and pepper.

Fantastic! Sweet in a 'sweet and sour' sort of way, the difference between the relish flavour and the dark, planty flavour of the broccoli was really interesting. The brave of palate may choose to follow suit sometime. We'll be doing it again.


And supper stretches to an hour plus...


Matthew fetches the mail and drops it tantalizingly in my lap. While I expect the usual solicitations from various service/utility providers, I am surprised to find that someone has mysteriously gifted me a subscription to MAKE magazine.
Mouth still mechanically dealing with chicken and mashed potatoes, all else is forgotten as I pull the mag out of the plastic wrap and inhale the smell of new.

LOOK! A sun-powered xylophone! And some guy who grows his art. And Do-it-yourself solar panels. Perhaps we won't be painting the house next summer...

Needless to say my meal is well beyond cool as I distractedly take the last few bites three articles later.


A seasonally warm thanks to my mystery benefactor!

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