Archive for June, 2006

by Allister MacGillivray
(© Cabot Trail Music SOCAN)

Here is the tune as sung by Anne Murray.

WaterlineOut on the Mira one warm afternoon,
Old men go fishing with black line and spoon
And if they catch nothing they never complain,
I wish I was with them again.

FloatingAs boys in their boats call to girls on the shore,
Teasing the one that they really adore,
And into the evening the courting begins,
I wish I was with them again.

Marion Bridge SunriseCan you imagine a piece of the universe
more fit for princes and kings?
I'll give you ten of your cities
for Marion bridge and the pleasure it brings

Marion BridgeOut on the Mira on soft summer nights
Bonfires blaze to the children's delight
They dance round the flames singing songs with their friends;
I wish I was with them again.

Light in the MistAnd over the ashes the stories are told
Of witches and werewolves and Oak Island gold
The stars on the river they sparkle and spin;
I wish I was with them again.

Northeast from Victoria BridgeCan you imagine a piece of the universe
more fit for princes and kings?
I'll give you ten of your cities
for Marion bridge and the pleasure it brings

She's up early tooOut on the Mira the people are kind,
They'll treat you to home-brew and help you unwind.
And if you come broken they'll see that you mend
I wish I was with them again.

Pond and River MistAnd thus I conclude with a wish you go well,
Sweet be your dreams, may your happiness swell,
I'll leave you here, for my journey begins,
I'm going to be with them, going to be with them,
I'm going to be with them again.

Into the Misty Light


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At the end of the movie, the audience applauded.

This was on a Thursday, when there usually aren't too many people, but the theatre was over 3/4 full. I had to wait in line to get in.
I have a confession to make. My background in oceanography and meteorology has made me familiar with many of the arguments and much of the evidence regarding global climate change and global warming. Between 1991-1996, I worked with an oceanographer with an international reputation in global climate change, modelling feed-backs that could and may have turned off the thermohaline circulation in the ocean (the so-called global conveyor belt). My current research supervisor is also internationally recognised in climate change research. Throughout my career I have attended many presentations by good researchers on climate and climate change, and have tried to keep an objective viewpoint on this highly politicised issue.

What I'm trying to say is that I have learned enough to usually spot false claims and skewed data. In my considered opinion the new movie narrated and presented by Al Gore is on the whole honest, with carefully considered arguments. Admittedly he has an agenda to promote, but as alluded to in the title, it is based on evidence and not wishful thinking. And I have to admit that I learned a fair bit, mostly about all the evidence can effectively be put together into an incontrovertible argument for the logical and moral necessity for fighting climate change.

What impressed me most about the movie was the overall argument and the choice of facts that he presented. I have to admit that I attained a new perspective on data and conclusions that I had learned over the years. The presentation of this evidence is anything but dry, and he is able to relate it to his own life, and to ours. Gore is able to explain a number of fairly subtle physical mechanisms and their climate implications clearly and (basically) correctly. He also avoids trying to explain more subtle processes that wouldn't make sense to laymen. Gore obviously has and has had access to information and to world experts, and he has the ability to cut through technocratese to the main points and proof of a given argument.

Finally he shows how political will can and has made a difference in the world climate. For example, he discusses how CFC ban greatly reduced the ozone hole problem. He also shows how becoming green can be profitable, and how the United States can follow the rest of the world and even provide leadership in the global warming crisis. As an aside, did you know that China has cleaner automobile emission standards for its vehicles than either Canada or the U.S.?

This is one of the best documentaries I have seen, and one of the best scientific presentations of the accepted data and theories. It is interesting, exciting, compelling, and the clear way he presents the evidence without oversimplifying hits you over the head like a pile-driver. But throughout he maintains a compassionate and understanding rapport with the audience; he does not declaim and neither does he preach and browbeat.

Go see it. More important, get people who doubt or don't care to go see it. You will not be disappointed.

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I just received three packages from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca today. The strange thing is that I ordered the Canadian and the American books on the same day, and they arrived simultaneously (I guess it is still easy for books to cross the border). Among the loot were three books that I am trying not to drool over or on.

  1. Inside Job by Connie Willis: First, Connie Willis is one of my favourite authors, especially for such great work as The Doomsday Book (a Hugo and Nebula winner), Fire Watch (ditto and ditto), The Last of the Winnebagos (trio and trio?), Passages, and Lincoln's Dreams (a wonderful love story). In this short novella, she follows a pair trying to investigate and debunk some spiritualists. The reviews are great, and the story looks like a lot of fun.
  2. The Essential Ellison by Harlan Ellison: This man is one of the best short story writers in science fiction and fantasy in the late great twentieth century. He has won more major awards than I can count, has done amazing scripts for major TV series, and has screamed to high heaven when they don't get it right. He wrote "The City on the Edge of Forever", considered by many, including me, to be the best original Star Trek episode. He was a major contributor to the Babylon 5 series, one of the most innovative and best TV series in the history of science fiction. finally, he created and edited "Dangerous Visions", possibly the best collection of truly artistic science fiction in memory. Back to the book: this 1250 page tome includes much of his best work over the last 50 years, including his short fiction, essays, scripts, diatribes, and personal thoughts. One interesting aspect of Ellison is his social responsibility and his ability to hold his own against anyone in iambic pentameter, and this comes out very well in this book. I've only skimmed it, but I am really looking forward to re-reading
    • Life Hutch
    • I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (a lifetime favourite)
    • The Whimper of Whipped Dogs
    • The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World
    • Shattered Like a Glass Goblin
    • "Repent, Harlequin!", said the Ticktockman
    • A Boy and his Dog
    • The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge
    • The Deathbird
  3. Manna from Heaven by Roger Zelazny: Like Ellison, Zelazny is a great short story writer. Neil Gaiman considers him to be one of the major influences in his writing style. Unlike Ellison, he also likes to write the occasional novel, and he's almost as good at this. His most famous series of novels are the Amber books, which posit our world and an infinity of others as distant distorted reflections of the true existence in Amber. His writing is thoughtful, spare, with as much being implied as said. There is also a feeling of poetry and fantasy in all of his works. Some of his better short story collections include Four for Tomorrow, The Doors of His Face, The Lamps of His Mouth And Other Stories, Unicorn Variations, and The Last Defender of Camelot. A favourite novella is Damnation Alley (Hollywood made a really crappy movie based on this great work which addresses personal responsibility and integrity versus character). The collection Manna From Heaven includes 5 Amber short stories and 16 others, including 6 that have never been collected before. I'm looking forward to it and I will let you know.

More books to put into Librarything. 😦 😎

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Just some notes on my progress so far. Starting with a few numbers (I like math, so sue me), I have recorded 1508 books, of which 1319 are fiction, 1143 are science fiction, 698 are fantasy, and 56 are history. My best estimate is that I am half done, and the second half will be more work.

  1. Despite my infinite spare time, fooling around with Librarything has monopolised my other extracurricular activities (cycling, reading, taking pictures, sleeping).
  2. I'm almost finished with my SF&F. Using the rest of the members as (hopefully) a representative statistical universe for reading geeks, I have reached the following operating hypotheses:
    • I have a fair number of Science Fiction books. This is based on the fact that there is one other person in the group with more books tagged "science fiction". Given that about half my books were destroyed by another's neglect, it is possible that I have more science fiction books than most science fiction geeks.
    • Regarding fantasy books, I am more mediocre, being in tenth position.
  3. In my collection so far there are 72 books that no other member has. While not surprised in general, there were some books that I thought would have been more popular. Here are some of the more obvious examples.
    • Machiavelli's The Prince. No one wants to be a ruthless leader any more?
    • The Corvette Navy, by Lamb. In the 80's it was fairly popular in Canada.
    • My childhood collection of Lord of the Rings. I'm surprised that any version of these books is not represented on the site (whoops, I guess it is now).
    • Ann and Seamus by Kevin Major. Fairly popular and new in Newfoundland and the Maritime Provinces.
    • There were also a few science fiction novels that surprised me a little, but less so than the above.
  4. The routine of looking at all my old fictional friends makes me feel like Smaug checking out his hoard. While I have been filing I've also been putting aside old favourites for re-reading. I've kept the list to less than a hundred, I think.
  5. Some of my old friends are aging badly. I'll probably replace some of the best ones, but there are too many good books out there, and re-reading too much is a waste of lifespan.
  6. In many cases the book covers in Librarything don't match my older books, which is totally understandable. To compensate I have contributed more than 400 covers to the site.

Now to pick another subject to file. Let's see, fantasy and science fiction art books, Irish and Celtic folklore and art, history books, my problem solving books, general fiction, knots, …

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I was scanning through the images of some of my friends, and learned something apropos of many digital photographers. SteveFE took a photo of his daughter checking a picture, but according to the title she wasn't chimping.

Here is the photo, with a link back to the original image.

Eleanor checking something (but not chimping)

Chimping referes to digital photographers constantly checking their images as they take them. Associated behaviours include, and I quote,

  • when a photographer’s sounds and actions of reviewing frames on-scene appear similar to the actions of an excited monkey. (Oooh! Oooh! Aaah!)
  • when a photographer is completely absorbed in the act of admiring a photo or proudly showing it off to others
  • by experienced photographers to describe the actions of "wannabe" photographers
  • Having several digital photographers together will result in group chimping either during or after the event they are shooting. This is similar to actual chimpanzee grooming, which is a social activity.

I have to confess that I have succumbed to acting out the second item on occasion. I have also seen people doing this a lot, especially at primate gatherings such as weddings, baby showers, etc.

I expect to see social psychologists and social anthropologists exploring this behaviour with great enthusiasm,in the best tradition of Jane Goodall. Eventually I hope to take a few pictures of those studying the new sub-discipline of chimpingology. Then when I show these images to friends, I guess you could call that metachimping, or metapaparazzi, or even metaphotography.

I like Flickr.

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In the last week I have seen three movies in the theatre plus a movie on TV. One was the new X-men movie, and the others were movies related to religion in some way (Omen, The Da Vinci Code, and the Seventh Sign). Apologies are due to Robin.

When I was young, with more patience and generosity of spirit, I would try to find something good about each movie that I saw. This gave me an idea for doing a twist on standard movie reviews; just talk about those aspects I liked. With this technique you find out what I consider positive, and by my omssion you should be able to infer much of the rest. Finally, you may find out something about the reviewer. So let's try and see if this technique has value.

X-men: the last stand: Third in the X-men movies. Neither plot, script nor acting adversely affected the strong action scenes and special effects for same. Kelsey Grammer as a giant blue furry anthropoid with culture and savoir-faire was priceless. The absurdity and countless characters almost kept you from noticing how much time went by. A good rental for your local fraternity.

The Seventh Sign (1988): "The seals have been broken. The prophecies have begun. Now only one woman can halt the end of our world." This an apocalypse movie with the usual references to revelations, but it has stronger characterization than most of the Cecil B. deMille variants. The movie has good performances by three of the actors; Demi Moore, Michael Biehn of Terminator fame, and Jurgen Prochnow (the skipper in Das Boot). Moore had the strongest performance, Biehn's persona was unusually quiet and supportive, while Prochnow portrayed an amazing amount of compassion and wisdom. John Taylor, who played a mentally challenged murderer of his parents for religious reasons mainly out of Revelations, played a compelling and non-stereotypical role with great honesty and feeling. The story, especially the climax, are interesting and unusual. Worth a rental.

Omen: I remember watching the original movie on TV when I was young. I particularly remember the strong and moving performance by Gregory Peck. This remake follows the previous plot and script almost verbatim, and made me look back with fondness on the original. The nicest and most interesting part of this movie was the aesthetic of some of the images and of the scenery and architecture. Julia Stiles will grow to fill her role in a few years, while Liev Schreiber will always look up in awe at Gregory Peck. Renting the original 1968 release is highly recommended.

Da Vinci Code: (caveat: this is a more conventional review) Vicky Taylor-Hood has a good review of this crime movie/thriller. In addition, I think this was a uniquely understated performance for Tom Hanks. Jurgen Prochnow, who I usually enjoy, was weak in his admittedly small role in this movie. He usually does a better job in movies with a religious bent, such as the Seventh Sign above. I also felt that the movie had a strange lack of emotional intensity and conviction. This was partially due to some lackluster dialogue, where obvious things were said in an obvious way, and where strong emotional issues came off too much like a lecture. This subject matter demands strong feelings and deep conviction, whether you are religious or not; it addresses some of the most deeply felt and divisive beliefs in the history of Westerm Civilisation. There was a cool chase scene with a Smart Car, and Audrey Tautou should get a nod as best stunt driver of a vehicle under 750 kg. She drives backwards better than I drive forward! I agree with Vicky about the art and architecture, and I would have liked significantly more. Speaking of action, for the most part I found the book had more excitement and was more gripping. Possibly a good rental for those who liked the book.

Was positive reviewing with southpaw compliments worth the effort? Let me know.

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If MUN has to change its "brand", they should add to it rather than detract from it. Keep the acronym as MUN, but add Labrador to the name. Personally I'm happy with it is it is, but I wouldn't have a problem with being inclusive.

The other thing that bothers me is the whole brand marketing mindset. For universities in general, tradition and integrity in education are percieved as important. Also, I don't think most students are particularly interested in the logo when they are trying to decide about their school. For example, my initial decision was based on the following criteria.

First for me was opportunity .I'm not from a rich family and I paid my way through school with jobs and scholarships; MUN was inexpensive and I could live at home. I was fortunate that they had a very good undergraduate Physics Program and a good Math program, and some great Oceanographers to help with my Masters degree.

Second was the percieved quality of the department. Much of this is usually word of mouth advertising, and unrelated to formal marketing. Basically I talked to former students about the departments and some of the professors, and which courses and programs were good.

Third was the published information, and this related to requirements, who teaches what, what you need to go on to other programs, etc.

In none of this did the logo or the name factor into the equation when I was choosing it. It was MUN, which was a convenient tag. However, when I was there for a while and learned about the history and the great departments and work that was going on, I became proud to be a student there. I have studied at Dalhousie as well, and the physics program at MUN was much more challenging and interesting.

Many of the best universities use their traditions and symbols, and that is part of the draw. This is because they have developed a solid reputation by what they have accomplished. Personally the school colours of MUN weren't aesthetically appealing to me, but I grew to identify with them. A coat of arms is a good tradition and a fine logo for a university. MUN has been doing this well over the past few decades, and is in a good position to incorporate this reputation into their brand, if they insist on marketing MUN-cola.

I also agree with others about the banality of the logo. It almost looks like a bloody rag.

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