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Ballet recital

Ballet recital

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Another hilarious ballet recital. They all had a great time and actually did some dancing, in between tugging on their clothes, picking their noses, playing with their faces, chewing on stuff, staring out the window and running to Mom & Dad for smooches.

Next session M is trying soccer, just for fun. She wonders if there are soccer recitals. We think not, and wonder if now is a good time to break the news that one typically dispenses with the tutu while playing soccer.

Death to spammers

Lately I’ve noticed a bunch of spam has come in with delete-receipt requests attached. Since most people’s email programs auto-process such requests, it’s an efficient and invisible way of marking live addresses for further spamming and/or sale. Sneaky!

An old friend’s “death by spoon” concept could be applied to spammers with great public support, I think.

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White white dead stick white wet cold dead stick white


Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m trying to do the 26 Things list for March (a sort of photographic scavenger hunt), and wow, it’s hard to take interesting photos right now that aren’t all white snow and dead sticks.

I think I’d be doing better with a less perky list. It’s oddly upbeat this time.

2 down, 24 to go…

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Geotagged photosharing on Flickr

Flickr geotagged map screenshotThis is a really cool bit of technology.

Flickr recently added — or perhaps it’s always been there and I haven’t noticed — the ability to geotag photos. Being Flickr, they’re friendy and non-jargony about it. When you’re looking at one of your own photos, “place this photo on a map” appears on the right, along with the camera type and the date the picture was taken and all the other metadata. Click it, then up pops a map and you drag a little thumbnail of your photo to the right spot. That’s all.

Once you’ve mapped your photo, “place this photo on a map” becomes “taken in Toronto, Ontario (map)”. Click the link, and you can see all your geotagged photos on the map(1).

But that’s not the cool bit.

Looking at that same map, you can choose to see everyone’s(2) geotagged photos from that area. Click my screenshot at the top of this post for a (nonfunctional, since it’s just a screenshot) example. It provides a whole new approach and an element of serendipity to exploring an area via images (from a passive perspective), somewhat like the [murmur] project does via cellphone messages. More interesting, however, is that it adds the ability to collaboratively — even with total strangers(3) — visualize and document an area (from a more active perspective).

Very interesting possibilities there.

(1) The one thing that seems to be missing is the ability to correct or delete geotags. I hope that’s in the works.

(2) There are other options, such as viewing based on date or group filters, which are pretty neat too. The group filter would enable this to be used for things like class projects or other deliberate collaborative efforts.

(3) You can see whose photos you’re looking at, of course, and can click through to the rest of the author’s photostream… which brings us back to issues of identity and privacy. You can edit the privacy settings to control who can view a photo’s location on the same page that you use to decide who can see the photo itself. So, good: you can set a photo to be viewable by all, but its location might only be viewable by friends and family.

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Yesterday I bought myself this book, which is 400 pages of doodly goodness:

Doodles!The concept is that there’s a little something on each page and an idea (“draw the people stuck at the bottom of this pit”) to get you started. Brilliant! My sister bought this and its companion volume, Scribbles, for M for Christmas and I’ve been totally coveting it ever since. My Visa points gave me a Chapters gift card, so I indulged. It’s by the guy who authored the toddler classic Everyone Poops, so how can you lose?

It’s in my office now at work, for use during meetings and conference calls. I listen about ten times better and participate much more effectively when my eyes and hands are busy, I’ve found. I can’t just sit there. Using conference calls to embroider quilt squares for my niece’s baby quilt made me realize that. Lately I’ve been using ordinary scrap paper and flipchart markers in meetings, and my little scribbles — they do actually reflect the meeting content, although they’re not proper graphic recording (I can’t draw for shit) — have several times been taken away from me at the end of the meeting to serve as notes of a sort.

I have such an insanely tolerant workplace.

Still, I should probably save the “bottom of the pit” doodle for a special occasion, or maybe year-end.



Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Finally a day with suitable snowman snow!

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I am large, I contain multitudes

(Update: Ivor Tossell responded to my rather ill-mannered rant with a very gracious note, thus disproving the hypothesis that the Internet exists solely so we can all call each other asshats, and adding strength to the hypothesis that at this point Google runs the world. The conversation will continue.)

This article in the Globe: Who do you want to be? irritates me, not least because the author (Ivor Tossell) seems spectacularly shallow-thinking and whiny for a technology writer.

One of the Internet’s basic weaknesses is that there’s no central way of keeping track of who you are.

Well, no. That’s a strength, if it’s anything. It means I control my own information, which is enormously important. Would we really want to put the locus of identity control elsewhere? Who would you trust in that central role — the machines?

But what if you actually want to identify yourself as the same person from one website to the next? Then you’re in trouble, because none of these websites talks to one another. For instance, there’s no easy way of seeing the Wikipedia entries made by a person who uploaded a given YouTube video, or vice versa.

If that bugs you, buy a domain and fill it with RSS feeds from all your various online exploits, or use Pipes to work out a clever mashup, or pull a Steve Mann and record your whole life, or deploy any number of other solutions — and refer to that whenever you post something somewhere. As a technical problem under one’s individual control, it’s not hard.

…every time you sign up for a new website, you’re not just creating an account, you’re starting a new identity.

This is the crux of the problem, I think.

You are not creating a new identity in such cases, you are merely expressing facets of your identity. We express certain facets of ourselves at work, other facets at home, and yet others when we’re down the pub — this isn’t considered a problem, but merely normal compartmentalization and appropriate socialization. That distinction should not vanish, and should not be turned into a problem, simply because the venues in which the behaviour is taking place move online.

That kind of thinking also seems to presume that everyone’s online just for fun. What about those of us who work online AND play online? Would conflating the personal and professional facets of my life accomplish anything, other than boring my friends and irritating my clients? No. The compartmentalization serves a purpose — it helps my clients get at my work and my friends get at my not-work, thus keeping the signal-to-noise ratio high and keeping everyone happy.

Do you really want to push all your online actions into one box where your boss, your mom, and your dog can have at it?

I thought not.

A soup for winter

This is a soup similar to one I had once in a teashop in Wales, or possibly Ireland — my sister may remember. It was a cold day in February (well, not Canadian cold, but zero-ish). I was starving for no particularly good reason and half-frozen so I gave the soup a try even though I don’t have much time for parsnips, and it was excellent. It seemed like a good soup for a blizzardy evening like tonight.

Parsnip/Apple/Sage Soup

Takes about 40 minutes start to finish, what with all the stock-defrosting and peeling

4 c chicken or vegetable stock
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped finely (i.e., chuck them through the food processor, if you have one)
3 smallish apples, peeled, cored and chopped finely. (Maybe use only 2 if you really dislike sweetness)
about 2 tsp powdered sage
about 2/3 c grated sharp white Cheddar
about 1/3 c milk or (preferably) cream, if you have it

Bring the stock to a boil. Add parsnips and sage and cook for a few minutes until the parsnips are soft. Add the apples and cook for a few more minutes. When everything is soft, turn off the heat and puree (an immersion blender is just the thing). Add the cheese and stir until it’s melted and mixed in. Add the milk or cream. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. I might put a little more grated cheese on top as a garnish, if I had any, or a little swirl of cream. Serves 4.


It’s Freedom to Marry week in the US, so I offer the following conversation:

M: I’m going to marry Daddy when I grow up!
Me: You can’t, honey. Daddy’s already married.
M: Oh. I’ll marry you, then, mama. Because girls can marry girls too.
Me. That’s right. You can’t marry me, though, ’cause I’m already married to Daddy, and anyway you can’t marry your family.
M: I forgot. I’ll marry Sam, then. Or Paige.
Me: Good idea.

White, like the snow in my brain

M: I have to wear my plain nightie to school today so the light can shine all the way through. Mr B said so.
D and I: Hunh?? (Mentally slow since it’s morning, but pretty sure Mr B is not some strange pedophile)
M: Because my nightie is all white and we’re all supposed to wear white. For the lights!
Me: Oh! (the mental light goes on) Is your dance party today? White does look neat under blacklights!

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Dogs and Fireworks

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m enjoying all the editorial comments on M’s art these days. Lots of labels and arrows and fanciness in this one, which is a picture of some dogs and some fireworks — “Is nos, is tos, is bac, is taul” (his nose, toes, back, tail) plus “firwrcse” (fireworks), “hip hip hra” and a skill-testing question “wich wun has wings?”

The big dog has gold fur and is wearing a pink sweater and silver pants, apparently. The fireworks are “because the big dog had lots of money and paid for fireworks for everyone.” There’s a tiny dog (the one with wings) behind the big one and the rear end of another small one in front. Mysterious!

“If you don’t shape up I’ll sell you to the Gypsies!”

babies fetch about $10,000 these days, apparently. Bulgarian ones, anyway.

It’s always so distressing when people live out stereotypes.

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Book #31 – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

By Mary Roach


Surgery practice.
The Body Farm.
Embalming practice.
Crash tests.

It’s not the most appetizing collection of eventual ends to which one’s body could be put, but then (as Roach points out) none of the alternatives are all that wonderful. This book deserves its good reviews — Roach is curious and funny but accurate and always respectful. And she footnotes, which I always enjoy, being geeky that way.

Still, probably not the best read if you’re easily grossed out.

(This seems like an appropriate book to end the whole book blogging month with, but hmm, the “Search Inside” on that one is a bit disconcerting…)

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I love dollar stores

Benign girl?

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

For only $1.49, you too can own a Benign Girl toy cellphone!*

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Book #30 – Another Wilderness: New Outdoor Writing by Women

By Susan Fox Rogers, ed.

Another Wilderness

Once, on a canoe trip that turned out to be more vigorous than some of the trippers were prepared for, when we finally got to the end of a long portage I was asked something along the lines of “how can anyone keep going like this?” And without thinking I said, you put one foot in front of the other, and then do it again. I’m sure the only reason I didn’t get punched is that nobody had the energy to take a good swing.

But that is what I do on nasty portages, the ones that get so bad you can’t sing, not even Stan Rogers songs: focus on one foot. Then the other. Then again. And again. I divide the task at hand into its smallest possible components — steps — and then focus 100% on each step. It helps to have a canoe on your shoulders so you can’t actually see anything other than the ground. Letting your mind wander to the pain in your left shoulder and is it worse than the sunburn on your thighs, and have you gone 1200m now or maybe 1300 which leaves 1500 no 1400, and how much exactly would you pay for a cold beer right this second, and is that another @#$%$ mosquito or just my ears buzzing? That way lies intense misery. (My way is intensely miserable too, but the misery comes in shorter moments and then you’re on to the next bit.)

This is the sort of collection that makes you want to go out and do something like that. Even if you have good clear memories of serious portage pain. It’s not all sweetness and glory in this book; a bunch of the accounts talk about struggles. A few deal with injury and death. For the most part, though, these writers excel at making whatever they’re doing sound actually do-able by normal people.

I’m a lazy tripper these days and am happy to lie about sunning myself on chunks of Canadian Shield after a whole two hours in the boat, but I read this stuff and it reminds that the hard stuff is great fun too, in its own way.

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Book #29 – Virtual Clearcut : Or, The Way Things Are in My Hometown

By Brian Fawcett

Virtual Clearcut

Brian Fawcett co-taught some required course or other that I took in grad school. There was a lot of reading — maybe two books a week — and also weekly writing assignments. Not big stuff, just reflections on various aspects of a particular topic, two or three pages long. I wrote a number of nice polite prettily-constructed essay pieces that must have been insanely boring to read. Then one week I was in a foul mood and had run out of time to do the weekly bit of writing, so in twenty minutes I dashed off a rant full of sarcasm and bile and generally mouthy personal opinion. When I got it back, there was a big “YES! MORE LIKE THIS!” scrawled across it. Very freeing.

Fawcett is just like that, I think. He likes both the rant and the intensely personal — I don’t think he has much time for the politely superficial — and he connects both to big-picture issues. In this book he’s ruminating about logging and the decline of Prince George. He likes people and places but he doesn’t flinch at the plain portrayal of truth and flaws. It can feel a little voyeuristic at times but leads to a more even balance of the good and bad, I think. He sees the complications.

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Winter garden

Winter garden

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Tarragon and “oregano” (it’s probably some sort of extra-pungent thyme, but we’ve always treated it as oregano) from my grandfather’s garden in the foreground. The spiky red-barked bit at left is a dogwood originally purchased by P’s dad.

A slightly melancholy scene…

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Book #28: Mirror Mirror

By Gregory Maguire

Mirror Mirror

After some reflection, I’m not sold on Maguire’s stuff (Wicked is his biggest success). I don’t mind some darkness in my fairy tales, but do they have to be corrupt and sordid as well? The concept is great — turning fairy tales inside out — but Maguire excels at repellent characters and takes any sense of fun out of the stories. They’re leaden and rather creepy, although well told.

Quite possibly I’m missing something, but they don’t do much for me.

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D and M working on the bathroom

We told M she could colour the plywood right before the wainscotting went in, so here she is taking us up on that. With both hands!

In the background, D is installing wainscotting. Also note the lovely new window trim. Looks kinda like a real bathroom! (Well, if you ignore the lack of toilet… it did go back in, later the same day. And M’s head obscures the view of the not-yet-deployed sink plumbing.)

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Book #27: Biscuit Finds a Friend

By Alyssa Satin Capucilli (Author), Pat Schories (Illustrator)

Biscut Finds a Friend

D fell asleep on the couch this afternoon. M wanted to make everything all perfect for him, so she went down and very sweetly covered him up with her special quilt, put some books next to him for when he woke up, turned off the light, closed the door, then came upstairs and shushed me (loudly). When D woke up a bit later and came upstairs to continue his snooze, he was also treated to a teddy bear and this bedtime story — Biscuit Finds a Friend.

A stirring tale of interspecies friendship it is, too; unrealistic in that particular kids’ book way. Spoiler: Biscuit and a small duckling become friends. In reality the story would have been something like Biscuit Enjoys Ducklings for Lunch (“Woof! Woof! said Biscuit through a mouthful of feathers”) — much like Curious George and the Bunny, which is in our house often called Curious George the Opportunistic Carnivore.

I suppose we should quit that sort of nonsense soon.

You can definitely tell it’s not wartime in the kids’ books. In the forties, Biscuit would’ve neatly dispatched the duck and turned it over to the resourceful children to cook in for lunch using some clever mess-kit contraption made of tin cans and string after they started a small neat fire with a tinderbox or somesuch. “Good dog!” the children would have said, “Now we have feathers for the quilt and soup bones for Mother!”

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