Our Lunch with Wanda

Since it was Sat­ur­day and the sun was out (a rare com­bi­na­tion if there ever was on in Van­cou­ver in Win­ter), we took a walk, and end­ed up on Granville Street, up near Mein­hardt’s. We had met with some­one ear­li­er and did­n’t have lunch, so we were a lit­tle hun­gry. We stopped and went into the nar­row lit­tle restau­rant that is run by Mein­hardts called ‘Pic­nic’, which offers some of their sal­ads, sand­wich­es and quich­es from a glass case at the front, and has seat­ing in the form of 3 or 4 tables for two and a large, mar­ble-topped pic­nic-style table that runs rough­ly half the length of the room. We took our seats, the two of us next to each oth­er on the bench, and were just about to dig into a lunch of Endive Sal­ad, Chick­en Sausage roll (in my case) and Yam sal­ad, when Pam’s eyes go wide and her jaw drops. Across from us, about to sit down right in front of Pam, is Nan­cy Robert­son, who is the woman who plays “Wan­da” in the Cana­di­an TV sit­com “Cor­ner Gas”. I knew that Ms. Robert­son and her hus­band (and cre­ator of the show), Brent Butt, were both Van­cou­ver res­i­dents and lived near­by, but this was the first time we’d ever run into any of the cast. 

It’s impor­tant to note that Pam is a Cor­ner Gas Fan. Actu­al­ly, she’s more than a fan. She’s a big fan. As in not ever miss­ing an episode (and thank good­ness for the TiVo, we don’t have to rush home to catch it when it’s on).

After let­ting Nan­cy eat her lunch and read her Geor­gia Straight, Pam could­n’t hold back any longer and said what an hon­our it was to meet her. We chat­ted for a lit­tle while, and Nan­cy was very gra­cious, and hope­ful­ly not too put upon. We not­ed that it was a nice thing for her to be able to get a vaca­tion, and she relat­ed the shoot­ing sched­ule (4 1/2 months) in Saskatchewan, where the series takes place. She told us that the series was being released in the US this com­ing Sep­tem­ber, and Aus­tralia as well. I’m hop­ing it’s a hit in the US, part­ly because it will be nice to see Cana­di­an char­ac­ters on Amer­i­can TV who are not Moun­ties or the McKen­zie Broth­ers .

After we said good­bye and head­ed out for oth­er errands, I asked Pam if this made her day or per­haps her week? She just grinned from ear to ear.

Trips, Gadgets and Upgrades

Come to think of it, I’ll tack­le these three items in the title in reverse order:

The rea­son that it has been so long since I’ve post­ed any­thing to this blog was because of the new-and-improved release of Word­Press, ver­sion 2.1 (referred to as Ella, as in Fitzger­ald), which is the soft­ware that I use to pub­lish this blog. I need­ed a block of time of about 3 hours, I thought. The first step to doing the upgrade was to down­load both a back­up of the data­base that Word­Press uses (SQL), as well as all of the files that made up the ini­tial blog, tak­ing care to insure that if any­thing went wrong, I could par­tial­ly or even com­plete­ly recon­sti­tute the rough­ly 200 post­ings from just the text. I did this once, but then saw some com­ments. So I put off the upgrade, and there­fore, put off any new posts. Final­ly, yes­ter­day evening I had enough time to very care­ful­ly back every­thing up, delete all of the old blog files (except for the con­tent), and then upload the new ver­sion and run the upgrade script. To my sur­prise, every­thing worked per­fect­ly. Either I’m bet­ter at this than I thought, or the many peo­ple who have report­ed going through an ordeal mov­ing to the new ver­sion had more com­plex sites than I did; I real­ly can’t say.

At any rate, the blog is back, upgrad­ed and improved, and despite delet­ing and upload­ing all of those files and per­form­ing a few oth­er tasks extreme­ly slow­ly and care­ful­ly, it did­n’t take 3 hours; More like 90 min­utes. The changes to Loud Mur­murs are invis­i­ble to you, dear read­er. It does serve the pages far faster, and the edi­tor for doing posts has been dra­mat­i­cal­ly improved. There are a few oth­er admin­is­tra­tive screens and secu­ri­ty rewrites, etc., but again, it’s all behind the scenes. Take it from me, on the oth­er side of the site, we’ve all got new fur­ni­ture. So wel­come to Loud Mur­murs 2.1. Long time, no see.

One rea­son (among many) that I was­n’t able to find time for the upgrade (or post­ing) was a new gad­get. Our newest piece of tech­nol­o­gy is a gift from my broth­er and his fam­i­ly, a TiVo. After a long wait, we’ve final­ly got­ten it set up and record­ing away. It was no small task, because get­ting Cana­di­an list­ings require a net­work con­nec­tion if you don’t want the box mak­ing week­ly long-dis­tance phone calls to the states, because the set­ting for retriev­ing Cana­di­an list­ings is — and I swear I’m not mak­ing this up — Leo, Wyoming. So, after get­ting a wire­less adapter so that we can use the TiVo with our home net­work, and after a few oth­er elec­tron­ic, hard­ware and soft­ware hoops, I’m pleased that I no longer have to choose between catch­ing an episode of Heroes or writ­ing an entry here. Let’s hear it for time-shift­ing! I should men­tion that the oth­er advan­tage to hav­ing this PVR (Per­son­al Video Recorder) on the home net­work is that I can copy any record­ed show from the TiVo to my com­put­er, and after some com­pres­sion and con­ver­sion, to my iPod. Too cool.

After my trips to Buf­fa­lo and San Fran­cis­co, our lit­tle dri­ve down to Seat­tle felt quite short. We vis­it­ed for a brunch and after­noon with my broth­er and his fam­i­ly. We had a ter­rif­ic meal at Mon­soon, an upscale Viet­namese restau­rant where you can not only get that won­der­ful clas­sic, Banh Xeo (pro­nounced Bann-show, it’s a sort of crepe/omelette that actu­al­ly con­tains no eggs; the ‘crepe bat­ter’ is a mix­ture of water, coconut milk and rice flour with a trace of tumer­ic and fold­ed around hand­fuls of beansprouts, shrimp and lean pork), but also a ter­rif­ic Vanil­la French Toast made with brioche (which my niece ordered and many of us tast­ed). We only vis­it­ed for a short time, but man­aged to fit in a chilly walk on Seat­tle’s new Olympic Sculp­ture Park. We also picked up that affor­men­tioned wire­less adap­tor for the TiVo, and were back in Van­cou­ver before mid­night (but not that much before, due to a stop in Belling­ham to do some minor shop­ping at Target).

There’s lots more to add; when you don’t take note of things right away they pile up. I’ll try and catch up in future posts.

My Office’s Starring Role

Kylexy-1Some months ago we all had a day off from work because a tele­vi­sion crew was using our offices to shoot a mini-series for ABC called “Kyle XY” . A cou­ple of weeks ago, that episode aired on the ABC Fam­i­ly Chan­nel, and a dig­i­tized ver­sion showed up on the Inter­net. With­out too much trou­ble, I was able to get a DivX ver­sion that I can eas­i­ly play (and even grab the odd screen from). What is par­tic­u­lar­ly humor­ous to me now, is that it seems ludi­crous to have the office (in the show) with all of those exposed beams and wood ceil­ing on the fifth floor of a six sto­ry build­ing (We’re on the 3rd floor, but the rick­ety ele­va­tor just did­n’t suit, so they used a stock shot). Nev­er­the­less, the show is mild­ly divert­ing. (The plot in a nut­shell: A foundling teenag­er with no mem­o­ry, no bel­ly but­ton, and extra­or­di­nary tal­ents for math­e­mat­ics and com­put­er hardware/software is either an alien or escaped lab exper­i­ment. He teach­es his adop­tive fam­i­ly of 2 par­ents and 2 teens valu­able lessons in togeth­er­ness, hon­esty, tol­er­ance, etc.) Oh, and the lead, Matt Dal­las, who plays Kyle, man­ages to be both a hunk, and dewy at the same time.

Happy Canada Day!

David Blends in on Canada DayI think that a nation­al hol­i­day is a good enough excuse for me to get back into the blog­ging habit.

We had a great hol­i­day today, even if we did start a lit­tle late (got up a lit­tle after 9AM after play­ing the board game ‘Tick­et to Ride’ with Matt, Oana, and their friend Ryan last night until very late). We did a lit­tle tidy­ing up of the back patio and moved a few small blocks of con­crete that had been sit­ting there for a year, and then we went out to Stan­ley Park. At the Boat House, we caught the free shut­tle, which just start­ed up a cou­ple of days ago. It took us all around the perime­ter of the park (this takes about 30 min­utes or so). It real­ly gives you an idea of how huge Stan­ley Park is. After­ward, we walked over to a park bench by the edge of the Lost Lagoon, and caught a few rays of after­noon sun­shine while watch­ing the sun-dap­pled water, the ducks, and the foun­tain, while lis­ten­ing to our iPods and gen­er­al­ly just relaxing.

On the way home on the bus, we heard the best ‘Over­heard in Van­cou­ver’ ‑style exchange:

He: So have you heard of this Can­abis Day Celebration?

She: What are you talk­ing about? I’ve nev­er heard of it.

He: Just anoth­er chance for them to smoke it, I guess.

While this sound­ed like sus­pi­cious­ly like a snarky mala­prop, sure enough, there indeed was a huge con­gre­ga­tion of teens and slight­ly old­er peo­ple all cel­e­brat­ing some kind of Cana — day by the Art Muse­um (the stan­dard place for all events that take place in the city), and this one did seem to involve smok­ing, although I must admit that I real­ly did­n’t smell any­thing, and that’s say­ing something.

Lat­er we came home, where Pam went down to Granville Island to pick up some fruit and veg­gies, and I went up the street to get some beer. We munched on piz­za and beer while watch­ing the Cor­ner Gas marathon on the Com­e­dy Channel.

Out­side we can hear the music from the park, and soon, the fire­works will start.

In just two weeks, we’ll have been liv­ing here exact­ly a year, and we feel more set­tled than ever. This three-day week­end hol­i­day has come at just the right time for us to sit back and enjoy our new home more than ever before. I’m start­ing for feel a lot more Cana­di­an these days. It’s not a bad feel­ing, eh?

Sick Days, Childhood TV and the New Apple Cube

On Thurs­day morn­ing I noticed that I had a sore throat. By noon, I was weak, a lit­tle nau­seous and sun­light was giv­ing me a headache. At that point, it was obvi­ous that I was run­ning a tem­per­a­ture, so I went home ear­ly and went to bed. By night­fall it had turned into a pret­ty bad fever and chills, along with the usu­al cold symp­toms. This morn­ing I was still a bit fever­ish, but a bit bet­ter, and tonight I feel 100% bet­ter. Hope­ful­ly this recov­ery will con­tin­ue and I’ll be back to work on Tuesday.

Tues­day? Yes, this week­end is a three day week­end that I would not be enjoy­ing if I was still liv­ing in Boston. It’s Vic­to­ria Day, the first Mon­day before May 25th, in hon­our of Queen Vic­to­ri­a’s Birth­day and the cur­rent reign­ing Cana­di­an Sov­er­eign, Queen Eliz­a­beth II. Cel­e­brat­ing a British hol­i­day is not all that new to me; I remem­ber cel­e­brat­ing Box­ing Day and Guy Fawkes Day (and isn’t it fun­ny that Guy Fawkes has made a come­back in V for Vendet­ta ? ) but it does feel a lit­tle odd, giv­en that we fled an ‘Impe­r­i­al Pres­i­den­cy’, to be cel­e­brat­ing the birth­days of British Mon­archs. Hey, it’s only a week before Memo­r­i­al Day back in the US, so at least it makes up for that.

The Future with Strings Attached
With a day at home, I spent some time on email and phone, com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the office, but I did have a lit­tle qui­et time to myself. I indulged my inner 5‑year old. I watched some videos that I have got­ten over the Inter­net of what was prob­a­bly the first tele­vi­sion show I was ever a fan of: Fire­ball XL5.

Fireballxl5 Takeoff SequenceFire­ball XL5, cre­at­ed by Ger­ry Ander­son and his wife Sylvia, was a new genre of sci­ence fic­tion and action tele­vi­sion that used mar­i­onettes on strings, bril­liant­ly exe­cut­ed mod­els, and clever cin­e­mat­ic tech­niques, along with an inno­v­a­tive use of an audio trig­ger­ing mech­a­nism attached to the jaws of each pup­pet’s face, so that the pup­pets auto­mat­i­cal­ly syn­chro­nized their speech move­ments to spo­ken dia­logue. The show’s ini­tial run was from 1962 to 1963, which means that by the time I saw it, the series was already over and in reruns. Nev­er­the­less, I adored it, par­tic­u­lar­ly the open­ing sequence (some frame grabs shown above) where the Fire­ball space­craft took off through the means of an accel­er­a­tion ‘sled’ on rails, gain­ing speed on it’s ver­ti­cal run until the track tipped up at the end like a ski-jump and as the the rock­et leapt sky­ward. As a kid, I missed all of the goofi­ness, ignored the obvi­ous strings and wires and black and white (the TV was black and white any­way), the fact that the voice of Pro­fes­sor “Matt” Mat­ic was obvi­ous­ly an imi­ta­tion of Wal­ter Bren­nan, and the accent that Venus (Colonel Steve Zodi­ac’s side­kick and ‘roman­tic inter­est’) had was clear­ly not French, or any oth­er lan­guage, for that mat­ter. Com­man­der Zero and Lieu­tenant Nine­ty at Space City (Fire­ball XL5’s home base) were hys­ter­i­cal­ly wood­en (well, let’s not be so tough on them; they were pup­pets, after all). Robert the Robot, a trans­par­ent robot copi­lot, had a fas­ci­nat­ing com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed sound­ing voice that eeri­ly fore­shad­owed what syn­the­sized speech would sound like in the com­ing decades, albeit in that monot­o­ne that every­one assumed robots would speak. Still, it’s a won­der­ful and strange sen­sa­tion to relive some of my ear­li­est child­hood mem­o­ries of cin­e­mat­ic sto­ry­telling inside the Quick­time play­er win­dow. I put this up there along with get­ting an MP3 of the obscure col­lab­o­ra­tion between Dr. Seus and the Great Gilder­sleeve, Ger­ald McBo­ing­bo­ing, which I also loved as a child. (I’ve recent­ly learned that in ani­ma­tion his­to­ri­an Jer­ry Beck­’s 1994 poll of ani­ma­tors, film his­to­ri­ans and direc­tors, the car­toon made from this sto­ry was rat­ed the ninth great­est car­toon of all time, so maybe it isn’t entire­ly forgotten.)

Mean­while, in Manhattan
This week Apple Com­put­er opened a new store on Fifth Avenue, between 58th and 59th Street in New York City. Besides the fact that it’s one of the most exclu­sive address­es in the world, and the fact that it will be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the entrance to this sub­ter­ranean retail estab­lish­ment beneath 5th Avenue is a stun­ning 5‑story glass cube, which was appar­ent­ly designed by Steve Jobs him­self. Here’s a pho­to from a cou­ple of days ago:
Newapplestore2006I’m bett­ting that Steve Jobs nev­er saw the film ‘Thir13en Ghosts’, in which Arthur Kriti­cos (played by Tony Shal­houb of TV Show Monk fame) and his fam­i­ly are ter­ror­ized by an intri­cate mech­a­nized glass house (pow­ered by the ghosts trapped with­in it) that they are told they have inher­it­ed from their eccen­tric col­lec­tor Uncle, Cyrus Kriti­cos (played by F. Mur­ray Abraham).

Glass House 13 GhostsOK, it was more than just a cube, and much of the glass had extra­or­di­nary cal­lig­ra­phy writ­ten on it, and there were cogs and hinges and oth­er weird mech­a­nisms, but even if he had just seen one or two scenes from that movie, I’ll bet Steve J. might have been put off from hav­ing cus­tomers enter and decend from such a creation.