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Is it just me?

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that if you put a hat on this guy:

he would look quite a bit like this:

???

Read Me!

Throughout last year and the early part of this year I was regularly taking part in a writing challenge called Friday Flash (and, after a long hiatus, will probably be returning to it in the new year).  JM Strother, a writer who's been spearheading the challenge since it started appearing on twitter (under the #fridayflash hashtag) has put together a collection called "The Best of Friday Flash volume 1" and my story "The Family Stew" is in it!

The Best of Friday Flash vol. 1 is available in both print and digital editions - or visit here to see my story when it was originally published.


Fan Expo!

Fan Expo was last weekend in Toronto. I originally hadn't been planning on attending any cons this year (due to child-related budgetary limitations), but due to some early birthday-present receiving I ended up going for the entire weekend!

It was a busy weekend:

 Friday started out with standing in line for tickets - luckily for me, I ran into an old friends while walking

to the back of the line and managed to skip half of it.  Total wait time was around 90 minutes: long, but I’ve waited in lines longer than that trying to get into other shows and etc before.  Had a quick look at the dealer hall, and then went downstairs to check out my first panel, “The Evolution of the Vampire”.

It was an interesting panel, eventually.  It started out with a lot of “Well, my vampires are awesome because...”, but once the authors got that out of their system, it got interesting, especially when realizing how much vehemence some people still have over Twilight.  I think if you’re a fan of vampire fiction, there’s been enough excellent stuff coming out over the past decade that you would just skip the Meyer stuff entirely and focus on the good stuff.  One bit that gave me some food for thought was when one of the authors, a gentleman named Max Turner, cited Darth Vader as his favourite vampire and used King’s “On Writing” to justify his choice. Personally I've always thought a great vampire story should be equal parts terror and tragedy, so he sort of fits in that regard.

Friday’s other highlight was getting to meet Greg Taylor and Andrea Lyons from Decoder Ring Theatre - they was there promoting the show and selling Red Panda novels. I got all three, and geeked out enough to get a little self-conscious when talking to them, until Greg mentioned how excited he was over getting a Darwyn Cooke autograph that same night :o)

 

Saturday started with some more time in the dealer's room picking up some swag – DC was giviing out promo Lantern rings, buttons, and around 20 different comics, which was pretty cool. I'd gone to the show wanting to get some Flash stuff – my new running hobby has given me a new appreciation of the character, and the swag table had Flash buttons (hello new race power totem!) and a couple of Flash comics, but they've got smelly old Barry Allen in them so I dove into a couple of quarter bins to get some old Wally Flash books as well.

 

Saturday afternoon featured a screening of Suck, a vampire movie I'd heard about when it premiered at TIFF last summer. It was a fun, campy story – not in the same ballpark as something like Evil Dead, necessarily, but definitely playing the same sport. The plot revolved around a hard on their luck indie rock band who start to become popular after one of their members gets turned into a vampire. One of the things that I found really interesting about it, though, was the use of the musical scenes throughout – the director switched to a music video style of editing and shooting for the music, and then back to a more regular film-style once the songs were over. It was a nice touch. The film was shot in Toronto, so it was fun seeing clubs like the Bovine Sex Club and the Reverb being used in the filming, and there were lots of roles filled by rock stars playing against their public personas – Alex Lifeson from Rush was a customs agent, for example, and Henry Rollins was a loudmouth corny morning DJ. I would definitely recommend it for people with intersecting interests in vampires and rock music.

 

Saturday afternoon the convention centre was PACKED, so after the movie ended we headed to the board gaming room, run by TABS. It was a welcome change from the rest of the con – quiet and relaxed, and the TABS people seemed to be the only people in the entire convention centre who thought that people might need access to fresh drinking water (ETA: LJ user thebitterguy informs me that the show provided the water.  Sorry about the misinformation). We had planned to just play a single game and relax a bit, but got invited to play an interesting little dice and resource management game called Roll Through The Ages (kind of a cross between Yahtzee and Age of Empires), and played a couple of games of that followed by a round of Power Grid. It was my first time playing Power Grid with the max number of players, and I found it really changed the feel of the game – made it a lot more hectic.

 

Saturday ended with a performance by nerd rock group Kirby Krackle – lots of songs about comic books and Mario Kart here. A lot of nerd music ends up as either 8-bit electronic stuff, nerdocre rap, or soft acoustipop stuff, but these guys put a lot of rock and a bit of funk into their music, which is what I really like about them. Ironically, then, the performance was an acoustic one, but they talked a lot about the origins of the songs so it was pretty interesting.

 

Sunday I was joined by my family/partners in crime, and we saw the rest of the dealer's room (I'd maybe only seen half of it, and a third of the artist's alley, on the previous days). We got some Godzilla and superhero-themed art for the baby's room, took a bunch of pictures (including one of a stormtrooper holding the little man, which is something I'd been really hoping to get!), and had random meetups with a bunch of different people we know, including some who'd never met the baby before. That was really nice.

 

Overall, it was a great weekend!

Meatless Mondays!

We've been taking part in Meatless Monday for the past few months (I can't remember if I mentioned that here previously).  One of the interesting side-effects of it is that we often end up eating better on Mondays than on any other day of the week, because I have to actually plan ahead for what we're going to eat rather than just pulling something out of the freezer and putting it in the oven.

One of my new favourite easy-to-make meatless recipes is sweet potato bake:

ingredients:

1 lb sweet potato

1 can of lentils

1 can diced tomato

½ onion (diced)

1 tsp rosemary

2 tsp parsley

1/3 cup frozen peas

1 cup grated cheese

 

  1. Peel and slice sweet potato; steam until soft enough to be pierced with a fork.

  2. In a separate pot, combine tomato, onion, and herbs. Bring to a boil.

  3. Allow tomato/onion mix to simmer 5 minutes, then add lentils and peas. Cook for 2 minutes.

  4. In a casserole dish, layer tomato mix, sweet potato, and cheese (2 layers of each).

  5. Bake for 35 minutes at 350F.

 

I've also become really interested in trying to make ratatouille, because we watched the Pixar movie of the same name for the first time this week and I loved it, and became intrigued by the food:

Ratatouille

 

1 onion

1 green pepper

1 eggplant

2 zucchini

3 tomatoes

¼ cup olive oil

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp basil

½ tsp oregano

½ clove garlic

 

  1. Dice eggplant into 1 inch cubes and slice zucchini into ½ inch rounds. Chop onion coarsely and cut green pepper into squares.

  2. Saute onion, garlic, and green pepper until soft.

  3. Stir in eggplant and zucchini and saute a few minutes more.

  4. Add tomato and seasonings.

  5. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes or until all vegetables are well-cooked.

  6. Uncover and turn up the heat to evaporate some of the liquid.

(Julia Child's version of this recipe recommended cooking the eggplant and zucchini prior to adding them to the other veggies, but I don't know how necessary of a step that is)


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On the Education of Children

A man came by the house yesterday.  He was an interesting fellow - bit of an older man, bald, in a wheelchair, and possessed with an unshakable sort of vitality.  You could tell, just by looking in this gentleman's eyes, that he had done a lot of living throughout his years, and that he's seen things most people would never see.

He said he came to tell me that my child was special (as if there was ever a parent that needed to be told that, and didn't just know it in their heart).  He meant a different kind of "special", though, although he wouldn't really specify what he meant by that.  Only that it was a different kind of special, and that he had a school in New York state that he runs for special kids.  He wanted to stress to me that it's never too early to start thinking about how to have your child reach their maximum potential.

It's a difficult decision.  I mean, New York's not far, but it is, at the same time, and it's a private school, and I've always been a big supporter of the public education system on an ideological level.  But I did take his literature, and thanked him for coming all the way to talk to us.  Although now that I think about it, I'm not quite sure exactly how he found us?

He was also nice enough to give us a school shirt!



I wonder what the school's mascot is?

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Couch to 5K

Long-time readers may recall that last summer I tried couch to 5k, and fizzled out at around week four, due to a variety of reasons.  I'm giving it another try this year (because the reasons I wanted to do it last year are still valid), and I think conditions might be a little more prime - if I can't do it this year, I have no one to blame but myself.

I'm keeping track of my progress on daily mile - feel free to cheer me on if you're so inclined :o)

Ten Predictions for the Lost Finale

Ten Lost Predictions

So, my main theory for the last season of Lost was rather spectacularly disproven a couple of weeks ago with the episode Across the Sea. I haven't tried to formulate a new grand theory, but did want to make a few predictions for the final episode which airs tonight. We'll see how many of these happen.

1.The opening scene features a closeup of someone's eye. This one's a bit of a gimme – the opening eye closeup has become a signature part of Lost's visual style, so I can't see them leaving it out of the finale.

2.Jack dies at the end. At the start of the finale, Jack stands to be the replacement for Jacob. I still think he's going to die, though, opening the protector spot up, because a) they revealed it too quick and too early for there not to be a twist, and b) you don't choose the island, the island chooses you.

3.Ben betrays the man in black. Last time on Lost, Ben got to kill Charles Widmore and the man in black told him that he needed him to kill some other people as well. What we've seen of Ben, though, is that since he was 11 he's been a master strategist. He's not just going to turn over and be someone else's lapdog.

4.We never learn the man in black's name. One of the biggest mysteries to come out of last season's finale was “Who is the man in black?”, which we've since learned is tied to the larger question of “What is the cloud of black smoke?” We've gotten most of that explanation, but one thing they've dodged around is giving him a name. Fans have supplied a laundry list of names for him (Adam, Esau, unLocke, fLocke, Smokey, Black Efron), and I've heard a lot of people being really interesting in getting his actual name. I don't think we're going to get it, though, because ultimately the man's name isn't important, and if they meant to reveal it they would have done so in Across the Sea.

5.Richard joins Isablla. Richard acted as Jacob's loyal servant for over a century, working on his behalf both on the island and off to advance Jacob's plan. He deserves a rest, now. He deserves to die, and to join his wife's spirit.

6.The man in black doesn't get off the island. Normally “the good guys win” wouldn't be that controversialof a statement to make, but Lost has been great at misdirection and surprises, sometimes to the expense of good storytelling (the deaths of people like Illyana and Ana Lucia, for example). But I've still got a gut feeling that he's not going to make it – his plan to use Desmond to get off the island will backfire, trapping him on the island long enough for a new protector to take charge after Jack's death.

7.Vincent returns. We haven't seen Walt and Michael's dog in a couple of seasons, I don't think, but they've been bringing back a lot of old characters this season and he's one of the few we haven't seen.

8.Hurley dies. It pains me to type that. I love Hurley; nearly everyone who watches the show does. They went so far as to title an episode “Everybody Loves Hugo”. But, I know my Lost, and I think they're going to want to start off with a shocking, Arzt-style death, and I think Hurley is the guy for the job.

9.Sawyer becomes the new island protector. Astute readers may notice this was part of my previous theory, and I hold by it. Last season's 1970s storyline did a great job of rehabilitating the character, and of establishing that he's ultimately a protector. He's also the one person who has no-one in his life, in either timeline, and therefore has no one to go back to.

10.You will be disappointed. I'm trying to think of the last time there was a universally-liked final episode of a dramatic television program. Star Trek: The Next Generation, maybe? Buffy, X-Files, Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica – all had at the least very vocal minorities of fans who hated it, and who flocked to the internet to register their complaint. With Lost it will be no different, regardless of the guality of the finale itself.

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May. 4th, 2010



As long-term readers may already be aware, over the past several years I've become increasingly enamoured with Toronto indie rock band Metric.  I like their sound, I like their style, and their lead singer, Emily Haines, is an absolutely captivating frontwoman.  I know that rock and roll remains a really sexist place, and that female singers get needlessly objectified, and I generally try to not take part in that, but - well, as undignified as it might be, I downright *swoon* when it comes to her.
 
Metric's also one of the few local bands that I really like that I've never seen live, due partially to scheduling conflicts and partially to the fact that their shows tend to sell out REALLY fast.  Luckily for me, though, CBC recorded their last show in Toronto and put it online, so yay!   It's a *really* great sounding show, too - I'd recommend checking it out if you're either a fan of the band or are not familiar with them and would like a sampler.

Seriously, though, I can't look at a picture like this and not swoon:
Metric & Emily Haines

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Chess! (No, not the musical...)

When I was a kid, I learned to play chess from my paternal grandfather.  He was an excellent choice for teacher, he assured me, as he was the reigning North Irish Left-Handed Chess Champion - no small feat given that he had to overcome being right-handed to even play in the left-handed league. 

He gave me an appreciation for the game that I've had since then, although I fell out of the practice of actually playing chess by the time I finished high school.  I think that a lot of my ability to think rationally and logically come from the experience of learning chess - not that it's impossible to achieve those abilities without a knowledge of chess,  but I find the human mind learns best when you can trick it into thinking that it's not learning.

As part of now being a Father, I wanted to make sure I'd be able to teach my kid how to play chess - not that he has to become a regular, hard-core chess player, but enough that he would have the cognitive tools that chess encourages.  So I downloaded a chess app onto my Palm, and have been playing against the computer, as well as checking out some of the chess ebooks on www.chesszone.org.  I remember all the basic rules about piece movement and stuff like that, but beyond that I'm horrible!  I've completely lost my ability to analyze the board, and to think out a sequence of events that will stem from any given move that I make.  Which is kind of funny, in a way, because if you give me a Catan or Power Grid board, I can engage in that kind of thinking, but I've fallen sufficently out of practice with a chess board to do so there.

Even after a few days, though,  I'm starting to see some progress.  I used to lose to the computer in 10-15 moves; now it takes 20-25 :o)  If I can keep this pace up I'll be a Master by the time I'm 80!

And now, lest this post be too serious, we will finish with a BBC special on Chess Boxing:

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOvZP5ylimo)

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