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Showing posts from July, 2017

What could go wrong? :)

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If I remember right, Chris Hadfield made the suggestion that, instead of envisioning success, we should all picture failure. Imagine the countless ways that things can go wrong. Engineers like Hadfield build bridges and launch rockets and keep the Talus balls from rolling into the North Saskatchewan River*, but what they're really acquainted with is collapse and the rest of the long, sad list of how things fade, snap, break, shatter, splinter, fragment, turn to ash, and, essentially, are torn asunder.

This is the honest way of making sure the centre holds for as long as the centre can hold.

Taken to its extreme, it means living life by remembering that I will die. Not that everyone will die, not we all must die, but, me, the tapper of these keystrokes, I will die. Morose? Maybe. Pessimistic? Perhaps. True? Yes. A flight plan for happiness if interpreted in a healthy way? I am beginning to believe so.

Yesterday I pedalled through the city and considered these things from my side o…

Renée

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If you happened to be driving west on Stony Plain Road between 170 St and 178 St this morning around 10:30am, and if you glanced over to the sidewalk on the south side of the road, you would have seen two people speaking. A gangly, helmeted man standing over his bicycle was talking to a stylish older woman wearing a floral print skirt, a pink turtleneck, teal-framed sunglasses, her head covered by a summer scarf from which grey pigtails poked out on either side. She moved with the help of a wheeled walker.

You wouldn't have been able to hear why, as they parted, the bicycle rider was laughing, but here is why.

"Tell your wife she has nothing to worry about with you talking to an older woman from Europe!" the woman said.

The laughing, goofy-looking guy was me. She told me her name was Renée. She was walking to McDonald's and was taking a detour from her route because the direct-line sidewalk was under construction. She wondered if she could cut across the box store p…

Tombstones of the days: July 22, 2017

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For a reason that I trust will reveal itself as time rolls along, and despite that article of faith proving how poor a researcher I am (I mean, when has data collection by itself magically suggested a theory, instead of the other way around?), I am almost nine months into a writing project that took an interesting turn yesterday.

Starting back on Halloween last year, I have witnessed in word and photograph the sights and thoughts that strike me every day I ride my bike. I am into my fourth booklet of souvenirs. I have been uncharacteristically disciplined about taking pics and reviewing video and pencilling my observations from the saddle. The entries are little tombstones of the days.

From 11.29: A joy of riding a bicycle in the city is actually touching the city as I ride. I reach out to touch the overhanging spruce boughs. I let them scrape my helmet hello. I like to run my gloved hand along the bridge railing, especially when there is a film of snow to wake up. I like to read the…

Of pennies and senses and palate revolts

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The penny dropped. I love that idiom. I am old enough to remember pennies. I was around when the government dropped the penny from circulation. I love short sentences. I love the stubbornness of solid idioms from analog times. What's better than that click sound I hear in my mind when someone voices the idiom? (The absolute best is when banker Dave Mowat employs it.) The penny dropped is the sound of realization, the testimony that insight, like starlight, takes time to arrive, and, when it does, it resonates. Just like a coin-in-slot machine come to life when the stuck penny drops.

Peas, too.

Shelagh was talking the other day about children and their young taste buds. I don't know how the subject came up. For the most part I stay in touch with the subject matter of current podcasts when Shelagh summarizes key points from the 100 or so she stays current with. So, maybe the observation about taste buds was from a pea podcast she had heard, I don't know.

The taste buds of yo…

Free speech and that naked dude at the Tour de France

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Bauke Mollema streaked to victory today in Tour de France stage 15 from Laissac-Severac l'Eglise to Le Puy-en-Velay. He made his move with about 30 km to go, after much of the field had cracked. He was only 100 m or so from the peak. Still, a group of pursuers were only a few hundred metres behind. "Mollema needs a buffer!" said the announcer. I tweeted my thanks immediately.


Both announcers, Matthew Keenan and Robby McEwen, liked the tweet. That was fun. I could have a drink or three with those guys, I think.

I have been told that the Greek word for clever, deinos, also connotes a sense of terrible. Perhaps that is why those who make puns are routinely greeted with the judgment "that was terrible!" To say that Mollema needed a buffer was accurate if, by it, the speaker simply meant a little extra time and distance from his chasers. But it's clever to choose the word buffer, which carries the extra meaning of being naked. It's doubly clever, even cheek…

Archeology

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As I stopped to take this pic this morning, the workers standing on the boulevard might have briefly wondered what I was doing. What did I see? What was I looking at?

I stopped because I was once seven years old. And because I was once young enough to play with all that heavy equipment.

Our house at 6704 in the northeast end had a sandbox between the side of the garage and the fence next to the Ramseys. In the sandbox, there was one rule: no throwing sand. And, basically, two scenes or games we'd re-enact again and again. The first was digging for treasure. We'd bury beer and Happy Pop tops in the sand and try to dig out as many as possible with one scoop of a plastic shovel. That got boring after three or four straight hours.

What we never tired of was doing construction work.

With our Tonka toy graders and front end loaders and dump trucks (David across the lane supplied a Johnny West tractor trailer unit we imagined always full of explosive TNT) we dug sand, rearranged it …

The humorous descent of Alexis Vuillermoz

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Alexis Vuillermoz is streaming down the side of the Col de la Biche this morning. He is at the head of the race. It is stage 9 of the Tour de France. His front wheel slips slightly in the rain on the road. He keeps his balance. Commentator Robbie McEwen explains the French rider's mountain bike resume has prepared him for the sliding and drifting that happen when courage mixes with a wet descent.

"It's a huge advantage for him," McEwen says.

"When you're used to things getting a little bit loose on you, and staying in control, because it's about staying calm, when it gets loose and you tense up or touch the brakes, that's when you go down. You gotta be able to flow [emphasis not added] with it."

The trickster Vuillermoz is riding a corridor of humor.

The term is from French painter and sculptor and chess player Marcel Duchamp.

"While Dada was a movement of negation and, by the very fact of its negation, turned itself into an appendage of t…

Early morning thoughts while pictures beam in from France

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This morning I am in a happy place. It is an intersection. A listening post.

The Tour de France is on TV, and that is a thrill itself. Getting up early on a long weekend Monday to watch the colours of the peloton's men and machines stream and curve through the countryside is time in front of the monitor well spent. I enjoy parades, and bicycles, and TV in the sun.

With a mug of coffee, and a book and a sharpened pencil as the broadcast flows in.


This morning, the book is Trickster Makes The World by Lewis Hyde. The open pages resemble a gravesite I saw embedded into the earth at the Hillcrest cemetery. The shaft of sunlight stares across the printed words. They are worth standing in front of and staring at.
Structures always arise from exclusion. Think, for example, of how one might go about designing a flag. This world has endless color; the palette of greens in field and forest is boundless, as is that of water under changing skies. To make a flag, we select only two or three o…