danlansdowne: (Purrrrrrr)
2013-04-06 12:15 am

Wow, now two months have been and gone

Still here, still out of work. Still doing interviews; I have one in Whitby next Friday and a phone interview Monday for temp work. Certainly a change from my last temp agency experiences way back when I started this thing; back then they phoned me and said "Go here." Still, better than EI.

My abdomen has been giving me grief lately. I had my operation in August, and ever since I've had pain just to the left of my navel. I've had two ultrasounds and they haven't found anything, so they figure it must be an intestinal thing. I'm hoping it's just leftover pain from the surgery and will go away in time. If it still hurts after the one-year mark I'll get a second opinion.

Probably the biggest surprise in my life lately has been the return of an old hobby of mine: the United Commonwealth Society. After years of low interest and schisms in the ranks, it's starting to grow in size again. There's a full board and we're about to get a new website to replace the sites that have flamed out/been taken from us before reaching out to grow membership and grow influence in the corridors of power. The biggest change: I'm now running the show. I ran virtually unopposed in the last elections; the only guy to run against me backed out and won Vice Chair. For once we might actually get something accomplished. Probably the only good thing to come out of me losing my job.

If anyone's been missing me, I'm slightly more active on Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is @djh85; Facebook you can message me if you don't know where to find me.
danlansdowne: (Train)
2012-12-08 05:26 pm

The king to resume its throne?

Rumours are rampant that Union Pacific will buy back one of its gigantic "Big Boy" steam engines and restore it to operation. If restored, the behemoth would be far and away the largest operable locomotive in existence--not to mention a sight to see for any train fan in the world.
danlansdowne: (Flag)
2012-11-20 12:30 am

Lest we forget

This afternoon I went for what I thought would be a typical walk through downtown and along the waterfront. That thought, however, came to an end when I arrived at Dieppe Gardens and saw an unusual sight: three elderly men in dress uniforms.

I chose to investigate, and noticed a few more men, plus some in regular suits, gathering near the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It turned out they were holding a remembrance service for the fallen and the survivors of that war--explaining why most of the men in suits were Asian. I had nowhere pressing to be, so I stayed behind to help them set up and pay my respects. It was a modest service; low turn-out and only a lone Windsor Star photographer for press coverage. Rather a shame, considering those who came. Not only were surviving vets there, but they got the Korean Consul-General to come down from Toronto for the occasion.

One thing seems to unite all remembrance ceremonies in smaller cities: poor sound systems. The Remembrance Day service in Preston was heavily attended and featured a parade of veterans from the Legion hall to the cenotaph, but nobody outside the cenotaph square could hear anything that was going on--aside from the costumed War of 1812 re-enactors giving a 21-gun salute with muskets. Same with this assembly; a couple of the Koreans brought large speakers, a microphone, and a CD player, but the sound did not work properly. Their track of the last post was inaudible and anyone speaking was hard to hear over the interference. If there's one thing I wish on these gatherings, it's better sound equipment.

One further downside for me especially was the generator they brought to power the sound system. I helped carry it behind the war memorial so it did not drown out any other sounds; in doing so I must have accidentally gotten some fumes or dregs of gasoline on my coat. I hung it up in my spare room to air out. Here's hoping it isn't damaged. Still, it was nice to do something helpful for those who warrant it.
danlansdowne: (Train)
2012-11-08 08:29 pm

This is why you always check your loading cables

A shipload of diesels was being unloaded at a port in Gabon. Someone didn't check the loading cables before picking it up. Back to the shops!

danlansdowne: (Doo-doo-doooo)
2012-10-30 01:06 am

Probably for the best

Russell T Davies: 'I won't be involved in Doctor Who 50th anniversary'

"I think I'd be like the ghost at the feast," he said. "What would I do - turn up and make the tea?"

I wonder if they would consider a remake of "Shada" with Tom Baker as Professor Chronotis.
danlansdowne: (Huh?)
2012-10-14 11:16 pm

A walk down memory lane

Tonight I had the privilege of doing something I haven't had the opportunity to do in a long time: watch an episode of Agatha Christie's Poirot. It was a first-season episode, "Problem at Sea". It was filmed over twenty years old but is still entertaining.

I haven't read the story for a while, but I could remember a major change they made for the adaptation: the story was set on a Mediterranean ocean liner while the TV episode is set on a chartered yacht--a practical change since 1920s liners are hard to come by these days. Another significant change was the insertion of Captain Hastings into a story that did not feature him at all. There were other minor changes, but all of them got me thinking about the early stories compared to the more recent, and reviled, adaptations of Poirot novels.

The original hour-long episodes were really no more guilty than the novel adaptations of making great alterations for dramatic purposes--inserting Miss Lemon and Chief Inspector Japp into every story to create the Holmesian detective-sidekick-woman-police inspector quartet being the biggest. Others include politicizing characters in ways not seen in the originals, with themes including Irish Home Rule, women's rights, and the Mafia. Characters are added, dropped, and renamed at the drop of a hat.

Aside from "Murder on the Orient Express", which changes a key part of Poirot's personality for the purpose of increased drama, the current writers cut and paste just as much as the original writers did. Why am I, and other fans, more swift to judge the new team, then? Was the charm of the original episodes enough to make their sins forgivable? Are they making more significant alterations now than before? Are we just getting crotchety in our old age?

Note that this does not apply to the newest Miss Marple adaptations. Inserting her into stories that were not hers in the slightest (a pet peeve of the creator in the 60s) and changing the identity of the murderer are still beneath contempt. Mrs. Christie's grandson has some explaining to do!
danlansdowne: (Train)
2012-08-28 08:37 pm

(no subject)

I've heard of railcars rolling along tracks within freight yards, but not this. I'm surprised it didn't meet fouled points and derail.

Rogue rail car rolls undetected across bridge from N.Y. to Niagara Falls, Ont.

No one noticed the rogue rail car cross the border from Niagara Falls, N.Y. to Niagara Falls, Ont., in the wee hours of Aug. 12.

Somehow, the rail car left the CSX rail yard on American soil and rolled across the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge before halting in the Niagara Via Rail station, which was closed for the night.

CSX didn’t notice. Neither the U.S. Customs and Border Protection nor the Canada Border Services Agency noticed. The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, owner of the bridge, didn’t notice.

In fact, the rail car went undetected until Via Rail employees reported the migrant boxcar to authorities when they arrived at work.



And Niagara Falls is one of the stations that will be losing its staff. Imagine how long it would have sat at an unmanned station!
danlansdowne: (Train)
2012-08-27 05:15 pm

NOW they make this!

On my childhood model train layout, there was a large obstacle in the form of a steep ramp to go from one level to the next. Not every engine could climb the hill because of the grade. Now, several years after said layout has been taken apart, I find a solution. FROG SNOT!

You apply a thin coating on a couple of wheels and get an instant boost in traction. If you find the electrical connection is going down, scrape some of it off with a knife. Yet another product to make life easier for those of us who want to model trains without having the time or ability to make a masterpiece in the first go.

If only it were easier to keep them dust-free.
danlansdowne: (Blah)
2012-08-21 07:11 pm

Well that was fun

The hospital was more or less on time, which was nice. The after-surgery not so much. It's only been a day, so I'm still feeling tender right at my navel. Should fade in the next day or two. Hurts when I cough, and I'm dreading visits to the bathroom, but otherwise I'm holding up all right.

It's easy to see that I ended up in Windsor for a reason. Why? My aunt, who picked me up last night after the surgery, is a nurse. She allayed any fears I had, helped with changing my dressing, and made sure I was fed and appropriately medicated. Yay Percocet! In a week I can take the dressings off and I should be fine. Can't wait.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-07-24 10:44 pm

"Comic books have something to teach future doctors"

"In addition to the stalwart Manual of Clinical Oncology, medical students may soon see the comic book Cancer Vixen: A True Story on their required reading list.

"Researchers at the University of Toronto are using graphic novels as a teaching tool to communicate the ethical and emotional complexities of illness, disease and trauma to medical students.

"With their self-effacing protagonists and cutting black humour, graphic novels often capture the reality of being sick, or knowing a loved one who is, better than dry textbooks and earnest self-help memoirs."

From the domain of geeks to required reading in higher learning. Not bad.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-07-09 09:34 pm

Fade out, fade in

God moves in mysterious ways--and fast. This Wednesday I have an interview at Toronto Botanical Garden in the north end of town. It's a permanent position with benefits and it's something I think I can enjoy far more.

Moving to Toronto, not so much. I was looking at apartments in the area, hoping to cut my commute down. Unfortunately it appears that the chief export of North York is commie blocks and bedbugs. Don't think I can stretch for a condo just yet, so I had a look farther south towards midtown; found a couple of nice art deco apartment blocks worth pursuing. Glenn Gould lived in one of them. Probably out of my price range, though. Ah, well; I'll find something.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-06-13 11:45 pm

The tradition continues

Following the newest trend of reviving old TV shows for new audiences, tonight saw the return of Dallas, giving TV viewers somethint to talk about until Mad Men comes back. Rather than rebooting, however, they are picking up where they left off. Bobby, Pam, J.R., and Sue Ellen are all still around. The action, however, mainly focuses on the foibles of Bobby's adopted son Christopher and J.R.'s son Jon Ross.

They seem to be following the style of the old show quite closely: everyone is screwing everyone over (when they're not plain screwing everyone, that is). They can get away with a lot more now because of the change in cultural values and the move to a cable station from a network. One thing they did alter slightly was the opening sequence; they cut some bars from the theme song and don't match the names up with clips of the actor any more. That makes it easier to figure out who everyone is.

It's a shame Barbara Bel Geddes died. I'd like to see her on the show again.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-06-12 10:58 pm

(no subject)

Things are finally beginning to settle down now. I had furniture delivered over the weekend: a sofa and a queen-sized bed. Finally I won't be using the same piece of furniture for both tasks. The rest of my furniture has been slowly moving down here from Cambridge, piece by piece. It's going to be a bit tougher considering it's all been brought down in a Toyota Corolla so far. Bookshelves are going to be a tight squeeze.

Work has been steady. The busiest part of event season is coming up soon. Should make my daily workload entertaining, to say the least. I'm mostly keeping up with it all, though. All the admin workers had Monday off, which was a refreshing change. I'll be heading up this weekend on the train for Father's Day weekend.

The biggest accomplishment so far since moving here? I finally have a doctor in the same city I live in. Haven't had that for two years. Now I just need a dentist and podiatrist and I'll finally be able to make myself at home. I've been thinking of finding a new place, and am looking at one tomorrow, but I'm not holding out much hope. I can't really afford to pay first and last month's rent right now, and the place I'm looking at doesn't include utilities. The sample prices she gave over the phone for gas, water, and hydro were insane. Much as I'd like to escape the used-up hag in the basement and the daily piano recitals, I'm better off staying here for now.

I would like to change my TV/phone/internet provider, though. I have phone through cable, and it goes down every time there's an electrical storm. That won't be particularly useful in an emergency, especially since I have a long password on my cell. If I switch to Bell satellite I'll get a package that offers more than I have now for ten dollars less a month. Plus I'll have Turner Classic Movies again; Cogeco Cable doesn't offer them and it irritates me to no end.

My grandmother was out of the hospital at last and recovering at home--until today, when she ended up back in hospital thanks to complications. Hopefully nothing minor; I haven't heard anything since this afternoon so I'm going to hope for the best. Meanwhile, they brought my grandfather to the ER on Sunday. He's been feeling extra-run down, he's had chest congestion, his colour has been off, and his feet are the size of steel-toed boots when he isn't wearing anything on them. He's seeing a specialist tomorrow; ideally this will get him fixed up for the next little while.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-05-27 12:53 pm

And God Said...the Geek Edition

While having breakfast this morning I started thinking about John Wing's epic "And God Said". As I did, I started thinking more and more about how he could easily update it with some of the things that have happened in the tech world. And then I asked myself "Why wait for him?"

I'm not thrilled about the last paragraph yet but I think I'm off to a good start:

And God said "Let there be light", and there was light.
And God was bored while resting on the seventh day and said
"Let there be computers." And there were computers.
"Let there be ENIAC and Colossus and Amigas and Commodore-64
"So that My children may look back and remember where they came from."

And these things came to pass, and it was good.
And God saw that His children were outgrowing His gifts and said
"Let there be Bell Labs and IBM and DOS and Microsoft.
"Let there be Word Perfect for work and Kings Quest for play."

"Let there be ColicoVision and Nintendo,
"And Donkey Kong and Super Mario.
"Let there be Final Fantasy, Call of Duty, and Pokemon.
"Because every generation needs its Pac-Man."

And God said "Let there be Arthur C Clarke and Tim Berners-Lee.
"Let there be ARPAnet and the World Wide Web.
"Let there be AOL, IRC, Netscape, and Internet Explorer.
"And let My children look upon Internet Explorer and resolve never to touch it,
"For it is unclean."

And God said "Let my children hold dominion over this world.
"Let there be bugs, general faults, 404s, and Blue Screens of Death.
"Let there be mouse gunk, viruses, and people who treat CD drives as cupholders
"So that My children may have their vengeance against their enemies."

And all these things came to pass. And God looked
And He saw that the enemies of his children were in great pain.
And He saw that His own children were suffering alongside them,
With cubicles, overwork, downsizing, and Dot-Com bubbles.
And He saw His prophet William become corrupt
And enslave His children. And His anger was kindled.

And He said "Let the archangel Gabriel blow his 8-bit trumpet
"And herald the Second Coming of Steve Jobs.
"Let there be iMacs, iBooks, iPods, iPhones, and iPads.

"Let My children be united with their artisan brothers in taming this wilderness.
"Let the internet be their playground.
"Let there be Wikipedia to educate and Cracked to re-educate.
"Let there be PayPal, eBay, DeviantArt, and FanFiction.net.
"Let there be Whovians, Trekkies, furries, bronies, and gleeks
"So that My children may survive times of want by selling them porn."

"Let My children eat BlackBerries with their Chrome-plated Androids
"And hunt Firefoxes while on Safari.
"Let them record their successes and post them to YouTube
"So that My faithful film geeks may be rewarded with a province of their own."

And God said "Where do you want to go today?
"Let My children reach out and touch someone,
"Create solutions for a small planet,
"And bring good things to life.
"Let all My base belong to them
"And let them die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail."
danlansdowne: (OMG!)
2012-05-26 10:23 pm

My head is shrinking, right?

Remember this little boy, one of the kittens born at our house a few years ago? Well, THIS is him now:





The owners say he doesn't eat any more than their other cat, so we're thinking it's genetic. Nibs isn't exactly a featherweight either, so there's reason to think so. And then there's the fact that Nibs' fur pattern bears a striking resemblance to our recently departed Mr.'s. No need to ask "Who's your Daddy?", methinks.
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-05-13 08:33 pm

Long week is long

I'm writing this on the train home after a busy weekend--and week.

Training was rushed but thorough at work. It's a lot to take in over the course of three and a half days. I've been working on slow and repetitive tasks for the last couple of days; this week will determine how much I've absorbed. Orientation is tomorrow, so that will take up a day out of this week. After that, it's going to be a bit hairy. I'm hoping it will be much smoother than I fear it will be. I already have my first event on Thursday; lieu time is always welcome! And a week from tomorrow is Victoria Day; I'm already getting my first four-day week. Can't wait.

A bit of sad news came along this week; another cat had to be put down. This one is "Mr.", a black and white cat who prowled through our yard for a few years. About two years ago he disappeared for a while; we figured he was dead--he was hardly in good shape. But last year he came along again, this time much plumper. His owner was ill so he probably wasn't being let out. It looks like he got more than his fair share of treats instead; you be the judge:



He was in bad shape on Wednesday so my mother brought him to the vet. They noticed he had cold feet, a symptom of heart disease. It wouldn't be surprising that he had bad circulation with his size. So they wrapped him in towels and took some blood work samples; before they could send the blood out for testing he died. He got a good year out of us at least.

So that's two dead cats in two months. We now have three cats, the oldest of whom is about five years old. That should keep the vet bills low for the near future--not to mention the cleaning required in the house. Both Mr. and TigerLily made rather unfortunate messes in the house; the young ones don't.

Mother's Day weekend was fun. I took her to Toronto to see War Horse at Princess of Wales Theatre. If you have not seen this show, do so. The movie doesn't cut it. Even though the "horses" are puppets controlled by three operators, it's easy to forget they aren't real. The portrayal is first rate. Audiences certainly aren't complaining; they're already selling tickets through the end of September--for a show that was supposed to have closed by now. Might even go again!
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-05-04 10:10 pm

And that's that

My time at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital Foundation is over and done with. Starting tomorrow: Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation. Training starts at 8am, half an hour before the usual start time of 8:30am. Not looking forward to that part of the deal but it must be done.

Thinking back, I took a real chance working at that place after the new boss took over. As I've mentioned previously, he's a city councillor. Anyone who's read a newspaper from Ontario will know that jobs in Windsor aren't exactly in abundance at the moment. Hell, our job creation stats are starting to make Detroit's look good by comparison. I should be grateful I wasn't put into a cage outside city hall and treated like a sideshow exhibit:

"The guy who got a job by moving TO Windsor."
danlansdowne: (Default)
2012-04-23 12:53 pm

Carrying on the family's muckraker legacy

I think I may have shifted the levers of justice a little bit this past week. At work we were all at lunch for our departing intern when we got onto the topic of transit and the university. My boss mentioned that Transit Windsor had been interested in running shuttles from the university to the train station. I said that it was a good idea because there is always a rush for cabs on Sunday nights--when I typically get back home from a weekend trip.

I also mentioned that the cab drivers could use some competition. When I was at the station last there were a couple of students interested in sharing a cab, only to be told that they would have to pay separate fares. My boss was not impressed by that.

Did I mention he's a city councillor?
danlansdowne: (Train)
2012-04-06 02:13 pm

Strippers on a train

I think my interview went well. Their questions about public interaction had me referring back to my Home Despot days; hopefully that won't work against me. They liked my sense of humour. And surprise, surprise: one of my interviewers and I have a common relative. Six degrees of separation don't exist in Windsor; it's rare to have more than two.

The trip home was entertaining, to say the least. It started when I was standing outside my building waiting for my cab. I heard jet engines overhead and looked up to see a quartet of A-10 Warthogs doing a flyover for the Detroit Tigers' opening day. Certainly came as a surprise. My first thought was "What are they doing in Canadian airspace?" It wasn't until I was in the cab and saw the Goodyear blimp over downtown that I remembered what day it was. The Blue Jays were in Cleveland for the Indians' opening day--and beat the record for longest opening day game by innings with a sixteen-inning win. It was exhausting just to watch them.

Things on the train were equally entertaining, at least for the first stretch of the journey. Two college girls were in the row in front of me on the other side of the aisle. Soon after departure they started talking about their part-time jobs--at the strip club downtown. One of them mentioned making a thousand dollars from a single overnight shift, prompting me to wonder whether I was in the right business.

Of course, beauty does not necessary equal brains. Their conversation about vacationing in Florida is evidence of this:

Blonde stripper: What's the party city in Florida?

Redhead stripper: Miami's one.

BS*: Miami isn't in Florida.
*How appropriate an acronym!

RS: Yes it is.

BS: No it isn't. Isn't it a state? Miami State?

RS: I'm pretty sure it's a city. I'll ask others. (She looks around and makes eye contact with me.)

Me: It's a city in Florida.

The blonde was truly shocked that Miami was in Florida. And they're attending University of Windsor when not occupying their time as professional exhibitionists. Yeah.