Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Also just in time for Canada Day: Parliament legalizes same-sex marriages. (Still needs approval by the Senate, technically, but still--hurray!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Just in time for Canada Day

My brother writes:
My afternoon project was to keep putting O Canada through the Babel Fish online translator in spare moments. I've lost track of all the languages it's been through, but the result is pretty fun.
The result:
Canada! Our natural houses and land!
Them themselves where the love patriot until now we powerful north look at truth completely in order of the thy thread thee of increase,
without either the powder, are far, are large it is moved and the lever,
Canada because of us, finds with the adaptation of of safety for thee.
God he of our will from attentiveness is the gorgeous land!
Canada, because discovery of the adaptation of of safety for us thee.
Canada, because discovery of the adaptation of of safety for us thee.
I'm all choked up.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

academia: a vignette

After my second year of university, I spent the summer working in a research lab. My friend Tom was doing the same, but instead of sharing an office with other undergrads he shared the office of his supervisor's post-doc Bill. Bill was a curmudgeon-in-training. His favourite rant was about how academia is exploitative and unjust, and he had all these elaborate stories to tell about professors who made their careers out of stealing the research of their students. It was entertaining enough, in its repetitive way, but we generally managed to avoid eating lunch with him.

Well, one day we ran into Bill and he was just glowing. He spontaneously started telling us about how academia is really the only possible career choice for a smart person, because it's the only true meritocracy around. He went on in this vein for several minutes, then floated off, his feet barely touching the ground.

I looked at Tom. I didn't even have to ask the question. He said, "Yeah, Bill just won an award."

Friday, June 24, 2005

Alex is very happy about his ten inches. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

today's weirdness

From a nuclear physics paper compiling spectroscopic data:

"This timeline shows the "Rise and Fall" (footnote 1) of the spectroscopy of light nuclei, a narrow peak in the years around 1970 with a height about seven times the 1995 publication rate."

footnote 1: From "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", W.L. Shirer (Secker and Wartburg, London).

uh. what?

Saturday, June 18, 2005

freudian mis-hearing

At a barbecue last night someone pulled out the 2006 edition of the GRE handbook. (I know, I know....) For some reason I thought they said it was the sex edition.... That would at least have made people's fervent interest in it a bit easier to explain.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

good old Dan Savage

From this week's column:

In other gay news: Last week, the pope condemned divorce, masturbation, birth control, in vitro fertilization, living together before marriage, and same-sex marriage. According to Bennie, all of the above add up to "anarchic freedom." The headlines the next day? "Pope Condemns Gay Marriage As 'Anarchy.'" The headlines should have read something like this: "Pope Condemns Majority Of American Heterosexuals For Private Sexual Conduct; Also, Gay Marriage."

Once again, he hits the nail on the head.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


So I'm getting together my committee for my thesis defence right now. I've got an off-site reader, a theorist (known for asking soft-ball questions), and a couple of others--and I'm also thinking about asking this one junior (very junior--he makes the transition from post-doc next week) professor to be on the committee, just because he blushes and stammers whenever I make direct eye contact with him. Not only is that very entertaining but it lends itself to certain...abuses.

Scene: the examination after my public talk
Prof: Can you be more specific about the calibration (I show a little leg) meth... er... what?

heh heh heh.


The fire station that's a block from my place (right on my way to the lab) has a flagpole with a big american flag on it. Today it's at half-mast. (I don't know why--anyone have any ideas?) A few weeks ago, though, it was at three-quarter-mast. Either the firemen were too lazy that morning to pull it up all the way, or they were observing a National Day of Bumming that someone had declared, unbeknownst to most of the rest of us.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Gay men make the best wives

So my dear friend A. is staying at my place right now. It's fabulous. I come home from work, he makes dinner, then he washes the dishes while we talk about boys and whether I should pluck my eyebrows. He's leaving tomorrow, which is sad; otherwise I'd have to buy him a frilly apron to complete the picture.

Friday, June 03, 2005

overheard at a restaurant

"My doctor is the coolest ever. I had to do a drug test for work--they wanted to make sure I'd stopped smoking pot. When he gave me the results he said, 'Well, you tested positive for cocaine--but since the test was only supposed to be for pot, I don't think anyone needs to know about this.'"

Thursday, June 02, 2005

darn it

Last night I was antsy and not wanting to settle down to anything, so I started clearing out my bookshelves. First I picked out all the books I wanted to get rid of...all three of them. I realized a change of strategy was necessary, so I picked out all the books I want to either have with me this summer or store for a year or two. The ones I don't want to bother storing went into two big-ass canvas bags (there's probably another bagful or two that can still be weeded out) which I took to the used book store downtown this afternoon. Getting them there, on my bike, was a royal pain. They weighed me down and made biking precarious, and the straps were always threatening to slip off my shoulders. I distracted myself with thoughts of the quasi-philosophical blog entry I'd compose about the experience: I was anticipating the lightness of biking home emptyhanded, and making the obvious extensions to the the lightness of not owning much stuff, or at least of being able to walk away from it without regret...which would possibly lead to retelling the following anecdote:
A certain dervish was travelling through the desert, and stayed the night in the camp of another dervish. He was shocked to see the luxury of his host's tent--soft beds, colourful hangings--and most shocking of all were the solid-gold tent pegs. He upbraided his host:
"You call yourself a holy man? We must make a pilgrimage to Mecca, so you can purify yourself."
His host said, "Very well, let's leave at once," and began to walk. The traveller said, "--but aren't you going to pack up your belongings? What about those tent pegs?"
"They are driven into the ground, not into my heart."

So I was feeling quite excited and pleased with myself as I arrived at the book shop...and saw a sign on the door about how they're not buying any books for the next week because their manager is away.


It just goes to show, I suppose, that it's possible to attach to anything, even the idea of getting rid of stuff.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

why I love my family, reason #476

I recently spent several hours in the car with my brother. Road trips with him are more fun than with almost anyone else. He's ready to switch at a moment's notice from unfeigned enthusiasm about the scenery, to earnest discussions of Canadian foreign policy, in which I invariably learn something, to gleeful random silliness. In a lull in the conversation, I started meowing a Christmas carol, and....


oh fine. I'll start from the beginning.

Some years ago, T-Regina was given an...object for Christmas. It was a wall plaque with a dozen or so plush kitten heads mounted on it. They were arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree. When you pressed a button, they would all start meowing, and each of them meowed at a different pitch, and their meows were synchronized so that they would produce more-or-less recognizable versions of several Christmas songs. I have never quite recovered from their version of "Jingle Bells." I wouldn't exactly say that it's changed the course of my life; it's more that it's changed me. To this day, there are moments at which I'm compelled to start imitating the kittens' songs. Mostly people are so disoriented by this that they never do settle on a response. "You're" is the closest most come. My brother, on the other hand, joined in. Before I'd meowed my way to the end of the first bar of "O Christmas Tree," he was meowing along with me. In harmony.

The next day, the impulse seized me again, when he and our father and I were puttering about the kitchen. We had three-part meowing harmony going there for a bit.

(If Mom hadn't been reformatting her hard drive, it might have been four part harmony.)

this one's gonna lose me some friends, but the truth will out.

My recent trip to a wine region of California made me think of the experience of a certain friend of mine, who would sometimes introduce the subject of wine at cocktail parties. Invariably someone would bring up the concept of terroir, that ineffable combination of soil and climate and tradition and je ne sais quoi that gives certain great French vineyards their cachet. He would always try to counter their assertions with the results of his own research into grape types and modern viticulture methods, as well as the actual drinkability of the products of pedigreed and unpedigreed vineyards--but to no avail. He found that anyone who would bring up terroir was immune to logic, and eventually he learned to avoid such conversations entirely; in short, he made it his policy not to negotiate with terroir-ists.