ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

September 2007


Links26 Sep 2007

This has been floating around the ‘net for a little while so maybe you’ve already seen it, but if not, I encourage you to watch it. Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch, recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, gives his “last lecture”, titled Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. It’s a moving lecture, and it’s also really good advice.

Google video version.

Books and News22 Sep 2007

Gaelan and I went to hear William Gibson tonight. William F****** Gibson! The guy who invented the word “cyberspace” back in 1984!

He was reading and speaking at the archives as part of the Ottawa Writers Festival. He read from his new book, Spook Country, which, like the last one, is set in the present (or the past, actually: spring of 2006). “I’ve been writing books set in the 21st century since the 1980s,” he quipped, when asked about his “non-futuristic sci-fi”. After the reading, a local CBC host interviewed him and then he took questions from the audience. He was on stage for a good 90 minutes.

Despite the interview format, he was definitely in command of the discussion. Listening to him speak gave me the same feeling you get when your favorite prof. gives a really good lecture. For a man that pioneered the hyperactive world of cyberpunk, he speaks very slowly and deliberately.

He covered a fair bit of ground. One thing that stuck out for me was “Science Fiction is no more about the future than county music is about the country. And just as with country music, some people realize that, and some people don’t.” He went on to say that George Orwell’s 1984, written in 1948, didn’t need to look ahead to the future: that wasn’t the point. 1984 was built out of pieces of 1948, and was intended to make a statement about the present. This view of sci fi (or “speculative fiction”) as using the future as a convenient setting to make a statement about the present isn’t news to me, but it was nice to hear him say it.

Another thing he said was that before he started reading sci-fi, finding some old reels of wire containing audio recordings from the second world war for which no player existed anymore was an important experience for him. “Whenever I see some new technology, part of me always pictures it in a box under a table at a rummage sale in a parking lot”.

He also said he cringed the first time he heard the term “cyberpunk”.

He signed books for a while after the talk, so I got him to sign a newly-acquired copy of Spook Country. I shook his hand and thanked him for writing so many great books. Gaelan got him to sign a well-used copy of Neuromancer.

News20 Sep 2007

As I type this, I’m sitting on a bed for the first time in a week. I’ve been sleeping on an air mattress up until now. Which beats the floor, I suppose. I spent a good part of the day assembling the aforementioned bed, because I got it at Ikea.

I’ve never been in an Ikea store before. Let me tell you, it’s quite an experience. A little like landing on the moon, if the moon were made of endless corridors of tastefully decorated bedrooms, kitchens, home offices, etc. It’s a huge store, and the first thing you do when you walk in is pick up an honest to god map.

Even with map in hand its easy to wander aimlessly and lost from department to department, especially when one has broad objectives in mind (I need a bed, and a table, and some chairs, and some lamps, and anything else that goes in an empty apartment….). Before I’d settled on any particular purchases, I’d gotten hungry. Ikea to the rescue! In the middle of the store is a restaurant. I stopped and ordered a plate of swedish meatballs and potatoes in gravy. It was actually pretty good. I can safely say it was the best furniture store food I’ve ever had.

Eventually I picked out a bed and arranged to have it delivered. It arrived today, in a box with dimensions of roughly 4 inches x 4 inches x 6 feet (not including the mattress).

I’m not the most “handy” person in the world, but I was able to put the bed together without too much grief. The pictographic instruction book really reminded me a lot of that other great noridic export: lego. I built a lot of lego castles and spaceships as a lad, so putting the bed together was a bit of a nostalgia trip.

I also bought a couple of lamps.

Ikea is a brand whose hint of smug superiority reminds me a bit of Apple.

News18 Sep 2007

Hello, neglected reader of this intertube bloggopage. I have exciting news. Since we last sat down for a chat, I’ve defended and submitted my thesis, and moved to our (well, not “our” if you don’t live here too…) nation’s fine capital city.

My better half has come here to go to school (a PhD in electrical engineering: she’s a smart cookie, that one), and I’ve tagged along in the hopes of landing a gig at one of the fabled Kanata-area high-tech firms.

So far so good. Shortly after I arrived, my aforementioned superior fraction flew to Australia (she’s back next week), so I’m now putzing about this city solo. Well, not totally solo: yesterday Gaelan (who lives here too) and I were eating Vietnamese noodle soup downtown when who should call my cell but Mr. Andrew, lost these past years in the chilly north, and presumed eaten by a polar bear. Apparently he’d escaped any wildlife encounters unscathed and had decided, along with his finer component (running out of synonyms for “better half”, I guess maybe I should just say “girlfriend”) to vacation “down south” for a while. We four explored the market and got caught up with each other. The highlight was the used book store run by the older gentleman who was also Of The North, giving everyone but me lots to talk about. I bought a copy of the Odyssey and a book about game theory.

It was quite nice to see the lot of them.

So, I live in Ottawa now. Here I am, in our apartment near the Trans-Canada highway, sitting on the floor, awaiting the arrival of some furniture. Speaking of arrivals, doubtless more dispatches detailing my adventures (I didn’t mean to alliterate, it just happened) will wend their way (there I go again) to this location. Toodles until then.