Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Lunch with Justin Trudeau

On the way out, C. and I agreed that Mr. Trudeau had nothing to say to the librarians gathered to hear him speak. He spoke in platitudes and soundbites, praising education and damning global warming, for example. Of course, he spoke in favour of libraries and librarians. I really hate it when plenary speakers and lunch speakers resort to offering us their first library experience or professing their love of books. It's so obvious and boring.

C. noted that his speech was too political, and I agree, in that he sounded exactly like what he is - a politician. What do you expect from politicians but guarded and safe statements designed to offend no one, to congratulate the predictable, and walk the line? Justin has indeed matured into a good politician. But, his speech was a non-event and a let down. In the Q&A that followed, he really lost his way.

Librarians are staunch supporters of intellectual freedom, of access to information, and we oppose censorship. So, when a public librarian asked Mr. Trudeau what the government planned to do about those who would use public computers to access such things as pornography, he gave a dangerous and problematic answer. It seems that he favours some sort of filtering to prevent such access.

The solution is not to filter internet traffic, for that is censorship and it leads to all sorts of thorny issues like who gets to decide what is offensive? Who gets to decide what exceeds society's tolerance? Is a same-sex dating site offensive? I bet many would say yes. Filtering is a slippery slope and that is one of the reasons librarians oppose it.

Internet filtering can have detrimental and unintended effects. For example, access to web sites offering information about breast cancer and AIDS are often blocked by filtering software.

I give Trudeau a failing grade in his answer to this question. So, Mr. Trudeau, if you are reading this (fat chance), please review the Canadian Library Association's Position Statement on Intellectual Freedom. You might also find the Position Statement on Internet Access illuminating. You will find similar statements from various national library associations.

On a more positive note, the invitation of Mr. Trudeau resulted in a phenomenon I had never witnessed before at this conference. Virtually the entire room stayed firmly glued to their chairs, everyone's attention riveted on the speaker. Such is the kind of audience the offspring of one of Canada's most influential and famous public figures can attract. Normally, I feel sorry for the speaker at lunch because there is a constant flow of people exiting, which I always feel is exceedingly rude. I don't buy the answer that they are all rushing off to catch planes and trains, as evidenced by the audience's keen attention today. He managed to hold everyone's attention, but he failed to deliver, although I think his seat in parliament is secure for as long as he wants it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I am off to a conference for the remainder of the week and Saturday. That's an indictment of my chosen profession. No self-respecting profession would schedule a conference on a weekend. As far as I can determine, all library conferences bleed into the weekend. We are weak.

In other news, I find it fascinating that some people are thinking about the Year 10,000 Problem. Y2K was a bust. I had expected something disastrous to happen and was severely disappointed when it didn't. That guy who invented the Y2K problem ought to have been fined.

If you can find a good defense against death, it might not save you. It is estimated that somewhere between the year 600,000,000 and 3,500,000,000, the Earth's oceans will evaporate. In the year 5,000,000,000, our sun will become a red giant and all things here will die. Damn. Immortality has its downside. I just hope the end of the world doesn't happen on a Saturday.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Continue to Ignore the Blogospshere (until, maybe, next week)

This has been a crazy month, but part of the blame for that is my poor organizational skills. If only I could properly organize my time, I could accomplish so much more. I could study physics and molecular biochemistry in my spare time. I could read more. It would be awesome, truly awesome.

I am in a job that has essentially no supervision. That is good and bad, and I am always left to wonder what it is that other people are doing in their offices. I have no answers. It's clear with the staff, for they are on display. They have nowhere to hide, no walls, no privacy. We can eat in our offices, if we choose to, and sometimes I do. But staff, well, they have to head to the staff room where it is deathly silent. You can hear a pin drop. You can hear people chew, a sound I just do not like. I rarely have conversations in that room, because everyone will hear what you are saying. So, I try not to make any noises.

But, I observe the patterns. One guy sits in the same chair every day at lunch with his winter coat on, iPod fired up, and a book in his hands. I sense that he is trying to isolate himself by a factor of three. I have never seen him eat anything. One brave person talks to family on her cell phone, but I am sure no one can understand her mother tongue. A colleague complained but I like the sound of human interaction. I like that someone is brave enough to attack the silence.

The most fascinating guy is the one with about 7 children. His faith prevents the use of prophylactics, and so the family continues to grow. He reads his bible during lunch. You can see his lips move as his index finger traces lines of text. He has a special edition bible, bound in leather--or faux-leather--and a zipper. After lunch, he tucks the bookmark in place, zips it up, and places it in his backpack. Somehow, he looks happier, but I am not sure if it is the food or the words or both.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Still busy, doing stuff. Sometimes I wonder why I agree to speak at conferences...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration (ĭn-ô'gyə-rā'shən)

1. Formal induction into office.
2. A formal beginning or introduction.

I am watching.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Freezing Blackout

The power went out at 10:00 PM last night and stayed out until 8:30 this morning, on one of the coldest nights of the year. That was unpleasant, and it made me realize that I am not really prepared for long power outages in winter. The good news is that the power failure happened after I roasted a chicken :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

That was Cold

(I am taking a small break from the document I am editing).

It was -22° Celsius (that's -7.600000000000001° for those of you who use the antiquated Fahrenheit scale) when I hopped on my bicycle this morning. Now, my forward motion through the Alberta Clipper must have created an added wind-chill. At -25°, skin is in danger of freezing, but I had forgotten about that during the ride. I was quite warm, except for my face, of course. And, my feet were a bit chilly, which momentarily concerned me when I reflected on the fate of Robert Peary's feet.

Robert Peary lost eight of his toes during his first failed attempt to reach the North Pole. He elected to have the other two hacked off to make things even, I suppose. The good news is that my toes did not freeze. In truth, I have cycled in colder weather. Next time (probably tomorrow), I will double up on the socks.

In case you think I am insane, I would like to point out that I counted eight other cyclists on the roads this morning. And, I got my daily exercise.

Monday, January 12, 2009

ZF is Busy

I am sitting in my office, listening to the Orchestral Def Leppard and wishing I had more time. My business plan is awaiting completion; I am preparing for the next conference presentation; French class starts tonight. How did this happen? I am failing to read the blogs I usually read. I will be happy when January is over.

But, I did see parts of the Golden Globe Awards last night. I liked Salma Hayek's dress. Ricky Gervais was funny. Why wasn't he the host? Dustin Hoffman has turned into some sort of freaky boring automaton. Maybe he is a puppet. Tina Fey had the best thank you speech. I am happy for Kate Winslet. When did Clint Eastwood start writing music? I learned that I have a lot of films to see.

That's all.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Soaking Tired...and TV

During the long drive back from the rural parts of Ontario, my three-year-old uttered this profound statement: "I am soaking tired." I love that.

I have already mentioned that the second X-Files film sucks eggs, right? Just in case you missed me making such a statement, it sucks. But, there is some good TV these days. For example, I have just seen season two of Californication. I was a little freaked out by episode one of season two, 'cause it sucked. I hated that episode, but things got back on track. Season three will be here in late 2009.

I enjoyed season three of Dexter very much. True, the premise is a little difficult to believe, but it is enjoyable and it makes me want to go to Miami. It has been renewed for two more seasons :-)

Vince Gilligan, my favourite X-Files writer, has come through with a really amazing show called Breaking Bad. It has also been renewed for another season. If you ever get the chance, check this out. Here's the opening scenes (one and two) of the premiere episode.

And now, a meeting...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Movies Movies Movies

Yup, I saw some movies over the break. Which ones, you ask? Let me tell you:

JCVD - I should probably first point out that I had never seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme film. This was the first one for me. But, before I get to all of that, I just have to say that something odd occurred before the movie began. As usual, I headed to the bathroom to relieve my bladder. There's nothing worse than realizing that one has to micturate during a film. It ruins the film.

So, I head into the bathroom and am stunned to see a man standing in front of a urinal with his pants around his ankles. His large tartan boxer shorts were hauled down to just below his butts cheeks, offering an unobstructed view of his amble ass cleavage. In case anyone is confused as to why this might be strange, it is not socially acceptable to drop your trousers to piss in public. In fact, this should not be done in private either.

At first, I thought he must have been homeless, but he clearly had enough cash to pay his admission. I made sure my visit was a short one. And now, on to the film.

JCVD is a good film, but I think some of it must have been lost on me, since my knowledge of JC is very limited. I rate this a 4/5.

X-Files: I want to Believe - I want to believe that this is the last X-Files movie. If this is the best script they can come up with, they are in serious trouble. I give this disaster 0/5. It doesn't even really qualify as an X-File anyway. Besides, David Duchovny is Hank Moody to me now. And, why did they have to kill off Lou Ashby?

Let the Right One In - I saw this before the Christmas break. This is a really fabulous movie. If possible, I recommend that you see it without any foreknowledge of the plot or concept. I think it would make the experience even more interesting. This is a 5/5 film.

Alien, Aliens, Alien³, Alien Ressurection - I think this franchise proves the theory of the law of diminishing marginal utility, even if we ignore the AVP films. I would rate these as 5/5, 4/5, 3/5, and 2/5, respectively.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Happy New Year, and all that

If I can't win the lottery, why can't someone I know win the lottery, like my father or sister? That would be almost as good, as I am fairly sure they would offer me some cash (unless I have completely misread them and overestimated their fondness for me). My grandmother is another story: her memory is deteriorating, and she would have great difficulty deciding what to do with all of that cash or even remembering who her relatives are.

When I walked into her house at Christmas (the door was not only unlocked, it was ajar, so that her neighbours can easily enter. I am not sure that this is a good idea. She wears a Lifeline around her neck, and two people call her daily to make sure that she is still alive. In November, she turned 89.

She looked at me blankly and I realized that I would have to give her my name. The first name wasn't good enough, so I had to add my surname. Still, she looked at me blankly. The two children were with me, so I guess I looked harmless enough, so she allowed me in without any fuss or complaints. I referred to my mother, sister, father, etc, to see if I could spark a memory. Finally, she seemed to get it, but then she suggested that I had never been to her house before, a house she has lived in for 33 years. She could not remember the names of the kids.

She announced relationships for every person she mentioned. Her daughter-in-law was not simply S_____, she was "S_____, my son's wife." You would have thought that she was talking to a stranger or someone she hadn't seen in 25 years. She offered us inedible candies, which were only marginally better than the Humbugs she used to dispense in my youth, Humbugs that were suspiciously without cellophane and which seemed always to be covered in pocket lint.

She ignored the gifts we brought to her, complained that she accidentally gave one of her grandchildren $5 too much at Christmas, and described in great detail how horrified she was about some gifts she had received. One top had a zipper all of the way up the front, right to her chin! She argued that no one would wear anything like that. The waist of the pants was too high or too low or something. She told this person never to buy her another gift.

Bah humbug, I suppose.