Monday, 27 February 2012

Project 52: Week of February 20, 2012

Made some progress on a number of fronts this past week:

2.  Buy and learn how to play guitar with my daughter, the Bean - learn to play, wait for it, Stairway to Heaven (remember the scene in Wayne's World?):  The Bean and I continue to take lessons and learn together.  I am amazed at how much easier playing comes for my daughter.  I hope she sticks with it - she'll be a really competent player one day.  Our instructor showed us how to do Stairway to Heaven.  Let's just say I won't be playing it for a while.  It sounds like such a simple melody, but is far from, except for the very first chord.

20.  Read 10 of the unread books on my bookshelves: I finally put a nail in Jonathan Kellerman's With Strings Attached: The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars.  Just a beautiful book for anybody who is interested in the fine art of making guitars.  The prose and photography are lush. 

I have also finished a book called Guitar Zero: The New Musician and the Science of Learning that does a serviceable job in laying out the challenges the brain faces in learning how to play music, and how the brain changes as the instrument is learned.

37.  Blog the A-Z Challenge:  I have registered for this particular challenge and have tentatively come up with topics for each letter of the alphabet.  More importantly, I have pre-written about nine or ten - the only way I'll be able to make my way through the daily grind of posting six days a week.

42.  Learn how to download e-books from the Ottawa Public Library to my Kobo E-Reader:  Finally done.  The instructions on the OPL website are as clear as mud but with a little perseverance, I was able to figure out how to download.  I'm still not sure how the e-books get "returned", but I'll find out in a couple of weeks, I guess.

And that's the scoop on last week's progress.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Garbage Men and Librarians

With the Tories here in Canada pushing ahead with their "lawful access" policy, where law enforcement would essentially have unfettered access to our web browsing history, I began thinking about, of all things, garbage collectors and librarians.  I think, if they were even remotely interested, they would be able to infer a great deal about our interests, habits, tastes and maybe vocations by what we throw out and what we borrow from the library.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Project 52 Update

An even slower than normal week.  I continue to read a couple of books about guitars and learning guitar and continue to practice guitar.  A lot of guitar.  And I thought I'd be able to learn Stairway to Heaven within a few months.  My guitar instructor disabused me of that notion on Saturday.  Not an easy tune to play.

I have also signed up for the A-Z Challenge and have drafted seven posts for that.  I need to be finished all the posts before it starts on April 1, otherwise, I don't think I'll be able to succeed.

I've also lost another pound.

That's about all.  See you with next week's update.


Friday, 17 February 2012

NIMBY-ism and Ottawa's Interval Women's Shelter

An interesting article in today's Ottawa Citizen about a new women's shelter opening in my general area.  Apparently, many neighbours are up in arms, citing safety issues.  In my mind this is the worst kind of NIMBY-ism.  Here are women and children whose own safety is threatened by someone presumably close to them and the community doesn't want them.  Where's the compassion?  This heaping misery on top of misery for these poor people.  Can people not put themselves in the shoes of these women and children?  If they, or someone they loved, found themselves in an abusive relationship, wouldn't they want them to have a safe haven?  These people are victims who are doing something to try to get their lives back on track, people who need help and understanding and who are instead being met with more hostility.

One of the neighbours interviewed is concerned that her autistic 21 year-old son might wander to the curb waving a knife around and be shot by some unspecified "they".  Seriously?  Am I the only person who sees some screwed up irony in this?

My own experience with Kate's illness is that a lot of people are caring and genuinely want to help those in need.  At the same time, I find that a significant bloc of people can't see beyond their own very narrowly defined self-interest.  Increasingly, purely based on personal observation, our society seems to be more self-centred with people either oblivious to the impact their actions have on others, or who simply don't care.

I'm curious to know your views.  What would be your position if the house across the street from you was turned into a women's shelter?

Monday, 13 February 2012

Project 52: Week Six Update

Ongoing progress on the guitar front - we can now play the first few bars of Ode to Joy, and will be working on our G and C chords so we can play harmony for each other.

Reading a couple of good books from my personal library.  The first, which I have been plugging away at for a while is Joonathan Kellerman's bit of guitar porn, With Strings Attached:  The Art and Beauty of Vintage Guitars.  Kate also pointed out to me a great little book called Guitar Zero:  The New Musician and the Science of Learning, an awesome book written by a cognitive psychologist who uses his own experience learning the guitar to talk about what a happens to a person's brain as he or she learns an intrument.  A fascinating book perfect for the layman whose interests lie with either music or neuroscience.

I have also made some progress on losing weight.  I've shed about three pounds in the last couple of weeks.  Only 35 more to go!

And that's all for this past week.  I hope I can get a little more done in the coming week.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

a Stream of Consciousness

I wanted to write something on my blog today, but I couldn't come up with anything pithy, having used up a bunch of ideas for the upcoming A to Z Challenge.  So, I thought I'd try one of those stream of consciousness exercises one reads about in books about writing.  A constant stream of words, without much attention paid to sentence structure or punctuation, just letting the words come as fast as my hands can fly over the keyboard, which isn't terribly fair, since I type rather slowly.  Although it may be fair afterall, since I also think rather slowly.

We have a busy day ahead of us - the Bean is out not on some ice slides constructed for Ottawa's annual winter festival know as Winterlude.  Then she comes home, we eat a quick bite and then off to guitar lessons.  After guitar, back home for a more substantial bite to eat and then off to skate at the Canal with her Brownie troop, or whatever they're called.

Of course, this means I will miss - for the third year in a row - Hockey Day in Canada, including the Sens versus the Oilers.  Thankfully we have PVR, though.  We'll watch the game when we get home.

Despite the busy schedule, I feel a profound sense of ennui - nothing we're doing today feels right - more burden than pleasure.  I look forward to getting out of this funky funk funk.  Days go by with me doing nothing but the absolute minimum I need to do.  Even the most trivial task, like brushing my teeth is energy depleting.  Wrting this is depleting. 

I suppose I should be grateful, though, since I am significantly more functional than many suffering from depression.

On a completely different note, I am looking forward to getting some snow meltage.  I am tired of stomping around in heavy boots and having perpetually dirty pants from rubbing up against my salt encrusted minivan, getting splashed with brown road sludge and otherwise being splattered.

I should end this drivel with something positive, so I will note that my proficiency with the guitar is increasing, slowly but surely (don't call me Shirley - anyone remember that scene from Airplane?  How about "Timmy, have you ever been to a Turkish bath house?") with each passing week.  I still - mostly - find the daily energy to practice.  I still usually look forward to our lessons and the follwoing week of pushing our ability that little bit extra.

Well, that's it my friends.  I apologize for making you read this nonsense, but a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do.



Monday, 6 February 2012

Project 52: Week 5 Update

Another week of modest progress.  Slow and steady wins the race, though, right?  Right.  So, what have I done?

2.  Buy and learn how to play guitar with the Bean:  We are making good prgress.  We had our fourth lesson this past week.  After the previous lesson, we had to practice a little diddy that we both thought we'd never get.  Amazing though how practice helps you overcome the difficulty.  By the end of the week, we were doing it quite well.

20.  Read ten books from my bookshelves:  I finished Anthony Bourdain's Medium Raw.  Perhaps I was a little harsh in my previous post about the book.  The second half of the book was actually fairly entertaining.

37.  Blog the A-Z Challenge:  I signed up for this challenge which will take place in April.  The idea is to blog each day (except Sundays) on a subject that starts with a particular letter of the alphabet, working your way from A to Z during the course of the month.

Look forward to updating the coming week's progress.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The People I've Met at the Hospital

Since Kate was diagnosed with cancer in October, I have had the opportunity to meet a number of interesting people who give meaning to the old saw that you've got nothing if you don't have your health.

When Kate went for her MRI I met a man who retired from his job with the City of Ottawa.  In his retirement he became an avid golfer, but a mysterious back problem developed and kept him off the links.  An interesting man.  He also volunteered for a number of years at the hospital, and in his youth worked at some of the casinos in Vegas.

Another man I met during that MRI appointment was a fifty-something construction worker who drove his van over a culvert on a country road.  The van rolled several times and his construction tools were flying all around the van.  Miraculously, none hit him.  He was able to walk away from the wreck, but found a few days later that he had hurt his back.  Work was important to this guy.  He figured he would work until he died because he wouldn't know what to do with his time if he didn't have his job.  Sadly, he hadn't worked in 5 months and, while recognizing he was lucky to be alive, he faced an uncertain future.  His other passion was cycling and he was unsure if he'd ever be able to get on a bike again.

Once, while at chemo, I saw a guy in another bed reading a woodworking magazine.  Being a novice woodworker myself, I went over and started up a conversation.  He grew up in Nova Scotia,  trained to be a millwright in Alberta, and lived in Ottawa for the last 20 years before cancer struck.  He was a handy guy who enjoyed renovating houses.  In fact, he had been doing some work on the roof of his house and his hands were stained black.  He joked he was going to come into chemo and ask if this was a normal reaction to the chemo he had last week.  We didn't talk about his cancer, but clearly, it hadn't slowed him down.

I also met a woman who had been diagnosed about a year previously with Stage IV colon cancer.  She was alive and doing well.  She was part of a clinical trial and she appeared to have no visible tumours after a year of treatment.  I especially like meeting people like her.  An absolutely positive personality who beat the odds.  A living representation of hope.

My mother was a chatter.  She enjoyed starting conversations with people she didn't know.  This is a trait she passed on to me.  I find people very interesting.  I am convinced that every person I meet has a compelling story to tell, even if they don't recognize it.  After completing my BA in Economics, I had applied to the University of Western Ontario's MA in Journalism program, but wasn't accepted.  I think I would have enjoyed the profession, because the job is about nothing if not chasing people's stories.

I will continue to relate some stories of the people I meet in this blog, so stay tuned.