Friday, April 28, 2006

Ryan the math whiz

Ryan seems to be turning out to be quite the little mathie, just like mommy and daddy. The other day he got in trouble at school for throwing his shoe or something like that, and he and another boy (grade 3 - Ryan's in grade 1) were told by the teacher on duty to stand against the wall and count to 100 before they could go play again. Ryan decided to count by 5's rather then 1's, and had left the wall long before the other kid had. Not what the teacher meant, to be sure, but hey, she didn't specify!

Then this morning he was putting together an alphabet puzzle he has - each letter other than A and Z has 2 puzzle pieces, and A and Z have one each. He noticed that the box said '50 piece puzzle', and came to me and said 'daddy, 26 plus 24 equals 50'. I asked him how he figured that out, and he told me that he knew that there were 26 letters in the alphabet, but that only 24 of them had 2 pieces in the puzzle, and since there are 50 pieces in the puzzle, 26+24 must be 50.

It ain't rocket science, but he's only 6 1/2, so I think (totally unbiased proud poppa) he's doing very well.

On the work front, ASA finally got its Common Criteria certification today. This has been in the works for over three years, and I've been the engineering point person for the project. I've referred to it as "The project that wouldn't die", but I guess it's now officially dead! As long as we don't decide to do the whole thing again for Jasper...

P.S. A very happy birthday to my wonderful wife Gail, who turns <mumble> today!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Concerts I've seen

Here is a list of bands I have seen live. A number in brackets indicates the number of times I've seen that band. They are listed in the order in which I remembered them while making the list, not the order in which they occurred.

The Captain and TennilleCNE Grandstand - hey, I was only 6
Rush (3)All Maple Leaf Gardens, I think
Triumph (3)MLG twice, and their last-ever show at Kingswood the day before Rik Emmett left the band
Rik EmmettOpened for Kim Mitchell at the CNE
Kim Mitchell (2)CNE and the Village Green at U of Waterloo during frosh week
Bob SegerMLG
Bruce SpringsteenCNE
The EaglesCNE
Don HenleyKingswood
Honeymoon Suite (6)Kingswood a couple of times, Ontario Place forum, The Diamond.
Iron MaidenMLG?
AnthraxMLG? Opened for Maiden
Bruce DickinsonRock 'n Roll Heaven
Metallica (2)Copps Colliseum and Olympic Stadium in Montreal. In Montreal, they played for about an hour before James Hetfield got burned by some pyrotechnics (during Fade To Black, ironically), and they had to cut the show short to take him to the hospital. See Guns 'n Roses below - this was the same show.
Faith No MoreOlympic Stadium - opened for Metallica and GNR
Guns 'n RosesOlympic Stadium - left the stage after 45 minutes, causing a riot. Gail and I didn't notice, because we had left 20 minutes before that to go see Blue Rodeo, who were playing a free show down the street.
Blue Rodeo (3)A bar in Montreal, The Diamond, and the Village Green at U of W
Corrosion of ConformityOpened for Metallica at Copps
VoivodOpened for Rush at MLG. They sucked.
The Rolling StonesCNE
The WhoCNE - Very disappointed. No band that was that popular, with that much material, that has been around for 30+ years should be allowed to play a 90-minute show. The Stones played over 3 hours.
Paul McCartneySkyDome - fantastic show
Red RiderOpening for Rush at MLG
Tom Cochrane (2)Some place in Ottawa (New Years Eve 1992), and The Twist in Waterloo
Chalk CircleThe Twist
Ray Lyell and the StormThe Twist
The Tragically HipFed Hall (!) at U of Waterloo
Jeff HealeyFed Hall
Bryan AdamsMolson Park
Sass JordanMolson Park
The Steve Miller BandMolson Park
Moxy FruvousMolson Park
ExtremeMolson Park
Barenaked LadiesKingswood
Def LeppardCNE
The WallflowersACC, opening for John Mellencamp
John Mellencamp (3)CNE, Molson Amphitheater (when Gail was 8 months pregnant), and ACC. The one at the CNE was probably the loudest concert I've even been to.
Crowded HouseBumbershoot Festival in Seattle
The PosiesBumbershoot - opened for Crowded House
Van HalenCNE, but sadly, never with David Lee Roth
Aldo NovaMLG, opened for Saga
Sheryl CrowCNE, opened for the Eagles
BTOCNE, opened for Van Halen

Update: Added third Blue Rodeo show, Moxy Fruvous, and Extreme - thanks Fais! Also remembered Barenaked Ladies and Aldo Nova

Update: Added Prism

Update: Added Sheryl Crow

Update: Added BTO opening for Van Halen. There was a third band on the bill, but I can't remember who it was.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I've been a fan of The Tea Party since their first album Splendor Solis. I, like everyone else, noted Jeff Martin's striking similarity (in both looks and voice) to Jim Morrison, but by the time their second album The Edges of Twilight (one of my favourite albums) was released, I'd forgotten about that. Martin and the rest of the Tea Party definitely had their own unique musical style (though not dissimilar to that of Led Zeppelin), and he's a very talented guitarist.

The next album, Transmission, was also good - heavier, and without the Eastern musical influences that The Edges of Twilight had, but unmistakeably The Tea Party. Psychopomp is still my favourite Tea Party song ever, and Temptation, Gyroscope, Alarum, and Emerald are all great songs. (Hmmm...just noticed that Army Ants is the only song on that album that doesn't have a one-word title.) I guess Triptych was when they started to go downhill. It was a pretty good album - The Messenger and Chimera are really good songs, and Samsara was reminiscent of The Edges of Twilight. However, the first song I heard from this album was Heaven Coming Down, which was not quite a sappy love song, but close. It certainly didn't have the same Tea Party edge, and was much more radio-friendly than most of their stuff. When I first heard it, I thought "Uh-oh, sounds like Jeff Martin fell in love or got married or something between the last album and this one". I remember laughing when the radio DJ said basically the same thing once the song was over.

The Interzone Mantras had some great songs (Angels, Lullaby, Cathartik), but more not-so-great stuff, and the last album, Seven Circles, was not great at all. Writing's on the Wall was not bad, but was less than 3 minutes long. Wishing You Would Stay was pretty good, but Holly McNarland's backing vocals really made that song. I guess Martin realized that they'd jumped the shark, and he left the band. Since he was the guitarist, singer, chief songwriter, arranger, and producer, his leaving effectively killed the band. I don't know if the other two guys in the band even considered finding a replacement, but I really hope they didn't.

So the other day I'm in Future Shop, and I see a solo album from Jeff Martin called Exile and the Kingdom. I didn't know at the time that the Tea Party had broken up, so I just figured he'd put his own solo record together. I picked it up (only $9.99!), and I've listened to it at work a couple of times now. Unfortunately, it seems that either (a) he's continuing the downward trend, since this album isn't even as good as Seven Circles (the worst Tea Party album), or (b) the other members of the Tea Party contibuted a lot more than just bass, keyboards and drums to that band. Most of the album is just kind of boring and forgettable, but the last song, Good Time Song, is dreadful. Granted, I've only listened to the album twice now, so I'll try to keep an open mind and listen to it a few more times, in case it grows on me. I didn't like Dream Theater's Scenes from a Memory when I first heard it, and now it's my favourite Dream Theater album, so it could happen, I guess.

On a similar note, I also recently picked up Queensrÿche's new album Operation: Mindcrime II, the "sequel" to their amazing 1986 concept album Operation: Mindcrime. Can you have a sequel to an album? I suppose if it's a concept album, you can. Made a bunch of money for Meat Loaf. Anyway, this is another example, like Jeff Martin, of a band that's jumped the shark. Their first couple of albums were pretty good, Rage For Order was very good, and then came Mindcrime, which made Queensrÿche one of the biggest progressive rock bands around. After that came Empire, another great album, which contained the radio-friendly-but-still-cool hit Silent Lucidity. Promised Land was next, and it was good too, but then they dropped off big-time. Their next two albums, Hear in the Now Frontier and Q2K, weren't good at all, and then I lost interest. I'm not even sure if there was another album or two in there. (Somewhere after Empire they released Operation: LIVECrime, which was a live performance of the entire Mindcrime album.) MC II was released a couple of weeks ago, and I picked it up, just to see how they would continue the story. The result so far: meh. It's good, but as my sister might say, it's no screaming hell. There should have been more continuity (both musical and story-wise) from the first album (they should talk to Dream Theater about how to do this). In general, it doesn't sound like a sequel, it sounds like a completely different album containing a story that happens to involve people with the same names as the first album.

I hate to say it, since I'm a huge Hip fan, but I think The Tragically Hip have also jumped the shark. Their last three albums have been quite forgettable, though the live DVD "That Night In Toronto" released last fall was really good. Another shark-jumping band might be Audioslave — and after only 2 albums. Their second album was very disappointing, considering how good the first one was. Rush hasn't gotten to the point of producing really bad albums, but the last few are certainly not as good as their earlier stuff, so maybe they should call it a career. A couple of years ago, I thought U2 had jumped the shark as well, but they seemed to be off of whatever drugs caused the Zooropa and Pop albums, and the last couple have been really good.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Cool picture

Here is a cool image that looks like it's moving even though it's not. Like, totally far out, man.

Update Fixed the link. Must have done an extra paste in there. Thanks Mark!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Floppin', Turnin', and ... Riverin'?

Never been big on poker, mainly cause I'm not very good at it, but I've been interested in playing some Texas Hold 'Em recently. Don't know why, really, I wasn't looking to play, but I found a game online and played a bit there, just me against the computer. Then I tried one game (not real money!) against 7 real people, and dammit all if I didn't win the freakin' game.

So I guess that gave me a bit of an inflated ego, so I tried, also not for real money, but against real people. I got smoked. I played a game this afternoon and lost $200 of play money in a very short time, and then this evening after everyone went to bed I played a little more - I played smarter than this afternoon, but still lost $1800. In my last hand, I was dealt a pair of freakin' aces and still lost. If this were real money, man would I have some 'splainin to do.

It was fun though, so I'll keep pluggin' away. It'll be a while until I play with real money, though, if ever.

On the lacrosse front, I saw the wildest freakin' (word of the day?) lacrosse game on Saturday night - Rock vs. Wings. The Rock were down 2 or 3 to nothing before they ever touched the ball. They were down 4-0 and then 7-1, then stormed back with a great second period to tie the game at 7. They were down 10-8 at halftime, then they didn't score at all in the third, and were down 14-8 early in the fourth. Again they stormed back to tie it at 14 with 43 seconds left, and then Colin Doyle won it 1:13 into overtime. They never had a lead in the game until they won it. They were down by 6 and came back to tie it, and then were down by 6 again and again came back to tie it. Gotta love lacrosse.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Go stick a candle in your ear

I read an article today about ear candling, and how it is ineffective and dangerous. I have three words on this subject: No. Shit. Sherlock.

I first heard about ear candling about 10 years ago. Whoever was telling me about it had to tell me a couple of times before I would believe that people actually did this. The idea is that you take a hollow candle and stick one end in your ear, and light the other end. The flame creates a very mild vacuum, which draws wax and other "impurities" out of your ear. This is another one of those things that should be obvious hogwash to anyone with an IQ over 7, but apparently is not.

My friend Jeff (also a skeptic) once did an experiment to see just how much suction is created by burning a hollow candle (note that it wasn't just any hollow candle, it was a candle made for ear candling). He lit the candle, then lit a match, blew the match out, and held the match below the bottom of the candle, which was held at the same angle as when doing ear candling. The wisps of smoke coming from the match drifted right by the end of the candle, completely unaffected. There was absolutely no vacuum sucking the smoke into the candle. If the vacuum created is so small that smoke is not affected, how is it going to pull wax out of your ear?

And another thing - ear wax is there for a reason. Unless you have a medical condition where you have too much of it, why pull it out?