Saturday, August 30, 2008


I haven't posted much in the last week and guess what? I haven't written much either.

My mum was in town Monday through Thursday. We spent all day Tuesday running errands and shopping and driving through traffic.

Wednesday was the two younger kids' first day of school, which lasted for two hours, 8:00 to 10:00. I had asked Child Two to confirm those hours and she had told me 8:00 to 9:00, so I spent an hour in the waiting in the schoolyard. After school, Child Three went over to a friend and I took Child Two to exchange a video game. I spent the afternoon trying to hustle work and doing some household errands until I had to pick up Child Three.

I went to a meeting of baseball and T-ball coaches, until I grew suspicious that I was either in the wrong place or there on the wrong day. After half an hour spent browsing Mark Furman's book on the OJ case, I went back home to discover I was early by a week. Elvi later came home that night from Winnipeg.

Elvi and I spent Thursday morning at the bank. We got an equity loan to pay for the kids' school, so that while I may have to work until I'm 82, at least I don't have to pull the kids out of their schools and away from their friends. My mum and her husband spent the rest of Thursday afternoon with us before heading down to Toronto to visit my sister and that evening we set aside to spend with some friends in town from Oregon.

Friday, Child One and I picked up our Oregon friends then met Elvi for lunch around noon. We went to Bistro Olivieri, located inside a bookstore on Cote-des-Neiges. The atmosphere and decor were wonderful, but that's not going to be enough to make me go back. Our food took an hour to show up, and that was salads, a pasta dish, and one piece of fish. The staff completely forgot about the lamb shank I ordered. By the time the waiter (I think he was the manager, too) told me my dish was next on the list, everyone else had finished eating. He graciously wrapped it up to go and didn't charge us for it, but that just shouldn't happen at those prices. The food was decent, but $13 is a lot to spend on a standard salad with a two-inch by two-inch square of goat cheese. My lamb, once I ate it at home, was good but nothing spectacular.

Friday night, my father and his wife showed up and we ate at home with them. We have friends who moved to PEI in June and have come back to Montreal to visit. They are staying with us and showed up late last night: two adults, two boys, and a Lab.

And here's where the story gets interesting. Thanks for hanging on so far.

I was playing some Wii (one of the Medal of Honor series) while waiting for our guests to show up. Child One was watching me on the coach, amazed by my l33t sniper skills. I saw an animal I thought was one of her chinchillas run from a china hutch to behind the piano. I told her she must have left open a door to a chinchilla cage, but she went to check and found all four chinchillas present and accounted for.

Uh oh.

Just then, our guests showed up. Their Lab went straight for the piano, sniffing and pawing at it. Our dog, or should I write "dog", remained oblivious. The alpha male among the guests (not the Lab) spotted the rogue varmint behind the piano. The creature ran out from behind the piano by the end table under which the "dog" hides out and disappeared. I assumed it went under the hide-a-bed couch, so I pulled it away from the wall.

I found more evidence of an invader on the floor that used to be under the couch. There was chinchilla-like poop and a handful of dog food. I pulled the cushions of the couch to open the bed up and expose the floor beneath it. When I pulled the bed out, it sounded like I'd won a slot-machine jackpot as dog food cascaded out the bottom of the back of the couch onto the floor. By the time it stopped, there must have been two pounds of it.

The varmint also reappeared, spotted by me and Child One. It ran for a corner of the room and disappeared somehow. There's only a wooden table and no exits there. I think it may have escaped detection and run into the bottom of a nearby comfy chair.

The hide-a-bed mattress had wads of coach stuffing on it, and some more dog food. We cleaned up the mess but never found the elusive beast.

The creature was four to five inches long. I thought it was battleship gray and fuzzy, but Child One says it was gray-brown and sleek. I saw no tail; Child One says she saw a three or four-inch furry tail. If we trust our observations, we've discovered a new species to the region. If we trust parsimony, we have a rat living in our couch, either a black rat or a younger/smaller brown/Norway rat.

Child Two wants to keep it as a pet. I'm off to look for rat traps. With all the animals we have, some loose, rat poison isn't a wise choice. I did seem to eliminate our mice with traps; let's hope I can do the same with the rat.

Oh, and for some reason, our guests all slept in the basement.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Blog polish

Note the spiffy links to post pages now available in the post title on the main blog page!

Note the post pages themselves now have the title of the post as the title of the page itself!!

Note how I procrastinate by futzing with Blogger code instead of writing!!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My brother the misunderstood artist

My brother has a photo that's a finalist in the Washingtonian's August sports-themed photo contest. His photo is the one of the mascot. Go vote.

Like many artists, he is not without his brushes with the seamier side of life. Go read his account.

To answer the first question I had: he didn't use the bathroom in the apartment because a roommate was in the shower.

What did I do today? I got a fridge, I paid tuition for two of my three kids, and I spent far too long in traffic doing so. I also applied for three more jobs that I won't get, either. No pages done.

Bonus Jewish joke of the day:

"I had the strangest dream last night," a young Jewish man was telling his Jewish psychiatrist. "I saw my mother but, when she turned around to look at me, I noticed that she had your face. And you can imagine, I found this very disturbing. In fact, I woke up immediately and couldn't get back to sleep. I just lay there in bed waiting for morning to come."

He took a deep breath. "Then I got up, had a piece of toast, and came right over here for my appointment. I thought you could help me explain the meaning of this strange dream."

The psychiatrist was silent for a moment before responding in an annoyed tone: "A piece of toast!? You call that a breakfast!?"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tuna latkes

When I was small(er), my grandmother used to make salmon latkes. I loved them, for a while.

Canned salmon is high in calcium. Know why? Because the canners don't bother to debone the fish. Salmon bones are soft and easily digested, and they are, of course, high in calcium - they're freaking bones.

One day, I found a whole vertebra in my canned salmon, and that pretty much turned me off canned salmon for good. I'm not a fan of any salmon at the best of times - unless it's smoked or raw. I find cooked salmon to have a dry taste that's mildly unpleasant to me, no matter how wet the fish actually is.

Elvi is away at a conference and my mother and sister are in town and I guess the convergence of all of that led me to consider making salmon latkes for the kids' and my supper - for a minute. I quickly modified my mental menu to tuna latkes.

Here's what I came up with, and, boy, are they delicious. This recipe might feed five as part of a full meal. The three kids and I left two and a half for leftovers.

4 can tuna packed in water
6 large eggs
1 medium onion, chopped small, but not diced
1.5 cups breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh dill
salt and pepper
oil for frying (I used peanut)

Open the cans of tuna and drain them briefly. Leave enough water to keep the tuna sopping wet. Dump it all in a big bowl and break up the tuna into bite-sized or smaller pieces if it's chunk-style.

Add the eggs and scramble the tuna/egg mixture. Add the breadcrumbs, dill, and onion and mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste and mix again. Allow the bowl of glop to sit at least 15 minutes.

Heat a frying pan with a quarter inch or so of oil to medium-low heat.

While the oil heats, form latke patties. Wet your hands, and grab a small handful of glop. Form it into a patty no more than half an inch thick. Any thicker and the outside will burn before the inside cooks through. Use your thumbs to make the edges of the patties perpendicular, like a hamburger.

Put the patties in the oil and cook until golden brown (a few minutes). If you've had trouble getting the latkes thin enough, you can press them flatter with a spatula when you add them to the pan. Flip and cook the other side to the same doneness, drain excess oil and eat.

You'll have to add more oil between batches. I found I had sufficient time to make the next batch of patties while one batch cooked, so you can save time that way.

No one thought these needed any condiment, but I can see sour cream being a nice Baltic addition.

Bonus dinner discussion:

Last night, I had a mojito and a chocolate key lime martini for supper at a bar with the curiously English name of Plan B Bar. The mojito was difficult to drink because the mint had been obliterated rather than muddled and it was difficult to drink without eating mint pulp. I like a hint of mint but dislike eating mint leaf - a preference picked up on a cross-country flight when I was small and ate a mint-leaf garnish back when airplane meals not existed, but had garnishes, too. But the martini, although it stretched the definition of that word, was amazing. I wish I could remember what was in it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Off-track fretting

I started August with the goal of writing three pages a day, but it's August 23 and instead of 69 pages, I have 47.

Now, that's not bad, but it's not what I think I can do, either. I haven't written a page in three days, but I have been working on the script. It's taking some effort to convert five lines of treatment to scenes that work.

Of course, there are distractions as well. Yesterday I spent three hours traveling to Costco, buying fewer than a dozen items, and returning - mostly because traffic, even in early afternoon, along Decarie and the Metropolitan is insanely thick. There's even traffic at midnight, after my Friday night hockey.

Today, I spent the morning losing our championship T-ball game with Child Three, watching some major-division ball, and waiting for him to stop bouncing off inflatable habitats. The father of one kid came up to me as we waited for our free junk food and observed, "It's amazing after two seasons of T-ball that (boy) still won't run past first base." Yeah, it's amazing to me, too, especially with the excellent examples set by some of the boys with more aptitude.

I've also spent some leisure time at Fantastic Contraption, a thoroughly engaging and educational engineering game. Any game that tempts a cheapskate like me to pay for the full version has to be good.

Off to schmooze....

Bonus video:

Did you know it's Imperial Fleet Week in San Francisco?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unsubstantiated chuckle

As part of the project I'm working on, I had to do a little research into the publishing house of Charles Scribner's Sons.

I found this funny tidbit at a page from a University of South Carolina homage to Scott Fitzgerald. I haven't been able to substantiate it elsewhere. Can anyone now or in the future comment with any measure of authority?

I've slightly edited it for correctness, but here it is.

Henry Adams, whose "History of the United States" was published in 1889 in nine volumes, and his ironical letters to the firm offer a model for any difficult author to follow. Henry van Dyke started out on the Scribner's list with a pamphlet titled "The National Sin of Literary Piracy" in 1888. Van Dyke wrote another book a few years later that caused a rather awkward situation; the book was titled "Fisherman’s Luck" and, to its publisher’s bad luck, the title contained a prominent and regrettable single-letter misprint that almost put Scribner's instantly out of business and the author into an early grave.

As an aside, I wonder if "The National Sin of Literary Piracy" has any application to digital media a century later.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Last week in baseball

(The Internet is cool and all, but don't you miss Mel Allen on weekend lunchtime TV?)

A week ago, I sat mired in fourth place in the Irrational League with little hope of coming within smelling distance of Frank in first.

Then my team went on a tear. In one week, it amassed 21 home runs, which contributed to a .343 average overall, and 72 RBIs. (Compare those numbers to the season totals, below - it's about 10% of the total in about 5% of the playing time so far.) The pitchers kicked in with an ERA of 2.01, WHIP of 1.07, and four wins.

My team is now in second place, 1.5 points out of first. With two more home runs, I would be in first. My team is hurting a bit, with hurler Chris Young and Russ Branyan newly injured - and a huge list of players who fell by the wayside earlier in the year (Smoltz, Furcal, Hatteberg, El Duque, and Wily Mo...).

Nevertheless, things are looking up in the volatile world of baseball stats.

.283 batting average (1st by .040 over first-place Frank)
217 HR (2nd, down by two to Frank, up by two on third)
791 RBI (1st, up by four on Frank)
110 SB (4th, up by two)
3.93 ERA (2nd, up by 0.01)
1.26 WHIP (2nd, down by 0.03)
54 wins (tied for 10th, down two from eighth)
21 saves (8th)

Bonus interview on American anti-intellectualism:

Go read this.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Journalism life and walking wounded

BusinessWeek last week had an article on the Berlin daily Bild, which in 2007 had its most profitable year ever.

Wait!? A newspaper that's more profitable than ever?!? How is that possible?

Once again, a magazine buries the lead. Here is most of the last two paragraphs:

I suspect the real reason German papers still thrive is their embrace of competition. Unlike so many U.S. papers, Bild was never part of a quasi-monopoly that allowed complacency. It's telling that Bild doesn't deliver —it depends on newsstand sales. "Bild has to prove itself at the kiosk every day," says Deputy Editor-in-Chief Michael Paustian.

That pressure helped Bild maintain its focus on original content. It uses almost no wire copy and brags that every story is an exclusive. Even during the crisis years, Bild kept its 800-strong editorial staff intact.

How about that? A paper that focuses on local news and passes up the crutch of wire copy, and it thrives.

Another moneymaker for the paper is both intriguing and a bit disconcerting, and can be found if we peruse the penultimate pair of paragraphs (he he):

German papers also took advantage of how slowly Europeans embraced the Web, which gave editors a chance to learn from U.S. mistakes. Bild used a partnership with Deutsche Telekom, Germany's biggest Internet provider, to gain a foothold online at minimal cost. Now most of Bild's Web readers go straight to the site rather than via a search engine or portal. Diekmann says YouTube (GOOG) is sufficiently impressed to mull working together.

I'm impressed by the way Bild is staking out the mobile Web. Via a partnership with Vodafone Group (VOD), Bild became a mobile-phone provider, selling prepaid airtime at the same newsstands that sell the paper. Bild Mobile gives customers unlimited surfing and downloads as long as they stay tuned to That's a compelling way to keep users glued to your site, and it has made Bild Germany's No. 1 mobile Web news destination.

I'm not sure I want my mobile service linked to specific media, but I may be a Luddite fuddy-duddy.

In other news news, Georgian journalist Tamara Urushadze took a bullet and kept on bulletining.

When she displays her wound at the end of the clip, she says "I have been hit by a bullet. You can see I am scratched here. Most likely it was a sniper. It has most likely been a light weapon since it's a minor wound."

Bonus T-ball news:

We held our opponents to three measly runs in the top of the first extra inning, then got our first two of ten batters on base. Things were looking good but a force-out at second and four straight pop outs/line outs to shortstop put us in a hole. We got one single to load the bases, then another pop out to first also caught led inattentive baserunner at first to be doubled off. OUr last batter came up with two on and could only ground one in the deep hole at first. It scored two runs, but we needed three. We play to win the loser's bracket tomorrow.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just some stuff

I got my day's three pages done and to celebrate, here's some stuff.

I'm sure you've seen or heard of the Tyson Gay/Homosexual text-substitution error, but here's a more recent example that isn't so widespread. It is merely a computer error, so I'll give them a pbutt.

Next is the Large Hadron Rap, sung to commemorate the opening of every conspiracy nut's favourite doomsday device.

Bonus extra innings:

Our T-ball game ended in a tie, called on account of darkness. We pick up the extra innings tonight. We were down three runs going into our last licks, but we should have won. We ran into two atrocious outs on the basepaths (all kids bat each inning) - kids doing things I, as first base coach, specifically warned them about before the subsequent at-bat. Uuuurgh.

Still, we had runners on first and third with our last batter up. In T-ball, the last batter and all runners try to score no matter what as the fielding team tries to get the ball to the catcher before they do. A simple ground ball would have scored a run without question, but our hitter smacked a smoking line drive that was caught, and the runners failed to tag up in the excitement. Double uuuurgh.

I threw my hat against a fence in frustration. I'm a bad role model.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Nine pages behind

Once my summer course ended, I set myself a goal for August of three pages a day on this biopic. I want to finally nail it. I was on schedule until this cold took me out, along with some research work and job hustlin'. Today is August 13, which means I should be on page 39, but I'm only on 30, nine pages behind.

I hit a bump in my treatment. There's a sequence with my lead in the US, a scene of him in Europe, and a sequence with him back in the US. That doesn't work as well in the screenplay as it did in the treatment, which seems to be a weakness of mine. According to my treatment, this should happen before page 25 and I have obviously missed that mark. I understand why I missed it - I needed to add scenes to break up the monotony of a single plot line - but I'm a little worried that I didn't catch it in the treatment stage.

I doubt I'll catch up tonight. I'm in the middle of a writing test for a job with a major software developer. It's an unusual test, but one right up my alley. The test doesn't gauge writing or editing ability, but resembles a character sketch meant for a screenplay more than anything else. It's as fascinating to write as it is to wonder at the company's approach.

Tomorrow afternoon, I meet with a local producer about documentary research.

I probably shouldn't have stayed out all last night drinking and eating with ELAN people, although I did learn one thing: don't order a mojito at Viva (29 de la Commune E.). They make it creme de menthe and no sugar syrup that I could taste. Bleh.

Bonus T-ball update:

I haven't had much to write about T-ball this summer. I'm an assistant coach so I have no decisions to make, but I am very impressed with Child Three's progress in every aspect of the game. All the kids on this team have made huge strides and almost all hit the snot out of the ball now. During our first play-off game Monday, we had one kid catch a hard-hit fly ball in the outfield and another snag a line drive. That's unheard of for rank-and-file quality eight-year-olds (around here, anyway). Game two of the playoffs is tonight, against the first-place team. We'd finished second overall but finally managed to beat them the last game of the regular season.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Not much of anything this weekend as I battle a cold with a sore throat that feels like someone is sticking a knife from my throat up my Eustachian tube.

Elvi keeps singing, the kids keep watching Spongebob, and the puppy keeps pooping and peeing inside even after hours out playing on the lawn.

No writing, though. I can't even think from lack of sleep. This cold and the throat kept me up most of the night.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Child Three finds work

I spent time last Saturday with Children Two and Three. They each auditioned for a voiceover role in a short film. It's an unusual film, about the life of a child who was never born because the mother died while pregnant (I think that's it...). The voice-over is the never-born child.

Child Three won the role against a half-dozen candidates. Good for him! It even pays, ever so slightly.

The afternoon was not a total loss for Child Two, however. The counter girl in the cafe we visited before the audition told Child Two what beautiful eyes she had and how she'd noticed them as soon as she walked in.

My work is going OK. It's not paid, but I am making script progress. I got down a nice sequence late last night.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Books updates

I haven't started working on the second book yet because we're waiting on some new information in the form of photos to work its way back to us through the supply chain. It's still a green-lit project.

I've also received an enquiry from a Czech publisher who would like to republish the Avia S-199 book in Czech. We're waiting to hear the offer.

That's about all the news, unless you want to hear more about my new career as a dog-bathroom attendant.

Bonus birthday wishes:

Happy 70th birthday to the most beautiful lady to ever fly. Looks, sound, and accomplishment - she had it all.