The Web
Post Categories
Buy my book!
Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for January 2007

A beastly celebration

Here are two animal images to celebrate the return of my Mac G4 to a full life.

First, our dog, Crash. His face says “I’m cute” but his posture says “Please don’t kill me.” That pretty much describes his life.

Next is an image from Digg. Granted, it’s only peripherally an animal image, but maybe this will seem as hilarious to you as it did to me at 2 a.m.

Is it funnier that the student did this, or to imagine the grader taking this seriously? The latter, if you ask me.

Left to do:

– Put some book links on the main 101 Squadron site. (Can I name-drop? Peter Mersky wrote me and asked me to sell his books.)
– Acquire a new power cord for my Dell laptop for the second time in six months.
– Do some paying work.
– Wonder if that loud hard drive really will drive me crazy. I hope that’s just Spotlight chunking away as it builds its search database.

A long day

It took a while, but I’ve managed to save nearly all my data and software. I lost three files: eudorastatistics.xml; a Firefox cache file; and Limewire.

The hard drive that choked also contained my OS 9 files. I saved some stuff for posterity and reformatted the drive. Even better, I used that drive and the new drive I plugged in to make a RAID. (A RAID is a process by which identical data lies on two or more hard drives, thus providing data security through redundancy and faster hard drive reading/writing.) I’ve always wanted a RAID, and now I can blow off that furshlugginer Carbon Copy Cloner.

Having saved my data on a different partition, I’m now copying what I saved over to the RAID (I chose a dinosaur name this time). My Mac tells me there are 34 minutes to go.

I also saved OS 10.3.9 system files, which are going on the RAID. The permissions on these files are undoubtedly screwy and I’m not going to even try to start up with that system, but I hope that my upgrade to OS 10.4 will accept these remnants as valid. If not, I can do a clean installation of 10.4 and re-install what applications I’ll need to and update preference and whatnot. No big deal, just more time.

I have remained remarkably calm through this process, much to my surprise and even more so, I’m guessing, to Elvi.

When it rains

Emboldened by my recent CPU upgrade, I bought a SuperDrive, which is Apple-speak for a drive that reads and writes DVDs and CD-ROMs.

I installed it yesterday, along with a hard drive that’s been sitting at the bottom of my Mac forever. I forget why. It was screwed in, but at a location where no ribbon cable could reach it. The G4 case has, I discovered, a slot for a hard drive beneath the optical drive, so I figured I might as well install it and find out what it is.

It was a 40 GB drive, empty.

All went well. Everything worked. I decided to use this new drive for back-up of crucial files, so I booted Carbon Copy Cloner and set a script to run. I also started a back-up, but cancelled that.

The first DVD I fed my new SuperDrive appeared on my desktop just fine. When I tried a second DVD, my machine just sorta hung.

I’m in no mood to give a blow by blow account, but somehow my directory got hosed. My original start-up hard drive, the one I was going to back up, can no longer start up my Mac. It hangs at the Gray apple logo as the gear spins and spins and spins.

I was able to start up the box by putting a system on another of my hard drives (I have three in there). TechTool Deluxe was able to make my sick drive readable.

As I write this (on Elvi’s computer), my computer is again trying to boot on my original drive. Again, it’s stalled at the gray Apple logo. I suspect I will be able to rescue files, but it’s going to take a while. Serves me right for trying to back up my data.

Why am I writing this on Elvi’s computer? The power cord on my laptop started emitting wisps of smoke as the power cord gave up the ghost, again. This time, it was the end going into the power adapter. I’m stuck without any of my files or applications. Thank goodness for Gmail. Thank goodness that I have nothing on deadline at the moment.

I’m going to try to use this little vacation to not slit my throat.

Bonus night out:

I attended the Montreal Film Group’s first birthday party last night. I spent most of the night talking with my cousin (who let me touch her laptop and it didn’t explode), Juliana (a former student I ran into), and journalist/researcher/documentarian/ass-kicker Sandy Wolofsky, an old friend who I keep running into at screenwriting courses, movie showings, and other events. We get along great every time.

Meli Melo

(That’s French for Bits & Bites.)

On the wildlife front, I’ve dispatched one more ant since I blogged about that. An hour ago, we acquired two more chinchillas, a white mother and a piebald daughter. We took them from a couple with a new baby who were too busy to care for them.

I found an addictive Flash game, BowMaster. Don’t go play it. Don’t even visit it. Especially don’t buy the healing arrow – it’s a waste of time.

What I do encourage you to take a look at is one of the funniest YouTube mash-ups yet. It’s called “Vader Sessions” and it relies on the huge body of work performed by James Earl Jones.


I’m sure it’s a lesson on subtext in dialogue, somehow.

Excitement at the theatre

Elvi and I took in “Flags of Our Fathers” last night for $2 apiece at Dollar Cinema at Decarie Square (or whatever it’s called this year).

As the credits rolled, a fireman came in and asked us to evacuate. There was a fire in the mall, but it wasn’t serious. Once out of the room and into the lobby, we could hear the fire alarm and smell the smoke. I think the fire was already out. There were firemen and water near Ellie and Ernie, but nobody seemed too concerned or active.

We wondered if the fire department waited for the movie to end before evacuating us.

I enjoyed the film, once I stopped playing the Spot the “Band of Brothers”/”Saving Private Ryan” Actor Game (Barry Pepper, the guy who played Buck Compton).

What excited me was the film’s structure. What a fantastic, chaotic mess: multiple VO narrators and numerous stories interweaving to build a coherent whole.

Story 1) The attack, battle, climb up the mountain, and subsequent capture of most of the island.

Story 2) The war bond drive and the lives of Doc, Ira, and Rene after the war. Some might quibble, but I think this is a single coherent timeline.

Story 3) Doc’s collapse and death.

Story 4) Doc’s son interviews his father’s fellow soldiers.

Did I miss any?

On the scene level, it was a tangled mess, and inexperienced eyes might not have approved of the thing on paper.

Thematically, the screenplay came together, solid in structure. What a masterful accomplishment, to see past the narrow lens of scenes and sequences to the larger whole.

My first draft of “101” used similar format, of multiple timelines. Some people suggested I give that up, and my aborted second draft did. But now I wonder. Maybe I have to boost the emotion of the frame story rather than cut it outright. Food for thought.

There’s no question I’m a better screenwriter now than I was when I started “101”. I still want to get better before I hack at that again.

William Broyles Jr., with Paul Haggis a screenwriter of “Flags of our Fathers”, specializes in war movies. Like me, he attended Rice. Maybe I’ll hit him up for a read one day.

Bonus kudos:

To Mystery Man, blogger and analyst extraordinaire, for becoming TriggerStreet’s reviewer of the month.

Fifty things

Inspired by Brett and Scott, I’ve made up my list of 50 things you (probably) don’t know about me.

1. My wife is six inches taller than me. I’m 5’3″.

2. I’ve never partaken of any sort of illegal or unprescribed drug, excluding second-hand joint smoke. Nor have I ever smoked a cigarette. I know one sibling who has, though.

3. For a long time, the biggest tragedy in my life was the loss of the dog. He was stolen. Our nanny and I saw the guy with our dog at a country store but by the time she called my parents, he’d taken off.

4. I wanted to be a garbageman when I was young.

5. In high school, my goal was to clone a mammoth. This was before PCR technology.

6. I’ve carried mammoth tusks, a Lambeosaurus skull, and other cool fossils. I found a tyrannosaur tooth at a hadrosaur dig.

7. I wear boxer briefs or boxers. I wore briefs until my mid-20s.

8. I think that I could have played at least college football if I’d grown a foot taller. I was a superb running back into my early teens, and played safety, too – then everyone else grew up. A new coach couldn’t see past my size and all I was allowed to do was kickoff coverage. I couldn’t stomach that and quit organized ball. All through high school, I was always picked first in pick-up tackle football games.

9. The only bone I’ve ever broken is the medial corner of the proximal end of the proximal phalange (shouldn’t that be phalanx?) of my right thumb. In layman’s terms, if you hold your hand in a thumb-up gesture, I broke a corner off the lower of the two thumb bones, the corner that faces away from the other fingers.

10. I told my mother I broke it taking a heavy book off the shelf while I was home sick from a half-day of school. In fact, I played sick and went to play football that afternoon. I broke it reaching back for a pass, which bent my thumb back. (Sorry, Mum.) I broke it again while tackled during a pick-up game at university.

11. I was a member of the Pace Mannion Fan Club.

12. I once bought a couch for $10 and found $17+ inside it.

13. I represented my high school on Reach for the Top, an extinct Canadian high-school quiz show. We could never beat Jerry Michopoulos and the rest of the Malcolm Campbell team. I was teammates with noted eccentric/prisoner Kenny Hechtman.

14. I was on Rice University’s College Bowl team in 1988 and went to the national finals tournament in Chicago. We lost our first two games and spent the rest of the weekend drinking and watching the Cubs from behind home plate, courtesy of the Houston Astros’ Bob Knepper (I think, I was drunk).

15. I got 1480/1600 on my SAT and 2320/2400 on the General GRE.

16. When I visited the Rice for an admissions interview, the first student I met was Babs N. She gave me a tour of the campus. Later, she appeared naked in Playboy as a Girl of the Southwest Conference.

17. I went naked polar-bear swimming in Long Island Sound with Kirk Johnson.

18. My father and I discovered I needed glasses when I couldn’t read the clock in the Montreal Forum during a Habs game.

19. I despise cilantro.

20. I’m not a big fan of beer and almost never drink it for pleasure.

21. I shave twice a week at most, and I use a beard trimmer to do so, so I always have stubble.

22. I went to LCC for two weeks, where I was paddled for not doing homework. I basically had to picket my parents every day before they agreed to take me out of there.

23. My wife’s first husband and I were in the same class during my two weeks at LCC.

24. I took a creative writing class at Concordia before I entered the journalism program. Our class self-published a collection of short stories called “No Right Answers”. I edited the thing.

25. I was one of seven partners who made up Tech Pubs, a company that wrote the technical manual for World War II Online. The game’s first publisher, Strategy First, never paid us the $38,000 in royalties they owed us. We sued. Two weeks before our court date, the company entered bankruptcy protection.

26. I flew from Toronto to New York City in the flight deck of an El Al 747-400.

27. I tried to get into medical school, and I got great MCAT scores, but I never made it past the interviews. This was 1990-91. In Edmonton, they asked what I thought the biggest danger in the world was. I explained that the impending break-up of the Soviet Union would leave poorly disciplined daughter states in control of nuclear weapons. I think the answer they were looking for was AIDS.

28. My buddy Danny Frankel and I skipped school to catch the first showings of each of the first three Star Wars films.

29. I spent parts of two summers working in banana plantations in Israel. At Rice, I stole some ornamental banana plants from Baker College and grew them outside my room. The year after I graduated, they bore fruit.

30. When I was five, my brother dropped a five-pound can of crayons on my head for no reason at all. I got five stitches. I still have the scar at what used to be my hairline.

31. I made par on the first golf hole I ever played. I’ve only played three rounds in my life.

32. In college, I grew my hair long, just long enough to make a ponytail.

33. In my mid-20s, I had a gastroscopy at the hospital I worked at. The doctor let me steer and look at my stomach while I was hopped up on IV Valium.

34. My favourite Pokemon is called Farfetch’d. It’s a duck who whacks enemies with his leek.

35. I need silence to work effectively. Music is too distracting.

36. I like doing taxes.

37. Mosquitoes seem drawn to me more than to other people.

38. My first AD&D; character was Daedelus, a lawful evil cleric of Inana. I still have the character sheet.

39. My high-school yearbook statement was a Basic computer program that if run would print “FUCK. HAH. I GOT A DIRTY WORD BY THEM.”

40. I attended the 1981 Blue Monday game that knocked the Expos out of their only playoff appearance.

41. The three longest road trips I’ve undertaken are, in chronological order, Houston-New Orleans-Boca Raton and back, Boca Raton-Montreal, and San Jose-Salt Lake City-Denver-Oshkosh-Montreal.

42. I once helped a gay man paint his gallery overnight. His lover showed up in the morning and punched him because I stayed over. Nothing had gone on, but I felt awkward.

43. I goosed my first girlfriend and threw her down a flight of stairs by mistake.

44. I’ve never played baseball, only softball.

45. I don’t have a pilot’s license and I don’t know radio protocol, but I can fly a plane from start-up to shutdown, and I do fly my dad’s Cessna. When piloting, I always get airsick, probably from looking at the gauges. I never feel nauseated as a mere passenger.

46. My favourite book is probably Kurt Vonnegut’s “Bluebeard”.

47. One of my earliest memories is losing my Expos hat at a zoo. It fell into the bear pit. My brother laughed at me, so I took his hat a
nd threw it in the pit after mine. I also remember going to Messina, N.Y. with my mother’s aunt and uncle. I have a vague memory of going to Lake George, N.Y., and having our car towed up a hill in a rainstorm. And I remember my dad waking me to watch the Habs win the Stanley Cup against the Black Hawks in 1971. I was five. I can’t place the others chronologically.

48. The painting in our dining room came from the basement of my parent’s house. It still has dents in it from the floor hockey we used to play down there.

49. I name my hard drive partitions after dinosaurs and “Futurama” characters.

50. I exhibit mild trichotillomania, which sometimes leaves me with sparse patches on my mustache or goatee.

Ants? In January?

Over the last three days, I’ve mercilessly slaughtered three ants, one per day. Two I slew on my desk. The latest, this afternoon, I crushed in our master bathroom.

Ants come inside our home every once in a while, in summer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an ant in Montreal in January. It’s a small black/red/black kind – a species of Camponotus. (We also get big black ants and tiny red ones and black ones round here.)

Here’s hoping these aren’t some sort of mutant super-ants with a keenly developed sense of revenge.


Is it just me, or was tonight’s “Heroes” a cliche-ridden pile of melodramatic tripe?

Has it jumped the shark? Are there too many plotlines now?

The flagrantly exhibited URL to Primatech Paper had me surfing there – during the show.

I enjoyed the sequence with the invisible man/men, but from a technical point of view as “Sheep’s End” also has sequences with invisibility.

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood.

In the family news

Child One is getting insane grades. The mark she earned on her math midterm in December was one of those of which you think “Nobody really gets a mark like that, do they?” Yes Virginia, they do.

Child Two decided to celebrate my birthday over the course of a week. Last weekend, she asked my what my favourite meals were, allegedly as part of a survey. I told her my favourite breakfast was bagel, cream cheese and lox with tomato and onion. I couldn’t decide on a lunch, so I gave her two suppers: sushi and a good steak.

Monday night, my birthday night, we went to Kaizen for sushi. I’m so with it that I hadn’t connected Child Two’s question with the meal.

(Brief sidebar: Kaizen had been rated a city favourite in the Montreal travel info I recently edited. I had downgraded it to decent Asian cuisine based on what I’d heard and read. Having visited the premises, I have to agree with my assessment. It’s good sushi, but overpriced for what you receive.)

Later in the week, we barbecued steaks in the cold – well, someone did. I’m not that dedicated. I clued in to Child Two’s plan because of the secrecy around the meal. And yesterday, the family indulged me with bagels. (I’m supposed to cut carbs to limit my genetically based hyperlipidemia.)

Funny thing was that Child Two’s ploy was so well rigged that she actually had conducted at least part of a survey of favourite meals among the family, although only my choices counted for anything.

Child Three played his first hockey game in goalie equipment yesterday, at a tournament downtown in what could possibly have been called the Gay Village Invitational (Not a slur, just a comment on the location of the arena). His team won 7-1. He didn’t have too many more shots than his team had goals, but Child Three made some dandy saves. One a nice toe kick, a nice leaping arm save, and two stick saves that deflected the shots into the corner. The one goal was disappointing. Like his dad, Child Three daydreams when the action is at the other end of the ice, and when a shot came from two-thirds the way down the half-rink they play on, Child Three never moved a muscle and the puck slid by him. The good saves make up for the lapse, though, and maybe the goal will be a lesson.

As for Dog One, he had sleepover at a dog-friend’s house last night.

I forgot to mention last week that both my orthopod nor my physiotherapist set me loose. I have a few more shoulder exercises to avoid, but my shoulder is back to 95% quality, I’d say. The chronic pain is gone, but there’s still some stiffness when reaching behind my back.

Bonus review of a tasty drink:

I tried Crystal Light’s lemon-lime drink mix. If you like sour, go for it. It reminds of sucking on a Jolly Rancher. (Of course, he would be.)

Oh, yeah…

Applications load quicker, for sure. The Mac is a bit louder, but that’s easily forgotten after a few minutes of use.

Unfortunately, this upgrade didn’t help my frame rate in WarBirds. Maybe I’ll find a cheap video card upgrade on eBay. Then again, it could be the bus (that’s the pathway between CPU and video card) that’s limiting.

Every click…
...contributes to world domination.