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Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

I recently started experimenting with melatonin to alter/improve my sleep schedule to something a little more normal after hearing a lot of people talk about it. It's easy to do since it's an over the counter supplement in Canada.

The effects have been very interesting. Pretty much consistently, after taking a 5mg sublingual dose of melatonin, I become sleepy about 1-2 hours after taking it. Lately, this has meant taking it at about 11:30-12:00 and falling asleep around 1:30-2:00AM as opposed to what seems more natural to me lately, which is around 3:00-4:00AM. The sleep I get when I do this isn't really quite as good as when I sleep naturally in that I often wake up in the middle of it, and I've had a significant increase in the vividness of my dreams -- the first night I took it in particular resulting in the only nightmare I've had in recent memory. The dreams are starting to be less of an issue, but the quality of sleep remains not so hot.

If I don't take it one night (like tonight), I immediately jump back to what my body seems to consider a more natural sleep schedule, which is why I'm awake now.

I decided to do some research on this, starting from the list of things that the bottle claims to 'treat,' and found that one of the things in particular fits me pretty much like a glove. Delayed sleep phase syndrom is when a person can sleep naturally and consistently, but at a cycle significantly delayed from what's considered normal. They can't 'force' themselves to sleep at the 'normal' times, and only significant effort against that natural grain can bring them in line with societal norms, and then only temporarily. Of particular interest is this paragraph, which reads like it came right out of my life:

By the time DSPS patients seek medical help, they usually have tried many times to change their sleeping schedule. Failed tactics to sleep at earlier times may include maintaining proper sleep hygiene, relaxation techniques, early bedtimes, hypnosis, alcohol, sleeping pills, dull reading, and home remedies. DSPS patients who have tried using sedatives at night often report that the medication makes them feel tired or relaxed, but that it fails to induce sleep. They often have asked family members to help wake them in the morning, or they have used several alarm clocks.

I have struggled with my sleep schedule my entire teenage and adult life. I have even replicated some of the actual treatments of it completely independently. Namely, the push back one hour a day until synchronized technique listed under Chronotherapy on that wikipedia page, and obviously oral melatonin. I think a lot of people have trouble understanding this struggle, because to them difficulty falling asleep is a sometimes thing. Something caused by stress or other external factors. If I can't sleep when they do, it often gets treated as something I should be able to fix through force of will, and that my inability to do so indicates a lack of either willpower or interest in the things I'm doing.

I also found a summary of studies on the effects of melatonin on various sleep disorders that found that the effects I experienced from melatonin are pretty uniquely tied to this disorder and not to other issues like insomnia (which I don't think I fit anyways).

Obviously, there's no diagnosis here necessarily. I'm not trying to self-diagnose. But it is really nice to have something that I can point to and say "hey, this kind of fits me. I've been looking for a name for this for so long."


Socializing and introversion

I think if me 10 years ago saw me now, he probably wouldn't recognize me as himself. It's kind of amazing, really. I don't think I ever really understood how to 'be social' until I went to college (which was about 5 years ago), and even then it was really just stumbling around at the whole process, and it wasn't until I worked at nexopia and had to really deal personally with a decent number of coworkers that I actually started grokking the whole thing. In the year and a half since nexopia and I parted ways, I've done very little *other* than continue to develop a social life.

Me ten years ago rarely interacted directly with anyone who wasn't Nancy. Me now generally has something he could be doing that involves other people nearly every day of the week if he wants, and takes advantage of those opportunities probably half the time or so. That's a pretty huge difference.

But I'm still an introvert. Being around people, especially large groups of people, still exhausts me. And right now I think I'm feeling the effects of having something to do all the time. I was out last night with Nancy at a game night kind of thing, and for the first half of it I just felt kind out of it and uninterested in interacting with people. I need to find ways to recharge my socializing batteries without feeling like I'm falling out of the loop or like I might lose some of the connections I've started developing.

I don't want this to come across as whining, because I'm overall really happy about the way things are going on this front (even if I'm less satisfied with how things are going on other fronts). I've always wanted to have more people in my life who I feel really close to, the whole chosen family kind of thing, and I feel like I'm on the verge of really having that. And all that socializing that's tiring me out is what it's taken to get there.

And I think that's part of the solution. More interacting on smaller, more personal levels. It's not nearly so draining to spend the afternoon with one or two people as it is to spend even an hour at a big mixer event surrounded by 20 different conversations.


Fringelog's over there

Once upon a time, this was the main place I posted my Fringelogging. No more, now it's over at Goes To Show, my theatre blog.

Of note, so far, includes:
Tech Day - where afterthree got me in to see the tech day for the show she's doing stage management for. It was awesome.
Initial list of plays to see - where I listed the plays I hoped to see this Fringe. So far I've seen ten plays total, and only 6 of them were on my list. This is how things often work with the Fringe.
The first play I saw, Phone Whore - was also one of my favorites so far, though I'm having difficulty recommending it too much due to some VERY explicit content.
The play I got to see the aforementioned tech day for, Spin - I enjoyed it a lot.
Game Face - A play with a furry in it. Yes, really. Also really frickin' funny.
39 - The worst play I saw this year so far. One man sci-fi shows. Never a good idea.

It's been a really awesome Fringe so far, though relatively few of the shows have been stand out OMG I <3 kinds of things. It's been awesome, though, because for the first time ever I'm actually having trouble fitting in all the people who want to go see plays with me. Some of those people are even people I've only just met recently and barely even know. And that's pretty awesome.


Belated Father's Day Thoughts

So last weekend was Father's Day. I'm not usually big on hallmark holidays, but I did the duty associated with it and tried to get in touch with him to wish him a happy Father's Day. But this post isn't about that. It's not even about him. It's about how Father's Day finally hit me on an emotional level a week after it was over, almost 29 years into my life.

If you've ever eaten with me, and it's somehow involved eating a bun of some sort (dinner roll, hotdog or hamburger bun), you may have seen me 'cut' the bun open with a fork. Yes, that's right, a fork. Pierce the bun all around and then just rip it open. Most of the time I find this much more successful than using a knife, which unless it's a good sharp knife (as opposed to the kind you put next to your plate), you end up squishing the bun or ripping it up or angling it wrong or whatever.

But as I was doing this today, eating dinner with Nancy and her mother, I realized that I don't really do this for any practical reason at all. I do it because my Grandpa taught it to me. I assume he did it for all the practical reasons. Or maybe just to be different. It doesn't really matter. It's things like this that I remember about him, and it's in doing things like this that I keep him alive. I also hit ketchup bottles on the side rather than on the end because he taught me that, and trust me it works really really well.

But I also got, I think, my love of computers and electronics from him. He taught me to use a soldering iron, he gave me some of my earliest experiences with a computer, and even gave me the first computer I could really call my own. It was a TRS-80, which was old when I got it from him, but was also what I first learned to program on. I wish I still had it, because that computer was special to me in a way no other since could be.

He died when I was about 15 or 16. I'm not exactly sure, because I've always been terrible with dates/years/etc, but it was around when I met Nancy. It was a formative experience in my life, as was nearly every interaction I had with him. As my own father grows older, I see more of my Grandpa in him. And as I grow older, I see more of both of them in me.

I'm not sure where I want to go with this post. I've often considered myself an aspiring writer, but it's not something I've pursued heavily since I finished gradeschool. I know that I have an image in my mind of a story I want to tell someday, and it involves him, his death, my reaction to his death, etc. I wish he'd lived long enough to meet Nancy. I think the story I want to tell would end that way.
So I recently got on a kick of re-reading *all* of the Ender books. I own them all from before Orson Scott Card came out of the gay-hating, right wing nutjob closet. On coming close to finishing the Ender's Shadow series of books, I discovered there was a sort of interquel between the Ender's Shadow series and the Ender sequels called Ender In Exile. Despite my preference to never ever buy anything of his again due to some of that money no doubt going towards things like the anti-prop8 bullshit, I couldn't resist. I apparently have very little willpower when it comes to this. I can't leave something unfinished like that.

One thing that's struck me about his books in general is the way he injects his religious views into them. Often quite directly and obviously, and moreso as time went on. The Ender sequels were fairly subtle despite having a huge amount of religious content (most of them take place on a Catholic colony planet, and there are absolutely no happy people on this planet, but that's beside the point). The Shadow books were less so, having a lot more in the way of little diatribes about the nature of faith and religion and views of atheists shifting more and more towards theist viewpoints. Also a gay man who never has a relationship with a man and appears to only become happy when he finally gets into a relationship with a woman and is proud of 'doing it the natural way.' Ugh.

But something really struck me in this latest book. There's a line where Ender's sister Valentine is thinking about marriage, and she thinks something to the effect of: "It's like Father always used to say, monogamy works best." (Sorry, I didn't mark the quote and can't find it now, so that's a paraphrase) And I couldn't help but wonder what kind of family this is that something like that is always said. What father is constantly drilling into his kids' heads that monogamy is the way to go as directly and specifically as that, and based on specious historical data at that. Granted, this is supposed to be a brilliant family in which everyone is a genius of some sort, so intellectual discussions on the nature of marriage seem likely to happen, just not to be one of those weird little Father Knows Best nuggets that's treated as an axiom for the rest of your life.

And then I realized, Orson Scott Card was raised a Mormon. Partly, even in Utah. Regular discussions about the evils of polygamy, being the thing that almost cost the church its existence over a hundred years ago, may actually have happened in his household. The need to rationalize and whitewash the history of the church through how you teach your children may actually be present in that society I know oh so little about.

Of course, in Ender's family his father is catholic, not mormon. His mother is mormon, so maybe he would bring it up as a means to subtly rib at his wife's religion? I don't know. All I know is, I'm glad I didn't grow up in Utah or mormon.

Mood, introduction, more later.

A couple of days ago I was starting to write a decade in summary post, but realized as I was writing it that I must have been in a bit of a negative mood because it was coming off a bit bitter and negative in tone. I realized, actually, that I've been in that kind of a state pretty much since coming back from the Dominican for Christmas (which I don't believe I mentioned here, but oh well).

So I trashed it, decided to wait until my mood improved, and then post something. Not a decade in summary, because to be honest I have some valid reasons to feel bitter about it in spite of the massive successes I've had, and I'm not sure I want to go down that road just yet. Nor really about much at all, I guess.

But I just wanted to say that I think bambamiamtam and afterthree should friend each other on here. There are some overlapping activist-y interests there. And the fact that your only time interacting with each other involved a drinking game and untoward interactions with a teddy bear (say n'more, say n'more) should not stop you from livejournal friending.

Real posts soon. I'm trying to blog more. But that's not a new years resolution: those are bullshit. My new years resolution is to learn to speak with a Scottish accent. I think it may involve watching a lot of Ewan McGregor films.

Philosophy and Paintings

I was talking to someone via email (someone who has been the subject of a prior post) and the subject of my philosophical attraction to water came up. I realized I've never posted about this, but that it's something fairly relevant to my life right now, and decided that I should take the part where I explained it and turn it into a blog post.

To give some more context than the post provides, the reason it came up is because I'd like to get a tattoo that symbolizes some of this sometime in the near to medium future. I have grand plans of doing a shoulder sleeve based on the theme somehow, but that's too ambitious for a first time tattoo I think. Also too expensive for right now. So I'm thinking of getting a simple small one on the opposite shoulder (by which I mean upper arm shoulder, not upper back) I'd eventually like to sleeve. I have a small sketch of my own that's derived from the alchemical symbol for water (which is basically an upside-down triangle) and more literal gilding and colouring. I'll post that at some point later.

For now, this is the painting I'm talking about:

There's a painting my grandmother made when I was a kid of a scenic river view on the top going into a dark waterfall on the bottom and somehow this painting resonated with me really strongly. The contrast between the bright top and stark bottom, the powerful flow of water, etc. That and the fact that my grandpa was very very dear to me, and the painting brings back good memories, means this painting means a whole lot to me.

I loved this painting so much I made sure that I got it when my grandma sold her house and needed to get rid of things. It hangs above and to the side of my TV now. I don't really know if she knows how much this painting means to me as I don't really talk to her very much these days. Which is something I should probably change.

A long time later I read the Tao of Pooh, and while the book is just an introductory text on Taoism (and given the subject matter and such not to be taken entirely seriously) a lot of it resonated with those earlier feelings. Water is, by my understanding, of great symbolic importance in taoism as a shaper. Go with the flow, let the water carry you, shape you, etc. I've found that whenever, in my life, I try too hard to go against the natural flow of things, that's when things become complicated and difficult. Oddly, I feel like I'm doing that right now in my career, and I'm feeling that result a lot lately. I'm trying to find a way to get what I want *and* go with the flow and it's proving difficult.

I don't consider myself taoist by any means, since I know very little about it and tend to think of myself as a very unspiritual person, but learning about it has helped me be able to express fundamental things about myself, my personality, and my life that I might not have otherwise been able to. The symbolic power of water struck me long before I was able to express it, but reading that book focused it for me.

To hair is human, to bald divine?

So I inherited an unfortunate trait from my mother's family: Male pattern baldness. I have a very visible receding hairline and some noticeable thinning on the crown. So far, my response to this has been to let my hair go shorter and shorter, but it's getting to the point where there may need to be a final solution: Go completely bald. I've resisted this a long time, probably mostly out of fear. So the question is, should I do it?

I'm very likely to try it out when I go on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic over Christmas either way, but I'd like to gauge what people think of the possibility. Especially people who know me in person, but random input is always welcome. There's also the question of how facial hair fits into this, as I'm exceptionally lazy about shaving I alternate frequently between beard and clean/stubbly.

Poll #1486905 Shaving

Should I shave my head?

To spikey (mostly what I'm doing now)
To stubble (visible hairline, but very little hair)
To a glossy sheen

If I do shave my head, what should I do about facial hair?

Leave the full beard
Leave a goatee
Mustache (I'm unfriending anyone who picks this, and Nancy would divorce me if I did it)
Clean shaven

Love and Marriage

So Nancy and I went to a wedding yesterday. A big, all-day, grand affair with five course meal, open bar, lots of dancing, etc. It put me in mind of how my feelings about relationships and marriage have evolved over the years. Nancy and I were married just over 8 years ago (8 years as of June) and it's been interesting. We married young, compared to our peers, but our marriage has not, as yet, evolved into the nesting/kids/house in the burbs kind of thing that most people seem to consider their wedding a declaration of intent to do. It's possible we never will reach that stage, as I have serious issues with the concept of suburban living and Nancy has serious issues with the idea of using her body as an incubation device.

To put it in perspective, we were married (just) before 9/11. Much as I hate to say it, the world did seem to change with that event, if not in fact then at least in perception. Since then, our society has seemed to stratify along religious lines in a way that didn't seem to exist before, or at least was more subtle and unquestioned. In a way, I credit that stratification with the rise of the gay marriage debate (where the non-religious, emboldened by the emboldening of the religious right, felt a need to push back with their agenda), which has had a huge impact on my views of marriage. It made me question a lot of things about the institution, its origins, and its value.

The honest truth is that if I could go back, I would not have gotten married. Looking back at it, I can see the societal pressures that led us to make that move: the desire for acceptance and confirmation from family and friends as to the validity and maturity of our relationship being the prime motivator, with general background pressure along the lines of that it's just what you do when your relationship gets serious. We had no big proposal, no real idea of what this meant on a core level to ourselves, it was almost entirely motivated by external forces.

Which is not to say that I don't love Nancy, or that we're breaking up or some such nonsense. I'm as committed to Nancy as I ever have been. She's my right hand in all my endeavors and the most important person in my life. I don't see that changing any time soon. But in the end, that has nothing at all to do with the fact that we're married. It has to do with how compatible we are, how much we care about each other, and how devoted we are to making it all work. Those things exist whether or not you get married.

Seeing and recognizing that there has been, all along, an entire community of people relegated to not having this societal validation of their relationships has somewhat permanently damaged my impression of the institution. That that community is not far removed from me, being married myself to someone who is bisexual (and who was or believed herself to be gay before we fell for each other) and knowing a lot of gay people, means this is a somewhat personal concern for me. Though I believe strongly in marriage equality, I would honestly be just as happy with the abolishment of it as a legal construct altogether replaced completely with common law shared domicile benefits and a simple procedure for establishing someone as power of attorney and visitation rights. That'll never happen, but it would work well enough for me.

The fact that I came to a realization several years ago that I don't buy into monogamy as a concept, to the point that we consider ourselves polyamorous in theory if not always in practice, also factors into this. I won't go into too much detail about that here, since I usually lock posts relating to poly more tightly than I intend to lock this one. If you're curious about details on this, let me know and I can add you to the filter or answer any questions you might have.

Interestingly enough, while I feel negatively about the institution of marriage itself these days, I actually really love the idea of weddings. In reality, they take many forms aside from celebrations of legally empowered marriages: commitment ceremonies, handfasting ceremonies, anniversary parties, etc. Everyone loves a good party, and a declaration of love is as good a reason to throw one as any. Though I would never throw one as extravagant as the one I went to last night (unless I got rich enough to throw them as a matter of course), I certainly appreciate the idea of them, and think there should be more of them.

So basically, if I could do a Quantum Leap kinda thing into myself at 19, I'd go for the wedding, but screw the marriage. My feelings for Nancy are none but my own, and I don't need a piece of paper to prove it.

Oh, and it's a hell of a lot easier to dance at a party where you don't know anyone there. That was a good self-discovery too.

Fringelog 2009: Won't be here

I'm moving my yearly fringelog off my LJ and onto its own blog. You can check out http://www.goestoshow.com for my reviews this year.

I'll probably post some summary posts with links as I go, though. So far, I've reviewed the following:
Addition: An Unconventional Love Story *****
Sex-Bot ***
Douche//Awesome ***1/2
Bashir Lazhar **1/2

(originally posted on my other blog, which is mostly for more professional content. This has an element of both, kind of, so I'm crossposting it here)

A few things converged to make this blog post happen, and it is a strange and mysterious convergence. First of all, the Fringe is coming up in a few weeks, and I'm super excited about it (more on that in a few paragraphs). Second, Mack Male posted a blog post to titled Discovering Live Theatre describing his early experiences with the Fringe festival. And then, last but not least, someone on an IRC channel I sit in mentioned that he saw Philip Glass today.

To which I answered, "did he buy a loaf of bread?"

Explaining this strange response requires going back to August 1997 or so (might have been 1998). You see, my father worked in Edmonton while our family lived in Red Deer. One thing that could always be counted on in those days is that my father would be out experiencing the Fringe Festival in late August. His claimed record stands, as I understand it, somewhere north of 30 plays in one season. This is a lot of plays to take in in one week. I thought it was a strange habit and didn't really get it at the time.

Well, I was up in Edmonton visiting him and at the same time getting my first taste of the Fringe experience myself. One of the plays I saw was this one, as part of a series of shorts (don't worry, it's not long -- just 5 minutes. Stick with it to the end):

This play, and all the other David Ives' plays that were performed as part of this set entranced me. It was probably my first real experience with stage performance, and it was love at first sight. I've since seen a lot of plays, both at the Fringe and outside of it, and my love of stage theater has only increased since that experience. Especially small, short, quirky plays like this one. This play makes words dance in a way I'd never thought possible, and that is very powerful to an avid reader like me. It's like interpretive dance (which I can't get into at all) but for book nerds.

I've been back to the Fringe at least 5 of the intervening years, seeing anywhere from one play to my record of somewhere around 20 a couple years ago. Every year when I get my grubby hands on the Fringe guide, the first thing I do is search through it for any sign of a David Ives' set. Someday, someone will do it again, and I'll be there day one to see it.

But this leads to the really interesting thing I've learned about the Fringe, as well as myself, in all these years. I should explain that in the printed form, this play is very vague. There's little stage direction, mostly just words. This leaves it highly open to interpretation. I suspect that every performance of this play is quite different, and looking at all the different youtube videos that suspicion seems to be the case. The one linked above is the closest to my fragile memory of what is to me the original of this play, but others may find other versions superior.

What I've learned is this: The beauty of the Fringe is the unique experience. No other entertainment venue I've ever experienced is so thoroughly dedicated to providing new, fresh, and unique experiences. Films are mass created for a mass market pretty much by nature. Music is likewise generally created always with the goal of the mass market in mind, and festivals around music are generally designed to pick out the next piece of the collective unconscious and give it wider voice.

But not the Fringe. Although I'm sure fame and glory are in the minds of more than a few of the playwrights, performers, etc. at the Fringe, it seems there's an effort to create something special and unique, often deliberately designed to not function well as a mass market piece. The actors and playwrights may go on to bigger and better things, but their little Fringe plays rarely seem to. In that sense, it's a venue for talent and not so much for product.

And that's what I love about it. That's what gets me back every year. It is my little rebellion against the collective consciousness, seeing things very few other people will ever see. Even fellow fringe lovers are unlikely to have seen the same segment of the hundreds of plays on offer as I did.

I'm gonna warn readers of my blog now: In a couple of weeks, there'll be a lot of posts about plays I'm seeing. I do it every year, and this year will be no exception.

Participatory Democracy and Twitter

I was up late last night (not unusual for me lately) watching something kind of amazing unfold. The Alberta Legislature was debating a new version of their human rights legislation that included two major changes:
- on one end of the spectrum, the addition of sexual orientation to protected status'. Technically, this was just a gesture, as sexual orientation has been a protected status in common law for years due to being read in by the courts.
- on the other end, they added the rights of parents to remove their children from classes with content relating to religion, sexuality, and sexual orientation. A right that, by my understanding, was already present in the school act.

Now, Alberta's legislature is a perpetual majority government by the Progressive Conservative party, and that party is capable of essentially controlling all legislation that passes through the house. They really wanted the latter and seemed to think the former would be a good olive branch to prevent argument.

But that's all politics as usual. Simple background information. What happened last night was that somehow, people on twitter were rallied to watch the debate unfold over the streaming video the Alberta government provides of legislature proceedings. If it had just been people on there bitching and moaning, it also wouldn't have been very special.

But last night, there weren't just average citizens participating. There were actually MLAs on twitter discussing and debating with the twitter users. Granted, most of the MLAs participating were backbenchers or otherwise not taking direct part in the debate on the floor, but they were there and they were talking to the very people they represent while making law.

I know that there are people concerned at adding distractions to people on the floor of governing bodies, but I honestly think this should be encouraged. I couldn't help but think I was seeing some element of the future here, where people are moved closer to their representatives in government and able to influence them more directly. And anyone who's ever watched CPAN knows there's plenty of zoning out, reading magazines (one MLA last night was reading a magazine while the MLA next to him was debating), chattering, etc. If their time is going to be wasted, I'd rather it be wasted on us.

I do think the MLAs could stand to learn some of the twitter conventions a bit better. If they'd used hash tags, it would have been easier to follow their discussions. Also, if more of the left side of the house (Libs and NDP) had been on that would have been nice too. I'm a little shocked to see the Conservatives on the forefront of this trend.

If you want to read the discussion on twitter about bill 44, you can go here.

Review: A Year of Winter by Scott Sharplin

I went into A Year of Winter not really knowing what I was getting into. I went largely on the basis of the author, Scott Sharplin. I have not seen a lot of his plays, but I have found it fascinating to follow his career since I found his blogs about touring his show, Inferno Sonata, on the Fringe circuit last summer. Although these two plays (the only of his I have seen as far as I know) have been quite cryptic, Scott's openness in talking about the process behind the plays he writes (even the ones I haven't seen) has been absolutely fascinating and enhanced my experience as a theatre-goer. I wish there was more of this out there. Maybe there is and I just haven't found it.

A Year of Winter worked really well for me. It's set up in two very clearly delineated Acts, a year apart from each other. A particular mental breakdown sets the two acts apart and it is almost as if it was two short plays rather than one long play. It's hard not to point out that I preferred the first act to the second, for its bare, no punches pulled, portrayal of mental illness and its inextricable relationship to the act of creation in the form of art. But I also don't think it would have been complete without the second act to give us perspective on the insanity. To show us the schizophrenic break that precipitated act 1.

Two devices were used in the play to facilitate hiding the truth the play draws towards. First, the masks. In his blog, Scott Sharplin seemed very worried that the masks would seem pretentious or draw people out of the play. But I think in the end, the way he brings them into the story long before their use helps avoid either of those pitfalls. It also helps that the first use of a mask to denote a character shift is an over-the-top caricature of a radio personality. It's hard to worry about the mask when such a flamboyant character is on the stage. And by the time a more reasonable, understated character is on the stage using a mask, it doesn't matter anymore.

The other device is portmanteaus. The characters in the play have their own little language made of joining words together into new or existing words. It's a code that only they understand and that the audience is forced to learn as the characters rediscover their lost meanings. It also lends a realistic playfulness to their relationship that, in moments of clarity, contrasts the starkness of their illness.

Although the ending was touching and very powerful to me, I think it could have been improved. The first act has us looking at the inside of this relationship. From the point of view of the people inextricably entwined in schizophrenia, one way or another. Act two starts off by giving us an outside perspective, showing us the view from outside. Through the masks we finally see characters who were only presented off stage left, never seen, only occasionally heard or heard of. But in the final part of the second act, we seem to shift back to the insane point of view, and the shift is jarring.

The other downside to this play, from my point of view, was that while it seems well researched (mentions of an actual modern drug for treatment of schizophrenia in addition to the believable presentation of paranoia help lend credibility to the research) it does seem to skate the edge of an age-old misunderstanding of the disease that I won't explain here (as it would be a bit of a spoiler). I do not think this is intentional, but it could be taken that way.

The acting was all around quite good. Garett Ross as Terry and all of the masked characters pulled off the switching of characters well, doing each of them convincingly even if a couple of them were (necessarily) a little over the top. Tracy Penner as Alice did a good job as well, though in moments of non-lucidity had a tendency to play things a little over the top. She also seemed very familiar, though I can't remember where from. I didn't recognize any of the plays listed to her credit in the program, but perhaps she was in a fringe play I've seen.

Overall, I was quite impressed. The play ran the gamut of emotional responses, hitting the funny bone and plucking the heartstrings equally and appropriately. It kept its secrets well until the 11th hour and then revealed them with resonance. I anticipate Scott's next play, about Louis Riel and the Northwest Rebellion (the name escapes me at the moment).
So, tonight Nancy and I went to one of the sets of the New Works Festival's plays at the UofA. It was only $5 each, which is a pretty amazing price for four plays. Given the price, and the fact that it was student-run, my expectations weren't very high. But I was actually blown away by them. I would have easily been happy with paying Fringe rates ($10-14) for each of them (except the short one at the start, but that's not because it was bad but because a 5 minute play can't stand alone).

The first short one was called Vin-Oh by Anna Paquin. It was basically about a guy who like home-cooked traditional desserts like his mom makes, and his girlfriend who prides herself on making fancy chef-style desserts. When she finds out, she's disturbed that he goes elsewhere for his desserts. It packed a lot of innuendo and funny into a short package.

The second one, Pomplemoussy was by Elena Belyea. It was about a girl who's questioning her sexuality when she suddenly finds a boy she kind of likes at a gay party. In a lot of ways, it's a lot like Chasing Amy told from the girl's point of view. It had some pretty funny moments (like her first viewing of a penis "It's really funny looking, isn't it?"), and was overall very good. The only complaint I'd have is they were too ambitious with their set design. Too much shuffling things around before the show and between scenes. It really broke up the play and killed the flow. Overall it was pretty good.

The third play, All Matters by Peter Takach, was absurdity personified. The message seemed to be something along the lines of that words are more important than money, no matter what they are. I'm not sure I really 'got' it, but it was fun anyways. It reminded me incredibly of old LucasArts adventure games (made even more glaring by my recent playthrough of Day of the Tentacle). To the point that I think whoever wrote it could probably write a damn good absurdist adventure game centered around a Janitorial Administrator at a major company with big office. Damnit, no more new projects!

And last but not least, Electra by Morgan Smith was a modern retelling of the part of the greek epic cycle that concerns the various insanities of the Atreidai family after Agamemnon's return from Troy. It's a fairly loose adaptation, if I remember the story right, but interesting none-the-less. Interesting to see this kind of Greek story modernized, actually. Seems like the ones that involve family-sex, rape, and patri/matricide are left in their original greek form, or ignored altogether. It was easily the most well produced of the four, with a distinct intensity to all the performances that kept the audience rapt. The gunshots were a bit loud, but that may have been a really good thing. One should probably jump when one hears a gunshot. They also didn't always go off at the right time, but I imagine timing pre-recorded sudden sounds to a live performance is fairly difficult.

Overall, very impressed. Impressed enough to be seriously considering going to see the other four that are on tomorrow. I'm quite pleased. So far, what little off-season fringing I've done has been very successful.

God help me I'm using twitter

So wow, lot's of stuff going on. For the last two weeks I've been working on a major component of the big picture that is my future plans. It's called CloudBridge, and I think it's pretty awesome. It's also effectively done, though still needs some polish.

I've also launched a site, called oncloud.org, which uses cloudbridge to basically act like a dyndns service for rails apps but with less in the way of firewall headaches. It is also pretty awesome.

And I've gotten onto twitter (late to the party on something yet again) and am enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. It's a lot like IRC, except it's like if you got all of efnet on one channel and had an opt-out ignore feature instead of opt-in (reverse those if the way I said it doesn't make sense to you).

I'm also now working only 3 days a week at nex, and that leaves me on day 2 of a 5 day 'weekend' (which really means 5 days of working on the important stuff).

I'm hoping I can find some time to start contributing to some other interesting open source projects as well. Drizzle looks really interesting. As does the just-barely-announced TinyRB.

Anyways, yeah. Interesting times. For the first time in a really long time I'm actually excited to be working on things, and am really interested in communicating about the things I'm working on. It's pretty awesome.

Meme-age and life update.

So, since I last updated, a lot has firmed up about where I'm going for the next little while. Part of that has meant getting back into coding in C++. And in fact, what I'm working on right now causes some flashbacks to something I was working on just before I got hired at Nexopia. I called it cabal back then, now I call it cloudbridge. And it is pretty awesome and part of a major shift in how web application serving works.

But that's only a piece of the puzzle of what I'm doing now. Not quite ready for the full reveal. If all goes well, I'll be able to say more at the end of the month.

But since I've been tagged several times now, I may as well do this damn meme that's going around. I have to admit, I think it's a pretty interesting one compared to most.

25 things... Meme behind the cut.Collapse )

I tagged some people on facebook and I'm way too lazy to figure out people on my friends list here to tag.

Big Changes

So... I have officially quit my job as of a couple of weeks ago. It's been an incredible ride with Nexopia, but things change. My plans to leave have been in the works for over a year now, with my original departure date planned for about now, then pushed back to the summer, and then pulled back to sooner. Officially my end date is mid-february, but I'll be taking severance to the end of March, and I'll probably really just be going gradually off the clock more and more over the next two months as I prepare what's next.

And what's next? Well... I'm working on it. And by it, I mean a lot of possible things. So until one or more pans out a bit more, I don't really want to talk about it much. But I do intend to blog some more. I don't do nearly enough talking about the things I work on or the industry I work in, and I should really change that.

Crazy times, I tells'ya.

I am really amused by this video on so many levels.

Nov. 4th, 2008

Ok, so did anyone else notice that the music they played after McCain's concession speech was the music from Crimson Tide? I found this weird at first, but then I realized there's some interesting symbolism in that choice.

In the first scene where that music plays clearly, the crew of the boat yells out a chant:

Also that the movie is about a young black guy stealing command from an old white dude, but whatever.

Prediction: Landslide for Obama

I'm no pundit by any means, but I figure I should get my prediction out there now before real numbers come in. I think it'll be a huge win for Obama. I think the polls weren't reflecting the number of new voters who are voting today, and that most of those people are out for Obama.

Good luck, Americans!

Last Fringelog: Reiner Hersch

Last play of the normal fringe! Well, this one was a good one to end off on. It was hilarious. It was so funny I bought the guy's album for $20. It was a humorous take on music history and a bit of theory.

It's one of the holdovers. If anyone still wants to see any more fringe plays, I recommend looking into this one as a holdover.

So yeah. This year I went to 23 shows, 20 of them unique. It's a record and I don't think I'll try and beat it. Any more and I'd forget 'em.

Theatre-geek friends

I think I need to make friends with some theatre geeks so I can keep up to date on theatre stuff all year instead of just packing it all into the week of the Fringe. Anyone know any local theatre people I can friend on here?

Incidentally, I find it funny that I can tell I've spelled theatre right when the spell-checker tells me I spelled it wrong.

More Fringelog

Occupied (low expectations, good show)Collapse )

Anime! (Not what I expected, but really good for what it was)Collapse )

Teaching the Fringe (incredible)Collapse )

Only one more left! My only regret is still not seeing any Die-Nasty. Ah well. Maybe I'll try to catch it during the regular season this year.

Fringelog to date

So I'm posting my impressions of Fringe plays on Facebook primarily, but I figure I should import them over here periodically. This post will be big, since I've seen 9 plays already. I'll cut tag them individually so they're still accessible but don't take up too much room.

25 Plays About...Love (really good)Collapse )

The New Step (weird and not very pleasant)Collapse )

B-List (awesome but not because of the play itself)Collapse )

The Overnight (awesome, seeing again)Collapse )

Liink and Zellda (not so hot)Collapse )

See Bob Run (good but not my thing)Collapse )

The Pumpkin Pie Show (awesome, seeing again)Collapse )

Sad Victoria's Pelican Day (good)Collapse )

Coffee Dad, Chicken Mom, and the Fabulous Buddha BoyCollapse )

I'd just like to say...

Diablo II is still awesome.

This Year & Next Year

I don't believe in new years resolutions. At least not as traditionally practiced. They're just sound bites to make it look like you're moving forward.

But I do believe in goals and plans. Last year, I decided to make a plan (not a resolution) while we were down in Vegas. I set a goal to get myself into shape. I planned to use the weight room and stationary exercise bike I had access to in my apartment building every day. And when summer came around, I planned to get a bicycle to keep that going. When we went out to buy a condo, I made it a primary issue that the place we buy have a pool so I'd have something other than weights to do this winter. I also planned to change my eating habits so I wasn't consistently overdosing on calories (no major changes other than that), first step being to cut out all sugar drinks altogether (yes, even juice).

I did it. Aside from a few weeks where I didn't make any serious progress (including most of August and last week), I consistently went down in weight and developed my muscle strength by a measurable amount. I'm not quite to my final goal (which is more of a body shape than a number), but I'm so close that I can taste it. And I did it without any really unhappy lifestyle changes.

I've lost approximately 60-70lbs in the last year (I only started keeping serious track in late May, so I don't have the exact starting point number except in memory, and that's a bit fuzzy). Which, for anyone who worries about this stuff, is within the 1-2lbs/week range that's considered safe. I did lots of homework before I started getting into this seriously. :)

Graph from the end of May behind here...Collapse )

I didn't post about it until August, because I didn't want to set myself up for public failure. It seemed more valid to make a goal and keep it to myself, because then I was doing it *for* myself. This year I'm changing it up, and I'm actually going to say my goals on here. I've gotten a lot of confidence out of achieving my goals last year.

So, my goals for this year are:

  • Finish the weight loss, and then maintain the body shape I want.

    • This one's just a continuation, so I don't need to do a lot of planning for it.

  • Start my own business.

    • I need to figure out project(s) I want to start as a business by the end of January

    • Determine the funding and/or time I need to pull it off

    • Get the funding and/or time I need

    • Do it

    • (incidentally, if anyone's interested in helping with this one, or knows someone who might be, in whatever way possible for them, please do let me know)

  • Learn to play the violin (cwazy, huh?)

    • Figure out as much as I can on my own, by learning some songs (currently working on The Godfather theme)

    • Take a few lessons to correct whatever I inevitably learned wrong and what I can't figure out on my own

    • Pick back up on my own

So that's my recap of 2007, and my plan for 2008.

Happy New Year, everyone.


So that thing...

You know that thing where people go on facebook and put in names of people they knew 10-15 years ago and find them through it?

Well, that just happened to me for the first time. He was one of my best friends from grade 6 through grade 8, which is also the only period of my grade school education I remember very well.

But.. he's apparently pretty religious. Not surprising, as his parents were as well and he was a bit of a momma's boy. I... well, I am not. Not only that, but I openly scoff at the sanctity of marriage and all that. So the question is, does it even make sense to contact him? Is the gulf of years and religious views between me and him likely to be too wide to even bother?

Here's to new traditions

This is the first step in building our own Christmas traditions.

Old sci-fi breeds depressing sci-fi.

I've been reading old sci-fi short stories as an interim between reading actual novels. It's kind of amazing how the mood of sci-fi shifts over time. World War II and the atomic bomb had such a massive effect on science fiction mood that it's impossible to escape. The stories written between about 1950 and 1970 are so convinced of a dismal human future that it challenges the notion that science fiction is 'escapist.'

But I guess it's also inspiring. Because tonight I wrote a little short story of my own. For the first time in a long long time. And boy is it a sad one. I'll see about posting it if I still like it tomorrow.


On why I am odd...

I suspect that most people, when visiting a non-chain restaurant, don't wonder about whether they could manage to buy the restaurant and if it'd be a good investment... Honestly, there's a place downtown that I think has huge potential that it's not living up to and If I Were A Rich Man, badle-beedle-badle-beedle-beedle-bum, *ahem*, I would probably buy and try to make into what it could be. I think it's a business crush.

And, like many of my crushes, is probably doomed. After all, restaurants are the most likely type of business to fail. And boy howdy do they ever fail.

Also, who's the ghost who left a comment anonymously on my last post? I've ruled out all the likely suspects, I think.


It's been a while since I've posted here. At least, anything of consequence.

Over Christmas/New Years last year, we went to Las Vegas with Nancy's mom. The trip itself was fun. Las Vegas is like a big giant outdoor West Edmonton Mall. That comparison is actually pretty funny overall, because going to Vegas showed me just how spoiled WEM has made me. Going to the supposedly big malls along the strip (all attached to casinos, duh) was funny because we'd get from one end to the other and be like "wtf, that's it?" This post has been a long time coming. In fact, I kind of wanted to post about the feeling of something clicking after we got back, but I didn't want to jinx it or set myself up for a fall, as so many so often do after New Years. It wasn't a New Years resolution, and I don't think it had anything to do with the time of year at all. But I guess it worked out like one.

But anyways, I think something clicked while we were there. I can't really explain it, but when we got back I was much more motivated to do a lot of things I had wanted to do but never really did before. I started working out every day while it was still winter, and then got a used and then new bike over the summer and started riding that to work every day when it was nice. I also stopped drinking pop and juices on a regular basis (I figure it probably accounted for something like 1/3rd to 1/2 of my calorie intake alone). I didn't really change what I eat, even though it's not a particularly healthy diet, mostly just the quantities.

In that time, I have literally lost over 1/6th of my body weight and am managing to continue to lose it at a decent rate. If it weren't for the fact that I'm actually working pretty hard for it, I'd be worried at the loss. I have passed two major milestones that I set for myself and am well on my way to the third. I fit into shirts now that I originally bought as overshirts. My self-image has improved drastically and I've started to actually *like* caring how I look. Which is extremely strange.

I also switched from glasses to contacts, originally as a planned first step towards getting surgery, but the process of putting them in and taking them out isn't as tedious as I thought it would be at first (except while camping) so I'm not really so worried about going that extra mile anymore. This means my default avatar on here is probably not so accurate anymore.

On the dating front (remember, I'm poly), I can't say things have improved too much. I've been on a couple of 'dates,' basically people I've met on okcupid, but they didn't really turn into anything much. There's a waitress at a restaurant that I'd really like to ask out, but despite my feelings of having an improved self-image, I still think she's probably out of my league. Maybe I'll work up the nerve someday.

Professionally, I've been taking on more and more management responsibilities, and while there are definitely areas where I think I need improvement (mostly dealing with outside-company contacts and ensuring technical goals are met, not just coordination goals), I think I'm doing a pretty good job. I like my job a lot. I like the people I work with and I like that I'm getting the opportunity to shape the team I'm building.

So yeah. Life is good. It's been a very good year so far.

Fucking banks

So my bank has recently decided to start DEMANDING security question/answer pairs for their web page login system. In order to log in, you MUST answer one of your security questions in addition to your password.

They give you 5 sets of questions to choose from and a freeform field to put the answer into. Am I the only one who sees the gaping stupidity of this? If they could allow you your own questions, maybe that'd be ok. But since all their questions are easily discoverable (stuff like maiden names, high school mascots, pets, best friend names, etc. In fact, the very things that all these years password security policy has advised you to KEEP OUT OF YOUR PASSWORD, and for very good reason), change really often (favorite magazine, favorite chocolate bar, favorite restaurant), or are very gender selective (favorite fashion designer -- and a big wtf to that one in general too).

If someone can take the time to find out your actual password, they can take the time to find these things out. There are only 5 questions, so at a minimum it'll take 5 random attempts at login from different computers over a couple of months to find out what they are and do some research without setting off alarm bells with the bank.

When are companies going to realize that security questions are a serious regression in security?


So, I defriended someone today. I'm sure a lot of people reading this do that all the time, or at least don't find it strange to do. But I sure do. When people talk about cutting down their friend list, I can't help but wonder why they feel the need to remove people from their life for the simple crime of not being interactive enough.

I was discussing this with Nancy, and it's obvious that we have really different ideas on this. I don't really believe in ever deliberately burning bridges with people, while she definitely feels that it's worth doing sometimes. Generally I think you can adapt any relationship to the level of trust it deserves.

But this time I feel really subtly deceived, and too confused by it to deal with it. Oh well.

random nerdy fact of the day

qmail has a limit of 900 characters on email addresses it'll relay.

Why Calgary is better than Edmonton...

So, we were thinking of going to Rocky Horror this weekend at the Garneau. Only thinking, hadn't really decided yet. We went to the last one in Calgary while we were down there, and all we had to do for that one was show up, wait in line, and buy a ticket. We were there for one of the pre-shows (Nancy's Calgary crush was in it), and didn't stay for the whole thing, mainly because it was expected that we'd just go to the next one in Edmonton.

But no, it's sold out. Lame. I assume part of the reason for this is that in Edmonton, they only do it twice a year. In Calgary it seems to be a bimonthly thing. I don't really get why this is the case, but it seems to underscore a rather interesting difference between the two cities.

Anything non-mainstream seems to have a much larger culture in Calgary. Considering the political demographics, I would have thought exactly the opposite. Mind you, there are exceptions. The Fringe and the Edmonton Film Festival are, as far as I know, much larger events than their equivelents in Calgary. I'm not sure why this would be a good city for The Fringe, and not so good for Rocky Horror. I am definitely baffled.

LJ Talk

I would think LJ Talk was cooler if I could use Google Talk's client to log into it. Don't suppose anyone knows of a jabber client that successfuly clones gtalk?

Death in the Family

So it seems like there's been a lot of death around me lately. The most significant is the death of my father-in-law. It was a long time coming. He's been sick with thymic carcinoma, which was initially misdiagnosed as Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma -- More details on that can be found in Nancy's journal, for about 8 years now. That's over 2/3rds as long as I've known Nancy. It's about 1/3rd of her entire life.

So really, I have not much in the way of memories of him in his prime. Back when he wasn't ill, I would see him fairly regularly because I was often at their house. And they had a tradition of going out for pizza at Boston Pizza on fridays and I often went with them. But still, the overwhelming amount of my interaction with him involved him slouched in his big chair, occasionally shuffling off to the washroom. I hope that doesn't come across as rude, because I don't mean it to. It's just the truth.

And when I say this has been a long time coming, I mean it. He hasn't just been ill for 8 years, he's been to the brink of death and back so many times now that when I took off the second half of last week to go down to Red Deer with Nancy and he was mostly normal when we visited him right away that I thought this might be another time like when I was on a business trip in San Francisco (on which Nancy had come along) and we were called back urgently because it looked like he was going to die.

I would not have regretted it, and I didn't regret coming home from San Francisco either. Family comes before work, and that's a fundamental value for me. In both cases, I was doing it more for Nancy than I was for her father, but that doesn't change a thing. I wouldn't have been able to deal with not being there.

But when they went back the next day (without me because I had some work to do), and it was pretty clear this was not like other times. At 10:00AM the day after that, Nancy's mother (who had been teaching classes) called every one of our cell phones and her home line several times to let us know that the hospice he was staying in believed he was on his last legs, so off into a cab we got to be there.

And I can honestly say that this was the first time in my life that I have been present while someone died. And I can't even figure out for myself how I feel about that, let alone describe it. I wish I had been there when my paternal grandfather died. I consider him one of the most important people in my development as a person. I wasn't even there when they put down my cat Cujo when his mystery-probably-some-kind-of-cancer-illness got too bad for him to even stand up, though I did get to say goodbye in that case.

But I was there for this, and I feel a little guilty because I'm not sure I belonged there. Through all the events from Wednesday to Sunday, I felt like I should be an outsider to this event. No one made me feel that way. Hell, apparently when I wasn't there on Thursday he actually asked where I was, which surprised me.

And when, on Saturday, my mother-in-law was passing around a sheet on which to write a piece of the obituary, I couldn't think of anything. My parents were there and they could think of something. But I was at a complete loss. I don't really think I knew him well enough to write a piece of that.

All I know is what I can see of him in Nancy. And it seems somehow rude to consider the most important thing about a person the offspring they helped mold, but I do. Very much.

So here's to Geoff, and all he contributed to the world.

Final Fringelog: Man 1, Bank 0

So we finally saw the play we'd been meaning to see all fringe last night. Man 1, Bank 0. This is a one man show about the man who acts in it, who cashed a $95000 junk mail cheque to his bank, and through various wranglings with his bank found that the money legally became his (mostly due to the bank's stupidity).

But the initial catalyst for all of it was the fact that the cheque met all the criteria for a valid cheque. It had "Pay to the order of," it had a date, it had a signature, it had a bank with an address, his name and address, and an account number. The only thing it had that made it questionable was the words "Non-negotiable" written along the top.

Which apparently serves for most forms of 'negotiable instruments,' but NOT cheques. So the cheque was a valid cheque. But the real fun comes when the bank discovers that it bounced. And it was definitely fun. One of the best plays I saw all Fringe, for sure.

If you ever get a chance to see this (and it won't be today, at it's last showing, because that's apparently already sold out as of last night's show. The audience was directed to say "neener-neener" at all the people we know who won't get to see it), do so. It's hilarious. You can also read the whole story if you want on his website.

Maybe he'll be at next year's Fringe. But then the one show I keep hoping does another Fringe performance every year never does, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

So to recap, my favorite Fringe Shows this year were probably the following, in no particular order:

  • The Aleatory Project

  • Get Off The Cross, Mary

  • Man 1, Bank 0

We saw 15 plays total. I'd say about 5 of them were bad, 5 good, and 5 really good (three of which are my favorites above). That's not a bad ratio for an unjuried play festival, heh.


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