31 January, 2007

Giant Lizard & Quiet Hour

Years ago, when we were visiting my parents in Grenada, we had the privilege of staying down in the guest room by the pool. This is my favourite room. It is always filled with sunlight, moonlight, or starlight. There are no glass windows, rather tall vertical wooden louvres that can be shifted to catch the sea breeze and free the view of the breaking waves on the reef below.

During the midday hours (between twelve and two-thirty or three) we had what my husband and I euphemistically referred to as Quiet Hour.

Ideally, this was the time the two of us lay down, cranked up the ceiling ventilator, and read or snoozed the time away. The children didn’t have to do the same; they were allowed to play if they wanted. But quietly! What “quietly” meant, was the level of bickering the parents momentarily determined tolerable.

When the children were older, they were allowed to play outside in the area around the pool (but not in the pool or on the pool walls, which border on a cliff) or outside the guest room where the water hose and trees were. They nearly always played in the pool area.

Once, when my daughter, Nature Girl, was about three years old, I heard her going out by herself to the front of the guest room building. It was the first time she ventured out without her older brother in tow. She played by the hose for a while and then started back to the pool area, when she let out a cry of distress.

I jumped off the bed and ran out to her, only to catch a glimpse of an iguana slipping through the poolroom louvers. Nature Girl pointed at it and said, “Wow! Big lizard!” I broke out laughing. (Mainly out of relief; for the instant she cried out I had envisioned an encounter with a centipede. I had killed two big ones in the previous days). We sat down together and talked about the difference between a cat and a tiger, or a fish and a whale, and a lizard and an iguana.

To this day though, whenever I see an iguana I think of what it must have looked like in the eyes of a small three-year-old child who thought it was a lizard.

30 January, 2007

Pixel Art

Yesterday, during a discussion with my colleagues (university researchers) about digital interactive storytelling, one of my colleagues said that eventually we, the viewers of YouTube, will get tired of the pixely video clips and the whole trend will collapse. One other colleague and I were the only people in the room that did not believe this to be a realistic threat.

I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to point out that the whole (r)evolution of creating online content has just begun. And, the potential of YouTube isn’t about uploading pixely videos of dubious nature; it has to do with expression, identification, historical documentation, socialisation. In the end, I left the discussion feeling rather frustrated, only to trip over this wonderful example this morning about how YouTube can be used well.

Tyler Cowen of the Marginal Revolution blog wrote a post today nominating his favourite YouTube guitar clip. His nomination was:

Bola Sete (here), 4:13 min

He asked his readers to nominate their acoustic guitar favourites. Within a day, many brilliant and entertaining suggestions were submitted. The result is an selection of clips, old and new, written by a group of enthusiastic. What more could Tyler Cowen want as a response to his post? And, the readers of his blog also profit from this communication.

For all of you music lovers, here is a selection of the links submitted so far (be warned there are not only acoustic guitars but various “deviants” as well):

Stephane Wrembel (here), 9:08 min.
Andrés Segovia (here), 2:09 min
Andrés Segovia (here), 3:32 min
Andrés Segovia (here), 3:32 min
Paco Peña (here), 6:30 min
California Guitar Trio (here), 5:43 min
Norman Blake (here), 4:33 min
Steve Kaufman and Company (here), 3:59 min
Duruttin Column (here), 6:34 min
Stochelo Rosenberg (here), 2:57 min
Andy Mckee (here), 3:18 min
Freddy King (here), 2:46 min
Bireli Lagrene (here), 2:07 min
Joe Pass (here), 5:00 min
Johnny A (here), 2:57 min
Django Reinhardt (here), 3:51 min
George Van Eps (here), 5:29 min
Kaki King (here), 2:57 min
Jake Shimabukuro (here), 4:32 min
Justin King (here), 1:24 min
Justin King (here), 2:10 min
Carlos Paredes (here), 1:38 min
Mike Marshall and Sam Bush (here), 6:07 min
Christopher Wilke (here), 1:13 min
Eric Clapton (here), 5:05 min


There were bloodsuckers living below the river’s surface on the grass blades and on the dam wall bordering my grandparent’s home in Oxford Mills, Ontario.

The best way to get rid of bloodsuckers, if they get on you, is to pour salt on them. This makes them shrivel up and die.

Karen, my oldest sister, got three bloodsuckers on her leg once. We ran screaming from the river, through back garden and into the kitchen. Karen wouldn’t stand still, so Kim and I could only throw salt in the direction she was running. She was doing a drunken Twirling Dervish dance. Grandma was pretty upset when she came into the kitchen later and found salt scattered all over her kitchen floor. We had emptied the salt out of every one of her saltshakers.

29 January, 2007

Thank-You Notes

My mother made us write thank-you notes to all the relatives after Christmas to thank them for our presents. This event/trial/tradition of writing thank-you notes usually took place just after New Year’s Day and before we started back at school. I remember the following guidelines for writing theses notes:

  1. Always address the person individually
  2. Start with a thank-you and then mention the item concerned
  3. Write why you liked the present or what you are planning to do with it
  4. The length of the note must be more than three sentences long; writing thank-you twice does not count as two sentences
  5. Make a personal observation
  6. It is possible to say thank-you in the finishing sentence, but it is not obligatory
  7. Your print or handwriting must be legible
  8. Only one or two crossed out words are acceptable; otherwise start anew
  9. Each thank-you note must be unique. No copying is allowed!

I remember the torture of having to write these epistles to each relative. You can imagine my surprise, when a few years ago, my mother sent me back one of my thank you notes (Could it have been one she rejected? Gasp!). It proved to me just how wrong memories can be. (I have to paraphrase the note because I put the card in a place so I could find it later and now I can’t find it. Do you ever do that sort of thing?)

Dear Auntie Gladice, (her name was Gladys)

Thank you for the nice box. I will put something in it.

Thank you. Bye, lia

Now, I remember agonising hours over this note. I remember all my friends were playing outside my bedroom window: building the most fantastic snow fort imaginable. It just shows you how difficult it is to transfer all the fantasy and energy one possesses for building snow forts into good thank-you-notes.

Here, on the other hand, is an example of how it is really done. This is a letter my grandfather sent to thank us for a (measly) hand-drawn birthday card.

April ‘69

Dear Karen,
Dear Kim,
Dear Lia,
Dear Daniel,

I want to thank you for your lovely Birthday Card. It was so well done and I liked the Bird Bath and all the Birds singing for Spring. It made me feel as if we will soon be having new bright sunny days and warm weather. I think that is what I need to make me feel better.

Also my thanks for the pictures that Lia took at Christmas time. It reminded me of the good time I had with you all at Christmas.

I hope you all had good reports from the school examinations (except Daniel).

Much love to you all,


(Note: My brother, Daniel was too young to attend school in 1968)

It might be that my grandfather possessed such wonderful social graces he could make receiving one birthday card into something very precious, or, maybe April is a better time to write thank-you notes because the snow has melted.

28 January, 2007

Writing A Family Journal

Three years ago, I decided to create a family journal for my children. They were born in Germany and though they met their Canadian relatives regularly when they were young, the frequency of our visits diminished since my father’s death.

When I talked to my children a few years ago, they didn’t really “know” their aunts and uncle or cousins anymore. (Thankfully, this has been rectified with a visit last autumn.) And, even more sadly, the memories of my father had faded to vague shadows. So, I thought I would make up a family journal for them. The purpose was not to make them remember again. No, I just wanted to somehow freeze what I know now and keep it fresh for later; for a time in the future, when my children become adults and might ask questions about the family they come from and what once was.

The journal is something they can read in twenty-year’s time. Something that will show them what my family was like, what their childhood was like, but, most particularly, what family means on a larger scale.

Creating the journal was a labour of love. Initially, I asked all of my relatives to write something. I asked them if they would submit any story, portrait, recipe, longstanding family joke, anything. In the end, not all of my family sent in something, which saddened me somewhat for a while. But the resulting two journals, each over a hundred pages and more than a hundred photos, are precious beautiful works.

My uncle sent a magnificent document about my maternal grandmother and grandfather’s sides of the family. One sister sent photos of her beautiful embroidered tapestries. My other sister sent some stories of our shared childhood. I wrote a journal in three parts: stories from my childhood, memories of my children’s childhood to date, and reflections on what family means on a larger scale.

During the next week, I’ve decided to post each day one of the stories from my journal (without the photos). The reason behind doing this is, foremost, to share with you the notion that even the most insignificant episode from the past can breathe life back into time long gone. I have not created a chronological document of ancestry, but rather, I pieced together a hodgepodge collection of stories that I hope will be, in their cumulation, enjoyable to read.

If you have children or grandchildren or just someone special, consider writing a journal for them. The journal connects them to the past, as well as to you.

27 January, 2007

A Veritable Delight

The morning came early. Blue skies. Sunshine. Icy winds. It’s been so long since I’ve gone out for an early morning walk. So, off I go. Bundled up warmly. The pathway along the canal is nearby and usually full with joggers, runners, and people walking their dogs. This morning, strangely, no one is on the pathway except me. Then I realise why. The pathway is part frozen mud and part skating rink. I bravely slip, slide, and shuffle along until I can climb up the bank of the canal and reach the road.

Passing pedestrians look at me climbing up onto the road, with looks of amazement. “Didn’t you know it’s dangerous down there?” I brushed off the various bits and pieces from my trousers: evidence of the last fall or two. Then I tried to adopt a dignified expression, as if to say, “Dangerous, nonsense, a veritable delight!”

26 January, 2007

Ritzy, Glitzy, Flair

Well, here’s a treat. It is a short film of Fred Astaire singing and dancing “Putting on the Ritz”. Was there ever a dancer as he who understood so perfectly how to move the absolute minimum to achieve the maximum?

25 January, 2007

A School Outing

Part of the Luebeck's Skyline

Today I went off with two teachers and their 6th grade class to Ice World on a mobile learning project. Last week, the 6th graders created multimedia interactive questionnaires with a program my colleague developed. The students transferred the questionnaires from their PCs onto PDAs. They took the PDAs and digital cameras to Ice World exhibit.

Instead of the teacher trying to keep the students' interests focused during the outing by recounting all sort of information, today, the students were on their own with their PDAs; answering the questionnaire another group created for them.
Cloudy and Clear Ice

The two teachers said it was a strange experience to be on a school outing and just stand around doing nothing. The children ran around enthusiastically looking at the exhibit, exchanging information, and helping each other to answer their self-created questionnaires.
Rippled Ice

I explained to the two teachers that, traditionally, it is the teacher who is the person who profits most from school outings. For, it is the teacher who does most of the research, hypothesizes about what might be relevant for the outing, and then s/he makes up the questionnaires and routing plans. In today’s outing the students did it all, from beginning to end. The chance to work on computers, PDAs, digital cameras is a huge motivator.

I get so much pleasure in seeing students learning on their own.

24 January, 2007

Winter Wonderland III or IV


Winter Wonderland II (or is it III)

Even though I wasn’t born in Canada and haven’t lived in Canada in nearly twenty-five years, I am a Canadian citizen. The Canadian in me is influencing my mood today. It is a sparkling cold winter day and I feel positively jubilant.


Last night we watched fantastic fireworks over Luebeck. We have no idea of the who-or-why of this celebration, but they were the best fireworks I’ve ever seen. And they went on for fifteen minutes or more, so they must have been very expensive.

Could it be that the city decided to save the fireworks of New Year’s Eve (we didn’t see anything then, but we presumed it was because of the clouds and rain) and waited instead until the first clear night to set them off? Or, another thought, maybe the city decided to wait until the winter sales started and picked up the show really cheap.

Or, maybe they were left over from last summer’s World Cup, when everyone was hoping the German team would win. They obviously couldn’t set off the fireworks when the Germans lost in the semi-finals and won third place. They could hardly set off the fireworks after the finals: Italy’s win was not one of those “may the best team win” sorts of wins.

Whatever the reason for the fireworks… thank you, they were a joy to see.

23 January, 2007

Winter Arrives in Good Form

Well, it seems as if winter arrived in Germany, Canada, and in the States. Friends are sending wintry greetings and stories about how they’re coping with ice, snow, and cold. Even though the conditions are serious, I can almost sense a note of relief in their recounting. These last months of unusual mild weather was quite unsettling to many.

My friend/colleague and I went out for a rigorous walk during our lunchtime break. This is the first time we did this in weeks and weeks. The muddy trails were frozen over, the leaves and high grass silvered in ice crystals. We kept up a lively pace both in step and conversation. We certainly have missed these midday walks.

My ever-loyal walking companion of many years came down with serious back troubles before Christmas. Both of us kept on hoping the situation would just disappear and we could get back to our evening walks. But, the situation won’t go away, so, we are going to switch over to swimming.

I love swimming in Grenada. I can even remember liking a swim in a cool Canadian lake during a heat wave. The idea of liking the experience of swimming in cold, chlorine-saturated water (21 degrees C) in a large, cold (20 degrees C), chlorine-smelling hall, is hard to imagine. I didn’t always think this about swimming in a public pool.

In younger years, when I was swimming, running, cycling regularly, I thoroughly enjoyed training in the university pool complex near my apartment in Erlangen. I was working at that large German corporation that sounds like seaman’s and I needed something to counterbalance the immobility of working all day on a computer. I loved swimming countless lanes; a masochistic leftover from my ballet days. Things certainly have changed since then: no more masochistic inklings, no more joy from endless repetitive strenuous activity. Who knows, maybe they can also change back… what do you think?

22 January, 2007

Take A Look II

Just stumbled across this advertisement for the film, March of the Penguins. Do any of you find this as funny as I do? I just can’t stop smiling.

Or if you like mathematics, try this. Is this just a two-dimensional or stickman abacus board?

Nomad Son has started up a second blog, which include his favourite YouTube Videos. His first blog is a collection of Web bits.

21 January, 2007

Latticed Memories


Venezuela, late 1950’s, political unrest,
All the windows of our house had bars.
To keep out the dangers, the robbers,
But in that the bars didn’t succeed.
One of my early childhood memories is
Sleeping beside my parent’s bed on the floor
Worrying that the robbers had slipped under
The bed as we surprised them while working,
And they were still lying there:
Inches away from my face with only the
Veiling bedcover separating us.

In Canada, summers, my father would
Put up thick screens on all our windows.
To keep the mosquitoes away from our tender
Bodies. Mosquitoes, the size of refrigerators.
It was the black flies that were pesky though.
Oddly, it was Grenadian mosquitoes that
Bit the skins of my children and I and
Giving us kisses of dengue fever.

Germans, love their “Jalousie”. At sunset.
Clack, clacking down, unfolding down the
Length of their apartment and house windows.
Shutting out the outdoor sounds, the starlight,
The cool evening breeze, and prying eyes,
Which is so odd in a country of blasé nudists.

20 January, 2007

Patchwork Creativity

Here is where I have been writing today.

19 January, 2007

All’s Well That Ends Well

Nomad Son has returned safely, nearly fourteen hours late. The skies are brilliant blue today. The air is crystal clear. What a delight to have all the bits and pieces of our family under one roof again.

He’s happy to be back. Undoubtedly part of his inner joy, that part bubbling below the surface of his reserved countenance, has to do with being back in the family nest. The other part, that’s the part that is actually bubbling over, is the WoW (World of Warcraft) extension, Burning Crusade, and his interest to building a Blood Elf avatar.

Don’t ask, I can’t start discussing the detriments and the benefits of playing MMORG (massive multiplayer online role game); it is very layered and complex. Today, I’ll just say, there are numerous reasons (one mentioned here (to be taken with a grain of salt)) both Nomad Son and Limpet enjoy playing these games. Even Nature Girl derives a lot of pleasure discussing strategies and figuring out the intricacies of this game. I find it so far removed from anything I could possibly enjoy playing for more than ten minutes, but I know that I am a Lone Wolf in this household when it comes to blatantly dismissing WoW’s powers of seduction.

18 January, 2007


We are experiencing an “Orkan” in northern Germany today. According to my translation program, on “Orkan” is a hurricane. I found out that, in German, a hurricane is: a) tropical storm, b) cyclone, c) a whirlwind, or d) a tornado. Can you imagine not differentiating between each type of storm? There are specific words for each of these storms types, but the weather channel just says, “Orkan Warning!” and then they expect us all to know that the winds will blow, the rains will pelt, and only an idiot would be caught outdoors.

Yet, people still do go outside during such gales and do the most silly things: like ride their bicycles to work (Limpet), or try using umbrellas to staid off the storm (my neighbour), or walk down streets littered in projectile broken branches and flying objects (Nature Girl). All they have to do is just open their eyes and draw some intelligent conclusions about the safety of being outdoors, but many don’t seem capable of doing this.
It is truly as though, the weather just does not exist in their personal grand scope of things. I’ve been told such behaviour is common in many European countries. You can see it by the fact that many homes or buildings lack: central heating, air-conditioning, or proper isolation.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if everyone got a chance to experience one winter in Manitoba (cold, wind, snow), one spring in Montana (ice and snow spontaneously melting), one summer in Montreal (staggering heat and humidity), and one autumn on the Gulf of Mexico (hurricane season)? Surely they’d then become sensitised to the powers of nature. Hopefully, once back home, when the weather channel said, “Orkan Warning!” they would batten down the hatches, snuggle under their duvets, pull out a good book, and listen to the howling winds through the security of their double-pane windows.

It has been an exciting evening. Nomad Son and the rest of the over a hundred teenagers and their four teachers and the one doctor are stuck somewhere in mid Germany because of the weather conditions They were due to arrive this evening back from their ski trip in Austria, but now they will come tomorrow, the gods and weather permitting. There were 200 km/h winds.

All the trains have been halted and everyone is staying overnight on their trains, or if possible in hotel rooms. Though I imagine the “hotel room” option will only be extended to the old and weak, or the young and hysterical. Nomad Son and co. will, hopefully, be quite content to snuggle down on the floor and live the adventure to the fullest.
I am so relieved that someone at the Bundesbahn made the right executive decision early on in the evening and didn’t wait until all chaos broke out. Oh, how I love the German Bundesbahn (here)!

P.S. Update, the train did not stop but is doing a snail pace to Hamburg and is expected tomorrow at six AM. So much for feeling relieved...

17 January, 2007

Baby Steps

When I was younger, I found the whole idea of quantum leaps, in reference to both the phenomenon in physics and personal development, extremely interesting. Somewhere in my twenties, I suspected that quantum leaps, paradigm shifts, even shifts in consciousness, conviction, or in priorities, did not actually result in conclusive or long term changes in life practices. A good friend of mine at that time slowly introduced me to the concept of Baby Steps.

Today I read a very interesting article in one of my favourite blogs called, “I will teach you to be rich” (here), which essentially says the same thing: if we hope to change anything, then it will be through a lifetime of exercising little steps.

I took a little step this past Monday. I went to my first yoga class. Something I haven’t done in nearly two years. A baby step. It is difficult to do justice to the quiet joy that welled up in my heart, as I did the introductory breathing exercises. One yoga class is an insignificant indicator of resolve or restoration of balance, but this quiet gesture lights the way towards next Monday’s class.

Reading blogs daily from people of diverse backgrounds and topics of interest (here, here, here, here, here, and here) quietly lights up different intellectual routes to follow. It is difficult to explain the appeal of blogs to friends who have written off blogs as being trivial or dubious in delivering factual information. In the last three of four years, bloggers have shown me new areas to explore. Think. Learn. Laugh. Reflect. Rejoice. Inquire. Comment. Converse. Participate. Emulate. What a wondrous journey it has been so far. And, just when I get to the point that I fear stagnation or uninspired writing, a surprise awaits somewhere in the blogsphere, to lift me up and away.

For those of you who are familiar with the seductively delightful qualities of the blogsphere, this is nothing new. For those of you who persist in ignoring the charms and potential of this wonderful medium: tant pis.

16 January, 2007

Take A Look

Take a look at this quirky, fun, thoughtful, thought-provoking film. It goes by so quickly; you might have to watch it more than once to truly appreciate its ingenuity. As far as I can gather these people (here, here, here and here) were involved in creating the film.

15 January, 2007

When Things Don’t Work Out: Pray

Today was the day I have been looking forward to for a long time. I was going to get a few collages printed on linen. Something I’ve never done before. Three collages for Nature Girl’s new bedroom (African décor) and two for a friend’s kitchen and sewing room. (Think I’ve mentioned this before, sorry.)

If there is one thing that I love to do, it is to go to a new company or store with an errand.

I am not a shopper. I hate shopping. And I definitely do not “do” window-shopping or cost comparison, or bargain shopping in any form or manner. Admittedly, a fault of mine.

Yet, if I have to buy some new tool for my toolbox, or ask a tradesman some information about the defective stove thermostat, or, as it was today, go to a large printing company to get stuff printed, then I happily skip off on the wonderful adventure. I just love discovering people who know what they are doing, who have a field of expertise totally different them my own. The challenge is to ask the right questions and get them talking. It’s like taking a skinny-dipping into new territory.

Today’s romp to the printers wouldn’t have been too bad, the fellow was very amicable and forthcoming, if it wasn’t for the fact that all of the five collages had this mysterious five centimetres faded strip at the top of the collage. He told me it was my computer’s fault; there must have been a problem with the conversion of the Photoshop file into pdf. Well, the faded strip did not change with the bmp file and even the psd file. So, I’m thinking maybe it doesn’t have to do with my computer, but with the printer, you get my gist?

In the end, we just could not go on and so I decided to see about framing the collages with five centimetres cut off the top. Not the best of solutions, but I cannot possibly spend more on getting them printed again. The colours are good. The results, except for that annoying strip, are fine.

Then I went off to the art gallery, to get the linen stretched onto frames; like a painting canvas. Unfortunately, the woman at the gallery was not the owner, a very lively and competent person, who I talked to a few days ago, but her second cousin or an old friend just out of rehab. Whoever the woman was, she had no, and I mean NO, practical aptitude whatsoever.

Each collage is printed so that there is two centimetres on each side to fold over the sides of the frame. I do not want the sides of the frames to be white because I plan to hang them as canvases. This woman could not grasp the concept that she just has to measure the full width and height of the collage and subtract four centimetres from each length to get the width and height of the frame for each collage. It was a painful process of measuring each collage, the woman giving me totally wrong measurements, my correcting her politely (e.g. “No, it is not 47 cm wide, the end of the collage is 43 cm, it is your thumb that is at 47 cm (I kid you not)), my drawing up five sketches with the necessary width and height of each collage. Arrrgh, painful, painful.

In the end I politely asked her to get her colleague to call me tomorrow with a cost estimate. I am praying that with the sketches, the owner of the shop and I can work things out over the telephone. There’s a bit of risk of course, but, at this point in the adventure, I’ve reached the point of no return.

14 January, 2007

Going Out On A Limb

I remember reading a while back a blog entry, where the blogger said, “If I am not blogging, it is not because I don’t have time to write, but because I don’t have time to read” (a bit of paraphrasing here). And this is so true. The last week or so have been very hectic in our household.

I have this general feeling of dissatisfaction because I haven’t had enough time to read, though there is so much going on out there in the blogsphere that interests me (here, here, and here), which I’d like to contemplate and comment on. At the moment, I am just skimming by bloglines each day and whooshing through the blog articles with the speed of light. Something has to change.

I have this general feeling of dissatisfaction because I haven’t had enough time to read, though there is so much going on out there in the blogsphere that interests me and then contemplate and comment on. At the moment, I am just skimming by bloglines each day and whooshing through the blog articles in the speed of light. Something has to change.

It must be those little details like returning to work and the children returning to school, which have caused a dent in my blogging armour. Isn’t it surprising how much time there is to spare when you are on vacation with nowhere to go and no obligations to fulfil?

How are you holding up? Has the transition back into the normal routing been smooth?

Tomorrow I have to give a presentation in the research institute I work in for the other researchers. This semester we have been looking at different aspects of (so-called, or for lack of a better term) Web 2.0. My presentation is about Web 2.0 and the educational community. The title of the presentation is, “Read/Write Web: Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk”.

I am going to go out on a limb with this presentation. First, I haven’t written a script, which is what I usually do because I do not give many presentations anymore and I do not want to be caught stuttering and spitting. The next risky aspect is that I decided to make the presentation “personal” (not usual) and not “scientific” (normal practice). I am going to recount the journey I’ve taken over the last three years learning about what the future of education is facing, rethinking the fundamental premises that no longer hold, and taking a few tentative steps to become an active participator and not just an informed consumer.

Once again, I am nervous as can be. What’s new? Wish me luck.

13 January, 2007


Nature Girl created this comic this morning before breakfast. I was doing my normal slow read and a few cups of hot tea thing. Keeping her company, while the rest of the household slept. Since Nomad Son is still away on a skiing trip with his schoolmates, this translates into letting my dear Limpet snooze away for a while.
I’ve been meaning to try and do some comic work for a while now. One of things that I promised myself this year was to try new software every few months (here). It makes a bit of that slow grey mass (my brain) move and make up a new type of story.

There is such interesting software available to tell stories with nowadays. It doesn’t matter is you want to create a story in the form of an audio file, podcast, slideshow (1 & 2), film, comic, scrapbook, or collage, the software is all out there waiting to be used.

And then there is also a wealth of stories or (audio) books available: here, here, here, here, here, and here, just for starters. This resurgence of folks telling stories is perhaps one of the principle reasons I am such an avid fan of Web 2.0.

Do any of you know more good storytelling sites?

11 January, 2007

Oh Happy Day

Had a meeting with my boss this afternoon: a résumé of the last three year’s work in a research project. The discussion went well and I left the office feeling very relieved.

It is odd how nervous I am before such meetings. Why? It doesn’t make sense. I know we have done good work and that my boss is pleased with the results, yet, there I was, an hour before the meeting, numb with nervousness.
Thus, this collage, I call winter burrow. Don’t ask… it just developed out of nowhere.

10 January, 2007

Uncustomary Lax

A tobacco shop near where we live has the worse window decorations and Christmas display imaginable. Here take a look…
Their Christmas display consists of one very ugly string of lights thrown over some glass cabinets holding stinky cigars. It is so pathetic it is actually hilarious.

To top off their complete disregard of aesthetics or commercial competitiveness, they’re also lax about taking down their “decorations”, as is customary to do by January 6th.

09 January, 2007

Expanding Bottom Bar

I went back to work yesterday. The day was relatively quite because I was in meetings most of the day.

Today, on the other hand, the first Actual day of work, was one of those days of starting work and not being able to finish Anything! The bar or menu at the bottom of my monitor kept on expanding.

I’d open up a ppt file (a presentation I’m to give next week) and then a colleague comes in and I open up the paper we are writing together, then a student sends a graphic that has to be corrected, and so on… Just before leaving home I closed down eight programs and fourteen files: none of the changes in the files complete. Insane.

Tomorrow, I am going to have to adopt a better strategy. First, I will complete the two jobs I promised to do right away: before anyone arrives at the office. Then make up a structured to-list. Next prepare for Thursday’s important meeting with the boss. Then check my emails and make any required telephone calls. Then tackle the to-do list. Sounds so easy.

Why do things always unravel so quickly after I hang up my coat? At least I can close my door. What do people do who work in those huge open-offices?

Who was insane enough to come up with the open-office concept? Did he (I can only assume it must have been a He, excuse the sexist slip of I’m wrong) evereverever have to work in close proximity with Mr. Obnoxiously Loud, Ms. Forever Right, Mr. Total Geek, Mr. Slime, Ms. Overcompensating, or Ms. I Run The Ship? I bet he didn’t. There is a lot to say about voluntary socialisation and collaboration.

08 January, 2007

Imploding Robin Hood Capitalists

Last week I read a very interesting article on Barbara Ehrenreich blog, Barbara’s Blog. The article is called “15 Steps Toward a Happier, Healthier American in 07”.

Some of the items on her list are not surprising (e.g. getting the troops out of Iraq, or fighting global warming). The others are all very interesting and, one in particular…

“Raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour and establish a maximum wage of, say – generously speaking -- $5 million a year.”

… was wonderfully surprising, as well as provocative. I don’t know if this idea has been talked about in any serious political arena, but why not. Does any human being “need” more than 5 million dollars a year in salary? What noble and important deeds can any one person achieve in one year’s time, which warrants compensation greater than this?

This reminds me of an article Gretchen Morgenson (here, needs a subscription) wrote for the New York Times (here) in December 2005 about Ethan Berman, founder and chief executive of RiskMetrics. Mr. Berman requested that he receive no increase in salary, no stock options, a smaller bonus than the year before, as well as refused a sum of the company's profit-sharing equal to that received by all employees.

His reasoning was, amongst other things, that as a top executive he does not need monetary compensation to feel more of an owner, or increase his commitment to the company. The money he would receive would be better distributed to those people in the company whose engagement and performance have shown them to lead other employees by example and not by mandate.

I like to think of Mr. Berman as a bizarre modern imploded Robin Hood capitalist. Instead of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he was stealing from the rich (himself) and giving to the (relatively) rich (in terms of leadership abilities).

Now, I am not sure that Mr. Berman yearly earnings lie under Ms. Ehrenreich’s maximum salary. Maybe Ms. Ehrenreich should invite Mr. Berman over for a cup of coffee and invite Ms. Morgenson along as well, and the three of them could discuss just how they could propagate such a novel notion to the masses. And, even more importantly, maybe they could come up with a plan to propose such a practice to new possible imploding Robin Hood capitalist in large corporations. Wouldn’t that be a lark?

07 January, 2007

Off Yonder

We just came back from the train station, delivering Nomad Son (and one hundred other youths, four teachers, and one doctor) on his way on a school ski trip in the Austrian Alps.

Over the heads of the congregating masses…

This fine tradition began nearly sixty years ago. The 10th grade students all go off for two weeks to a ski hut at the top of a mountain and “bond”. The nearest village is an hour’s hike away down the mountain. As far as I can decipher, the whole brood of them are isolated up on this mountaintop with nothing more to do than ski, ski, ski, and, for a little change, ski.

What an amazing adventure (torture) this will be.

The question is, what sort of adult do you have to be, to voluntarily agree to spend two weeks with over a hundred 15-17 year olds at the top of a lonely mountain?

Off To Work Again

My two-and-a-half-week vacation is quickly drawing to an end. What a relaxing time this has been. What a joy just to live each day a moment and mood at a time.

I’ve come to the realisation that a non-planned, unscheduled vacation is the ultimate in vacation. Inwardly and outwardly I feel more relaxed than I have in a long time. Well, since last summer when I also just went with the flow (here).

The last days have past in a blur of collage making. The following is the first draft of a collage a friend asked me to make. She wants to print it onto linen and place it in her sewing room.


Yes, I know someone who can sew. A novel concept in this time and age.

In my early high school years, we had a subject called home economics. The girls received instruction in cooking, sewing, and learning to type. The boys learnt car mechanics and welding.

I might not have known at that time what I wanted to be as an adult, but instinctively I knew it wasn’t a housewife or secretary. So, as a result, I refused to learn anything in home economics. How short-sighted this was of me.

Much to my surprise, years later, after giving up my ballet career and finishing my electrical engineering studies, I found out that learning to type with ten fingers is a pretty useful task to know. My first job was programming (i.e. typing) quality control tests on large electronic equipment. I spent eight hours a day typing in computer code. Admittedly, a very tedious job; yet, it was made even more tedious because I could only use three our four fingers to type.

Eventually, I learnt to type “blind” (i.e. not looking at the keyboard) and with all ten fingers. There is nothing that impresses people more than when they walk into my office and I look up at them and continue typing what I am writing until I finish the sentence. It’s on parallel to someone riding a bicycle with no hands.

06 January, 2007

In Search Of A Yoga Teacher

This is written in thanks to Karen for her generosity, kindness and encouragement.

This week I had the pleasant task of looking around for a new yoga class. I haven’t taken a yoga course in years and never formally went out looking for one before. The last course I took was from a delightful woman at the fitness studio I went to, but I have since left. It is quite amazing how many yoga teachers there are out there and the different types of yoga they offer.

In the end I decided to join a yoga course given by a woman, who I admire; not knowing at all whether she is a good yoga teacher or not. She holds her yoga course at her own ballet school around the corner from where we live. She was also Nature Girl’s ballet teacher years ago.

She didn’t really teach the group of young ballet students classical ballet, but instead, she taught them how to familiarise themselves with their bodies, their limbs, their inner energy; how to move in rhythm, with grace, joy, be funny, be loud, be gentle. What little I saw of her teaching, I was impressed with.

The reason I admire this woman is that she is very tall, very curvy, earthy, graceful, and sensual in her movements. She is older than I am by a fair bit and I think she is the type of teacher or roll model I need at the moment. I know I can learn from her about growing old gracefully, something I dearly wish to do (here, here, and here) and, if I am lucky, some yoga as well.

03 January, 2007

Handmade Tiles

It’s been lovely having the last two week’s off work. Time to make collages, write in my blog, avoid doing all of those necessary jobs that are on my to-do list (a veryvery long list, by the way), postpone my new getting-fit program, spend a slightly bit more money than is prudent, procrastinate about making doctor’s appointments (have you ever noticed that the older you get the more doctors you are suppose to see regularly), and just deliciously get lost in a sense of timelessness.


While doing this handmade tiles collage last night, I was thinking of one of the first apartment I had in southern Germany. It was an attic apartment in a house owned by a garden architect. He rebuilt the attic in his home into the most delightful bachelor studio.

In the kitchen and bathroom he used handmade, hand-painted tiles. They were beautiful tiles of simple design. Each tile had it’s own little imperfections or identification mark. Knowing these tiles, adoring them, allowed me years later to instantly understand the concept of “organic design” in terms of multimedia design or software interfaces.

The Art Of Cooking (Part 2)

If food can be an integral part of a movie or book’s storyline, why can’t cooking be meshed in storyline, mood, atmosphere, and music? It’s just a thought… (more).

02 January, 2007

The Art Of Cooking (Part 1)

I am not a good cook, though I love to cook. I have never learnt to cook from cookbooks or recipes. Yet, I find blogs (here) or blog entries (here) concerning cooking fascinating. They do not necessarily motivate me to change my ways. But who knows, maybe one day I’ll take down and browse through any of the numerous cookbooks that sit tranquilly, completely unperturbed in the living room bookcase. What these passionate cooks do is make me think about the joys of cooking, and that is a lovely thing too... (more).