William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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7. the first busy weekend

On Thursday evening I biked down to Andy's, leaving what I thought was plenty of time to get to the liquor store. But as I biked by the garage, I noticed the Lodgemobile was there and not at the Lodge. So we ended up walking to the liquor store – my bike here, unlike the bike I had in Japan, has basically zero cargo capacity – we got there in plenty of time, but Andy was having problems with his foot. He ended up buying a bottle of Jägermeister because it would be more portable than a case of beer, though I would have been up for carrying a 12 pack by myself.

We got back to the Lodge and soon discovered that we didn't have ice (and the bottle wasn't cold), so I stuck some freeze pops into the glass and drank around those, but I still wasn't really into my first taste of it. So I just gave up on it and that was fine anyway because then we watched a movie.

The Hobbit – An Unexpectedly Long Movie Journey: I didn't get the chance to see it in theatres, in part because I was a student poor in free time, social capital (“friends?”), and money, but also because there were about fifteen formats available, including 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D, high frame rate 3D, and Smell-O-Vision™ 4D.

Parts of this movie were stunning. The flashbacks of the dwarven kingdom at its height were awe-invoking. The changes in tone from the book I generally approve of, and the inclusion of things that were presumably going on (but not mentioned in the original book) fill out the movie very well (though the Rankin/Bass production is just fine without them).

Sometimes, though, the movie makes sequences pointlessly long, and for once I'm not wondering what more there'll be in the inevitable Extended Editions. After Rivendell there's an effects-heavy sequence that could have been skipped – it has almost no impact on the plot and it stretches our suspension of disbelief to the breaking point. Sometimes, if you need your characters to take shelter, a simple rainstorm will do. And then there's an interminable chase sequence to get them out of the subsequent predicament, and it relies on all the bad guys being lousy shots. It's not really thrilling because you know very well they're going to get out of it, so it does more and more disservice to the movie the longer it goes on.

Here's a problem I see with sequences that are laden with special effects: If I shoot a scene of dialogue and decide it doesn't work, I can cut it. If I create an action sequence that costs millions of dollars and decide it doesn't work, is it so easy to leave it as a deleted scene on the DVD? Will the producers decide I'm not working out?

Anyway, The Hobbit: AUJ is a very good two-hour movie, but one you have to budget the better part of three in order to watch. 8.

* * *

On Friday morning I sat with the monthly book club meeting at the library. Naturally, I was by far the youngest person there. We each talked about books we were reading or had just finished – one that I want to check out is King Solomon's Ring by Konrad Lorenz. In a nutshell, you can't study animal behaviour by watching animals in cages. You have to get right down into their environment and almost literally learn to speak their language. This principle informs much of the modern outlook on behavioural biology, and Lorenz is frequently cited by Robert Sapolsky in the latter's Human Behavioural Biology lectures at Stanford, which I highly highly highly highly highly recommend viewing. Bookmark it, watch a couple hours of it, see if it's your cup of tea.

For my part, I'm reading Plato's Republic as translated by Alan Bloom. I'm about halfway through. It's worthwhile but challenging – I sometimes feel like I'm someone who's meant by the character of Socrates to be excluded from philosophy, someone who learns little with much effort. But maybe I'm wrong about myself, and maybe Plato was (trying to be, through the voice of Socrates?) wrong about excluding those that come to philosophy through prolonged effort. Maybe because learning is so hard for me, I have to learn how to learn something, and when I do that I also learn how to teach the thing. (That would be nice. Tutoring programming was a humbling experience, though.)

So far for me, the most interesting part was the first, where Socrates and his acolytes are walking along and are shanghaied into a little gathering at Polemarchus' place. Socrates quickly finds himself under pressure on the topic of what justice is and whether or not it is stronger than injustice. This initial argument is to me more interesting than the ideal city Socrates and his friends build (in order to find justice in it). But maybe the fault is mine for expecting nice little sound bytes. Reading a physics textbook can't be a passive experience either.

One of the things I'm wrestling with now is the idea of the most able being the least likely – Socrates paints a picture of how would-be pilots struggle with the shipowner or captain for the job, while the most able pilot would literally have his head in the stars and not on the struggle for the position. I certainly felt like I was on the wrong side of these same forces this spring in my search for a work term.

“According to your resume, you've been to Ukraine, Poland, and Japan. How do we know you're not going to Kuala Lumpur next week? We want some stability in this company!”

But, in the long term, I think the most able will find a place (or make his own) and I was able to win recognition for my reasonably hard work. Yeah, I said “reasonably hard”. It's not like I was there for fourteen hours every day. :-p I'm not a good liar, and I don't want to be one, even though I feel like this Dilbert comic speaks the truth.

Anyway, I'm getting way off-topic – so I met some lovely people at the book club, they said they were glad I came, and I came back home.

Sometime I'll talk about how I got the notion to read the book in the first place, but it's a whole other story.

* * *

My cousins would be coming down late Friday evening, so after watching Andy Murray, using a balanced approach, prevail over the powerful giant Jerzy Janowicz, I lingered at the cottage with my mother and aunt and uncle for a while, then I met my friend Andy and his sister and his friend at the Lodge, and we went to visit another friend of his. We sat in her tent and had a pleasant time.

One of the themes that emerged was the importance of not being concerned about what other people think of you. I can certainly appreciate the difficulty of getting out of this trap, because it's often been my general preoccupation! The thing of it is, though, “out of sight, out of mind” - most of the time, we matter to others less than a gnat's toot in a hurricane.

Yet I have frequent flashbacks to various dumb things I've said or done and I'm so mortified I involuntarily grimace. People around me sometimes ask “What's wrong?” I guess the answer is, “My perception of myself is of an awful human being, so I've been relying mostly on appearances to get anywhere, so my whole sense of self-worth is wrapped up in trying to get everyone to dance to my tune, and so I can't stand it when I play a false note.” Guess what – people who are said to be over-egotistical may in fact be quite the opposite.

I'm coming around to feeling that I don't need to worry about finding love, if only because worrying is useless. I think looking is ridiculed because we tend to look in the wrong places.

Alex arrived with the other cousins and came to get me at Andy's. Stuart and his girlfriend Eva (going off to grad school) dealt with some Kitchener apartment lease paperwork on the computer at Robert's and then we went up to the cottage. After a long while, we went to Robert's again (and hopefully didn't wake too many people up).

* * *

The burial had been moved from 2pm to 4pm, so we had time to go tubing down the river. Last year, I was in a tube and had trouble keeping up. This time, the tubes were taken up, so I had an air mattress, and I had no trouble keeping up – in fact, I had to stop sometimes to allow the tubers to catch up.

One silly thing I did was inflate the head cushion part of it all the way. I thought it was negligent that it wasn't topped up, but it was actually on purpose – I'd be riding on my belly the whole way, so I didn't need that much propping my head up! I made some adjustments on the fly (both up and down) until I got it to a level I was happy with.

Despite the relative speed and the odd thrill of inflating part of the thing I was floating on, I wouldn't go by air mattress again. It's not as comfortable and I think they're downright dangerous in the rapids. Robert advised me to grip the mattress more tightly between my legs at that point so that I could stay on the mattress. He presumably did, and later told me he slipped off it anyway.

When I got to the rapids, I quickly realized that gripping the mattress more tightly meant that my legs would be more exposed to the rocks, and I wanted no part of that, so I did the opposite of what I was advised and pulled my legs up on top of the mattress. Naturally, my thoughts didn't go farther than that, and the next thing I knew I was off the mattress and almost totally exposed to the rocks. My legs got whacked and scraped several times. Frankly, I was lucky to get through it still clutching the mattress and not having broken anything. Once the life-or-death adrenaline subsided a little, the agony set in. I didn't have “knees” like the creature Kirk fought in Star Trek VI, but I might as well have.

Robert later told us about how he learned not to swim above the falls.

When Robert, having gone ahead, came back in his car to pick us up, I noticed a loose piece of paper on the front seat with Stuart's and Eva's signatures on it. “Is this important?” I asked. Yep, it was supposed to have been faxed, but it wasn't bundled with the stuff that got faxed, and the transmission report listed one fewer page having been sent than was intended. So after he left Alex and me with the other car, they raced off to deal with faxing again.

* * *

I moved most of my things out of the room I was staying in and replaced the sheets and pillowcases on the bed (I'd washed them), and then I found an opening to have a shower. More and more people arrived. We were warned it'd be full sun in our part of the cemetery, so I applied sunscreen again.

Parking offsite, we walked into the cemetery to find everyone standing in the shade of a few trees. It was funny to remember that we'd put off this burial because on the day of the funeral it was snowy, wet, and cold. (With cremation, you get this kind of flexibility.) Now being cold was something dearly to be wished for.

Among other things that were said, Grampy recited two of his poems about Nanny. He spoke the last words:

I love my wife
She's girl, she's woman
Understanding, sweetly kind
Noble, gentle, sympathetic
Devotedly through the years you'll find
I love my wife

I'll love my wife
'Till heaven's Kingdom enters
Where this earth once lay,
'Till I am “called”
this life's joy ended,
'Till all Creation's passed away
I'll love my wife

* * *

The gathering at the house afterwards started hot and got hotter. Kayaks were brought out, but I felt cooked enough for a month of Sundays. We had snacks and drinks and chatted and chatted to the hum of about a million fans.

The night was capped off with Uncle Cliff, Stuart, Andy and I talking on the veranda. Among many other things, we got talking about education. Uncle Cliff shared his experience of staying home from school during 10th grade to watch / assist the tradespeople building on to this house. He explained to Grampy that he'd learn more useful things here than he would at school, and Grampy agreed. Uncle Cliff ended up becoming an engineer and a naval architect.

I categorically seek a philosophical discussion, though with realities like interruptions, forgetfulness, idiolectic differences, and some people's wild leaps from the general to the specific and back again, it was hard to make or come to any sense. I almost wanted us to use a talking stick. Did we do that last year?

* * *

Sunday morning was all about watching the Wimbledon final. Andy Murray won, but it wasn't even remotely in the can until he made the final point – the match was a lot closer than its straight-set score would indicate. It was the hottest championship match since the last ice age, and Murray seemed far more fatigued than Djokovic – it looked like “now or never”. Murray's not the fastest, not the strongest, and certainly not the tallest, but he has drive and hustle and he can make spectacular shots all day. The announcers were talking about the possibility of his eventually overtaking Djokovic for the number-one ranking. It would be interesting if they went back and forth a bit over the next few years, but there's a bunch of other really strong players nipping at their heels too.

For most of the day it was too hot to stir very far from the basement couch, so that's where I stayed. I started this post, read a little, and napped. In the evening Andy called saying that he had a computer for me to fix (on the software end). It had been whacked by malware and Norton Internet Security was in some kind of Headless Zombie Mode, where a firewall was blocking pretty much everything. Fortunately, Symantec has a removal tool for their money sucker security software. It's funny how their junk software makes it harder for you to recover from various system screwups – among other things, the zombie firewall prevented Malwarebytes Anti-Malware from updating itself, and there was no built-in way to turn the firewall off or uninstall it, since the whole thing was broken.

Afterwards, we watched another movie.

Monty Python's Life of Brian: Maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it. The only scene that really made me bust a gut was the stoning scene. Much of the rest was merely mildly amusing. The audio quality was also poor on the DVD we were watching – I had to turn the subtitles on to pick up the better part of the dialogue. I'm glad to have seen it, but I wonder about its being considered the greatest comedy of all time, especially when Holy Grail seems to have one gut-buster after another. On this list, the two Python movies are the only ones I've seen. 6.

* * *

On Monday, everybody except my mother had gone home. It was quiet and so I did my laundry, caught up on some reading, and wrote this. The basement is too moldy for me to hang out down there anymore (I'm starting to get stuffed up in spite of the allergy pill), but today's a cloudy / rainy day, so the upper levels are bearable.

I've installed Skype (desktop version, of course – I was willing to try the Win8/Metro-specific version, but it lacks some features compared to the good ol' desktop version) on my new laptop and am interested in chatting with friends and acquaintances (and even some e-quaintances, if we've interacted on other platforms) through that medium because it is one that requires undivided attention. My username is the usual. Of course, I don't have internet down here, so not being able to use it all the time is kind of part of the thrill.
Tags: sherbrooke 2013

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