SKA isn’t just music anymore

April 8th, 2012

Made it to another PI lecture last week. This one was Lisa Harvey-Smith from CSIRO (Commenwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization) who was here, presumably, celebrating Canada’s recent entry into the supporter’s ring for the Square Kilometer Array.

The whole project is a pretty interesting world cup of who’s gonna get the array. It’s a series of several types of radio receivers that comprise what will be the most sensitive radio telescope we’ve ever created. The idea is that they will be able to look “back” at the early universe and get a much better understanding of how things came to be, and maybe get a handle on just what the hell black energy and black matter really is. Essentially looking at the smooth universe from much earlier after the big bang and before it got all clumpy (if, indeed, that is how it happened).

Harvey-Smith was an engaging speaker who made liberal use of video and humour (to better effect, I thought, when she wasn’t discussing her primary research and the array – almost as if it’s too hard to be irreverent with the thing you most care about).

What’s more interesting is that every aspect of this project is pretty much open market competition, including the ultimate site for the array (thanks to @Melle for the link). It may be a defining moment for Africa if they get the bid. There’s some pretty mind-boggling innovation required, including how to cool facilities in a desert in a way that is environmentally sound, and get enough computing power together to process the equivalent of the Internet every day. But they’ve got the guy who has a copyright on wifi working on the project, so they may have a shot at it.

I came out of there with one essential question though: if the actual space needed is thousands of kilometers, why the hell is it the Square Kilometer Array?


Or maybe “quirky”

March 10th, 2012

The other night, Melle and I attended a lecture by Robert Wittman at KW|AG in support of his book Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures. Wittman is a pretty jovial speaker for a FBI guy and he did a great job of getting in plugs for the gallery, the local police services, and his book, of course.

You could hear the collective gasp of horror when he showed us a priceless wooden tea caddy from the Penn family that was unceremoniously dumped in the river and lost when the “mastermind” asswipe who stole it got nervous and told his girlfriend to dump the goods.

Before I got there, I was playing TV ping-pong between Buffy “Pangs” and the Brier (that’s curling, folks) and was really torn on which thing was more exciting even though I’ve seen “Pangs” about 10 times now. “A bear. You made a bear!” “I didn’t mean to!” Seriously, if you aren’t laughing at that, you are a cold, cold person. Plus, Canadian curling championship which is chess on ice and you won’t tell me different.

It was a 10/10 entertainment experience in one night. If I could have worked in the Perimeter lecture as well, it would be an 11.

Upon sharing my delight at the TV choices, Melle said she worries about me sometimes, but I know she means that in the best possible way ;)

Though if I’m looking at the dating pool, this may be a telling sign as to why I’m single. Not *everyone* would think Buffy, curling and stories about art theft and recovery, with a wishful thought towards a physics lecture makes a good evening, but I think it makes me interesting. Or something like that…


Wherein I got to do a scotch tasting

February 25th, 2012

At our latest Straightup KW, I was the taste host for “The Isles Have It”.

We came full circle this time – back to the KW Art Gallery and back to scotch. MamaPapa Catering provided fantastic food that was well-matched to my final selections:

  • Tasting #1: Tobermory 10, served with maple roasted walnuts with black pepper and orange salt. The nuts and salt brought out the nutty and spring mint taste of the scotch, with a bit of the sea creeping in on the finish.
  • Tasting #2: Ardbeg 10, served with panko crusted sea scallop with bacon shallot relish. Seriously, these two things are a culinary delight. The Ardbeg is fantastically balanced even though it’s the biggest peat going, and the scallops gave it a mellow sea salt, leather wonderful finish. There were also trout rillettes alongside. Taken all together, one of the best pairings ever.
  • Tasting #3: Highland Park 15, served with slow roasted pork belly with honey gastrique and cranberry fry bread with triple cream brie and apricot ginger chutney. Highland Park is famous for its heather honey smoke and the pork served it really well. Highland Park 12 is many a person’s standard scotch, so the 15 was an interesting step up on the palette – very alike, just more so.
  • Tasting #4: Bowmore Darkest 15, served with a dark chocolate ganoche wifth sea salt and a sprig of candied orange. And let me tell you, that orange/salt/choco combo send the Bowmore to new fruity depths. Especially the orange.

Alongside the tasting notes, I had a chance to tell a few tales about the Isles of Scotland where these whiskies came from. I think everyone enjoyed the legend of the Selkies (from the Orknies, where Highland Park is) – most likely cuz it’s about seduction, of course.

The gallery exhibit that we toured comprised of some interesting installations on loan from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Since many of the installations are to do with sound and light, the gallery itself was dark. I think the interrogation glass cube was the favourite, but there was also a cool lightbox presentation of bugs that caught my eye.

This was a great experience for me – I like scotch a lot, but I’m no professional, so the research and taste pairings were a lot of fun. I enjoyed the process of finding out more about the whiskies and the isles and the legends that go with them.



Love ya

February 17th, 2012

Sometimes Twitter is an amazingly fun place to be. If you are looking for some Canadian character and a good laugh, check out #TellVicEverything.

You want to know why? http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/02/16/pol-twitter-tell-vic-everything.html

The best part is that we somehow succeeded in getting the Harper gov’t to *gasp* “consider amendments”.


Shopping on the Interwebs

January 17th, 2012

There are some things that one buys online and expects to buy online; some are surprises.

This is a fabric comb

This is a fabric comb

The first thing is a sweater comb. I started looking for sweater combs about 6 weeks ago. You would think this would be an easy thing to find. By the yarn or in the laundry aisle or something. But no. Nothing at fabric stores, department stores. Hell, even CT let me down and they have everything!

And no, I do not want the “electric” version of the thing – why buy something that needs batteries when there’s a perfectly good tool that does not?

Great gift, btw. Pulls off pills from pants and sweaters and stuff. An excellent little invention.

And then it was sweatshirts. I like sweatshirts. The normal kind. No hoods. No zippers. No pockets. Just a gorram sweatshirt. But everyone else likes hoodies with zippers and pockets, so that’s what the stores stock.

Online shopping to the rescue on both counts. I shall have my comb and sweatshirts delivered to my door. Bless the Internet.


This is a picture I did not take

January 8th, 2012

at the library. Of a homeless man rearranging the DVDs in a schema known only to him.



January 5th, 2012

I’ve seen Ritchie’s Sherlock (Game of Shadows) and Moffat’s latest Sherlock (A Scandal in Belgravia) in the past couple of weeks. Of course, Ritchie’s Sherlock isn’t really Sherlock; it’s an action movie with cool slow-mo that happens to have the same character names as Sherlock.

Of the two, I much prefer Moffat’s. But I do like the chemistry between Downie and Law and the steampunk bits and bobs in Ritchie’s. Also, Stephen Fry as Mycroft is awesome and he and Downie are totally believable batshit brilliant brothers and Jarred Harris is a better Moriarity. The Irene Adlers are very different. McAdams is more vulnerable and more sweet, but then again she’s not a full-on dominatrix, so I guess I give the edge to Lara Pulver. Both have some awesome comic moments.

Moffat’s high tech contemporary Sherlock really works for me, and the music totally reminds of Firefly which can only mean good things. Though Michael Price is not Greg Edmonson, he’s known for a few other little things (think hobbits).

One wonders what the hell Conan Doyle would be thinking about all this re-imagining.


Turn the other cheek so I can hit it

December 28th, 2011

Apparently the Holy Church of the Sepulchre isn’t the only victim of monk-to-monk combat.


And look out fellas, we’re in the age of video…


This is a picture I did not take

December 26th, 2011

of two men, in Russian mafia tracksuits, walking goats on leashes through the grounds of the local hospital.


Christmas content, stories

December 20th, 2011

So I gave you a few Christmas songs to enjoy, and have one to add (courtesy of Cathy at Cultureguru): Tim Minchin’s “White Wine in the Sun”.

And I also have some stories to go with the holiday season….

1. Now a holiday classic, I give you David Sedaris and “Six to Eight Black Men”. I dare you not to laugh.

Unlike the jolly, obese American Santa, Saint Nicholas is painfully thin and dresses not unlike the pope, topping his robes with a tall hat resembling an embroidered tea cozy. The outfit, I was told, is a carryover from his former career, when he served as a bishop in Turkey.

2. A little fun from Mr Gaiman with “Hanukkah with bells on“. Trees are pagan, and therefore for all of us.

We were not jealous of friends who got Christmas presents. We were jealous of the friends with Christmas trees.