Christmas Recital

It didn’t totally suck.   Sitting in a suburban Baptist church
for an hour and a half listening to 43 kids pick out something on the piano and
bang the tamborine is not necessarily the way I want to spend a Saturday
afternoon – especially when there is college football to watch and forget about
two minutes later.  I hope the parents whose kids just don’t have the mojo
know it.   Music is a great learning experience which I would never
dissuade the most tone deaf from getting into but, man oh man, there are those
that have it and those that do not – regardless of the number of years of
training.  The jury may be out on our’s still but she’s having fun and
if she’s not Sarah McLaughlin one day perhaps she’ll be Ethyl Merman – “wouldja
sing “Oklahoma” for your old man one more time, kiddo?” 
Fortunately, I am not in charge of these things so everyone gets a warm fuzzy
from the whole event.   And it is surpisingly quite nice to hear 5
kids out of 43 pick out the tune to Hockey Night in Canada as their
favourite winter tune.

Antipodians Needed


Looking at your reading patterns it is clear we do not have enough insomniacs among us. To over come that weakness, I am launching a campaign to include more items of interest to our pals down under: Kiwis, Aussie, Micronesians, the lot. Trouble is I have no idea what would possibly be of interest.


I think white and red kind of washes out their complextionsI got the White Stripes last CD Elephant the other day. It kind of sounds like Led Zep meets Springsteen’s Nebraska, homemade, but loud buzzy guitars, Robert Plant Houses of the Holy trembly “ahhhh, oooh, yeah baby” kind of singing in the choruses. I wonder what Ogg, child of the ’60’s London blues scene would think? My wife said, you know, I don’t really like music like that – which is odd as she does like Zep. Provides any boy’s daily requirement for loud.

Sophat Vann

Unbeknownst to me last Saturday night, I ate at one of the favourite spots of Ra McGuire, the lead singer from Trooper. It’s information like that that doesn’t change your life but might lead one to pause over one’s Phanaeng Goong (spicy shrimp in basil peanut coconut sauce). [If I see him, there bending over noodle soup noisily, I will call him “Trooper Boy” – I will, I will…]

The Whig last Saturday had a great full page on Mr. Vann…or Mr. Sophat…who has started five different Cambodian restaurants in downtown Kingston – he starts one, gets it going, sells it to someone he trains for a few months and then goes on to open another. When I first moved here I asked whether there had been an immigration wave at some point, thinking it would take a fair number of families from one culture to sustain five restaurants. I got some odd looks. It was, I now learn, a one-man piece of work, creating a momentum for the stuff that helps keep the downtown thriving. Way to go. I have only attended one of his earlier shops, Cambodian Village, so far but his own kitchen Cambodiana is right around the corner.

This is the way it should work. Coming from Nova Scotia, I was used to Lunenburg Greeks, the Lebanese of 1948, the Greeks of the mid-50’s, the Vietnamese of the mid-70’s, the Lebanese of the late 70’s, a guy in my class called Zoltan whose folks got out in ’56, and the former Yugoslavs and their neighbours in the 90’s – and ate their sausage, kibbe, mousakka, croissants (remember the guy at North and Agricola who was a Saigon french pastry chef?), donairs, kapusta and other stuff. In undergrad, I wouldn’t trust a pizza not made by a guy who wasn’t raised on the Mediterranean. I would eat their mother’s home cooking, whatever it was. Food should be an entry to the immigrant experience for the non-immigrant. Eat curry and nans when you are 18 and get a little understanding of understand Mr. Khana, the grade 12 supply math teacher who posed unbelievably hard questions to keep us from being little bastards. Eat a donair from Sam Kasam and Lebanon is a little less about terrorists. Have apples and honey and listen to a friend’s grandfather quiz the young rabbi into embarrassment, think about the menorah. Share a joke over Tom Yum Goong and the jokes at the expense of others quickly sour. All in the cause of shaking up the brain and its residue of preconceptions through tasty food.

Even though I am the kid of two immigrants, I don’t, however, expect to see diners based on smoked herring and haggis. Your loss. Maybe in south-east Asia there are trendy corner stalls with chip butties and Irn-Brew…and deep fried Mars bars.

Getting at Content

The downfall of the internet is its failure to know what it contains and
provide it back to humans in an organized fashion. Its successes include the
ability to perform to the level of its failure to any degree at all. In 1998, only 3% to 34% of the
indexable Web was indexed
. In 1999, 16% was
being claimed
. In 2001, Google
was claiming up to 42%
. In February 2003, many
serious problems with efficacy
were still were not solved. Add to this
failure to even be able to contact all internet based information on a subject
the compounding problem of the inability to assimilate and evalute the

The December issue of
leverages a great article – on efforts to place content into
the hands of internet users – with the point that we do not know how little was

Kahle hates the idea that when people think of
information, they think only of what’s accessible via Google. “Seventy-one
percent of college students use the Internet as their research tool of first
resort,” he says, citing figures from a 2001 PEW Internet Study. “Personally, I
think this number is low. For most students today, if something is not on the
Net, it doesn’t exist.” And yet most books are not on the Net. This means that
students, among others, are blind to the most important artifacts of human
knowledge. For many students, the Internet actually contracts the universe of
knowledge, because it makes the most casual and ephemeral sources the most
accessible, while ignoring the published books. “It’s shameful,” Kahle
continues, “because we have the tools to make all books available to everybody.

Amazon has been
taking steps to place non-digital text on the web
in a manner which works
with copyright while also supporting, rather than corroding their core mission
to sell text on paper. Amazon’s
tool is here
. The results of a search for the word “ale” in a book not
primarily about beer can
be found here
. The article also refers to the new feature on the Wayback Machine, a beta search engine of the 11
billion pages of text held there

What these tools recognize is that irretrievable information is useless. I
would add dangerous as it is a form of stupification. What I would like to learn
about is how information can be organized automatically before it is presented
so that while it is not unless as inaccessible it is useless as overwhelming –
another form of stupification.

Wrong Conspiracy

If it weren’t for knowing about the gays friends of my mother who were
separately killed – aka bashed – for being who they were, this story might be
just funny and an example of a moron
. The opinions of the former Baptist
preacher Canadian Alliance MP should lead to his removal from office but they
won’t. They will cause an outrage, then a rallying of the stupid and then
another entrenchment that my faith somehow is related to this sort of idiocy.

What is most galling is that the efforts of the hateful, were they actually
focused on the principles of the faith, might actually advance the cause, feed
the hungry, shoe the children, increase the mass of love in the world – that
sort of pidly stuff. Why is “judge not” so easily forgotten by those so eager to
be first in line for the buffet in heaven?

Later: Well done, Mr. Harper.

The Raes

a long long time ago...
The Raes of Duns, North Britain – which was polite talk over 100 years ago for Scotland.

My children’s great-great-granduncle was Rae Penny, brother in-law to the kickin’ Evelyn Penny of Owen Sound. [Rae, jazzman, is shown my left (your right) after committing duckacide with his bro.]

Rae was named after these folk – his grandparents (I think), his mother’s folk – no, they are his father’s mother’s folk – his father was William Penny, the immigrant in this line, whose father married a Miss Rae, their daughter. The photo must be 1890 and they are elderly so perhaps born in the 1810’s or 1820’s. It is quite the thing to have an image of your child’s great-great-great-great-grandparents – seven generations, each generation in the line in at least one photograph.

Semantic Schmemantic?

I came across this essay summarizing certain ideas on where the web may go and why and I was struck how, on first review, it did not make any sense – not in the vision but the elements. There is a problem with people playing with the idea of the web which seems to be based on knowing more about the web than knowing about ideas. The utility the web can bring is through its organization not necessarily further complications of linking or these semantics, some sort of basic artificial intellegence. Before any of that makes any sense, it must be fixed to a comprehensive reference related to the way ideas work rather than the media, the web. Off the cuff, there are three ways ideas work: like a myth, like a hierarchical codification or like a dictionary – Plato, Aristotle or Samuel Johnson. [Are there more?] The stuff of dynamic ideas are not good in myth as myth is given – the tough bit is figuring meaning. That may be where the web is now as it is run by those in love with it, who love leaning over deep pools.

How it speaks to itself, as we do in our minds free of myth, will require not mimicking how we think but something more between the what and why – ideas. Someone needs to distill the ideas out of all this content and make them maliable, transformable, comprehensible. Winer’s categories are a very bad codification as it based on personal taxonomy which will likely only compound confusion – a bad filing system loses documents without them leaving the room. Google is a very bad dictionary which cannot guide you to what idea is the best or more useful for your purpose, a shoe box of receipts awaiting an accountant’s hand.

We don’t need the web to think for us. It is not there yet. We need the web to be able to even tell us what it contains first, what it has gathered – not just that it has gathered.