Monday, September 29, 2008

the end is nigh

As I write, politicians far away from me are deciding whether to throw an immense amount of nonexistent money after bad. The stock markets are freefalling and people are panicking. We live in interesting times.

And yet, I'm having an alright day, for one that started with workmen banging down the door unexpectedly at 8:30 so they could come in and break a window and leave again (that's some fine fixit work, there). I discovered that I can write a trio of tests in just over a month and apply for federal government positions, some of which are frankly terrific. I have my eye on foreign service positions - hopping between Ottawa and random countries? Fantastic. Exciting enough to bail on my teaching in Japan plans, for sure. If they decide to take me, they'll even teach me French and train me to work in embassies at only a slightly reduced rate of pay ($47,000 per annum to learn stuff? A heck of a lot better than negative $13,000 or so). I could really get into this as a career and love it.

Also: this artist is fascinating.
For Address Book (1983), she found an address book in the street; before mailing it back to its owner, she photocopied it. She interviewed the addressees about their phonebook friend, publishing the results in 28 daily installments in a major French newspaper. The infuriated subject, a documentary filmmaker named Pierre Baudry – how’s that for irony? – retaliated by insisting that the paper publish a nude photo of Calle. Calle and the paper complied. (Partly; they cropped out her head.) Calle was apparently delighted by this exchange; Mr. Baudry remains resentful to this day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

the ripley rule

It's been a quiet couple of weeks. So quiet that I really didn't notice I hadn't blogged much this month. I went to visit Michelle and Scott for a few days last week, and got to meet the new niece-turned-nephew, Apollo. After so long with adult cats, it's hard to remember how small and weird kittens can be.
Aside from that, it's been applying for jobs and thinking about furniture. I've decided to put off major purchases until I have a job, so we'll probably be without major items of furniture for a while longer, but we have a sort of breakfast nook set up in the tower, and a rescued couch to sit on (I'm in the process of some minor repairs). I have a detailed plan of where to go from here, though, and some painting is in the cards this week (touching up windowframes and so forth, and some bookcases).

We went over to Will's for a small party on Friday. Actually it was a pre-midnight-Rocky-Horror-Show party, but my household wasn't going to the play - by the time my money came in, the midnight show was sold out, and who really wants to go to a Rocky Horror matinee? Anyway we had fondue and pumpkin pie, and somehow wound up talking about the Ripley Rule.
The Ripley Rule (or Bechdel Rule) is about women in movies, and dates back to the 80s, when Alien was one of very few movies that actually passed its criteria. Simply put,
1. Does it have at least two women in it,
2. Who [at some point] talk to each other,
3. About something besides a man.
Pretty reasonable rules, you'd think, except when you start trying to apply it and find out that there are still almost no movies that pass. Any of the Star Wars films? Fail. Any James Bond? Fail. The Matrix or sequels? Fail. We went through Will's entire collection of movies and came up with maybe five or six passes, and some of them are technicalities. Josie and the Pussycats is an honest pass, as is Memoirs of a Geisha, but Serenity, a movie with at least four strong female leads, doesn't pass (to my knowledge). Aeon Flux is a movie that no one else liked, but it's a pass. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs fail, but Kill Bill and Death Proof are big passes - a trend?
I'm curious about the sort of movies I don't usually watch - does Sex and the City (movie, not show) pass? What about The Notebook? Also, we got into discussions about whether blatantly shallow conversation about clothing or makeup should count as a pass, and about whether male children count as "men", and about whether discussion about children ought to be a pass anyway. We decided it's not really useful to judge TV shows, because it's not hard to scrape up a single exchange over several seasons, but there are some shows that follow the spirit of the rule and some that don't - Doctor Who is generally a fail, but Battlestar Galactica is a definite pass.
It's not really useful as a way if determining whether a movie is good or not, or really anything, but it is interesting.
Also, it led to a protracted discussion about doing a remake of Reservoir Dogs with an all-female cast, possibly with Madonna in Tarantino's role (hey, she's a director now, she could even direct. Or not.).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

interruption in service

(written the evening of Monday, Sept 15)

Today has been a frustrating day.

Upon moving into this apartment, the landlady told us to expect her carpenters first thing in the morning to crackfill, paint, and generally fix things up for as many days as it took to get everything done. After two days, with lots of sanding and so forth left to do, they just stopped showing up, leaving a great deal of painting supplies around. I called the landlady Friday to inquire as to when they could come back, and she promised to have them back immediately and explained that they had forgotten about us.

Surprisingly (if you know anything about landlords or carpenters) they turned up again this morning bright and early, determined to finish the job, and so Sean and I left for a coffee while they worked. When I came back (Sean having left for school), there were large drifts of plaster dust in the halls and a suspicious lack of lighting in the living room. I swept up as much plaster as I could, and then went to investigate the living room, and found that there was no power in the living room, guest room, or Angus' room - which has the internet things in it, thus killing the internet too.

There are smart ways of handling these situations, and they generally aren't heading to the basement by myself with intent to fiddle with power boxes. I went downstairs and banged on the second floor apartment's door for five minutes before they noticed me through the thumping bass of Britney Spears' latest album. We've met three occupants of the downstairs apartment, and a new one (possibly a replacement for one of the others, who apparently didn't get a student loan) answered the door. As she opened the door, three cats streaked out into the landing - Hermes and Apollo (two white kittens) and a new cat, who is fluffy and grey and evidently belongs to the new girl, Erin. I asked about the fuse box, and found that their apartment has its own fuse box inside. I helped them recapture the cats and went to search my apartment - no fuse box. Hm.

I called the landlady, who was dismayed at yet another thing breaking. No, she said, not all the apartments have their own fuse boxes; ours was probably in the basement. She promised to send along the handyman as soon as possible.

As far as I could tell, he never did come by. After a long, internet-less day, Angus came home at seven, and I explained the lack of power and internet. I was pretty annoyed.
"It's weird... the carpenters didn't even have any equipment to plug in to blow the fuse, and we didn't have anything unusual plugged in," Angus said. "If they were messing with a light switch, or maybe a power outlet..."
The light came on, in my mind, at least. There is a power outlet on the wall they were sanding and painting. It's a weird outlet - a bathroom outlet instead of a regular one...

I hit the reset button, and magically, the power was back.

So instead of a fuse box, we have a bathroom interrupt outlet. Presumably the actual bathroom's interrupt outlet is the fuse for the back half of the apartment.

After half an hour of glorious internet usage, another intermittent problem reared its head. Our internet service has been randomly cutting out since we moved in. Angus has several years of internet service provider tech support under his belt, and so he's pretty good at diagnosing problems; after a few simple tests he decided it wasn't the router or a few other very routine problems, but instead probably an issue with the old phone wiring. He's had a few phone conversations with Aliant to this point, and their chats are getting less and less amicable, because he knows when they are giving him ridiculous answers or refusing to even look at the ongoing log of our problems in their system. This evening he got a particularly useless tech who insisted that our internet was working fine because a light was on. It's kind of entertaining watching Angus get off the phone and pace and rant for a while about the tech support industry, but as a result of all this, the router is off again until the connection gacks out again so he can prove a point and hopefully get a technician out to check the lines. Hopefully I can post this tomorrow, if things will just start working properly again.

Postscript: the internet went out again this morning, and Angus got through to someone who could actually help, so tomorrow we have a technician coming!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

square one

As avid followers of the twitter feed to the right may already know, I didn't get the choral federation job. After two followup calls with more questions, and several days of internal debate, they decided to go with a candidate with more local choir experience.

It's pretty depressing, I'm not going to lie. This one seemed so close, and I really felt like I could sink my teeth into it and make a difference. I think I could offer so much to a non-profit that would just give me a chance, but for some reason, despite some experience, a willingness to accept whatever pay I can get, and references who will swear I'm a genius, there are no takers. I'm back at the point where I'm cruising Teach English in Korea! sites and trying to talk myself into believing I could deal with a call center. I've applied for jobs on campus, but the inside people told Ellis that those jobs almost never hire people who don't have years of experience because the competition is pretty stiff.

Hopefully something I can actually be excited about will come up again soon.

What else is going on? Sean's birthday was on Saturday, which meant the Blue Door; he had a two inch thick steak, and I had seared duck breast with mustard glaze on curried lentils with perfect asparagus. They are definitely special occasion only, but so, so worth it. Also, Angus and I went to a big community yardsale with Ellis, and found a couple of gorgeous steampunk-able lamps. Angus has had a job interview with Sean's workplace for a fairly lucrative and interesting web design position. Everyone's classes are going swimmingly thus far.

I haven't really much of interest to write about... I'll summon some enthusiasm tomorrow and hopefully write something a bit less glum. For now, back to trolling the job banks.

Friday, September 05, 2008

first day of school

... actually, the first day of no-school. It was a bit weird watching Sean pack up his school things again - he's a third year now! - and Angus dealing with the wide new world of university. Sean has almost $500 of books this semester, thanks to his enormous amount of math, and Angus discovered that professors are weirder than normal folk.

And what did I do? In addition to the laundry list I wrote yesterday, I had post-interview coffee with Ellis, which turned into a house tour here and then at her house (only a block away). She has some gorgeous rooms - I'm so jealous on the painting front. I'm so tempted to paint... speaking of Belize alumni, Will also landed last night, and we went over to introduce Angus, meet Will's parents, and catch up for a while. He's all aflame with ideas for D&D this year, so I'm looking forward to getting to know 4th edition D&D back to front over the next week or so.

When I came home from Ellis', Sean was making Snobby Joes. If you have ever tried to cook for a vegan, you may already know that vegan food is generally kind of bland, and often contains ingredients that no non-vegan would eat (vegetable protein?) or that most people don't keep around (quinoa? seitan?). Snobby Joes are one of only two recipes I've ever tried that actually don't taste vegan, yet don't contain things pretending to be meat, and still manages to taste like food. Instead of the hamburger of Sloppy Joes, you get lentils, which have a similar sort of texture, and the end product is thick and spicy and just like Sloppy Joes, but without the greasy feeling of bloat afterward. I highly recommend it. It's definitely going into high rotation around here.

Snobby Joes (from the Veganomicon)

Just a pot or two

1 cup uncooked lentils (we used two cans of lentils and skipped the cooking)
4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder (not cayenne!)
2 teaspoons oregano (we used basil instead)
1 teaspoon salt (skipped this, as we have no salt)
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon yellow mustard (wet mustard)

4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns

Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.
About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more.
Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup and mustard and heat through.
Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can't wait. I like to serve these open faced, with a scoop of snobby joe on each slice of the bun.
Alright, enough of school and Snobbies, what about the interview? I faced five interviewers around a table, and we chatted about me, myself, and I for about half an hour. As usual I was a bit nervewracked at the beginning, but towards the end I was pretty relaxed, and to wrap up the interview they had me do a short written proposal about improving their newsletter. It should come as a surprise to no one that I come across much better on paper than in an interview, and I think I did a particularly good job on this one.
What did I learn? The Executive Director is the only employee, and the office is a single room in the Barracks downtown; it's actually inside Archaeological Services, which is a weird coincidence. Right now the Federation is fairly limited. The Nova Scotia Choral Federation has a provincial choir, three flavours of choir camp, all sorts of workshops, outreach to schools - New Brunswick has only one workshop per year, and will be starting its first provincial honour choir next year. They would very much like to be able to offer the sort of programs Nova Scotia does, however. Lots of potential for growth, I think. Also, the Executive Director is the provincial representative on the national council; if I get this job, I'll be flying to Montreal in October for the meeting.
I do love a challenge, and I think that I want this job. I have a good feeling about this one.

PS: I'm trying to maintain the twitter feed to the right with some frequency. Last night's breaking news: chair arson across the street! We called it in and watched the firefighters douse and chop the smoldering ruin. V. exciting.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


We're in.
Actually, we've been in since Sunday, but now we have the internet, and the boxes are all at least in the correct room, so things are progressing to the point where it's starting to feel like a home and less like a disaster zone. It's going to take a few more days to have it respectable enough to have people in to see (and to take pictures of), but here we are.
I have a very busy day today - finally finishing up at the old apartment (couldn't the landlady let me know all the things I have to do at once, instead of tacking on "clean the oven" after everything else was done?), doing a load of laundry, cleaning up our bedroom, and somehow getting presentable for a job interview this afternoon. What job? Executive Director of the New Brunswick Choral Federation.
I'm a little nervous.
The cats are adapting better than expected. They both spent the first time holed up in the bedroom with me, but Tonks came out to look for some petting and attention at night, and Parallax was ready to explore by morning. After a couple false starts being afraid of traffic noise, she's pretty comfortable with all the windowsills: