Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lunch break

I'm back in the land of easily-accessible high-speed internet, taking a quick break during lunch to say that yes, indeed, I am still here.

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I spent 7 days in Acapulco for a conference. Of course, I managed to squeeze in a little pool time. I also ate some yummy tacos al pastor and had some to-die-for azteca soupa. I walked on the beach, and waded up to my knees in the not-so-attractive Pacific Ocean. I even caught a cab to the other end of town to watch the famous cliff divers demonstrate their fortitude, diving as much as 100 feet into what appeared to be a rather shallow ocean surge. Upon my return to Colorado, Keith and I celebrated our 7th anniversary, ran or walk-jogged in the Boulder BOULDER 10K race, and then hosted the second annual big ol' Memorial Day barbecue... all in all, a busy week and a busy weekend.

And today, it's upload time. My research group is in the process of getting ready to upload our instrument onto the C-130. I suppose that the countdown is on: 2 months to the day until I head to Christmas Island for three weeks...

But in the meantime, a taste of my last week and a half. To see the rest of the photos, visit my flickr page.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Attack of the Jesus Tomato

On Saturday morning we went to the opening of a new Christian bookstore in Boulder. Becky and I kept the fact the Bob and Larry from Veggie Tales were going to be there a secret. It certainly was a surprise to Kai when they walked into the store. For the first ten minutes Kai essentially hid behind some shelves as the giant vegetable characters walked around the store. He finally warmed up to them (after a great deal of encouragement) enough to have his picture taken first with Bob and then with Larry. Twice he indicated to me that these guys were different because "they have arms and leg". He seemed perplexed as to how they were able to walk like people because they just bounce around on their t.v. show. The little Sherlock Holmes even figured out that people were actually in the suits. In this last picture he is looking at a space in the suit where the glove of the suit is attached to the arm. "Dad, I see skin in there. There is a person in there."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oh the irony.

As a former devotee to over-the-border shopping trips, 4 years ago this would have had me dancing in the streets of Toronto:

Canadian dollar surges to 30-year high at 91.58 cents in morning trading

Now? Um... not so much.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Something Wonderful

In today’s headlines I saw a fun little story about the CBC encouraging Canadians to vote on the top 50 nominees for the “Seven Wonders of Canada”. I perused the options, and after some thought regarding what a wonder really is, I voted for the following:

  1. Bay of Fundy
  2. Niagara Falls
  3. The Rockies
  4. Northern Lights
  5. Cabot Trail
  6. Rideau Canal
  7. CN Tower

I should mention that I didn't look at the criteria until after I voted, but when I read it afterwards, it certainly fit with what I had thought.

I suppose I grouped my choices by categories: numbers 1 through 4 fall into the “natural” wonder category, but are nevertheless widely-known Canadian marvels. Being "widely-known" was one of my personal criteria for selection. Many of the nominees may be regionally known, and perhaps that is good enough for some people, but I think that a Wonder of Canada should have enough attraction to have garnered significant attention already. I am quite partial to the Bay of Fundy - I've been to Moncton a couple times and have seen the (somewhat unimpressive) Tidal Bore and I've seen the (somewhat slightly-more impressive) Reversing Falls in Saint John. I've wandered around the flower pot islands during low tide. I've also ridden a ferry straight across the Bay from Saint John, NB to Digby, NS. But the most exciting time I've spent in the Bay of Fundy was on a whale watching tour based off Grand Manan Island in which Keith and I actually witnessed a right whale breach. Breathtaking.

Hmmm. Niagara Falls - it really is rather impressive. I'll give them that. I've been there once. I think I might have a couple pictures. Yes yes, we share Niagara with the US, but it is well known that the Canadian side is better. (Or is the view from Canada that is better?)

The Canadian Rockies. I've only ever seen them from above, but I live next to the American Rockies, and I hear the Canadian ones are even more beautiful. There are certainly less people in the Canadian Rockies. Being "uniquely Canadian" was one of my slightly less-vital criteria, but here I'm willing to cede that the Rockies are so vast that we can call them a Canadian wonder and still share them with the US.

The Northern Lights. I can probably count on my fingers the number of times I've seen this fascinating phenomenon, but at least I can say that I've seen them. For at least three of those, I was near Peterborough, and the other occasions were from no more than a three-hours' drive north of Toronto. The thought of the Northern Lights immediately makes me think of my friend Pete's recitation of Robert Service's The Cremation of Sam McGee back in grade 5. You can't get much more Canadian than this.

Numbers 5 and 6 are man-made wonders that contribute to our culture, while being rather uniquely Canadian. I don't have a lot to say about the Rideau Canal, except that I enjoyed watching Rick Mercer and Belinda Stronach skating on it back when she crossed the floor. The Cabot Trail, however, was certainly a highlight from our road trip to the Maritimes.

Finally, I picked the CN Tower because it is one of the most internationally recognizable man-made Canadian structure, and well, it is pretty amazing, don't you think?


  • Confederation Bridge. This is just more of a convenience than a wonder.
  • The Canoe. Also a wonderful piece of Canadian culture, but I just don't think a small, human-powered boat qualifies as a wonder. For the same reason, I also didn't spend much time considering the "Montreal Bagel."
  • The Cup. Sorry... I love hockey, I really do. But I don't think a trophy should qualify as a wonder, either. Even though a part of me agrees that it is pretty awe-inspiring...
  • (Prairie) Skies and (Saugeen Shores) Sunsets. While I realize that this might seem to be in the same category as the Northern Lights, there is something inherently mystic about the Aurora Borealis that befits its mythology for our First Nations people. The Northern Lights are also somewhat rare in Southern Ontario, which makes them more special in my opinion.

In the “you’ve got to be kidding me” category:

So that's my take on the wonders. What about you? Have you voted? Do you take exception to my view of the badlands or the snake pits? Leave a comment and tell me what you would vote for and why.

Finally, here's a little contest: my blog entry title is from a favourite movie of mine. Can you guess which one?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mama's Day

Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful mom. Thanks for teaching me how to be a good mom.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Our home and native land...

At the end of the month, we will have been living in the US for two years. It's an occasion that will be marked by our 7th anniversary, celebrating memorial day, inviting some friends over for a backyard barbecue and perhaps even going on another 10K run (read: jog-walk).

Since living here, I've been asked many times by our family and Canadian friends how we enjoy living in the US. My replies often depend on my mood, but they typically range from "it's great!" when I'm loving my job and it's sweet travel perks, to "good... we love Colorado", when we've been out enjoying the great outdoors, to "we're really happy here" because it's just so darn pretty. I suppose I know that there is an expectation that we'd never say "gosh. It's horrid!" because goodness - why would we still be here? But truly, for the most part, it is great.

I still remember my first few months of lunchtime conversations at work. I frequently fell into the trap of whining about this or that missing from the grocery store, or local TV programming, or the news headlines. I honestly never meant to whine, but I genuinely missed things from Canada - my favourite cereal, or snack food, or eye-makeup remover, or Canadian TV show, or Tim's coffee, or my well-established credit rating, or ... geez, simply having a credit rating in the space above "null". I rarely meant for my whimpering to be insulting to my American colleagues, and I soon realized that I needed to just keep quiet and miss things to myself.

Over time, I found new cereals and new snack foods. I learned to make my own coffee. I got a social (security number), a credit card and a bank account, and my American credit rating started to grow. I learned to appreciate the local culture and rhythm. I started to take advantage of our prime location and began to explore the surroundings. I slowly settled into my new life as a resident of the US, even though I am officially a somewhat insulting-sounding "alien nonresident" for tax purposes.

But what I appreciated most about living in Canada has only been slowly occurring to me. Knowledge. I really miss the availability and ease of acquiring knowledge. I miss the prevalence of widespread knowledge. Simply put, I miss knowing things without trying to know them.

I work for a non-government government-funded institution. It is funded directly by an agency that falls directly under the office of the president. (I'll set aside my own personal feelings about this for now.) At this institution, we also write proposals and receive funding directly from other US government agencies. Simply put: the field of atmospheric sciences is strongly influenced by congress and the office of the president. When I learned this - which happened rather gradually - I naively concluded that 'surely it's not this uncertain in Canada!' I was dead wrong. After speaking to an old friend who now works for the esteemed and perpetually-renamed atmospheric program at Environment Canada, I learned that the funding situation for the Earth Sciences in Canada is not too different from the way it is here in the US. And it is likely just as dire.

It was eye-opening to me, this concept that there are important things about my own country of which I know NOTHING. I never needed to know these things - they simply weren't relevant to me while I was living there, employed as a simple graduate student, happily enjoying the flow of money that my graduate supervisor funneled my way.

I was reminded again of my growing Canadian ignorance this morning while I was reading A Walk In the Woods, a witty tale by writer Bill Bryson, who took a little hike on the Appalachian Trail and lived to talk about it. Early in the book, Bryson steps away from his personal account of the AT to talk about the irony of the US National Forest Service. Apparently, the Service wasn't established to protect the nations' woods, but rather to facilitate the exploitation of them in a fair and controlled manner. As I read this, my natural instinct was to fondly think of my fair Canada, who would never treat her forests so harshly... and then I suddenly realized that I really don't know what kind of history Canada has in regards to forestry and logging. I guess I missed that part somehow, when my grades 5 and 7 classes visited Dorset.

I don't even know where Dorset really is, aside from being on the receiving end of a 2-3 hour trip in a school bus.

You see, it's not that I expect to know these things, but it is odd to me that I'm learning things about another country that I don't even know about my own. This really isn't a new concept - as Canadians, we are exposed to world news on a regular if not daily basis. We are inundated with information flowing up from the US. We can't help but know things about the States. But as a Canadian living in the US, I have to be deliberately proactive to stay in tune with Canadian current events. The information simply doesn't flow in the other direction. For goodness' sake - they freak out over a Canadian quarter with a poppy down here.

So how do I like living in the US? It's great! We live in a beautiful place. We enjoy the local culture, and we have some great friends. But I honestly don't know what I'd do without my internet connection to home. I guess I'd simply fall into ignorance. Thankfully, that doesn't have to happen.

hi, i'm a u.s. army contractor and i'm a dumbass.

i occasionally read the toronto star online and i really had a hard time believing this story when i first saw it the other day. the story is a sad commentary on the state of paranoia that seems to be running rampant amoung the citizens of the united states of america. it appears that a contractor thought that our quarters were implanted with a nanotechnology-type spy device.

next time i cross the border on my way back to colorado i will have to remember to empty my pockets of my canadian spy gadgets.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Weekend roundup/Crying Over Spiderman

I'm just settling in for a relaxing Monday evening at home and I thought I ought to catch up with y'all (with the apostrophe inserted immediately after the y, as I've been instructed by trusted southernese experts.) I haven't been feeling too chatty lately, mostly because I just haven't had much to say. Maybe I've just been busy? My weekends have been feeling quite rushed of late. Kai had four 4-year-old birthday parties within 9 days - two consecutive Saturdays and Sundays - the last of which was Kai's own party.

This past Saturday, the entire day, I co-coordinated a girl scout event at my workplace. Together with 17 other (primarily female) volunteers, we hosted ~55 girls between the ages of 7 and 15, teaching them about weather and climate, running lots of hands-on activities, and hopefully inspiring them to consider a future in science, if they feel inclined. Needless to say, at the end of the day, I was beat. I fell asleep on the couch for about an hour from 5:30 to 6:30, which... um... rarely happens with a 4-year-old running around the room.

Yesterday afternoon, Keith mowed the lawn (have I mentioned that we get paid to mow our own lawn? it's a little criminal) and then he went to work. Meanwhile, I took Kai and Jake to their respective playgrounds.

Do you see how the clouds over the water just seemed to go on and on forever? That was to the East. I thought that we'd surely be heading home at some point because of those rain clouds to the West, but somehow they remained over the mountains. In the end, I even got a little sun on my face, despite my 15 spf daily moisturizer.

When we finally returned home, I suggested that we watch Shrek. I bought a VHS copy at a garage sale last summer, but Kai has never been interested in it. This time, surprisingly, he agreed, but he insisted that I sit with him during the scary parts. (Scary parts???)

It bored him. About 10 minutes before it was done he announced that it was too long, and he turned off the TV. Sorry Mike Myers, but Kai is rather fickle when it comes to movies.

That reminds me - last week Kai announced (after watching a commercial for Spiderman 3) "Spiderman 3 is in theatres... I want it to be in homes!" Silly kid. So during dinner tonight he told me that he wants to go to the theatres to see Spiderman 3. I told him that it might be a little too scary for him, but he saw through that dodge and denied that it might be scary. I then suggested that we perhaps we should rent Spiderman and Spiderman 2 first, and see whether or not they're too scary. Somehow this made him burst into a torrent of crocodile tears.

Ah... four. Four is more emotionally unpredictable than a woman a couple days before her period. (Yes, Keith - that was self-referential. You can breathe.)

I simply stared at him for a minute, not angry and definitely not laughing at him (I sensed that it wouldn't have helped), while at the same time refusing to comfort him for crying about Spiderman. A moment later the tears stopped and he asked me again why we couldn't just see Spiderman 3 in theatres.

Kai: Remember when we went to see Happy Feet in theatres? Let's go to see Spiderman 3 in theatres, Mom.

Me: (Um... yeah. I remember. I had to chase you around the theatre for an hour because you were ready to go home as soon as you were finished your popcorn.) Kai, I think it's a scary movie. And besides, it's probably very long. You don't like long movies.

Kai: No... Spiderman 3 isn't a too long movie for me, and Spiderman 3 isn't a too scary movie for me.

Me: And you know this because... Listen, we'll just rent the first two, and we'll see if you think they're too scary. Besides, Spiderman 3 is going to be in the theatres for a while.

Kai: How many days?

Me: (pulling a number out of nowhere) Uh... 60.

Kai: (looking at his fingers) How many is 60?

Me: It's all your fingers times 6. 10 times 6.

Kai: I don't have that enough fingers.

Me: Um... No. I know. Look, if you had 6 friends here, it's all their fingers.

Kai: (Blank expression. Still staring at his fingers.)

Me: It's all my fingers and all your fingers and all dad's fingers, and then all of our toes. That's 60.

Kai: Let's go now.

Me: No. It's bedtime.

wishing i was older during the 70's

hey dad are you sure you don't have those sweet plaid pants anymore? i sure could use a pair to match my new look.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Four is carrying your own pack.

Four is walking in puddles, and watching the ripples intersect.

Four is going down a slide face first.

Four is learning to tell time. And taking your time to paint things just right.

Four is my sweet, goofy boy. Happy birthday, Kai.