Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Posting Lull

So I haven't posted in quite some time - I'm blaming the holidays. Lame excuse maybe, but we did drive to Alberta for a week to visit my parents and celebrate Christmas. I got to see a bunch of my friends in Calgary, and Awaken's new home. I'm happy to report that there were no issues transporting the energy-efficient light bulbs across the border (or the cat) - and Awaken members were able to pass them out in their neighborhood when they went caroling. As Scott the negligent blogger said, it was net-zero energy usage - energy lost from having the door open to listen to caroling could be recouped over the next few years using the light bulbs. During our time in Red Deer I learned that a Skateboard company my friends and I started, Salvation, now has a new website (I've been out of the loop). If your wondering what I have to do with skateboarding, they needed someone to deal with the Government, you know "taxes", "accounting", and so on. I'm looking forward to getting my own profile page, complete with pictures of me in my "I got mad spreadsheets, Yo!" T-shirt and a video of me making journal entries. Michelle and I had a great trip, and it worked out really well - we got to see everyone, and it still felt relaxing. For Christmas Day Michelle and I hosted breakfast for the Ferndale regiment of the Erhard family tree before heading South to Seattle. I had a blast watching everyone exchange presents (Michelle's family can be just as funny and crazy as mine), and there was even snow falling, a bit of a rarity for Seattle. Oh, and the coffee was fantastic. I'm sure plenty more has happened that I'm leaving out, but my plan is to distract you with a bunch of links to keep you busy. Happy surfing!

PS I might post some pictures from the trip in a little while. Oh, and the links are in grey - they're kind of hard to see.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Meet the Robinsons

Michelle and I have seen this movie twice now in the last week. It's a lot of fun and here's why:

1) Goob - the funniest, best animated, best voiced character in animation history. He's stinking hilarious - and very cute. But best of all he's really kid-like.

2) Bowler Hat Guy - my kind of villain.

3) Wilbur's family - they are all totally nuts and totally accepting of one another. Happiness despite obvious and outright dysfunction. Kind of reminds me of my family.

4) Legacy - I like that this movie, or rather the people who made it, acknowledge and appreciate the legacy left to them by the man who started their company. This movie includes recognition of where it came from and it is true to Walt Disney's values and ideals. I like that a lot.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

The best way I can describe Kurt Vonnegut's writing is viciously satirical. Vonnegut is considered a black comedy writer, but it's stronger than that. I admit, I certainly laughed on a few occasions (maybe 4), particularly when the continents were described as "floating on molten slurp". I also really enjoyed the hero, Kilgore Trout, a science fiction writer and a character from another of Vonnegut's novels. His method of coping with the world is to make up science fiction stories about the absurdity he finds all around him. These mini novellas are absolute gems. Finally, and most importantly, there were many occasions throughout the course of this book where I got the distinct sense that there was some connection, some symbolism, some message I hadn't quite grasped. It was these little hints amidst the chaos that made me think, hard at times, and also made me wish it wasn't over when it was. On the other hand, it would be like Vonnegut try to fool me into thinking the chaos had some deeper meaning.

At a few points in this book I considered putting it down altogether due to the extremely vulgar adult content (not to mention language). What allowed me to continue reading was the sense that Vonnegut was being blatantly honest and that the issues he raised were rooted in many people's very real life experiences. Ultimately, I was disappointed and saddened by the distinct lack of hope throughout much of the book; one bright spot was Eddie Key, a character who had the responsibility of memorizing the exploits of every member of his family for many generations into the past. All in all though, Vonnegut doesn't come across as a particularly cheerful individual; Breakfast of Champions left me thankful that I have hope.

One last comment: throughout the book Vonnegut ends paragraphs with the words "And so on." He often begins with "And..." Instead of the standard "The End" conclusion, Vonnegut's last word is "ETC". He explains that human lives don't fit the initial incident-rising action-climax-conclusion model so often used in novels - it's a big humble jumble of accidents, mistakes and chance encounters. And so on.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Certified Fair Labor

So I was listening to NPR on Black Friday and the topic of consumerism was being discussed. The host was interviewing a pollster from the LA Times and a journalist who wrote a book called "A Year Without Made in China". The pollster said that overwhelmingly people would be willing to pay a few cents more for products if it guaranteed they were manufactured under fair labor practices. However, manufacturers say that they are simply giving consumers what they want with ever decreasing prices, which puts incredible pressure on the manufacturing process to cut costs. Like labor costs. It got me thinking about coffee. There are at least three common seals placed on coffee - Fair Trade, Certified Organic, and Shade Grown. Why isn't there a "Fair Labor Practices" seal that can be put on products? Has anyone heard of anything like this? I realize that it would be tough to monitor, but why couldn't it work? I'm pretty sure that products with a seal like that would command a premium well worth the cost of getting certified.

The Holiday

Michelle and I watched The Holiday last night. Overall, it was a fun movie, especially thanks to Jack Black and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, Jude Law could have been fun to watch as well if Cameron Diaz had been even close to believable. I don't know what it was, but she seemed awkward and out of place the whole time. Her character is generally impulsive, irresponsible and spazy - which was supposed to be against her nature. It was a tough sell. Basically, Cameron Diaz as a professional, responsible grown-up wasn't the best "fit". However, I would recommend it if only for the chemistry between Jack Black and Kate Winslet. Let me know what you thought.