Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Round up

After a generally unsuccessful relocation to Gatineau, we've moved back to Montréal. Sheila completed her Masters Degree in Sociology. She's now pursuing her bodybuilding hobby and working as a marketing consultant. Certain relationships have been renewed- others sundered. Anton is growing into a rambunctious little boy. Sheila and I are jamming together, again.

Now that the missus has finished grad school, I'm hoping to return to my MA in the Fall. For now I'm tutoring adults in English and being a full-time home daddy. Health issues have been defined and addressed.

Life is more fun than it has been in years. All the best in 2008.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter running

Well, 'tis the season of overloading, plate, cup and glass- so I'm out running on the trails again. Running in the winter can be invigorating and beats trudging on treadmills. The points to remember are that you want to keep the wind from blowing on exposed skin to prevent frostbite, but that the exercise itself will generate all the warmth you need. A light layer clothing of the correct materials is usually sufficient, beneath some kind of windbreaker.

Dressing for running in the winter can just mean loading up on layers of sweaters and $10 sweat pants. I did that through two winters and survived OK. However for a few more bucks I got some polypropylene running tights and a similar turtle neck sweater. Unlike cotton, which absorbs water, these materials wick the perspiration away from your body so you stay warm and reasonably dry, and don't develop pneumonia or, more seriously, hypothermia. To cut the wind I wear a cycling jacket. The tail helps cover my buttocks from wind, which is a big bonus. In colder temperatures(below -10C) I add a similar technical sweater(poly fleece or similar) over the turtle neck. Polyester fleece mittens will keep your hands warm and not too sweaty. On my head I favour a tuque(stocking cap) or if the temperature is up around freezing, a ball cap. Since I wear glasses, the peak of a baseball cap keeps falling snow from blocking my vision.

I've never tried winter running shoes. After running through 13 Montreal winters, I don't see the point. Regular running shoes and socks work fine, and if you like the fancy, wicking, technical socks your feet wont notice the difference (I've run regularly for durations of up 1 1/2 hours at temperatures down to -20C/-10F and never suffered from cold feet).

Underwear is another issue. Usually a pair of biking shorts provides adequate protection for me, but my buddy swears by wind-proof shorts. It seems he got frostbite down below one time, and has been 'sensitive' about his parts ever since.

Some people complain of difficulty breathing cold air. Apparently there is even a form of asthma that affects some people, including Olympic-class cross-country skiers. You can get a mask that helps warm your breath as well as shield your lower face from the wind. A fleece scarf wrapped around your face will also work.

Overdressing can be a problem. Many people overload on the clothing then get too warm after about ten minutes into the run. Jogging in a parka is hot, sweaty and heavy - and not in an attractive way. As a rule of thumb, you should feel a little cold at the start of the run and rely on warming up as you get moving. An option to ward off the initial chill is to do calisthenics or lift some weights prior to stepping out.

Once you get out on your path, it's a good idea to plan your running based on time rather than distance. That 20 minute path can easily take 30 minutes if it's covered in 20cm/8" of crusty snow. Don't forget to drink water as you can still get dehydrated, even if it is cold and snowing.

Running in the winter has some different challenges from summer running, but can be really exhilarating. Running on Mont Royal with a gentle snow fall and the lights of Montréal below, unobscured by leaves, is a lovely experience.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are words violence ?

"Remember," wrote the Stoic thinker Epictetus, "that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgment that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavour not to let your impressions carry you away."- retrieved from an internet source, 27Dec, '07

A rather more broad take on "sticks and stones" . People who argue for limits on freedom of expression forget that such limits have usually presaged real violence, political repression and covert manipulation. Finding something offensive or intolerable reveals an internal emotional state not anything intrinsic to the received source of offense.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Building a home studio- an introduction

A few years back, I realised I was spending a small fortune renting rehearsal studios. The old shed/garage in back of my triplex offered a potential space for conversion into a practice and recording studio. The arrival of my son also meant that we needed our musical gear out of our flat to make room for the nursery. I spent about 18 months researching the project.
Budget, available space and requirements effected the process. An additional 2 feet in each direction would have been nice, as well as the budget to add acoustic rubber to all the surfaces beneath the drywall/sheet rock and vapour barrier. Oh well, next studio

(above, left)The studio had to be physically unconnected to the shed exterior to
prevent sound being transmitted in or out through the walls.

The structure was built out of 2 x 6 lumber, screwed in place(no nails), and acoustically insulated with 6" rock wool. The interior sheetrock was attached to the walls with z-channel strips. Power was supplied from an existing 25 Amp circuit and most of the outlets were quad(4 socket) boxes. It's foundation was comprised of six 8" cement pilings.

Note the vapour barrier between the z-channels
and the sheet rock(above, right). Vapour barrier
seams were taped with contruction tape.

It was very important the that the interior vapour barrier has NO HOLES. Any holes will drastically increase noise transmission, both in and out. Equally important, holes in a vapour barrier will let all the humidity from sweaty musicians accumulate in the walls, causing mold and all sorts of related problems both to health and to the structure itself, which will start to rot. The only holes should be the door systems(which is tricky) and a ventilation system, so the humidity inside is vented and fresh air gets in. Getting these two things balanced with the no holes rule is tricky, and the hardest part of the process. The screw holes made in attaching the sheet rock apparently self-seal.

The final result was a secure room 7 feet wide and 15 feet long. It cut sound well enough that I could record a folksinger without getting exterior noise, and the neighbours couldn't hear the speed metal drummer from 40 feet away(at ten feet, vibration was more noticeable than the snare hits).

You could use a similar process to build a good studio in a spare room or basement. In that case, you'd probably rest the structure on a series of thick rubber pads(hockey pucks?) to absorb sound vibrations.

Please remember, these articles are for information only. Use them at your own risk and peril. Consult your local officials as to building code restrictions, especially regarding electrical installation. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Chernobyl Steve" Harper strikes again

According to CTV the Government tried to pressure The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to bend safety rules to open Chalk River Nuclear Plant. When the experts rejected this as unsafe, the Government legislated it open. This kind of thinking lead to the Walkerton tragedy, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

This Government is a menace, and the Opposition should bring it down with a confidence vote on this issue.

The social currency of Celine

“You could say that punk rock,” he writes, “is anger’s schmaltz.”
-Carl Wilson

I still don't care for Celine Dion's music, but this review of Carl Wilson's book about Celine Dion and the phenomena of taste is worth reading. He doesn't care for her either, but he makes an interesting assessment of her popularity as more democratic than attitudes the music snobs who dismiss her music.

And here is an equally positive review of the book in a cooler channel(Exclaim!).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Chernobyl Steve" rolls the dice

"Chernobyl Steve" Harper is willing to reopen a nuclear reactor even though Canada's nuclear regulatory agency says the reactor requires safety upgrades. Harper's response to it was to blame the Liberals for the regulatory commission's position. (After all, "Canada's New Government" has been in power just shy of two years. Is it reasonable to expect them to replace every bureacrat with one that toes the Tory line?)

Harper argues that the lack of radio isotopes required for medical purposes justifies reopening the reactor before repairs are completed. Contaminating populated areas of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec apparently is worth the risk. Harper claims that independent experts said it was safe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This is not copyright...

nor protection of an industry. This new Canadian law is an attempt to legislate a particular industry group's right to stay in business in perpetuity, regardless of its cost to society at large. It is an attempt to save the dinosaurs by bureacratic fiat.

Contact Minister Prentice and ask him to stop this nonsense.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sheila O's Fit and Fabulous Over 40

SheilaO has a blog Fit and Fabulous Over 40. As you may know our second date was a 10km foot race. She's always been an enthusiastic body-builder and now wants to share some of her experience and knowledge.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Writing with and about Philip Pullman

An Interview with Philip Pullman offered a genial view into Pullman's creative process. I admire his discipline as a writer. Three pages a day, no more no less, and only one page in ten survived to print. Of course, he's the Antichrist, this week.

Listening to the criticism from the Christian right, the epigram "Take care when you joust with monster's that you don't become one" is worthy advice. It's pity it wont be taken by those who need it most. Pullman argues that you can't really communicate with those who believe they have all the answers, and especially those who cannot weather criticism or contradiction of their beliefs.

Anton and I are going to see The Golden Compass next week.

Friday, December 07, 2007


China: Our past and our future?

It's nice to have one's opinion supported by a reputable authority.

Slavoj Žižek reiterates my view that China is simply following in the footsteps of all liberal democracies, which weren't so democratic or liberal in the past as all that. All these societies walked through a Valley of Tears on the way to economic propserity and liberal democratic governance. As goes China, so goes modernity? was a previous post in which I asked the same questions.(Forgive my smugness)

Žižek raises the issue that perhaps authoritarian capitalism is the next phase of modernity/post-modernity. He also implies in the article that Marxism is not the final phase but a route to liberal capitalist democracy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I sing the dance of purpose

"Why can't I dance and put on my clothes?" asked my 3 1/2 year old. I had just admonished hime to put on clothes before "he got frozen, got sick and died". of course he could do his little dance, which mostly involved pursuing his underpants in a tight circle, reminiscent of a dog chasing it's tail.

But when a performance artist takes amundane activity and rutualises it it becomes not merely about getting dressed, but rather the meaning of getting dressed. Not withstanding a desire for play that seems linked to the faculty of creativity which is at the root of human problem solving, sometimes the meaning is best addressed directly-Get dressed before you freeze.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hello Hello

Hello Hello is an instrumental here for music

Look! we had a winter last night

This means somebody else got our global warming...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Between Adam's Ears-

I originally christened this blog, Adamvanistan, after I heard folks criticising Canada as being pro-terrorist and pro- Taleban. Hence it was slurred by both foreigners and generally conservative Canadians as "Canuckistan". I'm sure that pleases the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, working, fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

Seven years on into this period when the citizens of the US discovered that the rest of the human race inhabits a large proportion of the globe that doesn't rest within the USA's borders, it seems my cheap shot has become as irrelevant as their's.

I've decided to rechristen the blog, Between Adam's Ears which seems more appropriate and more positive. Now that I can put multimedia on this blog(assuming my toddler naps for long enough) I can close down my increasingly neglected podcast/music site, and recycle the name.

The blog will also get a minor cosmetic facelift, as time permits.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cheap memories in 4/4 time

Listening to Russ Ballard's "On the rebound" makes me think of tooling up the road to Chateauguay in my dad's old green Buick, on a steamy summer day in in 1980, the radio dimed, and hopeless thoughts of adolescent lust on my mind.

Damn me but life is better now. Still like some of those tunes, tho- The Cars, early Talking Heads and so on .

My second adolescence was much better, and consumed my 27th summer, along with the Pixies, Swervedriver, the Double Deuce, the Craigster, the Professor, Nance, Lynne, Bobcat and the Magnificent D-beast. Forgive me for being maudlin, but those people and places don't realise how important they where to me. They truly populate my "happy place" to this day.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster