Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Criminal Death in Northern Places

I've been a fan of modern Swedish noir writing since I first discovered Henning Mankell lurking obscurely on a store back shelf in the first English translation of his Kurt Wallander detective novels. Since then I've devoured every Wallander tale and as much as I can find of the BBC TV adaptions starring a brooding and distraught Kenneth Branagh. Plus some of Mankell's other dark gems like The Eye of the Leopard where he draws on the part of every year he spends in troubled Mozambique.

Imagine therefore my delight when I find him interviewed under the print heading of: "What makes these Swedes and their mysteries so addictive". We learn that a final Wallander novel will continue to "help us understand the world through the lens of crime and justice" to quote Mankell.  And I learn just why I adore mystery writing so much!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Disappearance of Patrimony

Nowadays I try to focus more on my local surroundings. After a career of jetting to global 'centres of biotechnology excellence', I loathe the sight of airports. Back then I didn't mind them so much and had little time for what was up right next door. My teacher wife, who had, tried to keep me posted but the details passed me by, except when a new campground was to be across the road or a row of pylons on the back field.   

Just a twenty minute drive away are the monthly meetings of the Heritage Caledon Committee, a worthy thirty-five year-old creation of our Town Council that I was recently invited to join.  I'm now a convert to the good fight against urban accretion and its tendency to destroy all in its path. Generally our enemy is developers large and small.  But as I roll up my sleeves to get down and dirty in this my new and as yet untested role, I am amazed to read about A Developer whose Focus was Heritage

Friday, March 25, 2011

Perils of Being for a Boomer

I recently got my hearing tested. No, I didn't pop down to my local WalMart's hearing aid desk. It's open to all and right by the front entrance where anyone could see me sitting there! Instead I executed a stealth sidle over to my ENT specialist (note I do have the excuse of  hay fever).  He quietly directed me to a 'hearing services' office tastefully tucked away in an obscure tower - little chance of being spotted there.

Monday, March 21, 2011

On Fulfilling a Dream

I first started SCUBA diving at age 18. I learned in a pool in Toronto and got into open water at my brother’s cottage near Peterborough. Visibility was all of 29 feet and I got to a depth of about 35 feet. That was what the rest of my diving career was like for the next 40 years.

As is my habit, I read voraciously about diving including getting a subscription to “Diving” magazine which lasted many years. (By the way, if you know of anyone who wants vintage Diving magazines I still have them from the 60’s. Collectors [hoarders] R US). One of the things that caught my attention during my vicarious diving experiences was pictures and descriptions of riding on the backs of Manta Rays. I thought that would be one of the greatest thrills in the underwater world. I imagined soaring through the clear blue ocean faster than anyone could swim, being on the back of a living flying carpet, lying flat on one of the great creatures of the sea, watching the twenty foot wings gracefully slide us through the blue realm. I lived that dream so often I could sometimes taste the salt water and feel the warm water flowing over my back.

I recently fulfilled that dream.

The Passing of Social Interruption

After Skyping a longtime pal today I found myself in wonder at our long, meandering and often humorous conversation...in wonder??

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Cyberspace as Today's Not-So-Hidden Closet

I've been consuming a steady diet of science fiction since, way back in the 1950s, I discovered the legendary Foundation series from New York-born biochemist Isaac Asimov.  That's why I'm delighted that I live in Canada where, despite our relatively small population, we exceed our quota of successful SF writers for folks with my chronic addiction to enjoy.

One such treasure is William Gibson of Vancouver, the man who is credited with inventing the term cyberspace and forecasting the Internet. Last year he wrote a droll op-ed article he called Google's Earth  for the New York Times. No, it's not about maps but a futurist writer's take on Google as a form of AI (artificial intelligence) no author ever envisaged. Google of course was founded by two math geniuses who developed algorithms that are key to its intellectual property and there's even a connection between Google and the Foundation books in that at the core of the story are projections by a fictional mathematician named Hari Seldon.

To develop his theme Gibson uses a published interview that Google Chairman Eric Schmidt gave. It contained this pearl: “I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Times They are So Strange

We do seem to live in strangely uncertain times which can gift us some indelible memories. The last New York Times magazine had a wonderful story from a journalist who spent an amazing evening in an apartment on Cairo's Tahrir Square where many leading lights of the recent revolution hung out. He lovingly describes the eclectic collection of  house guests and their bedazzlement when that night Egyptian tyrant Hosni Mubarak stepped down. It's a powerful piece of writing that quickly drew me into my own memories of being  amazed.

News of the fall of the Berlin Wall was one.