Still in the wilderness

Human shapes and fire engines

Unfortunately, I am still sans internet. It seems the only way to get DSL is to pledge an entire working day, then wait to discover what time the installation team cares to show up. They don’t do evenings or weekends, naturally, and they certainly cannot commit to a time more specific than ‘probably am’ or ‘probably pm.’

To anyone who has sent messages to my personal email accounts, I apologize. I simply cannot check them until I get access at home or lug my laptop to a coffee shop downtown. The latter, I may undertake tonight.

[Update: 31 July 12:05pm] At least my July 21st issue of The Economist has finally managed to wander to the right place. I am not entirely isolated from the goings on in the world outside the TLC complex.

[Update: 1 August 2007] By midnight on August 3rd, I will have a DSL connection through TekSavvy – one of the local ISPs that seems to be well liked by people on web forums. Thankfully, someone who lived in my flat previously had DSL set up; as such, I don’t need to spend an entire day waiting for Bell to show up and make hardware adjustments.

oint(Musca domestica)ment

Fountain in Ottawa

The 6:15am rumble of heavy trucks is one limitation of living three metres from a busy road. They are joined in cacophony by commuters in cars and on motorbikes, building into an intense parade by the time when I need to walk to work. The level of sound is more than sufficient to make attempts at sleep fruitless.

I am considering switching the placement of my bedroom and living room. It would make the flat somewhat awkward, but it would allow greater privacy (especially while I have no blinds) and hopefully sounder sleep. In any case, I need to pick up a box of industrial strength earplugs for myself and any guests who I have in the future.

To sleep, perchance to dream

Marc Gurstein and IKEA furniture

I have discovered an additional element of full time work. It concerns what might be called a Wakefulness Index (WI): a notional figure representing one’s ability to concentrate and think creatively at any point in time. The index has natural oscillations; for me, it probably peaks in the afternoon and evening (insofar as work related thinking is concerned). Of greater personal policy importance is what might be called wakefulness forcing, the undertaking of behaviours and actions that alter one’s wakefulness index during subsequent hours or days.

Such behaviours encompass everything from the micro (a particular decision regarding caffeine consumption) to the macro (the selection of an overall sleep regime). All this seems clear to me right now because of one of the major choices that frequently needs to be made, in regard to wakefulness. That is, the decision of whether to use leisure time (especially weekends) for the purpose of increasing your index (resting, but not doing much else) or decreasing it, but having a lot more fun.

It is a classic biological trade-off like, for instance, the balance between time spent looking for food and time spent looking for a mate. Like all such balances, there are multiple stable equilibria and a near infinite number of ways to shift between them. In the interest of overall balance, since yesterday and this morning were used as WI investments, I will have to draw down the account a bit tonight.

Flat pack furnishings

Milan Ilnyckyj in an elevator

This has been a big day. When I woke up, I owned no furniture. Now, I own two wardrobes, a desk, two chairs, a sofa, a large bookcase, a bed, and a kitchen table. I also have pots and pans, flatware, glassware, a reading lamp, bedding, and the keys to my new flat. All told, I now have about ten times more weight and value in home furnishings than ever before. I still need to get some drapes or blinds, unless I want to leave everyone walking or driving up booth street with constant visual access to my bedroom.

Tomorrow evening, IKEA will be delivering the sofa, bed, and bookcase. A few hours with an Allen Key later, I will have myself a furnished apartment. Definite progress is being made, in relation to Maslow’s hierarchy.

Looking around the half-furnished flat, I am already half thinking that it would be a shame to leave when this contract expires in a year.

Sustainable transport required

Now that I have a flat leased and am starting to collect furniture, the next target for a search is a bicycle. I am open to either a new or a used bike of a reasonable price. A hybrid is probably the correct formfactor, since I am unlikely to always use it on the road, but will generally be doing so. Picking up a pannier or two is also probably a good idea, especially given that I plan to commute to and from work by bike – at least until the snows begin.

Local intel is always valuable in these situations. Anyone who can speak to one of the following is encouraged to let me know: the relative merits of local bike shops selling used bikes, the same information on places that sell used ones, any specific opportunities to buy a good bike from a private individual. Having sold my Oxford bike in desperation, shortly before my departure, I know that relocating individuals with a moderate lack of foresight can be an excellent source of such vehicles.

Ottawa River hydro

Bridge to Gatineau

Right near the complex where I work, there is an unusual hydroelectric system on the Ottawa river. On either side of the main channel are large concrete canals with blocks of turbines. From those, high voltage power lines extend. In the middle of the river, there is a long arc of gates. These are to manage the degree to which water flows through the side channels, and the degree to which it flows over the uneven stone surfaces that were once natural cascades.

Since the water level in the river is high, there is pretty much always some degree of overflow venting through the gates. The little building you can see above them actually moves along the arc, raising and lowering gates. I am not sure if there are people inside or whether it is robotic, but everyone with an office on the south side of my building has a constant view of the whole installation. Those on the north side must content themselves with the fountain at a Gatineau casino.

Responses to climate change scepticism

Thanks to a tip off from a new friend, I found this comprehensive collection of rebuttals written by Coby Beck and featured on the Grist website, which is itself well worth a look. The articles are sorted as follows:

  • Stages of Denial
  • Scientific Topics
  • Types of Argument
  • Levels of Sophistication

Whatever your beliefs, and whatever the case you want to make, you will find some points to engage with here.

Unbowlerized and hatless

Canadian seal

Working in a complex of government buildings, I feel as though I should be part of a parade of men in dark pinstripe suits and bowler hats, walking in from a train platform every morning. There should be large steam-driven clocks around, and everyone should have a crisp newspaper under the arm.

Though thousands of people must work in the four towers, the place never actually seems like a flow of people is moving in or out. This is especially curious given how pretty much everyone can be expected to vanish within ten minutes before or after 5:00pm.

Perhaps there should be an annual ’emulate a scene from a film like Brazil‘ day.