Melle and Sherry go to Mars!

This evening Sherry and I attended the latest PI lecture – Mission to Mars: Still Roving on the Red Planet.

My favourite so far, I think. Definitely science, but no string theories or quantum anything. Translation: fully accessible to Melle. Dr. John Grant, the presenter, from the Smithsonian is delightful. His enthusiasm for the subject matter is quite obvious, and he’s both thoroughly engaging and a total geek. Very high dork factor. And he likes ice cream. 🙂

The discussion of what the rovers are made up of, how they moved, how they chose where to send them, and how they’ve kept them going was really interesting (they’re two years into what was planned to be 90-day missions – go go Gadget Engineering!). However, it was the geology and the visuals that really fascinated me. Some of the imagery (from cameras made here in Waterloo at Dalsa!) was absolutely spectacular, not just in terms of the amount of information it provides, but from a sheerly aesthetic standpoint.

The mission was launched in conjunction with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, and if you hit that link, you can see some of the kinds of images he showed us. The dunes and panorama shots were the most impressive.

The next lecture is Warped Passages, by Prof. Lisa Randall from Harvard. It’s about dimensions and particle physics and string theory and all those things that totally get Sherry hot and bothered but that require me to wait for analogies, often involving cats. 🙂

Overheard.

The scene: Shoppers Drug Mart, bath and shower products aisle.
The players: myself and two males, early 20s, one tall white guy (TWG), one shorter Asian guy (SAG), both slightly up-market from Average Guy, but nowhere near gay or even metrosexual.

TWG heads down the aisle to the body wash section. He scans the shelves briefly, sees the one he wants, and takes it.

SAG: You use women’s body wash?
TWG: Yeah, it’s for extra dry skin.
SAG: Dude! You are so tough!
Melle: *snort*

The End.

“God gave us memory that we might have roses in December.”

Do you ever really expect never to see someone again? It seems like a terribly rare occurrence when you part from someone and viscerally know: I am never going to see that person again. Even a stranger you exchange five words with in a coffee shop while waiting for your lattes. The fleeting nature of your interaction typically doesn’t register at all. (Unless the person’s really hot and you get zapped with a crush and can’t stop thinking about him/her.) 🙂

Obviously, people are taken away unexpectedly: car crashes, heart attacks, and you don’t get advance notice. Grandparents, once they get to a certain age and level of infirmity, you start to expect it, and, especially in cases of lingering illness or long-term decline, when death occurs, it’s as much or more of a relief than anything. But even in these situations, it takes a while before that real gut punch of I am never going to see that person again sneaks up on you. And for some people – people who are not old, parents, siblings, friends – there is no sufficient preparation.

Death is simple, though. It’s final, and inarguable, no matter how it comes about. But what about when life just goes on, and your life has simply diverged from someone else’s and there is nothing either of you needs from the other anymore? Or, much more painfully, when lives diverge and there still is something you need, but the choice is not yours.

Even after a break up, for example, even after it stops hurting and you’re okay, even once you’ve started dating again or are in a new relationship, do you ever really think you will never see your ex? Hell, even after I left Sydney, it never occurred to me that I might never see James again. Until, oh… five years later? But it’s entirely possible, even if I do go back there one day. (As you may have noticed, my plan to be back in Australia within six months didn’t quite work out as planned. Whew.)

It seems strange that people who, at one time or another, can be the centre of your world, the most important things in your life, can basically cease to exist. Become footnotes and anecdotes. I thoroughly believe that the human memory is designed to fade specifically to keep us from going insane. The complex balance that is required for the medical and chemical definition of sanity is too delicate to survive a build-up of that much emotion and experience and memory intact.

And yet, letting go of a relationship, of any kind, is almost never as simple as cutting the string. Even if you know a relationship is never going anywhere. Even if you know someone isn’t good for you. Even if you’re bored or unhappy or dread spending time together. There’s always a tug of one kind or another at some point. Sex is good. Familiarity is comfortable. Someone who already knows all your quirks and moods and stories and shares your memories is valuable. We hate to be wrong. We hate to have put so much effort into something that fails. We hate uncertainty. We hate starting again.

On the other hand, though, it’s so strange when a someone you thought was “gone for good” returns. Sometimes in the same capacity, sometimes in a completely different one. I had that happen. It’s how I got my job. 🙂 It’s occasionally weird to mentally compare the previous 1 + 1 with yourself and that person with the current dynamic. It’s interesting to consider how your attitude towards, esteem of, or recollections about a person have changed. If the person is someone you were in a relationship with, and that person has found The One, it can be entertaining to see what makes up the new flame and consider objectively, “Wow… yeah, we never would have worked…”

I think it’s a good barometer of where you are in your life to consider people from time to time who are no longer in it. Or, hell, to consider the people who are still in it. Is there someone you still think about, wonder about? Is it a grandparent who was a major formative influence on you? Is it a childhood friend and you wonder how he or she turned out and how the person’s doing now? Is it The One That Got Away? Is it a cool person you had a two-minute conversation with in a coffee shop? Colourful memories are good, and everyone should leave with world with enough of them to exhale his/her last breath as a satisfied sigh. Unfinished business, however, is something else all together.

The title quote is courtesy of James Matthew Barrie.

The horror? Nah, not really.

Courtesy of Sherry… which is highly ironic, given that she is one of them

BlackBerry outage? Oh, the horror. (LA Times, will want login – bugmenot.com to circumvent.)

At my last job I had a BlackBerry. Hell, everyone did. Admittedly, I worked in Waterloo at a tech company, but really, with the exception of, like, the data entry drones, pretty much everyone did have one. (I had the 950 – how primitive!) And they’re handy. From a work perspective they were handy for keeping in touch when people weren’t in the office. Or when people were working late at home. Or to find out where the hell someone was in giant hotels when we were running sales events. But mostly? They were handy for sending your coffee request to whoever just hollered “RIM me” as he/she sailed out the door. Or for cheering or commiserating when our Olympic hockey team was playing the Russkies or the Merkans (depending on who just scored).

I heard “CrackBerry” in use probably two years before I ever saw it in print. And it was used sheepishly even then, because it’s true. They’re highly addictive. Truly, it is a hallmark of our modern age how strongly having or not having new emails (via CrackBerry or Outlook or Gmail or what have you) can affect your mood. I once made a joke to a friend of mine, I don’t even remember the context: “Email: she is not a forgiving mistress”. No shit… BlackBerries are amazing for building a sense of community amongst co-workers. Communication is instant and always-on, and whatever you have to say can be as loud (gigantic cheers of “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” sent to an entire department when Canada wins a gold medal) or as quiet (“Is this meeting ever going to end? Who is that loud breather on the speakerphone?”) sent to a comrade, as you want.

But the problem with the CrackBerry, as with any addiction, is that they stop realizing that certain behaviours are not cool. Just because you want to check your email 15 times during a dinner out with friends doesn’t mean it’s suddenly become less rude to do so. If you’re talking to someone who pulls out the BlackBerry and checks it, it hardly sends a message of “what you’re saying is interesting/important to me”. I once made the mistake of letting my BlackBerry see the light of day when I was out with my parents. It buzzed, and I pulled it out of my pocket while walking towards a restaurant from the parking lot. And was met with a tongue-lashing of impressive fury by my mother. Okie doke. I still think she was overreacting, but I never looked at it again in my parents’ presence. For the CrackBerry addicts I still know (and love, for the most part), the check-check-checking is rude, and annoying, but I’ve been there. I get it. And there are more worthy (and winnable) battles to fight. (And hell, a goodly number of my former co-workers now work at RIM… Heh.)

Jim Balsillie has been quoted talking about being caught by his wife using his BlackBerry at home. There is a household rule of “check it at the door” at their house. People have been caught using them in church, and in courtrooms. Yes, I realize there are important people in the world managing important business. I realize some people use them to manage work that saves lives. And yes, I realize being fully mobile improves productivity, but come on. And the people who “need” to own two, or who wilfully torpedo family relationships with people who hate their addictions to the things? It’s not worth it. Really. Business is not that important. Work can stop. Work should stop.

I have been CrackBerry-less for almost two years now. I don’t miss it. Sure, it would be convenient to be able to place coffee orders with co-workers occasionally, but our patterns are such that I usually don’t need to, and we all have cell phones if need be. And it would be cool to run play-by-play during the upcoming Olympics. I can still do that if I want. We’re WiFi at home. But it’s nice to go home after work and have no choice but to leave work at work. My cell phone is mine, not company-issued. My laptop is mine, not company-issed. I don’t even have VNC access. And if I go out for coffee with you, aside from a possible occasional washroom break, I’ll be listening to you the whole time.