Notable News (w32-w41)

Since our previous status report, nearly three months ago, a lot has happened. On the domestic front, I am happy to say that I have felt improvement at work. I guess I found better ways to deal with all the irritant “mammoths” (a plethora of usual absurdities, incompetence, and running arounds that made me crazy and drained my energy). However, following the “heat episode” I mentioned earlier, I complained to the union. The union director for the borough came to the workplace and said he could not do anything. A few weeks later he submitted his report to the employers. His conclusion? The section head and the three employees who left early because the excessive heat made them sick … should have stayed at work to show solidarity with their colleagues! Who needs a heartless employer when you have a union of traitors and assholes like that! A real nest of collusion. Madness!

As I keep saying, library work can be quite physical and exhausting (who knew!). I remember someone saying that, at my age, “if you don’t feel pain somewhere when you get up in the morning, it means that you’re dead!” Well, I can say that I feel quite alive. Pain is good. It certainly makes me feel I am there.

What has probably helped is that it has been a very good time for writing. My mind felt clear, I’ve been producing a lot, and everything was doing so well that I could only fear that it would all crash down soon. Maybe it’s the Algernon’s syndrome  or, to paraphrase Nelligan, “I am happy, so happy, that I am afraid to burst into tears!” Hopefully not… It is true that I wrote a lot, mostly about movies (Winchester, The Guernsay Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Isle of Dogs, Ready Player One, Mary and the Witch’s Flower, Ex-Libris: The New York Public Library), particularly with the coverage of the World Film Festival (list of Japanese films, red carpet, Samurai’s Promise, Zone Out, Life in overtime, Think again, Junpei, The Miracle of Crybaby Shottan, wrap-up). After a while I had enough of movies and it felt like I should go back to comment on books and manga—which I did with The Ghost in the Shell 1.5: [Human Error Processer], Un siècle d’Animation Japonaise, Souvenirs d’Emanon, Le Guide du Mauvais Père 4 and The Little Broomstick. I also wrote a suggestion list of adult manga. With all this the blog’s stats have soared!

I kept busy. I took walks in the park or visited the museum, a farm fair or the Italian week. I also reflected on the electoral conundrum (before accomplishing my citizen’s duty —in anticipation— with disappointing results), against Facebook, about writing (1, 2, 3) and about reading (or not). 

Eventually, by mid-September, everything started to slow down again and I wrote less. So many things to do. I feel that I cannot accomplish anything. What I need is more time! Time… Time is the enemy. We fight it to do more. We fight it hoping not to get old too fast and still have a little time left to do more. I wrote a haiku.

I started writing in a new notebook. The thirty-fifth. Some could be surprised that, in this digital age, one would still use a paper notebook. However, I find this physical form strangely reassuring. After all, electronic information can be so vulnerable. The good old notebook doesn’t need any batteries and fears only fire and water. Its sequential way of working—to write, read (or re-read)—is so much more appropriate for the human brain capacity. It is easier to get an overview of the text, to positioned yourself in the three dimensions of the writing. It’s more confortable for me. Of course, most of the time, it is just a glorified to-do or grocery list, but it serves as backup for my capricious memory. That way, in a few scribbles, I can preserves ideas that would otherwise be too fleeting to be useful. It is also the witness of my daily life.

I’ve watched a few interesting TV series. First, The Miniaturist mini-series. It is good and yet disappointing. It looks similar to the Girl with a Pearl Earring. It’s another show about the powerlessness of women in the end of the Middle Age (or early Enlightment). It concludes with an open-ending. “I can do this”, she says… I also binge-watched the first season of the Jack Ryan TV series on Amazon Prime (a thriller similar to 24), the new seasons of Walking Dead, Doctor Who and also the very good Press TV series. 

Apple has announced new products (iPhone and watch) and released new operating systems. How come, when you do a software upgrade, you always loose something you like? Why is removing something cool and useful is considered an upgrade? New operating systems always offer a basket of frustration…

I am trying to improve my reading habits by reading more, more often and better literature than just manga. I started with The Little Broomstick by Mary Stewart and I am currently reading the first novel of the Poldark series by Winston Graham. But it is hard. In the olden days, I could read about sixty pages in an hour. Now, I read only a few hours per week, before going to bed, and barely thirty pages per hour. After two or three days of starting a new book, I am barely at page fifty! What’s happened to me? Fortunately, as I go forward, it is starting to get better… However, manga are pilling up on my nightstand, so I will soon have to pay attention to them…

“Summer is officially dead. It smells like Fall outside and I heard a flight of geese passing over the house”. Then, Fall officially came. It got colder and rainy. We even had some light snow. It became a little warmer for a while, but now we can feel that Winter is around the corner. Flowers and plants are shrivelling, twisting and taking the brownish colour of death. Winter is coming…

The lights have started to flicker again. Same time than last year…

On the world stage, we find the usual disasters (increasing numbers of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and volcanoes) but my attention had been particularly focused on the trumpian saga of corruption scandals (Stormy Daniels, the Mueller’s investigation, of course, but particularly the Kavanaugh confirmation) growing in a crescendo as the midterm elections are closing by. Such craziness! (For all the details see the 2018 events for the months of August, September and October as well as the links bellow).

Despite all this, I surprisingly succeeded to stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered over two-hundred notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order; please note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual) after the jump.

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Mystery solved!

I used my sherlockian power again! This time not to identify, locate and defeat a sunflower thief, but rather to identify a mystery flower. Last year we came upon this strange flower in the park and we were unable find out which genus or species it belong to and I was quite flustered by that.

Last year’s pictures

[ iPhone 8+, Parc Frédéric-Back, 2017-10-22 ]

This year’s pictures

[ iPhone 8+, Parc Frédéric-Back, 2018-09-29 ]

Last year, the plant we found was more developed and mature. This year, it is a little earlier in the fall, so it is at a younger stage of its development. However, it is clearly the same plant, with several stages of flower on top of each other, tubular flowers (undeveloped this year) and long lance-like reddish leaves.

Today, thanks to the Reader’s Digest A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (I tried before with various other books like Daigle’s Les fleurs Sauvages du Québec or Parent’s Fleurs des champs du Québec et des Maritimes, without success), I was able to find enough clues to establish that the mystery plant that eluded identification for nearly a year was… the Monarda Punctata, also known as the spotted beebalm or horsemint.

It is from the family of the Lamiaceae (to which many herbs like mint belong) and it seems that at least one of its sub-species (Monarda punctata var. villicaulis  / Monarde ponctuée à tige velue) is  pretty rare in Quebec (see also this study, in French). There are several variety of Monarda in Quebec (like the Monarda fistulosa / wild bergamot or the Monarda didyma / Crimson beebalm) but, after comparing plenty of pictures, I am pretty sure that my mystery plant is one of the two varieties (var. punctata or var. villicaulis) of the Monarda punctata.

Mystery solved!

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Notable News (w23-w31)

Since the last update, over two months ago, so much has happened. 

On the domestic front, it seems that I ran out of karma points because a series of unfortunate events kept happening to me, including frustratingly bad customer service experiences: I had trouble getting my bag of weekly flyers delivered, after eight long months the contractor finally came to finish the landscaping work in the backyard so I could work (hard) to set up the garden, and then the water heater broke down! Everything was just a big pain in the ass! I ended up so stressed and distressed by the whole ordeal that I forgot to do the accounting and pay the bills! This had never happened to me in fifteen years!

UltraBlinking

Out of energy !

However, that was not the end of it. Work is usually a real nut house where we have to run around like crazy, doing absurd stuff. Under normal circumstances it is already demoralizing and exhausting. But we had to go at it during a heat wave, for a whole week! We had a few days of respite and then, the air conditioning broke down—for another week! We were working at temperature between 27° C and 30° C, with relative humidity of 50-55% ! If you calculate the humidity factor (the way that it’s normally done on weather channels) it felt like working at temperature between 35° C and nearly 40° C ! (Of course, according to the charts used by management, it was barely over 33° C and we shouldn’t even brake a sweat! For them it was just uncomfortable conditions!). Damn it, we are working in a library, not a sweat shop! Management brought huge fans, but if you move hot air, it is still just hot air — in a very noisy environment. 

If it was just working at a desk with a fan in the face it would probably be tolerable, but we are standing up and moving around a lot to serve customers (lending, shelving and processing books, etc.) — contrary to what most people believe it is a very physical work. At my age and with my health I cannot work in such conditions for a long duration. One day, I was tired and feeling dizzy (the head-librarian had already left and a couple of colleagues were not feeling well either) so I decided to also leave work early. We were threatened of “consequences” (disciplinary measures) by management for doing so. We endured for the rest of the week, but, in the end, I couldn’t take it anymore, I was exhausted (completely out of energy), having sore throat, migraine and ear ache, so I took a day off.  I just don’t get it: why’s this obstinacy to force employees to work in unbearable conditions? Where is decency and respect of the workers? That’s what upsets me the most: absurd decisions and disrespect… I get it that there is nothing in the labor law (health & security) that prevent work in extreme heat conditions, but it is just common sense and thoughtfulness not to subject your employees to such suffering! Then again, why should I be surprised of such contempt for the workers?

At the same time, I had to deal with some garden theft which became “the sunflowers’ affair” and evolved into a real saga. Finally, as I was ready to blow a gasket, my blood pressure medication was recalled due to contamination with a potential carcinogen (the generic version is made in China, no wonder)! I had trouble at first to get the pharmacy to replace it for free, but now there is a class-action lawsuit being organized

Japon instantané

My mind elsewhere !

Thankfully, there was a few positive events to brighten my mood, like an occasional trip to the botanical garden or the park, Apple announcing their incoming new operating systems (iOS 12 and macOS 10.14 Mojave) or finally being able to finish watching the latest seasons of Poldark and McMafia. Strangely, as I handled all the bad karma with relatively great zen, I managed to write comments on quite a bunch of stuff (books, TV series and movies): The Dark Tower, The Terror, Crapule, American Made, Victoria & Abdul, Un simple monde, Le chat du louvre 1-2, Black Panther, Isabella Bird: femme exploratrice 1-2, Alien Resurrection & Alien: Covenant, Pline 5, Ad Astra 4-5, Justice League, Batman v Superman, Jumanji, Giacomo Foscari 1, Nos yeux fermés, Your name., In this corner of the world, and The Mummy. Fortunately, reading (or alternatively watching TV) and writing (comments, rants or even poetry) is a great help to bring my mind elsewhere!

On the world stage, we saw the usual fires, floods, volcanoes, storms, kids trapped in a cave, a couple of summits (G7 & North Korea), the World Cup, water was found on Mars and each day kept bringing more Trump insanities. If I wouldn’t know better I could think that Trump is the antechrist and that the end of the world is near! But, no, it’s just our daily lives in the 21st century… I just don’t understand: in 1953 the Rosenberg were tried and executed simply for spying for the Soviets; now, some politicians conspired with the Russians to interfere in the U.S. elections, make their own businesses profits, as well as contribute to undermine western democracies and absolutely NO uproar is being made about it? Delirant isti americani !

Through all this I did my best to stay (sane?) acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered over two hundreds notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window beyond this point), after the jump.

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Notable News (w13-w22)

In the last couple of months (ten weeks!), there was really nothing new on the domestic front. The same old routine. Spring finally came, the air warmed up and (after a little icy setback) the buds started to open, quickly blossoming into a late summer. I experienced, again, some health problems which kept my moral down for a while. I had my old computer repaired and finally got a new one, which meant lots of hardware and software installations, reorganizing the working area, etc., which made many onomatopoeias come to mind (Aauugh!, *whimper*, *Phew*).

PearlsBeforeSwine-20180106I tried to apply to a couple of new jobs in order to get out of the nut house where I works but with no luck. To make things worse, the company we hired to repair the balcony & backyard keeps dragging their feet and nothing seems to get going. I want to prepare the garden for the summer but will we be able to do any gardening? My life seems on hold. I have many new project ideas to keep me busy but there’s so little time, so many things to think about and to do, all at the same time, that’s overwhelming, mind-crushing, depressing even…

I spent so much energy running like crazy at work (and for a whole week the temperature in the library was between 24 and 28 ºC!), coming back completely exhausted, hoping for a new job (or some sort of fairy god-mother intervention), waiting on the contractor (I took some vacation in order to rebuild the garden after the works would be done, but I feel I wasted my time…), stressing about health problems, reorganizing my computers and my network (extending ethernet to compensate for Bell’s weak wi-fi for example) that I really didn’t read or write much. Again, getting caught with life so much that… I forgot to live! It seemed that time was slipping through my fingers like sand. I felt (and still feel) tired all the time…

When I am at work I feel miserable but, when I am at home and look at this house — this little and comfortable nest, or safe-house, we have set-up for ourselves — I feel pretty good and content. I have everything I need and could ask for (okay, maybe not that marble bust of Lucius Virus or a more quiet and pleasant job — but, who knows, it might come someday). So, I have no real reason to be unhappy (beside watching the news, of course). I just have to tell myself that, again and again, and repeat it,  each time I have to face the darkness…

However, I was not completely idle. I wrote a little (commenting on Le secret des vietnamiennes, Venise and Bug, as well as a few movies). I also attended the Congrès Boréal, went to Ottawa to watch tulips and to the annual book sales of the libraries (so far I bought a few novels and about thirty-five manga!). Unfortunately, I mostly kept myself entertained: I finished to watch The Durrells, some old favourites TV series like Homeland or The Expanse, and tried some quite excellent new series like the remake of Lost in Space, Little Women or The Good Karma Hospital. I even discovered a new TV service, BritBox, but haven’t had time to try it yet.

PearlsBeforeSwine-20180111On the world stage we find the usual disasters: Trump ramping and raving (blaming everyone but himself), floods here, volcano there, many more sexual scandals, ups and downs in North Korea, war looming in the Middle East (Gaza, Iran), add another ebola epidemic, or an occasional school shooting and you have the picture. But there are also some good news, like a very Royal Wedding! [See detailed day by day events for April and May]

Through all this I tried to stay acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered a few notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual), after the jump.

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Notable News (W07 – W12)

In the last five weeks, nothing much happened on the domestic front. The weather slightly improved each weeks (now it’s mostly above zero, although the east coast kept being hit by one  nor’easter after another!) and the sun feels much better (warmer) since we switched to daylight saving time as it sets much later now. The snow is melting. The job is as tiring and frustrating (absurd) as ever, but I think I am dealing better with it. Zen and all (trying not to give a f*ck).

I got my DNA testing results from 23&me and it is rather disappointing. I am genetically boring: one hundred per cent europeans and no variants detected for major health issues (save a higher risk for macular degeneration and celiac disease). The physical traits reports are hits and misses. I still have to read everything in details, but I feels it is more amusing than really useful.

I didn’t write much (although I did a few good comments on What the Health, An inconvenient sequel, Le chat du rabbin 7, Reine d’Égypte vol. 1 and vol. 2-3, on Kim Thuy’s conference and her book Ru) because I have been constantly busy trying to solve multiple problems. I have the feeling that nothing works properly anymore! Everything seems buggy: the WiFi, the blog, the computer (at home and at work), and even the electricity (causing the lights to flickers almost constantly, turning off and on the TV or the computer)! Is the world starting to slowly brake down all over? The entropy! The entropy! Seriously, if all this is a simulation (or a dream) slowly shutting down, maybe a reboot would wake me up? Or maybe not. But this constant fighting to maintain the cohesion of the universe is getting tiresome (if not unbearable, yet).

I called Hydro Q and the flicker stopped (for now). Tried to install network extenders but Bell’s wifi is till shitty (neither Apple Airport or Netgear worked; should I try another brand? More pods? To be continued…). The computer finally died (there was a problem with File Vault being on but the main problem was the hard drive after all) and is now at the repair shop. My desk feels empty and working in the salon on a combination of Mac-mini (which I normally use as a media center) and iPad, is rather uncomfortable. I am planing to purchase a Macbook soon… But I wasted so much time doing all this… it is frustrating.

In the news, the world doesn’t seems in a much better shape. More Trump-related scandals (Cambridge Analytica, Stormy Daniels, he fires Tillerson and McMaster, tease trade war and impose tariffs on steel & aluminummostly for China, proposed talks with North Korea, etc.), more school shooting this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland (Florida), serial bombing in Texas, another democrats’ victory in Pennsylvania slowly tips the scale, emboldened Russians assassinated a couple of former spies in Britain (one with a nerve agent!), Steven Hawking died, etc. The good news is that the students from Parkland are old enough to become activists (#NeverAgain) and, for some, to vote in the mid-term election in November! An end to this nightmare really seems possible…

Anyway, as usual, I managed to stay a little acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered many notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual), after the jump.

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An inconvenient sequel

an_inconvenient_sequel-cov“A decade after An Inconvenient Truth brought the climate crisis into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight, traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy.

Cameras follow him behind the scenes — in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.”

[From the official web site]

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Notable News (W43 – W06)

So much happened in the last four months (since the last notable news entry), that I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ll try to recall the highlights, but I’ll try to be brief.

On the domestic front we had a bout of extreme cold (while in the opposite hemisphere they had the hottest weather in nearly eight decades!). For the rest of the time we had the (now) usual cycle of freeze (snow) / defreeze (rain) with more snow than usual (at least more than last year; 195 cm so far). At work it is the usual hell, but I guess I came to term with it, becoming more zen (i.e. no giving a f**k) but I am still set into trying to find another job (in a quieter library, some place closer to home, maybe some desk job but I would rather prefer to keep working with books).

My blog was hacked and I finally made a move to a proper WordPress hosting. It is still a work in progress (still lots of repair to do), but I am now very satisfied with the look of the new blog. Of course, I’ve been more busy working on the blog itself and I didn’t write as much as I would have liked (but, still, I kept busy with some reviews, an essay on the art of reviewing and some articles like a biographical notice, a bibliography update, indexes, etc).

I had lots of trouble to have the city cut a branch of the tree in front of our house because it was touching the electric wires. The expensive repair/renovation in the backyard & balcony couldn’t be completed before the arrival of the cold weather (bad planning and lots of wasted time). The stupid contractor didn’t even provide an invoice so we cannot file our subsidy demands and he didn’t even bother to respond when we demanded that the work be completed in a timely manner in spring!

The digestion problems I’ve had since the beginning of the year convinced me to finally submit to tests and I had to endure a coloscopy (the test itself lasted just fifteen minutes but the two days of liquid diet and “preparation” were hellish!). They found that I was suffering from fatty liver and a sigmoidal diverticulosis (which could complicate into a diverticulitis). More stuff to be careful about…

This string of problems made me rather depressed. What’s the purpose to constantly fight if it is to simply eat in order to work, and work in order to be able to eat? I felt like the entropy of the world was catching up to me: the world was stopping making any sense, I was getting tired and weaker, everything was crumbling around me! Fortunately, writing and working on the blog was some sort of therapy for me and I now feel much better. Spring will be arriving in a little more than a month (despite mixed signals from the groundhogs) and we’ll be able to enjoy flowers under the sun again!

In the news, Catalonia declared independence from Spain, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (killing all chances of peace in the Middle East), Disney acquired most of 21st Century Fox, the #metoo social awakening happened, the U.S. government shotdown twice, the Dow Jones droppedSpaceX launched its Falcon Heavy rocket with a Tesla car as payload (!), there was a missile false alarm in Hawaii and Japan, we had various disasters (wild fires in California, mudslides, earthquakes, floods in Europe), and the usual Trump craziness makes me despair for some sanity. Finally, there nothing much on TV since it’s the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics!

Despite everything, I managed to stay a little acquainted with the affairs of the world and gathered many notable news & links — which I now share with you (in both french or english, slightly categorized, but in no particular order — note that, to save on coding time, the links will NOT open in a new window as usual), after the jump.

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