July 31st, 1987 – A Horrific Day

July 30th, 1987.  A night I remember well.  I was ten years old and living in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was visiting relatives at that time in my hometown of Beaverlodge, Alberta.  I remember my parents were still in Stony Plain, near Edmonton, while I was up on my own.  I don’t exactly recall how I got there.  But that’s not important.  What’s important is what happened over the next 24 hours.

That night, we were in Grande Prairie watching a couple of movies, Dragnet and Superman IV to be exact.  Dragnet was entertaining with comedy giants of the ’80s Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd.  Superman IV was a disaster.  Maybe it foreshadowed what was about to happen.

On our way back to my aunt, uncle, and cousin’s home, we were treated to an intense thunderstorm so incredible that it was almost like daylight.  There was so much lightning, you could probably read a book.  I love thunderstorms, and even when I was ten, I enjoyed watching the lightning show.  Far better than Superman IV.

The next day, everything was going normally until we saw the news.  It was very troubling, and I was scared.  You see, July 31st, 1987 was the day that the tornado hit Edmonton.  27 dead.  It mostly hit the industrial area in the eastern part of the city, as well as some countryside, but it was devastating.  It was an F4 tornado, which is pretty powerful.  I’ll let this video show you how bad it was.  It’s a bit old, but you’ll see just what it was like. [Edit: Video no long appears to exist, which is a shame.]

What’s frightening is that it came pretty close to another relative’s house, and its path is very close to where my sister and mom live now.  When it was on the news, I called my parents.  They told me they were fine.  It was on the east side of the city, while our home was west of the city.  However, the weather was pretty intense there, too.  As you can imagine, a lot was going through my ten-year-old mind.  I was glad my family was safe.

Since then, I have seen some crazy-looking storms around the Edmonton area, as well as in Victoria, BC.  But I’ve also been through many typhoons here in Japan.  But nothing could match how I felt about that tornado.  We can ride out a typhoon, but a tornado destroys whatever is in its path.

Exactly 18 years after the tornado, I climbed Mt. Fuji.  A tornado can sometimes be shaped like an inverted volcano.  Strange.

Have you ever flirted with disaster?

What I Believe In

As you saw in my last post, I am against creationism in the science classroom and against abstinence only sex education.  But what about other causes or controversial topics?  Well, here’s a list of causes with my brief answer.

  • Creationism taught as an alternative to evolution:  No.  Creationism isn’t science.  Evolution is.
  • Abstinence only sex education:  No.  Irresponsible, and doesn’t take into account that teenagers are horny and hormone-filled. Contraceptives must be taught, too.
  • Climate change is happening:  Yes.  So much evidence supports it.  Denying climate change doesn’t stop it from happening.
  • Destroying vast amounts of land for natural resources: No.  Stop it.  Things like oil are going to run out, so it’s better to search for renewable energy sources.
  • Nuclear power: This one is tricky.  It’s efficient, it produces a lot of energy, and it is relatively safe (coal produces more radiation, oil and gas produce far more pollution).  But when problems happen, that’s when we have a big problem.  Now, nuclear fusion would be nice.
  • Research into nuclear fusion: Big yes.  This would solve so many energy problems.  The fuel source is incredibly abundant (hydrogen), and the byproducts of fusion are benign (helium).  If it could work successfully, it would be wonderful.
  • Research for a cure for ALS and other unprofitable cures: Yes.  This has to do with responsibility to fellow humans, and not about exploiting them for profits.  I don’t care if a disease is relatively rare, work should be done to search for treatments and cures.
  • Gay rights:  Gay people should be allowed to marry, absolutely.  They should not be discriminated against.
  • Racial equality:  Yes, absolutely.  I don’t care where you’re from, I think I can get along with people from any background.  Well, I do care where people are from, mainly because I’m interested in cultures and countries.
  • Gender equality: Yes, definitely.  They should receive equal pay, they should have equal rights.  Everywhere.  That means you too, Middle East.
  • Public breastfeeding:  Yes.  Babies need to eat.
  • Profit vs environment:  Profit loses.  Environment should be protected, even if it deprives us of some natural resources.
  • Poaching of endangered species: Kill the poachers.  Honestly.  They’re scum.  They may be human, but they are not worth it.
  • Free medical care: Yes.  No one should have to pay for it.
  • Free university:  Yes.  Some countries made it work.  We need educated people, not heavily indebted people.
  • Genetically modified food: We’ve been modifying food for millennia, actually.  We’ve just become better at it.  However, there’s a problem with genetically modified crops mixing with natural vegetation.  They need to be kept separate.  Whether they’re bad for people or not, the jury is still out on this.  I’m cautious about this.  I’m sitting on the fence.
  • International conflict:  Grow up! Politicians, leaders, terrorists, you’re all bickering children.  Bickering children with big weapons.  You’re the dangers.  Learn to get along, go back to school.  We need more responsible leaders, not petty idiotic leaders who are in it for themselves.
  • Religious freedom: I’ll believe what I want, you can believe what you want.  Don’t try to change my mind.  I will shut you up.  I won’t push what I believe on you, so respect that, please.
  • Space exploration: Fully support it.  We’re screwing up this planet, so let’s find other places to go if we need to.  Colonise Mars.  But don’t screw that world up in case there is life there.
  • Medical marijuana: Yes, go for it.  But to smoke it in public, no thank you.  The smell is awful and makes me feel sick.  Keep it away from me.  And this leads to…
  • Smoking in public: I wish this would be banned from public places completely.  I don’t need your vile habit going into my or my child’s lungs.  Keep it in your home, as long as you have no children.  Keep it away from children.  Make it illegal to smoke around children, I say.
  • Antibacterial soap: Ban the stuff.  Now.  It’s creating stronger bacteria and is a hazard to our health.  Some places already have banned it.
  • Protect our little snowflakes: Kids are protected from too much these days.  They can’t run around outside with their friends because they may fall down and scratch their precious little knee, then the parents will sue the school, the city, the friends, anyone.  It’s this idiocy that’s causing children to become unhealthy blobs of fat who can’t exercise any kind of independence because their parents won’t let them.  Parents, you’re raising people, not fine china or collectibles that must be kept in mint condition.
  • The customer is always right:  No way.  Bad customers deserve to be denied service and thrown out.
  • Children should be protected from anything related to sex: No. They’ll learn about it from friends, from TV, from the Internet.  I say talk to your kids about it, honestly.
  • Teaching of history: Please be honest, and don’t give us biased drivel.  I don’t like the kind of history education that portrays your home country as the best in the world, while all the others are wrong.  This is propaganda.  Be honest, please.  Maybe that way, countries will get along.
  • Vaccinations: Absolutely.  The whole anti-vaccination movement is dangerous and damaging.  Diseases are coming back because of this lapse in judgment.  Autism isn’t caused by vaccines, either.  No research has shown that it does.  Autism is genetic.

I think that’s enough for now.  Any that I missed?  Ask me about my opinions, and I’ll answer in the comments.  What do you think?

Keep Your Religion Out of Our Public Education

I’m a big supporter of education.  Good education.  I especially love science education.  Science is very important for many professions, including medicine, engineering, agriculture, and computers.  But when something threatens good education, I want to fight back.

In Manitoba, a candidate for the Winnipeg School Board is supporting teaching creationism in the science classroom.  Not only that, she advocates abstinence only sex education.  This kind of thing is heard of a lot in the United States, but rarely in Canada.  To Candace Maxymowich, I say keep your beliefs out of Canadian education.  They have no place in the classroom.

First of all, she’s supporting abstinence only sex education.  This is irresponsible.  Never mind the studies that have shown that this kind of sex education doesn’t work.  You don’t need the studies, you need to use common sense.  We’re talking about teenagers.  Telling teenagers not to have sex doesn’t work.  Nor is it really sex education.  While abstinence is the most effective way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, telling teenagers not to have sex is likely to backfire.  At that age, they don’t always make the best decisions.  They will have sex.  Then what?  With education about contraceptives and birth control, they will at least be far more likely to have safe sex rather than unprotected sex.  Candace, what you advocate will lead to more pregnancies and STDs.

Secondly, something that I feel extremely strong about, is the teaching of creationism in science classes.  Never.  Creationists want the alternatives to evolution to be taught, and of course, that’s creationism or intelligent design.  Neither of these (basically the same thing) are science.  They do not use the scientific method, do not use all the evidence, and are simply not science.  I don’t want religion to take up valuable science class time.  It should not take up that time.  What Candace fails to understand is that there are many religions represented by the students.  Which creation story is to be used?  Of course, she intends for it to be her religion’s creation story.  Not everyone follows your religion, Ms. Maxymowich.  This shows you don’t understand what science is.

I’m all for creationism to be taught in school.  Yes, you read that correctly.  But not in science class.  Teach it in religious studies.  But you also have to teach about other religions, not just your version of Christianity.

Science and health are both extremely important.  They need to be taught responsibly.  Science needs to be taught using science. Keep religion out of it.  Sex education needs to be taught from a health point of view, not from a religious point of view.  Candace Maxymowich, your version of science and sex ed are not welcome.

Evolution of the Story While Writing

I had my entire plot planned out for Journey to Ariadne beforehand, and now I have to change things, but just a little.

I had a bit of inspiration earlier this week while washing dishes.  This inspiration made a lot of sense, and in fact, made my story much stronger.  It’ll only be hinted at in Journey to Ariadne, but it features strongly in the book after.  Not only that, it gives future books a greater sense of purpose.  I like this idea.

Of course, I’m not going to say what it is, and you’ll never know what this idea is, even after reading the books.  It’ll appear as if it were something that was originally thought of when developing the story. Nope, not at all.

Curious?  Well, I might tell you long after the books are done.

Anyone have the same thing happen?

Driving: Canada vs. Japan

Tomorrow, I’m renting a car.

As you may know, I live in Japan, though I’m from Canada.  I’ve been driving for 23 years, since I got my learner’s permit when I was 14.  Since 2005, I’ve been living in Japan, and I actually have a Japanese driver’s license.  It wasn’t difficult to switch from a Canadian license to a Japanese one, since there are agreements between the two countries allowing them to share driving safety records.  This means I can easily exchange my license and not take a test.  Americans aren’t so lucky.  They have to take the driving test.

So, as I said, I’m renting a car tomorrow.  I first drove in Japan in 2009, also a rental.  We occasionally rent a car to go shopping at Costco, which is what we’re doing tomorrow.  It’s just easier to transport everything by car, rather than by bus, train, and bus.

Are you wondering how easy it was to adjust to driving in Japan?  Some things were easy, some things I’m still not used to.  Let’s take a look.

The easy things.

  • Switching from right side of the road to the left was quite easy.  I was surprised.  No problems at all.
  • Switching from the left side of the car to the right was also easy to adjust to.
  • Using my left hand to shift from park to drive and reverse was no problem.
  • Traffic laws are very similar.  One major difference is that you can’t turn left on a red (like you can turn right on a red in Canada).
  • Mirrors fold in to protect them from other cars while parking.
  • Everything is in metric, which is what I’ve always used.

The difficult things.

  • Red light runners.  Too many.
  • Too many drivers are inexperienced, as they drive infrequently.
  • So many people stop on the sides of major roads, blocking half of the traffic.  I find this dangerous.
  • Too many people don’t signal when turning.
  • The turn signal and windshield wipers are switched when compared to Canada.  I’ve accidentally wiped the windshield when I meant to signal.
  • Parking.  People back into parking spaces.  Narrower parking spaces.  Ugh.
  • Navigating the mazes that are the streets of Japan is a monumental task.  You really need a navigation system, unless you know the way.
  • Pedestrians are frequently ignored.
  • Narrow streets and many blind corners.

So, I have all of that to look forward to tomorrow.  It’s no wonder I don’t drive often in Japan.  I can’t wait to drive in Canada again.  So much easier.

What Will You Write? #6 – It’s History

With the completion of #5, and our first guest judge, we now move on to the next round.  This time, the judge was supposed to be Tara Southwell again, but she passed it on to me.  So, you get another prompt from me.

What Will You Write? is a series of writing challenges that I am posting every two weeks.  How it works is, I post a prompt and give you the genre or theme.  You write the scene and post it on your blog. Please read the challenge page for more information and past winners. The rules are simple:

  • First, read what I’ve written.
  • Second, copy it and finish writing the scene.  Please keep your portion of the writing at less than 1,000 words.
  • Then, post your story to your blog.
  • Make sure you link back to this post so others can come and join in.
  • Make a post in the comments below with a link back to your post (it’s likely that if you use WordPress, there’ll be a pingback, but please leave a comment with the link nevertheless).

The deadline is about 14 days from today.  Let’s make that 3:00 pm GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) on August 3rd.  I’ll be going to bed after that time, so I can give you some leeway if you post it within 5 or 6 hours after that deadline.  But after that, I need to judge.

After the deadline, I’ll read all of the entries and decide on who I think wrote the best scene.  Originality is very important.  I will judge it based on which one grabs my attention the most.  Once I’ve decided, I’ll post the winning story with a link back to the writer’s original post.  After that, I’ll include links back to everyone else’s entry so you can see what everyone wrote.  The winner will have the opportunity to write their own prompt and be a guest judge if they want.

This time, we have a genre and single line.  Similar to Tara’s prompt, I only provide you with one line to use.  You must use it, but it’s up to you where it’s used.  The genre this time is historical fiction.  You can base it at any time in history and at any place. It could be feudal Japan, ancient Greece, the wild west, it’s all up to you.  Now for the prompt.

“What am I supposed to do with this?”

Very simple, isn’t it?  It can be what someone said or as a thought.  The this in the prompt should feature strongly in the story, but it’s up to you to choose what it is.  It could be a gun, a piece of pyrite (fool’s gold), a steam engine, anything.

Now it’s your turn to write.  So please enjoy writing your story, and I look forward to reading them.  To help us spread the word about this challenge, please share this post with anyone you think would be interested. Thank you!

What Will You Write? #5 – The Winner

The fifth installment of What Will You Write? has come to a close, and Tara Southwell has chosen her winner.  With only two entries, I’m sure it wasn’t easy.

Here you can read the original post and check out what the prompt was.  I was able to read them as they were posted, since I wasn’t judging.  I had no responsibility for that, so I could sit back and relax.  So, here is what Tara had to say about our winner and runner-up (smileys intact):

The fifth edition of What Will You Write? has come to a close. Thank you Tracey Lynn Tobin and Peggy for your entries, they were both fun reads, and I was pleasantly surprised with your interpretations (I was expecting someone to make the object a bomb, lol).

I chose Peggy for the winner of this challenge. Her story, with its retro theme and sweet twist, made me feel all warm and fuzzy 🙂 So congratulations Peggy!

Here you can read Peggy’s entry (original is here):

The West Wing of the sprawling Bartley Mansion sat nestled on a rocky outcropping above the beach. The sunset was obscured by clouds from a fast moving Pacific storm. Surf was beginning to pound the rocks and spray was flung high. The smell of sea air permeated the grounds.
Elvis Presley’s singing echoed in the courtyard as Carl Bartley surveyed the ballroom from his quarters above the garage. When he heard the smattering of applause signaling the end of the film “Fun in Acapulco,” he stood and rocked his head side to side to loosen up.
“Not bad,” he said, “Not bad at all,” checking himself in the mirror. He straightened his bow tie, patted his vest pocket, and dabbed at his trim mustache. The forty-one year old heir of the Bartley shipping fortune was strikingly handsome and in great physical shape. Wavy black hair with a trace of silver at the temples framed his dark eyes.
He made his way down the steps, crossed to the ballroom and entered through the backstage door. People were taking advantage of the intermission to move around and visit. He searched the crowd for Julie.
They had been seeing each other for the better part of a year, and he was deeply in love with her. He spotted her in the middle of a group of elderly women. She was absolutely radiant. She always looked pretty in her nurse’s uniform, but tonight she took his breath away. She was wearing a tight silver lame gown, on loan no doubt from his Aunt Marian’s collection. Her long red hair was brushed back and held with a clip. He chuckled. She was wearing pink flip flops. So Julie.
He caught his elderly Aunt Marian’s eye, and nodded a “Hello.” Fondly known as “the Duchess,” she had worked with him to convert Bartley Mansion into an upscale retirement home. The Duchess held court every second Saturday of the month at this predictable but swank affair. It included dinner, entertainment, and the “Resident of the Month” award.
Emceeing the award presentation was Carl’s duty, but it had become a deep pleasure. Many of the elderly living here, while well off enough to afford these accommodations, had little if any contact with their busy families. Most had outlived friends and acquaintances, and Bartley was home to them. The Duchess had scouted the residents to find entertainers for her galas, and two of her regular performers were Louis, a retired jazz pianist and drummer, and Kelly, a retired screen actor. Carl took center stage, and Louis, who loved to punctuate Carl’s jokes with percussion, took his place at the drum set.
Alan, a retired physician, stood up from his seat in the front row and yelled, “Hey, let’s get this show on the road!” Carl had developed an impressionist act, and in his best John Wayne voice he drawled, “Well, hold on there just a minute, pard’ner. You’ve got to give a feller a chance.” Immediately the audience exploded in cheers and applause. “You tell him, Duke!” rang out, along with a woman’s voice telling Alan, “Sit down and shut up, you old fart.”
Carl looked at the audience and saw the Duchess dramatically stifling a yawn. “Well, little lady, I’m right sorry if I am keeping you up past your bedtime,” and as he winked, Louis hit the cymbal. The audience again erupted in laughter.
Switching characters, Milton Berle twirled the end of his mustache and loudly announced, “Good Evening Ladies and Germs, please take a seat. Any seat. But remember,” he admonished, “You must return the seat at the end of the evening.”
He knew it didn’t matter how corny his act was because they loved him, and they in turn gave him more joy than he had ever anticipated. As Elvis, he continued, “And thank you, thank you very much, Kelly. Loved that film tonight.” Their laughter reminded him of how important this event was in their lives, as he smiled in appreciation.
Reaching into his pocket, he took out a small object, and palmed it. In his own voice he announced, “Well, I think it’s time to shake things up a bit.” Louis added a drum roll. “Julie, would you please come join me on stage?”
Startled, Julie remained where she was for an instant, then stood up and made her way to the stage. “Julie… Julie… Julie…” he prompted, and the audience picked up the chant. When she reached center stage he said “Let’s give her a big round of applause, folks!”
Julie joined in the game and curtsied, her bare leg showing at the V split in the gown. Catcalls rang out immediately.
Just then lights in the ballroom blinked out. Before a spotlight leapt to life, Alan yelled, “Power failure. Storm’s hit us. Stay where you are!”
Carl peered out into the bright light, shading his eyes, and said, “You’re the man, Alan!”
Turning back to Julie, he knelt down on one knee and took her hand in his. The room was still as he continued seriously, “Julie Eileen Williams, you are the love of my life. Will you marry me?”
Startled and unprepared, Julie exclaimed, “Oh, my!”
“What the hell does ‘Oh my!’ mean?” exploded Alan, “Does that mean Yes, or does that mean No?” The Duchess, sitting next to him, “ssshusshed” him loudly. The room erupted in echoed “ssshusshed’s” and laughter.
The room quieted down quickly. Julie, blinking back tears, hoarsely whispered, “Yes. Yes.” And then clearly in a louder voice, “Definitely. Yes.” As Carl slipped the ring onto Julie’s finger, Louis hit the cymbal with perfect timing and the crowd cheered as the couple embraced and kissed.
As soon as the house lights came back up the residents crowded the stage to snap pictures and congratulate the couple. Julie turned to Carl and exclaimed, “You mean everyone else knew?” Carl grinned and nodded, then kissed her again.
Alan sputtered to the Duchess standing next to him, “But who wins this month’s award?”
She replied, “Julie and Carl did, you idiot.”
“Oh, that’s good then,” Alan sniffed, and shuffled off to congratulate the couple.

Tracey Lynn Tobin’s entry was a funny twist on the prompt, and I enjoyed the fact that she let’s us, the readers, imagine the effects of “shaking things up a bit.”

So, there we go.  The winner of #5 is Peggy!  She has the choice of writing the prompt and judging when #8 comes around.  In fact, since she won #4 as well, she can do the prompt and judging for #7.  The next round, #6, will begin tonight.  I gave Tara the choice of writing this one as well, since she won two in a row, but she gave me that job.  So, I will once again be writing the prompt and judging.  That allows Tara to join in this time.  Thanks to everyone who joined.

I Like Monday

There, I said it!  I like Monday.  Think I’m crazy?  I mean, you must be thinking that it’s the first day of the workweek.  Weekend is over.  How can Jay Dee like Mondays?

Well, first of all, I work all weekend.  That’s right, Saturday and Sunday are workdays for me.  Monday happens to be my Wednesday.  Wednesday is my Friday, which means Thursday and Friday are my Saturday and Sunday.  Confused?  I’m not.

A second reason is that I work farther from home on Mondays than any other day of the week.  Why does a longer commute make me happy?  I get a full half hour each way on the train to read!  It’s my best reading time.  My commute doesn’t seem long at all when I’ve got myself in another world (at the moment, in Westeros).  And since I go from terminal station to terminal station, I’m almost guaranteed a seat.

I guess one bonus is that my coworkers on Monday are quite similar to me, so very easy to get along with.

That is why I like Monday.  How about you?

What Will You Write? #5 Is Now Closed

The fifth installment of What Will You Write? is now closed.  So from now on, Tara will judge and tell me who she chooses as the winner and why.

The sixth installment will start after judging is complete, and the theme will be chosen by Tara, if she wishes, as she won two in a row!

Thanks to everyone who joined, and I hope you’ll return and more of you from the past will join as well.

Doing Marathons. TV and Movie Marathons

I used to do movie marathons a lot.  Sit down with food, drink, TV, and several video tapes or DVDs, then watch for hours.  I really don’t have the time for that anymore, but if I did, there are several movies and TV series I’d love to include in a marathon.  Some of these may last several days, so I think I’d have to split them up and do them over several weekends, or just watch an episode or movie here and there.

This is what I’d like to watch.

Chronological Star Trek Marathon

Being a big Star Trek fan, I’ve seen almost all of Star Trek (all but the latest reboot movie).  I would start with the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series, then move on to the original Star Trek.  After that, I’d do the original 6 movies, then on to Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Then it’s Star Trek Generations.  Now, since I’d be working on the Next Generation series, I think I should do the movies next, but I really should just sandwich movies in where season breaks happen for the following series:  Deep Space Nine and Voyager.  Once I’ve done all of that, I can go on with the reboot movies, which are a separate timeline as a result of actions following Star Trek: Nemesis.

Doctor Who

I’d start off with old episodes, thought it seems that they’ve been released on DVD in a rather haphazard and random way.  I’d progress from doctor to doctor in order, all the way up to the current doctor, though I can watch the newer seasons online.

Battlestar Galactica

I mean the new one.  I’ve already done the old one on Hulu.  I want to watch all of it.

Stargate SG-1

First I’d start off with the Stargate movie, since it leads directly into the series, although with different actors.  I want to see all of SG-1, which I actually haven’t done.  I’ve seen parts of seasons here and there, but not whole seasons.  I have the first 2 seasons on DVD, so I can do those.  Maybe after those, I’d move on to Atlantis and Universe.

James Bond

I’ve watched a lot of James Bond, but not all of the movies.  I’d like to go through all of the Bond movies in the order they were made from Sean Connery to Daniel Craig.  But my favourite is Roger Moore.

Robin Williams

Starting off with Mork and Mindy, I’d like to go through all of Robin Williams’ TV series and movies.  Just because he’s that great.

Bonus! Reading

There are some series of novels I’d like to reread.  Of course, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and the other publications.  However, this is still a work in progress for me, because I still have to read The Children of Hurin, which I have.

Another is the Shannara series.  This is also currently in progress, as I’m going to start reading the Genesis of Shannara sometimes later this year or next year.  I also haven’t read the latest couple of series.

And finally, there’s the Dragonriders of Pern series.  I originally read it in chronological order, something I’d like to do again.  I love the setting of these books, and I really want to get back to it.

How about you?  What would you like to marathon or reread or rewatch?