Random Album Cover Generator: There is a crime

A few years ago I came across a fun game. Basically, it was a challenge to create an album cover using random elements from the Internet. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to Wikipedia and select Random Article. The article, whatever it may be, is the name of your band.
  2. Go to quotations page.com and select Random Quotes. Scroll to the bottom of the page and find the last quotation. The last four or five words of that final quotation, whatever they may be, is the title of your album.
  3. Go to Flickr and search for Last 7 Days Interesting (Flickr seems to have changed their search engine lately, but you can still find this by Googling “Flickr last 7 days interesting”). The sixth picture, whatever it may be, is your album art.
  4. Combine these elements using any means you wish to create an album cover.

Recently, I started playing this game again and I am finding it a great way to explore my creativity within certain constraints. I’ve done this using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but I have also been able to do it using Word, so you don’t necessarily need fancy graphic software to take on the challenge. While  haven’t set out a concrete schedule to produce x number of covers within x amount of time, I thought it would be fun to start posting them, if for no other reason but to inspire you to explore your own creativity.

My first post is a cover from just this past week.

The Wikipedia article was: H. Lee White Marine Museum

The quotation was: “Behind every great fortune there is a crime.”

The image was:

16860571603_0e6b5ab10f_k

This is the album cover: Print

Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist – Pop! Pop! Fizz! Fizz! Oh, what a bunch of shite it is!

Here, we go! First bike commute of the season!

I was thinking about biking to work all Thursday as the weather had taken a marvelous turn for the better. Should I wear shorts? It’s going to be warm in the afternoon, but the mornings are still cool. Maybe I’ll stick with long pants. Should I make sure my bike is ready to go? Nah. It’s late and, besides, I rode it the other day and everything seems fine, although I should probably take a look at the brakes sometime soon; they feel a bit weak. Yes, I will ride my bike on Friday!

Friday morning. I’m a bit sore from yoga the day before, but I’m still riding. I’m excited. I was pacing around the house a bit the night before as I was feeling eager to get out and about on my bike. I dropped the kids off at the day home, and now I have to get ready to go. It’s still a bit cool, but I think I will wear my shorts.

Oh.

Damn.

So, it looks like my shorts don’t fit anymore. That’s typical. Pants it is; just have to make sure I roll them up so I can keep my pant legs clean and/or look as dorky as possible. As I get my bike from the garage, I begin to notice how cool it is this morning; just as well I’m wearing pants, I suppose. Anyway, I’m off!

As I turn onto 97th Street I’m feeling confident, although I notice that the winter sand hasn’t been cleared along this stretch yet. That’s typical. I’m already starting to feel a layer of grit forming on my body. The first bus to pass me sends a plume of dust into the air that swirls and envelops me. I will definitely need a shower when I get to work. As I head down 97th I’m feeling better and better, but my first challenge it coming up.

The train overpass just north of Yellowhead Trail is a dodgy spot for cycling. The lane gets narrow and there is a storm drain with a large depression surrounding it. I could hop onto the sidewalk, but I opt to stay on the road. As I approach the overpass I am plunged into a moment of darkness. The lane narrows and I have fast travelling traffic beside me, squeezing me towards the storm drain. That’s typical. I approach the drain and prepare myself for the jarring bump and the split-second worry about losing control. I enter the depression and exit with a familiar bump, but accompanied by a hissing sound and a continuous rumble from the rear of my bike.

That is not typical.

Feck.

I quickly pull off onto the sidewalk and examine the damage. My rear tire has blown completely. The treads look fine, which means the inner tube has blown, and I am now faced with a long walk into downtown. As a briskly stroll along 97th, my limping bicycle beside me, I am strangely calm. Those that know me know that this is not typical, as I would usually be swearing a blue streak; but today I am simply focused on getting to work on time. Good thing I left home early. I come up on 120th Avenue where the cops usually set up to catch motorists in the bus lane. In fact, here’s another one caught just now. I walk past the constable and nod a good morning.

“Blow a tire?”

“Yep.”

“Shitty.”

“Yep.”

As I cross 118th Avenue I have a flashback to a couple of years ago when, during my first commute of the season, I lost my saddle due to a snapped bolt. Maybe first ride mishaps are typical as well. I continue on and reach work on time, but sporting a nasty rash.

Fortunately, I was able to purchase a new tube over lunch and install it on my bike.

How was your first commute of the season? My ride home was much better, thanks.

A hard habit to break, and an even harder habit to start

A couple of weeks ago I joined a running club through my local Running Room store. I had been thinking about it for a while as I still have not got back into the habit of running. I was unsure what to expect, but I was more than prepared to show up to a group of hard-core runners who would very quickly put me to shame, and thus make me retreat from running even more than I already have. What I discovered was the quite the opposite.

I showed up at 8:30 am at the store (oh, that’s another thing. I always though that morning runs were out of the question) and was soon joined by a diverse group of individuals who were from all walks of life and experience. Some were there to walk, some were there for their own weekly commitment, others were training for a specific race; but all were there to participate in fellowship and fun. The other thing I wasn’t sure about going into this club was running with other people. For the most part, I’ve been a solitary runner. I always thought that I was unable to run effectively with others; that I would either be slowing them down, or that I would have to sacrifice my own pace to stay with them. Also, I’m not very good with small talk, which would ultimately develop along the way. Again, what I discovered was quite the opposite. Within each distance group, there were subgroups that naturally developed as we set out. Some ran quicker than others, but as a whole we were working on the same route, toward the same goal. I soon found that by running with others, I found motivation to maintain my pace, but more than that, I also found motivation to enjoy myself as I found myself within a community that were out here early on a Sunday morning, not for self punishment or self degradation, which I will admit was the motivation of some of my running in the past, but to share the experience of running and to help each other along. Another important aspect to running with in this club is that they are well versed in pacing and interval training. Whenever I went for a run, I was aiming at doing a straight forward run; no stopping, no walking, no resting. I had worked it in my mind that if I wasn’t continuously running, really running, then it didn’t count and I was cheating myself. What I’ve come to discover is that not every run has to be a race, which was how I was treating it. I don’t always have to be working at capacity every single time. By pulling back a bit, I can allow myself to actually enjoy the run, which hasn’t happened in a long time. I even chatted with my fellow runners, if you can believe that! The main point is making the effort to get out on the road. I don’t have to exhaust myself every time to gain benefit. Train smarter, not harder; I was never good at that, but hopefully with the support of others, I can get better.

I’ve attended a couple of run clubs so far, and I intend to keep going. I hope to regain my endurance and stamina, but more than this; by running with a group, I hope to rediscover the desire to once again make running a part of my life and to look at my solo runs in a new light. When I had been running regularly, I found that it was a hard habit to break, but in the time since I stopped, I’ve found it to be an even harder habit to start. Hopefully, with the help of a few enablers in the form of a run club, I can once again get into the habit, and maybe this time it will be a habit built on health, and not just exercise.

Reflections on Flight Recorder from Viking 7

I’m a Matthew Good fan. Not a super fan, mind you; I don’t know what he ate for breakfast last Tuesday or anything like that, but I enjoy his work. I find both his music and lyrics thoughtful and provoking. Although he’s had a lot of commercial success, I find myself drawn more to his songs that don’t necessarily get airplay. I was listening to some Matt Good the other day when I came across one such song that, for reasons I’m not quite sure, hit me emotionally in a way I hadn’t noticed before. The song is Flight Recorder from Viking 7 and it begins with a repeating pulse and the sound of Matt breathing erratically as if he’s running out of oxygen. The melody is haunting and the instrumentation is sparse and gives a sense of isolation and decay, both mechanical and biological.

From what I can find, there has never been a Viking 7 spacecraft. Vikings 1 and 2 were Mars orbiters that were launched in the 1970s, so I’m assuming that Viking 7 is a fictional craft, possibly a deep space probe or ship; perhaps a ship that was launched and subsequently forgotten after such a long time out. The interesting thing is this craft wouldn’t necessarily need to be manned. When I listen to this song I can hear the voice of an astronaut that’s recording his personal, and quite probably final thoughts; but I can just as easily imagine an unmanned probe, albeit a sentient probe, that’s reflecting on its own “thoughts” as it sails through cold space. The one obvious clue, of course, is the sound of laboured breathing which adds another dimension for me. The sound of breathing reminds me of an episode of Skeptoid that investigated recordings that purport to be the sounds of lost Soviet cosmonauts. Regardless if the recordings are what they report to be, they are eerie and bring to mind feelings of confinement, isolation and decay. I also think back to a scene in the movie, The Abyss, where Michael Biehn’s character is trapped in a damaged submersible and is falling into a deep trench. There’s one point when the window of the submersible starts to crack and Biehn’s eyes widen as he reaches out in an act of pure instinct and desperation. What seals it for me is that Biehn doesn’t make a sound; no screaming, no shouting, just silence.

These feelings: confinement, isolation and decay have created a narrative in my mind about a spaceship that has passed out of collective memory. This imagined vessel had been designed, built, and launched with the efforts of a dedicated team. There was much fanfare on the day of the launch as onlookers sat with their picnic lunches waiting outside the launch site, waiting for the countdown. There was a frenzy of posts on social media as Tweets, Posts, Likes, and Instagrams were traded back and forth. This was to be a long mission, testing the boundaries of what we had reached with space travel. It seemed as though much of the planet was supporting this endeavor, even if it was token support, as we are used to these days. That was a long time ago. I’m not sure how long; but how long does it really take for anything to pass from our radar these days? The ship continued to broadcast across the vast ocean of space, but only a select few were now paying attention as they logged their reports, some of them wondering why they were still bothering as no one seemed to care anymore. There was at least one who remembered. She was a young girl at the time and she remembered the day of the launch and the promise it held. She was one of the few who continued to wonder through the passing of years what became of Viking 7:

And I wonder, where have you gone. And I wonder, what have you done.

Then one day, the transmissions stopped. At first, no one noticed. In fact, they had to sift through lines and lines of data to discover when exactly Viking 7 had sent its last transmission. No one had even bothered to create an alarm to notify those on Earth when their jewel of deep space discovery had finally ceased to shine. When they did recover the data, they discovered a final log entry, which became the lyrics to the song, Flight Recorder from Viking 7.

Anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Running to resolve unresolved resolutions

Happy New Year!

The future is here and with it comes a gathering of uncommon people united in their common goal  to communally span a distance of five kilometres at a pace of their choosing. That’s right, this morning I participated in the Resolution Run; a five kilometre fun run held on January 1st. The thing I realised this morning during the run is how much I enjoy 5k runs. Not so much the distance, which is admittedly a nice run, but more the participants. There’s always a nice mix of people, each with their own level, each with their own reasons for showing up. It’s low stress, lots of smiling faces, and lots of people coming out for their first time.

The Gathering
The Gathering

I have no idea what expectations the other participants had for themselves this morning’s run, but mine were quite low; finish the run, without stopping, and cheer on others at the finish line, especially those who may be running their first 5k. That’s about it.

Let's gather on the floor for pancakes!
Let’s gather on the floor for pancakes!

I suppose I could use this an opportunity to reclaim my running ways, but I’m not going to be too hasty. The longer I’ve spent without a regular running routine, the harder I’ve been finding it to motivate myself. It doesn’t help that I was never a big fan of running, it was always a means to an end; a means that by chance and personality would have it became a sort of compulsion. Those days seem to have left, but who knows what the year holds. Maybe I will find that compulsion again. Is that my resolution? Doesn’t seem like a very sunny resolution, to become once again compelled. Is that not what my resolution was last January? Have I not been in the exact spot before? Maybe I’ll try something else.

Gah! I never was good at resolutions.

Read In Week 2014

There are several things I’ve taken away from my time as a Library Assistant in the Children’s Library, but the one that I treasure the most is reading stories to children. Even though I had already been reading to my children at home, it wasn’t until I was thrown into my first storytime at Edmonton Public Library that I discovered I had the ability to read to groups of children, but more than that, I really enjoyed it. Fast forward a few years and I have just finished my annual visit to Lorelei School for Read In Week where I had the opportunity to once again read to my children’s classes. Now I have had some great storytimes, some of which had ended in hugs from the children (the other morning, for example); but nothing compares to the feeling I get when I visit my children’s school.

The short list
The short list

The week leading up to Read In Week was punctuated by a countdown of sleeps for Graeme. “How many sleeps for you to read at my school?” I had already made up my mind what I would be reading to Abigail’s grade three class, but I was still deciding on Graeme’s kindergarten class. Then I came across two books that I thought would be perfect, Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won and No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah OHora. It turns out that No Fits, Nilson was quite fitting for the kindergarten class as I walked in during a time out (thankfully, not Graeme). Before I could leave kindergarten I was persuaded to read one more story, and there was no way I could say no to our favourite kindergarten teacher, so I read Jungle Party by Brian Wildsmith. I was also invited to read to the one of the grade one classes (1 of 1). This invitation soon grew to two grade one classes (2 of 1), and by the morning of my visit it was suddenly upped to all three grade one classes (3 of 1) as I happened to run into one of Abigail’s former teachers in the hallway. For the grade ones I had picked out Flight of the Dodo by Peter Brown, which I had done last year, but I really enjoy it, and The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, which went over very well with both students and teachers. I knew from last year that the kids would get a kick out of the “poop factor” in Flight of the Dodo, but I was really happy with the reception that Crayons got. In fact, it lead to one of the teachers possibly using the story as the basis for an art project. As for Abigail and the grade three class, I chose The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman. I was introduced to this book by my coworker who read it to his boys at home. The first time I read it I was hooked; and the first time I read it to my children, it was a hit. However, I felt the need to clear the book with Abigail’s teacher first, as it is a bit of an odd story with illustrations that, while wonderful, could be a bit unsettling to some. With great relief the book was cleared with the expectation that it would generate class discussion afterward, which it ultimately did, to my delight! I used the book to illustrate how some stories give the reader most of the information needed, but there are some stories, like The Wolves in the Walls, that leave information out, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out the answers. For example, how could the wolves fit in the walls? How did the wolves get in the walls in the first place? I brought up the fact that, even though it is said at one point that Lucy goes inside the walls, it’s never explained how she does it. One student asked if the author had written a sequel to this book. I said no, but that it would be fun for students to write their own sequel. They seemed interested in that idea. During recess I got to hang out with the staff and indulge in their tradition of providing delicious treats for guest readers. I was pleased when one of the teachers mentioned that she looks forward to my visit so she can get ideas for new books. I also was approached by a couple of teachers who were not aware that I was reading today and were disappointed that I wasn’t able to come to their class as well. For someone with little self-confidence, it is encouraging to know that I have a skill that is valued by others. By the end of the morning I was tired, but happy to have shared great stories with the students of Lorelei. More than this, though, I got to see the joy and pride I feel for my children reflected in their faces. Nothing can compare with that!

Read In Week 2014 line up
Read In Week 2014 line up, all courtesy of Edmonton Public Library, of course.

Summer of Selfies

This past summer our family didn’t go an any big road trips, hop on any planes; or cruise on any ships. What we did do was have a wonderful adventure in our beautiful city and province. Spearheaded by my wife, Allison, we spent our two weeks of vacation traveling around Edmonton, visiting many city parks, playgrounds, and splash parks. We took some side trips to places like Drumheller and Hinton, but for the most part we were staycationing it up in good ol’ YEG. As a way of documenting our days, we took a family selfie for each day. Some were easy, some needed a little (read: a lot) of coaxing, but in the end, we created a unique visual record of our summer. There were some days that were non-stop activities, while others were a simple picnic in a park, but either way we had a vacation filled with fun, beautiful weather, and lots of love.

As any Edmontonian will tell you, it’s easy to get down on ourselves; as easy as a Canadian saying, “sorry.” I was one of those people, too, but more and more I am finding pride in our city. We have wonderful playgrounds, many of them erected through the hard work and dedication of our wonderful community leagues. We have great green spaces and free or low-cost programmes provided by the City, and even if you decide to go outside the city, there are many spectacular places that are a day’s drive away. Thanks to my wife and family for a great summer, and thanks to my city for continuing to reach for greatness while remaining grounded to the community.

Day 1
Day 1 – International Street Performers Festival, Churchill Square, Edmonton
Day 2
Day 2 – Kids’ DIY Project, Skyview Home Depot, Edmonton
Day 3
Day 3 – Picnic, Borden Park, Edmonton
Day 4
Day 4 – New blue doors, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 5
Day 5 – Picnic, Kinsmen Park, Edmonton
Day 6
Day 6 – Dinosaurs! Royal Tyrrell Museum, Drumheller
Day 7
Day 7 – Nap, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 8
Day 8 – Auntie Gordine’s House, Hinton
Day 9
Day 9 – Famdamily selfie, Wild Mountain Music Festival, Hinton
Day 10
Day 10 – Dancing to Delhi to Dublin, Wild Mountain Music Festival, Hinton
Day 11
Day 11 – Hanging out with Jasper the Bear (the smaller one), Jasper
Day 12
Day 12 – Spray park, Jackie Parker Park, Edmonton
Day 13
Day 13 – Poolside, Fred Broadstock Pool, Edmonton
Day 14
Day 14 – Spray park, Sherbrooke Park, Edmonton
Day 15
Day 15 – Rainy day, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 16
Day 16 – In the boot, Wedgewood, Edmonton
Day 17
Day 17 – Going out in style, Chinery House, Edmonton
Day 17b
Day 17b – Party’s over, Chinery House, Edmonton